PHOENIX -- Manager Don Mattingly confirmed Sunday what everyone has known for a long time: Clayton Kershaw will be the Dodgers starter when the team begins its season next week against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia.
"Any time you get to start opening day, no matter what continent, it's an honor," said Kershaw, who has started the Dodgers' first game in each of the last three seasons. "It's pretty special. I don't take it for granted."
Kershaw prepped for that start with a steady five-inning outing against the San Francisco Giants, one in which he gave up two runs and five hits. He is scheduled to make one more Cactus League start before the team leaves for Australia and its two-game series with Arizona.
Mattingly said left-hander Hyun Jin-Ryu will start the second game with the Diamondbacks. But the manager was vague about his plans after that.
After the Australia series, the Dodgers have a week off before their next regular-season game and play only three times in five days after that. As a result Kershaw, the National League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, could take his regular four days of rest between starts and still pitch three of the Dodgers' first six games.
"We've got a lot of off days early. And we're going to try to take advantage of those," Mattingly said.
Whether that meant exploiting Kershaw's availability or scheduling him for extra rest wasn't clear, although Mattingly implied the team would be cautious with its ace.
"He threw a lot of innings last year," Mattingly said of Kershaw, who pitched a career-high 259 innings. "And we wanted to take advantage of these off days to not overdo it."
The virtue of patience
Matt Kemp hasn't played in a game or participated in full drills since undergoing procedures on his left ankle and left shoulder in October. And after going hitless in seven at-bats in a minor league intrasquad scrimmage Sunday, he admitted he's growing weary of his rehab.
But after returning prematurely from injuries in the past, he has promised not to rush his recovery this year.
"The key word is being patient," said Kemp, who made five trips to the disabled list the last two seasons. "I haven't been quite that patient over the last couple of years, but this year I'm definitely going to be patient.
"I don't want to go through the same thing. It's been pretty tough. I want to go out there and play and play for the whole season."
Kemp, who will start the year on the disabled list, has been running in a straight line and taking batting practice. But he hasn't run the bases or played in the field this spring.
"There are times when you get a little discouraged," he said. "But injuries are part of the game and you've just got to deal with them."
Yasiel Puig returned to camp, and the lineup, after spending Saturday in Miami attending to what he termed a "family matter." Mattingly said the team gave Puig permission to leave, adding that "this is not an issue in any way, shape or form." … Right-hander Zack Greinke is expected to throw a bullpen session Monday as he continues to rehab a strained right calf.