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Kershaw continuing to improve on mound

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw battled wildness, but made it through six innings on 105 pitches Friday in the Dodgers' 6-5 loss against a potent Reds lineup.

Kershaw will make one more shorter start on Wednesday before opening the season against the Giants April 1, atop a rotation that won't really be a rotation.

Manager Don Mattingly hinted that Game 2 of the season most likely would be started by Hyun-Jin Ryu, who starts Saturday night. Chad Billingsley, who is on the same cycle as Ryu and pitches in a Minor League game Saturday, could be skipped and/or added to the disabled list because of his lingering bruised right index finger. But Billingsley could be inserted into the rotation as soon as he can throw curveballs, as he would be eligible to be activated from the disabled list April 6.

Josh Beckett is lined up to pitch Game 3 of the season with Zack Greinke and his pain-free elbow getting Game 4, followed by Kershaw. Mattingly said if Kershaw and Greinke are healthy, he would try to keep them on five-day rotations and juggle the others, with a particular preference for giving Beckett extra days off.

What happens to Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly is still to be determined.

As for Kershaw and this start, he was charged with three runs (two earned), three walks and a hit batter, but also eight strikeouts.

"I felt all right. A little wild at times, but overall OK," Kershaw said. "Overall, the past two or three starts are definitely better. The one against San Diego I didn't like a whole lot. Overall, OK. Now it's time to get going."

Catcher A.J. Ellis was more impressed than Kershaw.

"He was really sharp, considering he was facing one of the best-hitting lineups," said Ellis. "It was a good test. A couple of pitches we would have liked back, but we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish."

On the Minor League side, Lilly clicked off five scoreless innings in a Triple-A game against Milwaukee as he tries to catch up on starts missed because of illness and rainouts. Lilly said some balls were hit hard, but he allowed only two hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

"Lilly made 59 pitches in five innings," said Mattingly. "His velocity was up again. He's had zero problems with his arm, it's just been everything else."

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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