A 29-pitch first inning kept Clayton Kershaw from being dominant Wednesday night at AT&T Field, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers was pleased with his second rehab stint.
Kershaw worked five innings for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts against the Tennessee Smokies, allowing two runs on six hits. He left the game in a 2-2 tie, and the Smokies scored twice in the seventh to rally for a 4-3 triumph.
"I would like to have gotten through six or seven innings, but I had a good time working with these guys," Kershaw said. "It's tough when pitch counts are in the back of your mind. Obviously the main goal of why I was here was to get my pitch count up and be ready for 100-plus pitches in the big leagues.
"At the same time, you're trying to compete, too. Fortunately for me, I am kind of done with that and can go pitch now."
The 26-year-old left-hander retired nine of 15 Smokies via strikeout.
Kershaw threw 86 pitches Wednesday after throwing 56 last Friday during his first rehab stint at Rancho Cucamonga of the high Single-A California League, when he allowed two hits in five scoreless innings. He opened this season getting a win for the Dodgers over Arizona in Australia on March 22 but went on the disabled list for the first time in his career several days later with a strained upper back.
"I've learned I don't like it," Kershaw said of his DL stint. "As much as you try and be a part of this team, our team is playing right now while I'm in Chattanooga. It's a weird process for me, and you kind of feel isolated a little bit. Hopefully I never have to do it again."
Kershaw said he feels healthy but did not know when he would be joining his big-league teammates.
John Andreoli drew a leadoff walk for the Smokies in the first inning, and Dustin Geiger drove in the first run off Kershaw with a two-out double to left. Geiger singled to left in the fifth inning to score Andreoli again.
The appearance of Kershaw, who has a 52-23 record and a 2.20 earned run average since the start of the 2011 season, resulted in a sellout crowd of 6,318.
"I think it's pretty great for this city to get to see Clayton Kershaw, one of the great pitchers in the game doing a rehab assignment," Dodgers player development director DeJon Watson said. "It's a great opportunity for them to see our overall brand of baseball and having Clayton Kershaw as a model of what we do from an organizational standpoint.
"We're trying to get him in the best position to get him prepared to get him back in the big leagues, and coming here kind of worked out the best. The competition level is pretty good here, and he was forced to execute good pitches in key counts."
Kershaw won the Cy Young in 2011 and again last year and finished runner-up in 2012. He was a first-round pick of the Dodgers in the 2006 draft, when he was selected seventh overall out of Highland Park High in Dallas.
He was a high-school classmate of former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and was asked who was the big man on campus.
"Texas is a football state," Kershaw said. "I just kind of followed Matthew's shadow."
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