MINNEAPOLIS — Beau Brieske refuses to psych himself out.
He knows the matchup. He knows the team.
The matchup is Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed pitcher with 15 years of MLB experience and a Hall of Fame-caliber résumé. The team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, National League West Division champions in eight of the past nine seasons.
“I don’t want to make too much of it,” Brieske said Thursday.
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The 24-year-old Brieske and the 34-year-old Kershaw are scheduled to duel Saturday in the second of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. Brieske, a right-hander, is sandwiched between left-handers Tyler Alexander and Eduardo Rodriguez in the Detroit Tigers’ starting rotation.
Saturday’s start will be the second of Brieske’s MLB career.
“For Beau, his stuff plays against anybody,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Thursday. “He’ll get swing and miss against anybody. He can generate soft contact. He can command the strike zone.
“He hasn’t seen them, but they haven’t seen him, either. That can be advantage pitcher if he can get into leverage counts.”
Brieske is focused on his preparation, though admits facing Kershaw will be a treat. He grew up a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks, so when the Dodgers — an NL West foe — came to town, Brieske looked forward to watching Kershaw pitch against his childhood team.
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Kershaw, the 2014 NL MVP and a three-time Cy Young winner, is MLB’s active career leader with a 2.49 ERA over his 382 games in the major leagues. Kershaw, a 6-foot-4 lefty, has a 2.65 ERA this season with zero walks and 23 strikeouts across 17 innings in three starts.
“I even watch his starts now,” Brieske said, “just to see how he goes about his game plan, the way he attacks hitters and how consistent he is with sticking to his approach. If he puts the ball where he wants to, he’s going to be fine — no matter who the hitter is.”
The Dodgers’ offence, meanwhile, is loaded: 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts, 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman, All-Star Trea Turner, two-time All-Star Justin Turner, two-time All-Star Max Muncy, All-Star Chris Taylor and former first-round pick Gavin Lux.
“I feel like that’s the best opportunity for me to grow, get better and really meet that challenge,” Brieske said. “It gives you the best idea of where you stand and where you need to improve. It will show your weaknesses, it will show your strengths. It will give me a good idea of where I’m at.”
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Brieske, a 27th-round pick in 2019, made his MLB debut against the Colorado Rockies on April 23 at Comerica Park, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He fired 45 of 73 pitches for strikes.
His plan against the Dodgers?
“I need to execute,” Brieske said. “The way that I wanted to go about this week was to be great at what I’m good at. Take what I’m good at, and go be great at it. And then continue to work on getting a better feel for some things that I think I can improve upon.”
Brieske wasn’t satisfied with his debut.
“It could have been a lot better,” he said.
He wants to be the best.
“He doesn’t cower down to anything,” Hinch said. “He looks like he belongs and talks like he belongs, and there’s some humility in there that understands he’s got a lot to learn. It’s a good start.”
That’s exactly how Brieske reacted when asked about his first 15 days — including his first start — in the big leagues.
“I don’t want to say it feels right at home, like I’m comfortable,” Brieske said. “Because I don’t want to make it seem like it’s a comfortable feeling as in, I don’t need to work and get better.
“But it’s comfortable in the sense that it feels like I belong, and I know that I’m good enough to be here. There are also things that I want to continue to strive for. … I’ve never played with guys that have played this game for so long, so I like to watch how they go about their business.”
Jeimer Candelario’s day off
Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario — known for his reliability — sat the bench Thursday for the first time this season. Harold Castro received his first start at third base and filled the No. 6 spot in the batting order.
Candelario, though 17 games this season, is hitting .143 (9-for-63) with three doubles, four RBIs, six walks and 17 strikeouts. The 28-year-old is hitless in his past 10 at-bats.
“I’m just trying something a little different, giving him a day to watch the game and decompress a little bit,” Hinch said. “These guys are pressing pretty hard, trying to solve a couple weeks problems in one game. When you get into that mode, it’s counterproductive.”
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In 2021, Candelario hit .271 with 16 home runs, 65 walks and 135 strikeouts in 149 games. He tied for MLB’s lead with 42 doubles and was second on the Tigers with a .351 on-base percentage.
Candelario was Detroit’s most consistent hitter in 2020 and 2021.
Miguel Cabrera also received a break Thursday, as the Tigers proactively monitor his health. He is expected to return to the lineup Friday against the Dodgers. He has a .296 batting average with four walks and 17 strikeouts in 16 games.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ Beau Brieske grew up watching next foe Clayton Kershaw