Dodgers pursue World Series run starting with San Diego
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A healthy Clayton Kershaw, plenty of arms in the rotation and bullpen and a lineup bolstered by new second baseman Logan Forsythe has the Los Angeles Dodgers declaring nothing short of the franchise’s first World Series appearance since 1988 will do.
Kershaw takes the mound for his seventh consecutive opening day start on Monday against Jhoulys Chacin and the rebuilding San Diego Padres.
“We got a step closer last year and everybody knows what the goal is,” general manager Farhan Zaidi said.
Kershaw will tie Don Sutton and Don Drysdale for most season-opening starts in franchise history. The Dodgers have won their last three openers against the Padres in 2012, ’15 and ’16 with the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner on the mound.
Last year’s opener was a 15-0 rout in San Diego, where the Dodgers outscored the Padres 25-0 in the season’s first three games. This time, the teams play four in Los Angeles to start before the Dodgers close out the week on the road at Colorado.
Kershaw missed 2 months last year because of a herniated disk in his lower back, but returned to post a 1.69 ERA.
The left-hander faces a San Diego team that finished last in the NL West and brought in several newcomers in an effort to turn around the franchise.
Wally Moon, who played on three World Series-winning teams with the Dodgers, and Tom Lasorda, who managed the team to its last two World Series titles in 1981 and ’88, will handle ceremonial first pitches. Moon turns 87 Monday; Lasorda is 89.
Missing from the sold-out festivities will be Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully, who retired at the end of last season after 67 years with the team. Taking over is 29-year-old Joe Davis, who warmed up by broadcasting road games last year. He’ll handle play-by-play while paired with former All-Stars Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra.
Scully will hardly be forgotten. A new gallery adjacent to the Vin Scully Press Box displays his headset and other objects from his booth during his final season. He’ll return to the stadium on May 3 for a ceremony.
While the franchise recognizes its past, the team’s focus is squarely on the present. And its goal is way more than a fifth straight NL West title.
“We’re equipped to win this thing,” second-year manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s the only focus that we have.”
Kershaw anchors a rotation featuring Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu. McCarthy and Ryu are coming off two years of injuries.
“We have a lot of guys who can start games for us and give us a real chance to win,” Zaidi said. “Having a good stable of those guys at the outset of the season has obviously proven really important the last couple of years.”
Last year, the Dodgers used a franchise record-tying 55 total players and 31 different pitchers in a season that saw 28 different players land on the disabled list, the most for any team in the last 30 years.
Andre Ethier and five pitchers start the season on the DL.
Ethier is bothered by a herniated disk in his back after missing most of last year with a broken leg. His absence in the outfield opens up a spot for Andrew Toles, who was called up last July and hit .314 in 48 games with the big-league club.
Right-handers Pedro Baez (right wrist contusion), Josh Ravin (right groin strain) and Brock Stewart (right shoulder tendinitis) along with left-hander Scott Kazmir (left hip strain) are on the 10-day DL. Right-hander Yimi Garcia is on the 60-day DL rehabbing from right elbow surgery.
In the bullpen, closer Kenley Jansen re-signed while Sergio Romo came down Interstate 5 from San Francisco.
Forsythe joins a veteran infield from Tampa Bay. Adrian Gonzalez returns at first base, shortstop Corey Seager is coming off his Rookie of the Year season and Justin Turner was re-signed at third. Yasmani Grandal is behind the plate.
Joc Pederson is back in center field and Yasiel Puig looks to return to his one-time All-Star form in right. The Dodgers will platoon a combination of Toles, newcomer Franklin Gutierrez and Scott Van Slyke in left.
“All the boxes are checked,” Roberts said. “Now it’s just up to us to go out and win baseball games.”