Rockies’ lefties on Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw: “The epitome of a pitcher”

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ future Hall of Famer, has bedeviled the Rockies for years, but that doesn’t stop two Rockies southpaws from admiring him.

Reliever Lucas Gilbreath grew up watching Kershaw, while manager Bud Black watched Kershaw grow up. The duo will get to see Kershaw up close and personal when Kershaw starts against the Rockies on Saturday night at Coors Field.

Gilbreath was 12-year-old Westminster kid when Kershaw made his big-league debut May 25, 2008. Black, a lefty who pitched for 15 seasons in the majors, was 50 and in his second year managing the San Diego Padres..

“For me, he’s the epitome of what it means to be a pitcher, especially a lefty,” Gilbreath said Friday. “He’s on the other side of the ball, obviously, but I admire everything he does; how he competes, how he executes and how he manages a game.”

Kershaw, 34, is a three-time winner of the National League Cy Young Award and was an All-Star for the ninth time this season. He’ll carry a 7-2 record and 2.49 ERA into Saturday night’s game.

“I’ve seen him grow up,” Black said. “He’s a competitor. I mean, he battles you. Remember back in the day when pitchers hit? Like, last year?

“Well, Kershaw played the game like a position player. He fielded bunts, he ran the bases, he slid, and they (used) the hit-and-run with him. He’d get (ticked) when he’d make an out, as a hitter. For me, he’s a competitor, that’s what stands out to me.”

As far as critiquing Kershaw as a pitcher, Black most admires Kershaw’s deadly combination of a pinpoint fastball and a hard slider. Gilbreath loves Kershaw’s curveball but agrees with Black that Kershaw’s fastball-slider combo is killer.

“I’ve watched him just abuse hitters — hitters that have been around for 10 or 15 years,” Gilbreath said. “It’s just incredible.”

In 45 games against Colorado, Kershaw is 24-10 with a 3.47 ERA and 294 strikeouts over 277 2/3 innings. The masterpiece of his career came on June 14, 2014, against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium. That night, the lefty became the first pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter with 15 strikeouts and no walks.

At Coors Field, however, Kershaw has been a mere mortal, going 11-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 25 starts. He’s served up 21 homers at Coors, his most at any visiting ballpark.

Blackmon leading off. Veteran Charlie Blackmon has taken over the leadoff spot from Connor Joe, at least for now. Blackmon was in the top spot as the designated hitter for Friday’s game against the Dodgers, while Joe started in right field and hit eighth.

Blackmon is on a hot streak. He entered Friday’s game having gotten a hit in 20 consecutive home games, the second-longest streak of his career. He was slashing .398/.419/.739 at Coors during the stretch. Joe, meanwhile, was hitting .155 with a .299 on-base percentage over his last 20 games since June 28.

“Connor got off to a really nice start the first three months, and we saw that last year from Connor — the on-base component and his ability to see pitches,” Black said. “It made a lot of sense for him to lead off. But the last month has been a little tough, so it makes a lot of sense to give him a step back.

“And Charlie makes sense because he’s done it before and it doesn’t really affect him starting the game off.”

Blackmon has an excellent track record as a leadoff hitter, particularly in 2017 when he won the NL batting title with a .331 average and set a big-league record with 103 RBIs from the leadoff position.

This season, however, Blackmon has struggled from the top spot. Entering Friday’s game, he was hitting .157 (11-for-70) with an on-base percentage of .221 in 17 games. However, he had swatted four of his 16 homers from the leadoff spot.

Roster move. In need of a long reliever, the Rockies recalled right-hander Ryan Feltner from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned right-hander Justin Lawrence to Triple-A.

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