GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nine years later, the battery of Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin was reunited on Tuesday as Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported for 2019 Spring Training at Camelback Ranch.A team coming off back-to-back World Series losses has a handful of questions to answer, but the success of the
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nine years later, the battery of Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin was reunited on Tuesday as Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported for 2019 Spring Training at Camelback Ranch.
A team coming off back-to-back World Series losses has a handful of questions to answer, but the success of the franchise ace and the returning catcher are high on the list, as both have said they have things to prove this year.
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After three seasons marred by injuries, Kershaw said he feels great after an offseason spent synching his body and mechanics to make his pitches break sharper and, ideally, gain velocity.
"I did different stuff, trying to regain stuff I have lost is the best way to put it, to be vague," said Kershaw. "You need to be stubborn in your routines to be consistent, but at the same time you have to be open-minded when things aren't working and assess the situation. I'm doing both now, trying to be stubborn and open-minded at the same time."
Most pitchers would love to have the kind of season Kershaw had -- 9-5, 2.73 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 191 1/3 innings (including the 30 he threw in the postseason). But he also was limited by shoulder and back issues. He went the first six years of his Major League career without being on the injured list, but has needed it five times in the last five seasons.
After signing a three-year, $93 million extension in early November, Kershaw said he would use the offseason to heal his body while adding strength and flexibility, then sync those two improvements to recapture the mechanics and delivery that resulted in three Cy Young Awards and an MVP Award.
"It's not so much about stuff as it is feeling good every fifth day," said Kershaw, who turns 31 next month. "We'll find out. Just trying to regain some stuff."
Kershaw threw a 34-pitch bullpen session and his catcher was Martin, who was acquired from Toronto in a salary dump to pair with Austin Barnes behind the plate. Martin is looking to turbocharge last year's .194 batting average.
"We both have a certain amount of miles on our body from the last time we worked together, but what a career he's had," said Martin. "I remember the last time I caught him he was just fastball, curveball. Now, one of the best pitches he has is the slider. That's the cool thing about baseball, the best players stay the best because they're willing to make adjustments, and Kershaw is one of those guys who's going to do what it takes to stay at the top. It's nice to get back there and reminisce a little bit."
Martin, who turns 36 on Friday, said he cranked up his offseason training in hopes of posting a bounce-back campaign, but he made no bold predictions about Kershaw's upcoming season.
"It's the first day and don't expect him to throw like it's midseason, but the ball's coming out true," Martin said. "He threw a couple perfect pitches, fastball location was good and he said he wanted to work on getting more depth on his slider to get more swings and misses from lefties. It was a good step forward for him."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.