Kershaw could be in line to be opening day starter
While the Dodgers still aren't confirming their opening day starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw appears to be in line for the assignment.
A day after manager Joe Torre said the team's regular-season rotation plans would become obvious, the soon-to-be 22-year-old Kershaw was being pointed toward the April 5 season opener at Pittsburgh.
Torre did announce his spring rotation plans Thursday, saying Vicente Padilla will start the spring opener March 5 against the Chicago White Sox. Left-hander Eric Stults, one of a bevy of candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, will pitch in the second spring game.
The clue to the regular-season rotation takes shape after that. Kershaw will pitch the third spring game, ahead of fellow opening day starting candidates Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda.
Despite being so young, Kershaw is the candidate that has done the most to earn the honor. He had the fifth-best ERA in the National League last season at 2.79 in 30 starts and 171 innings. His 1.83 ERA at home led the major leagues.
With two days remaining in the 2009 regular season and the slumping Dodgers losing their grip on a potential National League West title, Kershaw pitched six scoreless innings in a victory that made the team division champs.
``To be put in that situation and be able to come through was an awesome feeling,'' said Kershaw, who has a modest 13-13 career record. ``But at the same time, it was just one game too. Hopefully I'll have a lot more of those throughout my career.''
Billingsley had been the team's No. 1 starter in waiting, but he stumbled to a 3-7 record and a 5.20 ERA in the second half last season after being named an NL All-Star. He blamed mechanical issues for his struggles.
Kuroda started the season opener last season at San Diego, but three separate injuries in 2009 cost him at least 11 starts. Padilla pitched well down the stretch last season and into the playoffs, but he only joined the organization last Aug. 19.
Torre said Thursday that there will be about six or seven legitimate candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation. Stults appears to be the leading candidate along with challengers James McDonald, Charlie Haeger, Carlos Monasterios, Russ Ortiz, Ramon Ortiz and Josh Towers.
Stults and Haeger are out of minor-league options, meaning that if they don't make the club out of spring training the Dodgers would risk losing one or both to other clubs.
To help with the innings needed to give each candidate a fair chance, the Dodgers added a B game against the White Sox on March 2.