Yasiel Puig RF
Juan Uribe 3B
Andre Ethier CF
Clayton Kershaw P
The Dodgers open the 2014 in a land down under, and they will have their reigning N.L. Cy Young Award winner on the mound against the divisional rival Arizona Diamondbacks. After an abbreviated Spring Training schedule, the Dodgers stepped aboard a jet to fly across the world and ring in the MLB Opening Series. The Dodgers, an already storied franchise, have the opportunity to bring exposure to the beautiful sport of baseball to fans who have never seen talents like Clayton Kershaw pitch on Australian soil. Even though this Spring has been shortened by the historic trip, the Dodgers will need to be ready to play like it means it, because this series does count.
Some may say that this series is a mere exhibition, but in reality the Dodgers could come back to the U.S. already down two games in the loss column if they play like it’s a practice game. The Dodgers still have some weak spots on their team including a lackluster bench and a question mark of a fifth spot in the rotation. Dee Gordon and Justin Turner look to be platooning at second base, but I doubt it will be a permanent solution but more of a waiting game on Alex Guerrero.
The Dodgers have excellent pitching, and they also have a very potentially potent lineup. The offense will need to be consistent and healthy, but with names like Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and even Juan Uribe, there is a lot of batting power to behold. Yasiel Puig had a disappointing Spring Training, but his sophomore season will be one to watch. Puig is one of the best young players in the game, and it will be interesting to see if all the expectations cause him to digress. Puig was already feeling comfortable playing at the Sydney Cricket Grounds on Thursday and lead a comeback for the Dodgers against Team Australia. Puig homered and threw a runner out at the plate in the 4-2 win. Puig hit .122 in Spring Training.
The Dodgers have a stellar bullpen, an excellent rotation, and the best lineup in the division. If they can stay healthy and focused, they are favorites to win the NL West again. The Sydney trip will be a great opportunity for the team to bond as they share this special baseball adventure. Koalas and wallabies aside, the Dodgers have a two-game series to focus on. The D-backs want nothing more than to upstage the Dodgers after the bitter season the two teams had with against each other in 2013.
Brawls are always bigger in the outback, right? There won’t be any brawls, but there sure will be some unforgiving feelings even if the managers insist that they’ve moved on. The “pool incident” still lingers on the minds of the D-backs and their fans, and the Dodgers vs. D-backs rival has become a lot more heated since last season when Yasiel Puig was beaned and Ian Kennedy was still a Snake. The D-backs traded away Kennedy, but Paul Goldschmidt and Gerardo Parra, two big irritants for the Dodgers, remain.
The Diamondbacks got a really bad break recently after losing Patrick Corbin to a partially torn elbow ligament. I never like to see players injured, and I wish Corbin a speedy recovery. It looks as though Corbin will be lost for at least this next year. The D-backs will have to go with Wade Miley to counter Kershaw on Saturday morning.
For the southpaw showdown, Miley will get the call. The lefty pitcher started 3 games this Spring for Arizona and had a 1.29 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 14 innings. Last season he went 10-10 with a 3.55 ERA in 33 games started. He was 1-0 against the Dodgers last season with a 3.86 ERA in 3 starts.
We all know the story of Clayton Kershaw last season. Mr. Dominance had 16-9 record with a 1.83 ERA and 232 strikeouts in 33 starts and 236 innings pitched. This Spring Kersh has struggled. He went winless (0-3) with 9.20 ERA and 10 strikeouts with 5 walks in 4 starts. His Spring really doesn’t mean much, and I’m super excited to see Kershaw open the season. Last Opening Day at Dodger Stadium we watched Kershaw hit a homerun against the Giants on a beautiful Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. It would be sweet to see another Kershaw hit a homerun at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.
As far as the lineup, it looks like Don Mattingly will be going with a second base platoon with Justin Turner and Dee Gordon. Gordon will play against right-handers. I’m not really ecstatic about this situation, and I’d much have either retained Mark Ellis or go with Guerrero instead of shuffling between Gordon and Turner. I don’t think Guerrero should be optioned, and he should be the Dodgers starting second baseman. I’m not sure why the Dodgers feel he is not ready, because from what I saw at Spring Training he is just about on par with Gordon out at second base. You can watch my video of Gordon and Guerrero working side by side at second base here.
Andre Ethier will make his eighth straight Opening Day start for the Dodgers. He will be batting an uncharacteristic seventh in the batting order. It is strange to see Ethier’s name so far down the lineup, but with names like Puig, Gonzalez, and Ramirez in the lineup he has sort of been pushed down. The days of a Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier dynamic duo in the lineup are long gone. It is still unclear when they will play in the same lineup again since Matt Kemp will begin the season on the disabled list.
Scott Van Slyke will be starting in left field for Carl Crawford who remained behind on paternity leave. His fiancé is set to give birth any
moment now. SVS is no doubt excited for his first Opening Day start, and although Van Slyke can has been said to hit lefties- well he only has hit .211 against them in his career. I’m fine with Van Slyke as a bench option. His main value is his occasional pop of power.
Adrian Gonzalez will be at first although he left the exhibition game on Thursday with back soreness. Hopefully it was mild, otherwise Scott Van Slyke may have to play first base instead of left field. Juan Uribe will of course handling the hot corner and will bat sixth. When Crawford returns, he would slot in the second spot and Gordon would bat eighth.
The Dodgers played the D-backs 19 times last season. Arizona won 10 of those games.
- For those of you who can watch the Dodger game on TV, it will air at 1 AM PT on SportsNet LA with Vin Scully announcing from the Sydney Cricket Ground.
- Radio: LAD: 570 Fox Sports L.A. , KTNQ 1020 ARI: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, KSUN La Mejor 1400
- · TV: LAD: SportsNet LA, MLBN ARI: FS-A, MLBN
For those of you who don’t have Time Warner Cable and are unable to watch the game, Scott will have a detailed recap following its conclusion here on LL. We are looking forward to sharing another exciting season with you!