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

Dodgers manager.

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

scary ordeal.

”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.