Kershaw on 9th OD start: 'It's a special thing'

March 16th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With a loaded rotation, the Dodgers had a decision to make regarding which ace would get the ball on Opening Day. As has been the case for most of the last decade, manager Dave Roberts announced Sunday that will be on the mound for the Dodgers on April 1 against the Rockies.

“I just feel that he’s earned it,” Roberts said. “He’s the right guy for the spot for 2021. For every reason, I just think it makes the most sense.”

The future Hall of Famer will be making his ninth start on Opening Day. That will be the most in franchise history. Kershaw was scheduled to start his ninth Opening Day last season, but a back injury before the game forced the Dodgers to start Dustin May.

Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in franchise history and the left-hander said he came into the 2021 season without the burden of not being able to lead his team to a World Series title. So far this spring, Kershaw has appeared to be loose and motivated to help the Dodgers win back-to-back titles, in what is the last year of his current contract.

“I think you don’t really realize what you’re carrying while you’re carrying it, you know?” Kershaw said. “I think the burden might be off a little bit for sure, but that doesn’t mean that I’m any less motivated to win this year.”

There was some speculation on whether the Dodgers would try and line up Kershaw with the home opener on April 9 against the Nationals, as opposed to pitching on Opening Day. After snapping a 32-year World Series drought, L.A.'s home opener will carry some extra weight as the players receive their rings.

"The home opener in and of itself this year, is very special," Kershaw said earlier this spring. "It’s the first time at Dodger Stadium in a year after winning the World Series after 32 years. … Opening Day, home Opening Day, they’re going to be pretty special this year.”

The decision for Opening Day was between Kershaw, Walker Buehler and big free-agent acquisition Trevor Bauer. Kershaw owns a 24-8 career record against the Rockies, posting a 3.22 ERA. The left-hander is 11-5 with a 4.44 ERA when pitching at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

“It is just one game of 162, but it’s a special thing," Kershaw said. "Just with the guys that have done it in the past with the Dodgers, and just the history behind it and what it means. Starting the baseball season and getting to be a part of that, and [I'm] just very excited for April 1, and hopefully it’s not in a blizzard.”

It’s not the home opener, but it’s fitting that the Dodgers’ title defense begins with Kershaw on the mound.

Bellinger’s plan
played in another intrasquad game on Sunday and the star outfielder is scheduled to be in the Dodgers’ lineup on Tuesday against the Brewers. Bellinger will play center field, according to Roberts. He could be back in the lineup on Wednesday against the White Sox as the designated hitter.

Bellinger underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder this offseason and he's been working his way back this spring. While Bellinger will only have two weeks of games to get ready for the season, the Dodgers still expect him to be the team’s center fielder on Opening Day.

Game notes
continued his dominant spring, launching his fourth home run in the first inning of Sunday's 8-4 loss to the Royals. Seager has a 1.520 OPS in 21 at-bats.

Julio Urías’ first-inning struggles continued on Sunday, though he didn’t get any help from his defense. The Dodgers committed two errors in the first inning, resulting in five Kansas City runs. Urías wasn’t able to finish the first inning and was replaced by Alex Vesia, who gave up a grand slam on his first pitch. With Spring Training rules in effect, Urías was able to come back into the game in the second inning and ultimately struck out five over 2 1/3 innings of work. Opposing hitters hit .340 with three home runs in the first inning against the left-hander last season.

also made an appearance on Sunday and the right-hander tossed another clean inning in relief. Jansen threw 15 pitches (10 strikes) and his velocity was at 90-91 mph. He threw one pitch at 94 mph, but it was a ball way out of the zone.