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Road-tested Steiner welcomes another Dodgers year

LOS ANGELES -- This isn't the first time Charley Steiner has been part of an international opener.

The four-time Emmy Award winner just entered his 10th season as a Dodgers play-by-play announcer, having joined the team he listened to growing up in Brooklyn after broadcasting Yankees games for three seasons.

The 2004 Yankees opened their season in Japan, and Steiner sees several parallels between that team and this year's Dodgers, who just opened their season with two wins over the D-backs in a groundbreaking series in Sydney.

"Ironically and coincidentally, this Dodgers team is very much like the 2004 Yankees," Steiner said as the club was about to leave Arizona for Australia.

"A: Star-studded. B: They are now becoming a worldwide phenomenon as the Yankees were when they played the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo, and of course that necessitated a very long trip. But the Dodgers now have arrived at event status. And so, part of the price you pay for being event status, your schedule gets all bollixed up -- whether it's additional Sunday night games, where you get into the next town real late or in this case going to Sydney and get in really, really late."

Steiner returns to a revamped broadcasting crew assembled for the Dodgers' new television network, SportsNet LA. For games outside of California and Arizona, Steiner will team with former Dodgers star pitcher Orel Hershiser. He will also continue his duties as the radio play-by-play voice for all home and away games in California and Arizona with partner Rick Monday.

Australia marked the seventh location outside the continental United States from which Steiner has broadcast Major League Baseball. In 2008, he called the Dodgers-Padres games from Beijing. He also opened the MLB season in Mexico in 1999, and he handled the first MLB game in Puerto Rico in '01.

"But in 2004, when the Yankees went [to Japan], a couple of things [stood out]," he said. "One, it was the first year for a fellow named Alex Rodriguez in pinstripes. Two, and more importantly, it was the first year back for Hideki Matsui to go back to Tokyo. So when we got off the plane in Tokyo at 4 o'clock in the morning, two hours from downtown Tokyo, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of reporters. And all it was, was Hideki Matsui and a bunch of guys from New York.

"The Yankees played a couple of games against Tampa Bay, split the two if I recall correctly. The Yankees would then lose 11 of their first 19, then go on to win eight straight and finish the season 40 games over .500."

Steiner said the real test for the Dodgers will be how they rebound from the trip once the season resumes in the United States.

"The Dodgers, how that plays out after Sydney, a couple of things, I think, based on my time with the Yankees," he said. "Don Mattingly was with that team. The flight to and from is tough. It's going to take a few days, if not a week to 10 days, for their bodies to get reacclimated. But much like the Yankees of 2004, there's so much talent here. It might be a little bump in the road, but long term, it shouldn't be a big problem."

Steiner said this Dodgers team has the pitching staff to survive such a challenge.

"The starters and bullpen, their strength -- much can be said about [Yasiel] Puig and Hanley [Ramirez] and [Matt] Kemp and [Andre] Ethier -- but the Dodgers one through five, and especially Josh Beckett, if he resembles anything like he did in [his first two spring starts] -- whoa!" Steiner said.

"To have Dan Haren four and Beckett five, that's pretty impressive. And we haven't brought up [Clayton] Kershaw or [Zack] Greinke or [Hyun-Jin] Ryu. So the rotation is solid. And the bullpen, you've got four guys that have closed at one time or another. The pitching is probably the strength of this team, as of this day."

Based on last year, Steiner said the secret to the Dodgers' success really is no secret.

"You know, it's the old story," he said. "Health. Hanley Ramirez, what we saw for half a season, prorate those numbers if he can stay healthy. If second base can finally be rectified. You know what you're going to get with the corners with Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe. I think the four outfielders into three is basically an overrated story, just because of the nature of the four fellows we're talking about. It also may present an opportunity for Joc Pederson. A.J. Ellis and [Tim] Federowicz behind the plate. I guess health is the predominant issue."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

Los Angeles Dodgers