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Dodgers scope out Sydney Cricket Ground

Opening Series venue could favor offense despite expansive foul ground

SYDNEY -- After arriving in Australia on Tuesday, most of the Dodgers' players walked from the team bus right past the clubhouse to get a first look at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground reconfigured for baseball.

"We're excited to be here," manager Don Mattingly said at a news conference. "I think we love being able to go to different parts of the world and play in different venues. The historic appearance and being able to play in this park is very exciting to us."

At least to most of the ones who made the trip. They found a ballpark that Clayton Kershaw said looked small -- 100 meters (328 feet) down each line, 122 meters (400 feet) to dead center. They found a lightning-fast infield, which first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said was something between Dodger Stadium and artificial turf. They found expansive foul territory, much like that at Coliseum in Oakland.

"It's fast," said Mattingly. "And the ball is carrying today. I don't know if it's the wind. It's good for offense, that's for sure, it seems to me. There will be some cheap outs in foul ground, but also a lot of runs if overthrows get away."

There also is a hard strip of grass in center field covering the pitch, where most of the action in cricket takes place. Chone Figgins said the area reminds him of the hard-packed Oakland outfield after a Raiders football game.

Gonzalez said the ball really gains speed when it hits the infield dirt.

"If you get one with topspin, it's already past you," he said. "The grass is flat, but no bad hops. Everything was true. You've just got to get used to the speed. But the fields we play on in Arizona are fast anyway. It's a little like the turf in Toronto, but not as bouncy."

After a nearly 15-hour flight that landed at 9:40 a.m., the Dodgers held a 4 p.m. workout to fight off jet lag. It was a full workout, including batting practice. The D-backs, whose charter flight arrived in Sydney four hours earlier than the Dodgers, held a shorter workout without batting practice.

Both clubs will work out again on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Dodgers will play an exhibition game against the Australian national team at 7 p.m. (1 a.m. PT). Mattingly said non-roster pitchers Zach Lee and Red Patterson will throw, but he wouldn't say which would start.

The Dodgers will work out on Friday, when the D-backs play Team Australia, before Saturday night's season opener between the National League West rivals at 7 p.m. (1 a.m. PT). The Opening Series wrap up Sunday at 10 a.m. local time (7 p.m. PT Saturday).

Mattingly would not reveal his starting lineup, but he addressed the response his players have expressed about the trip.

"The main thing that we tried to do is just be prepared in knowing that people have said different things about coming and the difficulties of it, but at the end of the day, these are two games on the schedule and the division could come down to one game," said Mattingly. "These are real games, and I'm sure [Arizona manager Kirk] Mr. Gibson feels the same way."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

Los Angeles Dodgers