Reds 6, Dodgers 5

March 23, 2013

Clayton Kershaw is feeling much better as spring training wraps up. And that's a very important development for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Kershaw struck out eight over six innings in a 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday.

''I feel good, which is a good thing,'' said Kershaw, who is scheduled to start on opening day against San Francisco at Dodger Stadium. ''Overall, these past two, three starts, I felt better.''

The left-hander allowed three runs and four hits. He walked three, including the first two batters he faced.

It was a much different performance than the one he had against San Diego on March 5, when he struggled through three innings, allowing four runs and seven hits.

''It was really that one against San Diego that I didn't like a whole lot,'' he said. ''Other than that, I felt OK. Now, it's time to get going.''

With manager Don Mattingly still to finalize who will begin the season at shortstop, Luis Cruz hit a three-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the fourth for Los Angeles.

Hanley Ramirez underwent surgery on Friday to repair a right thumb injury. He is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks, leaving an opening in the infield.

Mattingly is leaning toward shifting Cruz from third base to shortstop until Ramirez is ready to play. That, Mattingly said, would give him options at third.

Cruz was still at third against Cincinnati on Friday, but said he could move over to shortstop whenever.

''I played short my whole career,'' he said. ''I've been at third the last three years. Short is actually easier. It's my natural position. Where the ball goes is where I know to go. It's been a good spring. Coming in, my mentality was the same as always. I have to win a job. But you feel more pressure, I think, when they're not counting on you.''

If Mattingly moves Cruz to shortstop, it appears Dee Gordon is headed to Triple-A Albuquerque. But there's been no decision.

Gordon started at shortstop on Friday.

''Whatever he tells me to do, I go out and do,'' Gordon said. ''I don't care. I just play.''

Mike Leake allowed four runs and five hits in five innings for Cincinnati. He struck out two and walked three.

Leake won the last spot in Cincinnati's rotation when manager Dusty Baker announced Friday that Aroldis Chapman was returning to the closer role.

''I felt really good,'' Leake said. ''There were just two bad pitches. It's been a good spring. I wanted to challenge myself to be the pitcher I had been. I don't feel like I necessarily deserved to be in the rotation. But I fought for it. I wasn't going to be lax and make it an easy decision for them.''

Cincinnati scored three times in the ninth. Jack Hannahan had a two-run single and Xavier Paul delivered a sacrifice fly.

Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier each drove in a run for the Reds.

The Dodgers got a scare in the fifth inning when outfielder Yasiel Puig left after he got the wind knocked out of him attempting to make a diving catch on Brandon Phillips' liner.

NOTES: Los Angeles' Carl Crawford is scheduled to play in left field for the first time this spring on Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Crawford, who was 1 for 3 as a designated hitter on Friday, has been strengthening his surgically repaired left elbow in throwing drills. ... Dodgers RHP Chad Billingsley is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Saturday afternoon. He was scratched from a start on Tuesday because of a bruise on his right index finger. ... Spotted at Camelback Ranch during the seventh-inning stretch: Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Jackson disappeared into the Dodger offices for about five minutes, then got in his vehicle and quietly left. Dodgers minority owner Magic Johnson, the former Laker great, addressed the team before the game.