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Kershaw leads Dodgers in Cactus League opener

Ace gets the call as exhibition slate begins with preview of Opening Series

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw might not start the regular-season opener in Australia, but he will start the Cactus League opener Wednesday, when the Dodgers are hosted by the rival Arizona Diamondbacks and Vin Scully calls the action live at noon PT on the Dodgers' new TV network, SportsNet LA.

Is Kershaw glad to get going?

"It's about time," he said.

Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 8, 17 days before the first game. A year ago, because of the World Baseball Classic, pitchers and catchers reported Feb. 12 and games started only nine days later.

The lengthy buildup to the start of games will be followed by an exhibition schedule dramatically shortened for the Dodgers and D-backs because they leave Arizona on March 16 for their Opening Series in Sydney.

Both clubs can take only 30 players on their flights, so most roster decisions will be made in fewer than three weeks.

"It's not a normal Spring Training," Kershaw said. "Tomorrow we're, in a sense, in the middle of things. We've got 19 [days of exhibition games] before we play a game that counts. We've got to feel some sense of urgency."

The club must decide whether to leave Kershaw behind in order to lighten his workload after last year's Cy Young season, as well as make their toughest position call of the spring: who starts at second base.

Although Cuban Alex Guerrero was signed to a four-year, $28 million deal with the expectation it would be him, his slow adaptation from a natural shortstop position to second base makes it likely he will open the season in the Minor Leagues and the Dodgers will piece together a platoon at second base from a group of Dee Gordon, Chone Figgins, Brandon Harris, Justin Turner and Miguel Rojas.

The Dodgers prepped for Wednesday's opener with intrasquad games on Sunday and Monday, and manager Don Mattingly wasn't thrilled with the club's "lack of energy," but said he hoped it would pick up, along with the "baseball thought process," when the Dodgers face an opponent.

Last year, the Dodgers played 36 exhibition games before Opening Day.

The starting lineup Mattingly posted for Wednesday's game has Figgins batting leadoff and playing shortstop, Guerrero starting at second base and Yasiel Puig batting third.

Not making the trip to Salt River are regulars Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez and A.J. Ellis. Mattingly said they are all healthy but he needs to stagger who starts and rests so he can stick to his plan of giving everybody one day off every three days.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
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