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PEORIA, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw‘s spring debut was quick and efficient.

The Los Angeles Dodgers ace retired the Seattle Mariners‘ first three hitters on 11 pitches on Sunday. He then headed to the bullpen and threw another 15 or so pitches in a simulated inning.

“I felt good. It’s good to get back out there,” Kershaw said. “I felt better doing this one than I did in bullpens or stuff like that. With the crowd, facing a different team, it helps a little bit. Glad to get back out there. Even though it was just one inning, it felt good to get back out there.”

Kershaw was pitching for the first time since a four-inning relief stint in the Dodgers’ 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series on Nov. 1.

The lefty, who will turn 30 during spring training, went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA in the regular season and then 3-1 in his five postseason starts. He was the Game 1 winner in the World Series, but he blew a four-run lead and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning of Game 5, which the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings.

Even before his bullpen session on the first official day of workouts, Kershaw had already been tabbed by manager Dave Roberts to make his Dodgers-record eighth start on opening day.

“Very positive for Clayton,” Roberts said. “Fastball command good; threw some strike curveballs, which was good to see. Everything he wanted out of this outing, he got.”

Kershaw retired Ben Gamel on a comebacker, got Jean Segura to fly out to left and then retired Robinson Cano on a grounder.

Kershaw said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt likes to add on an inning in the bullpen after spring starts.

“It seems like a good segue into your next start,” said Kershaw, who has won the National League Cy Young Award three times as well as the NL MVP Award in 2014.

The Mariners won 2-0.

Also Sunday, the Seager brothers, Corey and Kyle, faced each other for the first time in their big league careers. Corey was the Dodgers’ designated hitter, while Kyle, who at 30 is seven years older, played third base for the Mariners.

“It’s really cool,” Corey Seager said. “It’s hard to think about just because it’s him. You’ve been around him all your life, watched him play a ton. It’s still weird. You still kind of feel like a fan in the stands watching, even though you’re in the dugout. It’s a really cool moment.”

When the lefty-hitting Corey Seager batted in the first inning, the Mariners put on a shift, opening a big hole at third.

Asked if he thought about dropping in a bunt or something past his brother, he said: “You’ve got to save your free knocks during the year, right, when they count. You catch them off guard when they count, not now.”

Corey Seager said it has been “bad timing, I guess” that the brothers hadn’t faced each other in spring training before, usually because one of them had the day off when their teams played.

This was the only time the teams will play each other this spring.

The Mariners and Dodgers last played in the regular season in April 2015. Corey Seager made his big league debut Sept. 3 that year.

The Dodgers will play at the Mariners Aug. 17-19.

Corey Seager, the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, said the siblings’ parents weren’t able to come out from North Carolina for this game, but they will for the series in Seattle.

“That one’s already on the schedule. They’ll make it out for that one, for sure,” he said. “There will be a lot of people there, actually, probably.”

Kyle Seager, who made his big league debut in July 2011, said this was the second time he saw his younger brother play since Corey was 11. The other time was when the Dodgers were in the World Series this past fall.

Corey Seager said he still considers his older brother a role model.

“I still ask him for help, I still ask him about things,” he said. “I don’t think I really ever will stop asking him. He always will be and still is.”

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Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant not having as much fun as before

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After intimating as much over the last year or so, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant admitted he isn’t having as much fun playing baseball as he used to.

Bryant, 29, spoke to Red Line Radio, a Barstool podcast, and was asked if there was joy for him on the field.

“At times, no,” Bryant responded. “It really got to me sometimes. The stuff I was hearing. The first trade rumors (in 2018) that started to pop up really got to me. I find myself (thinking) ‘Man is this even fun anymore? Why did I start playing this game?’ Because it was fun.

“There’s a lot of other stuff involved. You make a ton of money and fame and all this. You have to get yourself back to why I started playing.”

Bryant is set to become a free agent after next season after settling on a contract with the Cubs for $19.5 million for 2021. He’s been the subject of trade rumors as he and the team haven’t been able to come to an agreement on a longer term deal. He’s also heard criticism for his play, perhaps for the first time in his career. That prompted the former MVP to sound off at the end of the 2020 season.

“I don’t give a s—,” Bryant said at the time. “I really don’t. That’s a good answer. I’m over it. Sometimes I go out there and go 4-for-4 and it’s not good enough for some people, so I don’t give a s—.”

Bryant hit just .203 last season but battled injuries and was hardly the only Cub that struggled in 2020. He’s actually had a couple years of some nagging ailments which may have helped prevent him from returning to his MVP form.

Bryant is the only player in baseball history to win college player of the year, minor league player of the year, rookie of the year and MVP in four consecutive seasons, from 2013-2016. But the last few years have been a struggle as he’s become somewhat of the poster boy — fair or unfairly — for the Cubs’ offensive struggles, especially in the postseason.

On the podcast, Bryant recalled the joy of his dad picking him up before he reached home plate after he hit his first home run as a kid. The six year veteran wants to find that happiness in the game again, though he indicated there are more important things going on in the world right now.

“I found myself sitting there, ‘I don’t have that joy right now,'” he stated. “I’m trying all I can to get back to that place. This year was really rough for me personally, just stat wise. I still had a good time (despite COVID protocols and struggles). Making the most of a terrible situation.”

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Kansas City T-Bones renamed Monarchs in move to honor Negro League team

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association are being renamed the Kansas City Monarchs after the team that played in the Negro Leagues.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum signed a licensing agreement with Mark Brandmeyer’s MaxFun Entertainment, owner of the minor league team.

The original Monarchs were founded in 1924 and won the first Negro League World Series in 1920. The team played in the Negro National League from 1920 to 1931 and the Negro American League from 1937 to 1961, with independent stints from 1932 to 1936 and 1962 to 1965.

“This exciting partnership celebrates Kansas City’s rich baseball heritage and becomes an important extension of the work we’re doing to educate the public about the history of the Negro Leagues,” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick said in a statement Thursday. “We are thrilled that the proud legacy of the great Kansas City Monarchs will take the field again and look forward to sharing our story through a myriad of opportunities made possible through this historic alliance.”

A museum satellite exhibit is planned to travel with the team, which intends to establish a Monarchs youth academy for baseball and softball.

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Jason Castro, Houston Astros reach agreement on one-year contract, source says

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The Houston Astros have agreed to a one-year contract with catcher Jason Castro, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The deal brings Castro back to Houston, where he spent his first six major league seasons and was an All-Star in 2013.

Castro finished the 2020 season with the San Diego Padres following a trade by the Los Angeles Angels in August. The 33-year-old appeared in 27 games between the two teams during the shortened season, hitting .188 with two home runs and nine RBIs.

He has been a below-average hitter throughout his career, with a .230 batting average, but has been lauded for his pitch-framing and blocking skills.

The Athletic first reported on the agreement.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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