LOS ANGELES (AP) – After opening the season in Australia and San Diego, the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally coming home.
They host the rival San Francisco Giants on Friday, when Hyun-jin Ryu will make his third start in five games. He replaces scheduled starter Clayton Kershaw, who’s on the disabled list for the first time in his career and is likely to be sidelined for a month or longer.
Los Angeles fans attending the sold out game will get their first up-close look at baseball’s highest-paid team, with the Dodgers’ $234 million payroll moving them ahead of the second-place New York Yankees.
"The guys are ready to go out there and show them that we can play," second baseman Dee Gordon said. "Big rivals, LA crowd, and I’m happy. It’s going to be good."
The Dodgers are coming home with a 4-1 record. The Giants are 3-1 and will start Ryan Vogelsong.
The Dodgers have been all over the place since leaving spring training.
They opened the season last month in Sydney, where they won both games against Arizona. Five days after returning home, they played the three-game Freeway Series exhibition against the Angels. On Sunday, they opened the North American schedule with a loss at San Diego. After taking Monday off, they finished the series with two wins over the Padres before taking Thursday off.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez said the players were thrown off a bit by all the travel.
"It’s just getting your body adjusted again and getting your sleep pattern right. There’s definitely a sense of fighting yourself a little bit," he said. "That’s why it’s so awesome to come back with two victories. You definitely need that adjustment period back."
Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp is expected to make his season debut after rehabbing from left ankle and shoulder operations. He’s eager to return after being limited to 179 games over the last two seasons.
Kemp will need time to regain his hitting touch, but his presence could bolster an offense that has struggled out of the gate. Andre Ethier, Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez are a combined 8 for 55 (.145).
Kemp’s return makes things interesting for manager Don Mattingly, who will juggle playing time for outfielders Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Ethier. Puig is hitting .250 to start his first full season in the majors.
Reliever Brian Wilson has joined Kershaw on the DL with nerve irritation in his right elbow, the same one he’s had two Tommy John surgeries on. That leaves Mattingly in need of someone else to pitch the eighth as the setup man for closer Kenley Jansen.
While the Dodgers’ offense has yet to fully come alive, their starting pitching has been strong. Free agent acquisition Dan Haren beat the Padres 5-1 on Wednesday in his first start, and the rotation has a combined 0.91 ERA with 30 strikeouts and seven walks.
"It’s nice winning four of five games, and we haven’t had a home game yet," Haren said. "I’ve only been in the Dodgers’ clubhouse for two days, really, so it will be nice having a homestand. We’ve had so many off days and the schedule is crazy. The home opener should be fun, exciting, too."
Ryu is 1-0 and hasn’t allowed a run in his first two starts spanning 12 innings. The left-hander went 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA in five starts against the Giants as a rookie last season.
Vogelsong will be making his 2014 debut after going 4-6 with a 5.73 ERA while being limited to 19 starts last year because of a fractured pitching hand. The right-hander had an 8.44 ERA in two outings against the Dodgers.
Angel Pagan hit a three-run homer in a five-run eighth inning as the Giants rallied to beat the Diamondbacks 8-5 on Thursday.
Brandon Belt joined Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Kevin Mitchell as the only Giants with three homers in the first four games of a season.
"I said before the season I would hit 74 home runs," he quipped. "So we’ll see what happens."
Belt is 1 for 7 against Ryu.