Giants-Dodgers Preview

The Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants play each other 17

times, and Clayton Kershaw figures there’s no better time than the

season opener for Los Angeles to measure itself against the World

Series champions.

The 23-year-old left-hander starts Thursday night against Tim

Lincecum and the Giants, who dominated the headlines long after the

Dodgers’ season ended without a playoff appearance.

”Obviously, they’re the team to beat,” Kershaw said. ”But

this year is a brand new year and there are a lot of expectations

with every team coming in, and the Giants are just one more team

we’ve got to beat.”

The Giants will have to wait until their second home game on

April 9 to receive their championship rings. But just knowing their

bitter rivals have a World Series title to celebrate is annoying

enough to many Dodger fans.

”With the history, sure it’s going to be (hyped up),” Giants

manager Bruce Bochy said. ”With the two clubs, it goes way back. I

actually look forward to how it’s going to go. It should be very

exciting.”

Thursday’s game is the first of seven meetings between the teams

in the first two weeks of the season.

”It’s going to be a tough series no matter what,” Dodgers

outfielder Andre Ethier said. ”It always is between these two

teams, and it’s something where a lot of emotion and a lot of

energy fills the ballpark because it’s the Dodgers-Giants

rivalry.”

The Giants will be without two of their top players to start the

season. All-Star closer Brian Wilson is on the disabled list

because of a strained oblique, while Cody Ross, their best hitter

during the playoffs, has a strained calf.

For the Dodgers, fifth-starter Jon Garland (oblique), third

baseman Casey Blake (back), catcher Dioner Navarro (oblique) and

pitcher Vicente Padilla (arm surgery) are on the DL.

Kershaw got the opening day nod a year after starting the

Dodgers’ home opener.

”It’s an exciting opportunity, but at the same time, you try to

keep it in perspective,” he said. ”It’s one of 162 games, so it’s

just a matter of getting the season rolling.”

He’ll be facing off against Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young

winner.

”It’s always tough, and it’s going to be a battle that first

day,” Ethier said. ”But you’ve got to beat them all. Whether it’s

the first game or later on, you’re going to face him sometime, so

you’ve got to go out there and give it your best shot. I guess it

would be a confidence boost if you knock him off. If not, you pick

yourself back up and figure out a way to get them the next

day.”

New Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is more focused on his team

than the Giants.

”I’m worried about us and how good we play, and how close we

can get to playing our best baseball 162 times,” he said.

The former Yankees star begins his first managerial job as the

successor to Joe Torre, who retired at 70 after three seasons in

Los Angeles. Mattingly, who turns 50 next month, is carrying plenty

of lessons learned from his old boss.

”I’d like to say I’m as calm as Joe, but it’s hard to be as

calm as Joe,” he said. ”But I’ve always been similar in the fact

that, as a coach, you’re always paying attention to your guys

because every little movement in their body language tells you

something about what’s going on with them. I just kind of take down

notes as the game goes on if things are bothering me and I write

them down.”

During pre-game ceremonies, Placido Domingo will sing the

national anthem and ”The Phantom of the Opera” singer Davis

Gaines will perform ”God Bless America.”

There will be a moment of silence for those affected by the

earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A giant U.S. flag will be unfurled

followed with a flyover by a B-2 bomber.

Kershaw said Wednesday that he will donate $100 for each of his

strikeouts during the season to Arise Africa, a nonprofit dedicated

to ending poverty there. He was fifth in the NL last season with

212 strikeouts.

Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, visited Zambia during the offseason

and helped build a school and visited with orphans. They hope to

raise $70,000 to start an orphanage there. He signed a one-year

deal worth $500,000 in the offseason.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed

to this report.