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Kershaw eager to straighten out spring struggles

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw has a 9.00 ERA. Matt Kemp has a .000 batting average.

Of all the explanations after Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the Padres, the Dodgers hope A.J. Ellis' is the best.

"It's March 5th," he said.

Nonetheless, after the Padres beat up Kershaw for four runs on seven hits and chased him without an out in the fourth inning, Kershaw beat himself up for three spring starts that fell far short of his expectations.

Asked if he was concerned, Kershaw said: "I don't know if concern is the best word. I'm definitely not confident after giving up that many runs. I can't say I'm doing great. I definitely look to have a good start one of these days."

He said he feels fine physically but focuses on results, even in Spring Training, and judges his pitches by how the hitters react.

"You saw it -- I gave up hits and runs," he said. "They're reacting well. That's not good. I have to give up less hits and runs. I've been behind in counts and they get hits and that's what it came down to."

Manager Don Mattingly dismissed Kershaw's rough outings, as well as his tougher critique.

"With Kersh, he's never happy unless he's throwing zeros," Mattingly said. "This is part of Spring Training for him. If we saw a lack of velocity or something not working ... he's thrown a couple of sliders that were hit for home runs [including one by Nick Hundley that chased him Tuesday].

"He's not hurt. He shoots for perfection all the time. You see the difference in a kid like Clayton. He expects himself to be really good every time and that's why he's really good."

Meanwhile, Kemp went 0-for-3 with a long flyout to the warning track and a strikeout. This was his first game in the field since October left shoulder surgery, and he'll be back in center field Wednesday against Team Mexico.

"Physically, I feel pretty good," he said. "I need to get more at-bats and get that feel again."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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