Mattingly wastes no time, picks Kershaw for opener
A casually dressed Don Mattingly leaned back in his clubhouse
office chair admittedly much more relaxed the second time around as
Nobody will question that his first move of spring training is
spot on: Mattingly wasted no time Tuesday choosing reigning NL Cy
Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw as the opening day starter for
Los Angeles come April 5 at San Diego – even if it’s a no-brainer
to slot the 21-game winner at No. 1 in the rotation. Mattingly
spoke with his left-handed ace Monday at Camelback Ranch, where the
team’s pitchers and catchers formally reported Tuesday ahead of
Wednesday’s first workout.
The way the Dodgers’ schedule shapes up with an off day before
the home opener, Kershaw also could wind up taking the ball for the
first game at Dodger Stadium.
”Whatever happens is great,” said Kershaw, fresh off a
whirlwind winter of awards dinners. ”It’s nice to have something
to look forward to, just have a goal in mind that you’re getting
ready for. Whatever day that is, first day, second day, fifth day,
it doesn’t matter. It’ll be fun.”
Mattingly and the Dodgers are bracing for another chaotic season
considering the sale of the team is expected to go through by April
30 and nobody knows exactly what will happen with new leadership at
the top. The 23-year-old Kershaw, for one, is rooting for former
skipper Joe Torre’s group because he’s a familiar face.
”Once again that’s out of our control,” Kershaw said.
”Obviously excited to get it over with, but at the same time the
way I figure it we’re going to have to talk about it now, talk
about it April 1 and talk about it April 30, and from there on
hopefully we don’t have to talk about it.”
The Dodgers have much bigger business on their minds, like
rebounding from back-to-back disappointing seasons since Los
Angeles won the NL West in 2009 before losing in the NL
championship series. The team went 82-79 in Mattingly’s first
season in 2011 for a third-place division finish.
He is counting on the familiar stars to help the Dodgers emerge
as a contender again in the improved NL West: Kershaw and center
fielder Matt Kemp, who lost out on the NL MVP to Milwaukee’s Ryan
Braun – who is awaiting word on whether his 50-game suspension for
a violation of baseball’s drug policy will be upheld.
Mattingly makes it clear he will need big seasons from more than
those two for the Dodgers to stay in the race with the defending
division champion Diamondbacks and 2010 World Series winner San
And he hardly can expect more than what Kershaw and Kemp gave
him last year.
Kershaw was 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts, winning the
NL pitching triple crown. Earlier this month, he received a $19
million, two-year contract. He knows his stats mean nothing now,
saying: ”Just win, no goal, just win. New year, all that’s over
Mattingly appreciates that mantra.
”We had the best pitcher and the best player in the game last
year and we ended up third,” Mattingly said. ”Clayton could go
out and really pitch better and not have as many wins. Sometimes
that’s the way it goes. Matt falls into that, too. He could go out,
train the same way all winter long, same attitude, work as hard and
the ball doesn’t drop. So things may not fall his way.”
Despite all the off-the-field turmoil for the financially
troubled franchise and its ownership upheaval, Mattingly has tried
to keep a forward-looking focus as he enters his second season as
skipper. The 50-year-old became a first-time grandfather earlier
this month, even attending the birth of grandson Cash Michael
Mattingly – he was a 7-pounder while arriving five weeks premature
– in his hometown of Evansville, Ind. Cash is the son of
Mattingly’s eldest son, Taylor.
Moments like that help Mattingly put the pressure-packed
baseball life in perspective. He seems at ease. He sported stylish
sneakers with dark jeans and a plaid button-down that he left
”The years playing in a New York atmosphere, it really gets
down to the bottom line,” Mattingly said. ”I know we’re having
problems and all this stuff is going on, but at the end of the day
when we get right down to it, it was still back to us to get
pitches to hit, to make pitches, to execute, play baseball.”
Kemp, too, is handling what’s in his control. He was rewarded
with a $160 million, eight-year contract last fall that matches the
seventh-highest deal in baseball history and richest in franchise
history. He led the league in home runs (39) and RBIs (126), while
finishing third in batting average at .324. He also stole 40
He said he knows Braun, they’re friends and that the Milwaukee
slugger is one of his favorite players and he hopes the positive
drug test is ”not true.”
”I would want to win by them voting me,” Kemp said. ”I
wouldn’t want them to just, `Oh, this person did that so how about
we just give the award to this person?’ I don’t think it should
work that way. If it is that way, then it should be a vacant award
for 2011, no one should win the MVP award in the National
Mattingly named Javy Guerra his closer and Kenley Jansen set-up
man. Jansen is hopeful he will have no further health problems this
year. He went on the 15-day disabled list in late July after being
admitted to a hospital for an irregular heartbeat. He was placed on
blood thinners and sidelined for a month – and he learned from the
”I will go to doctors at times to check me out,” he said.
”I’ve got to watch what I’m eating if I really want to have a long
Notes: 3B Juan Uribe, who had surgery in early September for a
sports hernia and missed the rest of the season, is expected to
show up at camp ready to go. GM Ned Colletti and athletic trainer
Stan Conte traveled to the Dominican Republic and presented the
infielder with an offseason regimen. ”We assume he’s healthy,”
Mattingly said. ”The injury, we feel like that’s passed.” … RHP
reliever Blake Hawksworth is two to three weeks behind schedule
this spring and won’t be ready for opening day after he required a
second surgery on his throwing elbow to clean up an infection.
Mattingly said the infection occurred after an initial procedure.
… RHP Ronald Belisario, the Venezuelan reliever who missed all of
last season because he couldn’t obtain a visa, is with the team but
still faces a 25-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug
policy. He arrived a month late to spring training in 2010, so
everybody seems happy he’s here at all – let alone on time. ”The
fact that he’s here is a good sign,” Mattingly said.