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Dodgers pitchers have Australia on their minds as camp opens

PHOENIX — Clayton Kershaw wants to visit Australia, but as a tourist, not a pitcher.

"I'd love to go there on vacation," Kershaw said. "I don't really want to go pitch there. But that's what we're signed up to do, so we're going to have to be ready to do it."

Spreading the gospel of baseball overseas will require sacrifices, especially on the part of Kershaw, who is expected to pitch in Sydney in the first game of the two-game, season-opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The game will be played March 22, which is more than a week before the Dodgers started their season last year.

The early start explains why pitchers and catchers were asked to report to the Dodgers spring-training complex Saturday. Their counterparts on the Diamondbacks reported to their facility Thursday. No other team will be in camp until Wednesday.

Because the Dodgers reached the playoffs and played into October last year, Zack Greinke wanted to take a longer break than usual after the season. But he didn't, figuring he would be asked to pitch the second game in Australia.

"I ended up doing the same as always," Greinke said.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and new addition Paul Maholm are also expected to be asked to prepare their arms for Australia. Manager Don Mattingly noted that if Kershaw or Greinke have to skip a bullpen session or two for whatever reason, they might not be ready to pitch in the series.

"We'll be getting pretty much everybody ready for that," Mattingly said.

The possible exception might be Josh Beckett, who is recovering from an operation to relieve a nerve problem.

Kershaw and Greinke didn't think they would have to make significant changes to their routines.

"That's usually when you start to feel pretty good, one, two starts before spring's out, so that will be about right on time," Greinke said.

But Greinke warned his arm strength might not be sufficiently built up to pitch a complete game.

"I assume I won't be throwing eight innings over in Australia," he said. "I guess it's possible, but I'm guessing it will probably be more of a 90-pitch-type thing."

The Dodgers are more concerned about the effects of jet lag than they are of when opening day falls.

Kershaw said he spent time over the off-season with Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who also makes his off-season home in the Dallas area.

McCarthy pitched for the Oakland Athletics when they opened their season in Japan in 2012.

"He said when you come back, that's the hardest part," Kershaw said.

Catcher A.J. Ellis agreed. Ellis visited Australia over the off-season to promote the series.

"Going over there was great, there was no issue," Ellis said. "Coming back home was pretty tough. We had a 24- to 36-hour lag."

The Dodgers' domestic opener won't be until March 30, in San Diego. That's what Mattingly is most concerned about.

Between the games in Australia and San Diego, the Dodgers will play three exhibition games against the Angels.

Mattingly was a coach on the New York Yankees when they went to Japan in 2004. After splitting the two-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees lost 10 of their next 17 regular-season games.

"When we came back from there, we had to play like another four games in spring training and it was miserable," Mattingly said. "Once that bell rings and these guys play two games that count and you come back and say, 'We're going to play games that don't matter now,' that's where I worry about bad habits. Even though you know you have to keep working, mentally it's like you fool yourself. You can only trick yourself so much when those games don't count."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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