Is Kershaw ready to take the next step?

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kershaw-clayton-100328.jpgVicente Padilla has been named the Opening Day starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that right-thinking baseball fans expect that it will be Clayton Kershaw who assumes the mantle of ace. The early evidence certainly is pointing in that direction.

The 22-year-old left-hander dominated the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, striking out seven while allowing one run in six innings. And he did it without having command of his curveball, relying instead of his fastball, plus two recently added tricks up his sleeve: Mr. Slider and Mr. Changeup.

From Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:

According to a chart kept by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw threw seven of eight changeups for strikes and recorded three outs with the pitch. Seven of his nine sliders were thrown for strikes.

Relying on the two relatively new weapons in his arsenal, Kershaw was able to bide time until his curveball started dropping into strike zone.

Kershaw’s spring ERA sits at a nifty 1.69. And that comes on the heels of his 2010 campaign in which he was only 8-8, but with a 2.79 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 171 innings.

The potential has always been there, enticing and sometimes dazzling. Is this the year he takes the next step? The signs are certainly promising. Now, if he can just be a little more efficient …

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Video: Jackie Bradley Jr. climbs wall to rob Luis Urías of homer

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
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Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. scaled the center field fence to rob Padres shortstop Luis Urías of a solo home run in the fourth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game. Urías was trying to take advantage of a 0-1 slider from Ryan Brasier. Had Bradley not made the grab, the Padres’ lead would have been extended to 4-1.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they weren’t able to take advantage of Bradley’s effort, dropping Sunday’s contest 3-1. They still won the series against the Padres, however. The Sox will continue their road trip for two games against the Rockies followed by three versus the Angels.