Australians can rest easy today knowing that the Los Angeles Dodgers are sending the best pitcher in baseball to open the 2014 baseball season. Manager Don Mattingly announced Sunday that his starting pitchers for the trip to Australia will be Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu.
Kershaw starting starting in his fourth consecutive opening day is no surprise considering that the soon to be 26-year-old has led all of baseball in ERA in each of the past three seasons. In fact, if Kershaw had 46 more ER in the last four years combined he would still have the lowest ERA in baseball over that time period.
Australian media ripped the Dodgers for not sending their top pitchers to represent baseball after Zack Greinke’s comments made their way down under.
Kershaw had made it clear all along that he wanted to pitch in the opening series, however, the final decision was not up to him. The Dodgers have made it known this spring that they don’t want to overwork their ace.
Only Justin Verlander (932.0), Felix Hernandez (919.2), and James Shields (909.0) have compiled more innings of work than Kershaw (901.1) over the last four seasons. The Dodgers will make sure that Kershaw gets extra rest at the beginning of the season to ensure he won’t be tired on the back end.
There will be an abundance of days off for the Dodgers in the first month of the season with Major League Baseball’s continued effort to work around rainouts in April. After the four days off upon returning from Australia, the Dodgers will receive two days off in each of the first two weeks of April.
The days off will also bode well for Greinke who has been nursing a calf injury during camp. The Dodgers could benefit by giving Greinke more time to get to full strength while giving Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm starts, at least, early on.
Mattingly hasn’t laid out a plan, at least publicly, on the rotation once regular season games start stateside. There will be a decision to make on the fifth spot in the rotation that will need to be made relatively quickly.