But Scott Kazmir in his Dodgers debut did a pretty good imitation of the Opening Day dominator by allowing one hit in six scoreless innings. He beat the Padres, 3-0, leaving completely healthy (and a little annoyed) after 75 pitches when manager Dave Roberts decided it was time to take a look at the bullpen.
"I did want to stay in game," said Kazmir, who was followed by Pedro Baez, Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen, each striking out a pair. "I understood the situation."
The bigger situation, of course, was the signing of Kazmir over the winter to a three-year, $48 million contract as a key rotation replacement after Zack Greinke jumped ship for the D-backs and $206 million.
"I didn't think about that at all; I got a lot of questions about it," Kazmir said of being the new No. 2 starter behind Kershaw. "Once I'm on the mound, I just concentrate on what I can do. When you're confident, you can hit spots and get people out."
Kazmir was confident all spring, even when scouts floated the notion that his fastball wasn't fast enough.
"A lot was made of his spring," said Roberts, "but he knew what it took to get ready for a Major League season. The fastball, the cutter, he threw great changeups tonight. He really executed the scouting report. I couldn't have scripted it any better."
Roberts conceded that not wanting Kazmir to face the Padres' lineup for a third time was as much a reason for the quick hook as the desire to get his bullpen some work.
"With those three guys not having pitched in a few days, it was an opportunity to get them in the game," Roberts said. "There's something to be said for getting a certain amount of rest, but also getting too much rest you can lose sharpness.
"Certain times it makes sense to go to the 'pen and not let a pitcher face a lineup a third time through. The numbers say a third time through, the numbers on-base, slugging, they go up. It's something we're mindful of. But every pitcher is different."
With a vastly different pitch mix, Kazmir was even more effective than Kershaw. The only hit, by second batter Cory Spangenberg, could have been scored an error on second baseman Chase Utley. Kazmir then erased the next 17 batters, striking out five without a walk.
"I just wanted to have a good start to the season, get outs early and get us to the dugout as quick as possible," he said. "Location was the key, being able to get ahead. I was happy with my fastball location and worked the other pitches off that."