Facing Kershaw tough for prospects
Frank Schwindel imagined Clayton Kershaw’s curveball looks like the whiffle ball curveballs growing up in his New Jersey backyard.
Omaha’s 25-year-old infielder had seen power and movement before in past spring trainings with the Royals. But this was Kershaw taking the mound at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark for a rehab start Saturday night in front of a sell-out crowd.
Could it be the night that propels a young player such as Schwindel, who has never made the majors?
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity getting to face arguably the best pitcher in the big leagues,” Schwindel said before the game.
For minor league players trying to land in the big leagues and stay there, facing a guy like Kershaw can be daunting. But it can also be their one shining moment.
Say Schwindel, who has 16 home runs with Omaha, got a hanger and hit a homer. He’d have a moment to share the rest of his life.
“I can’t imagine that being the case,” Schwindel said. “He could leave
one up and anything could happen. Definitely a good day today would be something to be proud of, but it’s just another game.”
Saturday was far from that in OKC.
The stands of The Brick were packed with 13,106 fans to see Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner. It was the largest crowd since 1998, the inaugural year in the stadium.
And Kershaw was his dominant self.
Through five innings, he allowed just two hits and struck out eight. His lone mistake was a home run that Jorge Soler hit to open the second.
“Hit a homer,” Kershaw said. “Happens.”
Kershaw rebounded to face the minimum the next 12 batters. He allowed an infield single to Paulo Orlando, but then picked him off.
“Getting back out there for the fifth inning was good,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know with my pitch count if I was going to be able to go five, but able to keep the pitch count down. Command was OK. I didn’t walk anybody tonight. I got behind a few hitters, but for the most part I thought everything went all right.”
Schwindel had his chances, but he struck out looking and grounded out to shortstop.
There would be no grand story to tell his grandchildren later in life. Save a tall tale, he could at least say he faced one of the greats.
“When he’s in the Hall of Fame getting inducted," Schwindel said, "it would be a cool story to tell somebody you got a couple hits off of him or something like that, or just even facing him and having the opportunity to share the field with him."
Clayton Kershaw dazzled in a rehab assignment start for the Oklahoma City Dodgers on Saturday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Through five innings, he allowed just two hits and struck out eight on 64 pitches, 43 for strikes.