|Dodgers pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin (File photo)|
The reigning NL West champs gathered earlier than usual to prepare for a two-game opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia, on March 22-23.
While nothing’s official at such an early date, manager Don Mattingly did nothing to dampen the belief that Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the potent one-two punch at the top of the Dodgers rotation, would get Aussie starts.
“We’re obviously not ready to make any kind of announcement, but I think it’s pretty simple, pretty easy, to know which way we want to go,” Mattingly said, “but we have to get everybody ready because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Greinke said he assumes Kershaw will start the opener and he will go in the second game. They are a pair rich in talent and just plain rich.
Kershaw, the NL Cy Young winner two of the past three seasons, has a $215 million, seven-year contract. A year ago, Greinke signed a $147 million, six-year deal.
Ryu Hyun-jin is the solid third starter, and the Dodgers added Dan Haren to the mix in the offseason.
“Kersh is our No. 1 guy. It’s not that hard to say,” Mattingly said. “And then Zack kind of lines up right there right next to him and Hyun is not far behind. We’ll move ahead accordingly and if anything happens we’ll make adjustments.”
The potential No. 5 starter, Josh Beckett, might take a bit longer because he is recovering from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, a rare nerve condition that can cause pain and numbness in the shoulder and make it difficult for the hand to grip.
It will be a while before another Dodger starter, Chad Billingsley returns after elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
Los Angeles seems added another pitcher, agreeing to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with left-hander Paul Maholm. He was in the clubhouse ― his name was even on a locker for a time before someone took it down ― but declined to speak with reporters before the deal was announced later in the day.
The Dodgers had discussions with Bronson Arroyo, who agreed Friday to a $23.5 million, two-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As for those high expectations?
“There should be,” Greinke said. “Our team’s really good. We did really good, even with a bunch of injuries last year. We have some young guys about ready to come up if needed. I mean, the expectations should be really high here.”
Mattingly said his team has “realistic expectations that we’ve got a talented club and we’re capable.”
The team, he noted, is pretty much the same cast of players as it was last season, when the Dodgers went on an incredible 42-8 run and rolled to the division title, eventually falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in a six-game NL championship series.
Catcher A.J. Ellis showed up about 15 pounds lighter, crediting an improved diet.
He took a promotional trip to Australia in the offseason.
“It was wonderful, a great experience,” Ellis said. “I’m so honored the Dodgers asked me to represent the franchise over there. It was just an amazing experience with a great group of people.”