SAN DIEGO (AP) — After making plenty of news off the field this spring, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are ready to play ball.
Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start for the Dodgers on Thursday at Petco Park against the Padres, who will turn to newcomer Edinson Volquez.
The Dodgers are being sold for $2.15 billion to a group involving Magic Johnson.
Padres owner John Moores had hoped to complete the sale of his club to Jeff Moorad. But Moorad suddenly stepped down as CEO last month, apparently feeling he wouldn’t get the votes needed to approve the deal. Moores owns 51 percent while Moorad’s group holds 49 percent.
The Padres are still awaiting MLB’s approval of a new TV deal with Fox, but the network doesn’t anticipate that being an obstacle to televising opening day. While Fox has agreed to deals with Cox and DirectTV – which cover roughly 60 percent of the San Diego pay TV market – it hasn’t reached deals with Time Warner and AT&T.
Come Thursday afternoon, though, the focus will be on the field.
The 23-year-old Kershaw is eager to move on after he led the majors with a 2.28 ERA, tied for the NL lead with 21 wins and topped the league with 248 strikeouts.
“All that stuff’s over with,” the left-hander said. “I’m getting to the point where I’m more and more comfortable. I’m still the young guy on the staff. We still have four veteran guys in there. Experience-wise I’m still not anywhere close to those guys.”
Manager Don Mattingly is impressed with Kershaw.
“There are a lot of guys who have had Cy Young awards and others who have had good seasons. But if you get into what I think Clayton can be, and what I think he wants to be, it’s time. It’s consistency, it’s every year. The guy is a true ace that you can count on every year, every start. I mean, one year like that is great, but knowing Clayton, he wants to go do it again. And what we’re going to have to be aware of is him trying to do a little too much and thinking that he has to do everything – win every time out and pitch nine innings every time. Clayton could actually go out, pitch just as good as last year or a little better and maybe win 15 games if things don’t go his way and he doesn’t get the runs. So I just want him to go and be himself.”
The Dodgers finished third in the NL West last year at 82-79. Besides Kershaw, the Dodgers will be looking to Matt Kemp, the NL MVP runner-up, to help keep them in contention until the new ownership group can start spending on new players.
“A lot of people talked about last year, what we did at the end and what that does for us,” Mattingly said. “At the end of the day, if it builds a little character for us, and these guys came together as a team, I feel we can do some things because we have a lot of that same core group back. But we’re back to square one and we’ve got to put wins on the board.”
The Padres are looking to bounce back from their last-place finish at 71-91.
Volquez was named the surprise opening day starter. The Padres were expected to pick Tim Stauffer to pitch the opener, but he is bothered by a sore right triceps, manager Bud Black said.
Volquez and first baseman Yonder Alonso were among the players acquired in a trade with Cincinnati that sent Mat Latos to the Reds. It was one of three big offseason deals that new general manager Josh Byrnes made in an attempt to turn around the punchless Padres.
“It is very exciting for me. It’s my second time doing it and it’s a big honor for me,” said Volquez, who was Cincinnati’s opening day starter last year. “To come to a new team and have them pick me feels good.”
Volquez said he made adjustments in spring training “and it’s made me more consistent in the strike zone.”
Volquez was 5-7 with a 5.71 ERA in 20 starts for the Reds last season. He was a 17-game winner and NL All-Star in 2008.
“I am really looking forward to a really good year,” he said. “I think I am ready mentally and physically and that makes me excited to get going and to show what I can do. I think you will see a different pitcher.”
Said Black: “His velocity is good. His changeup is as good as ever. His breaking ball is better than I’ve ever seen it. If he can cut down on his walks, he will be fine.”