Dodgers break camp and head for Australia

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, left, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez talk during a spring-training practice session on Feb. 20. Kershaw will take the mound in the Dodgers' season opener Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
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PHOENIX — The Dodgers learned last year that a $240-million payroll can overcome a disastrous start. They’ll now find out if it can negate the effects of an abbreviated exhibition season and trip to the other side of the world.

The most expensive team in baseball broke camp Sunday, departing late in the night for Sydney, Australia, the site of a two-game, series-opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Spring training started and ended early for the Dodgers, who will play their first regular-season game about a week earlier than usual.

Some were relieved to escape the monotony of what turned into a particularly tedious camp.

Dodgers: An article in the March 17 Sports section on the Dodgers’ season-opening game in Sydney, Australia, said the game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Saturday local time, 1 a.m. Friday in Los Angeles. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday local time, 1 a.m. Saturday in Los Angeles. —

“It was a weird spring,” Clayton Kershaw said. “We practiced a lot, but as far as actual game action, there wasn’t a ton. It kind of dragged on a little bit there.”


But there was also a touch of fear.

Laughing nervously, Hyun-Jin Ryu said through an interpreter, “We have a long journey ahead of us.”

More than 15 hours, in fact.

When the Dodgers land in Sydney, it will be Tuesday morning. Sydney is located in a time zone that is 18 hours ahead of Phoenix.

Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers in their first regular-season game Saturday at 1 p.m. local time. In Los Angeles, it will be 1 a.m. on Friday.

In the days leading up to their depature, the Dodgers medical staff advised players to sleep later than usual to offset the effects of jet lag. Players were also told to remain awake for the first few hours of their flight and handed compression socks that prevent blood clots.

Manager Don Mattingly was relieved to leave camp with a relatively healthy team, whereas the Diamondbacks lost their opening-day starter, Patrick Corbin, who has a damaged elbow ligament that will likely require surgery.

Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley remained in Arizona to continue their rehabiliations, but the Dodgers knew beforehand that would be the case. Dan Haren also stayed back, but that’s because his presence was considered unnecessary.

The only player still dealing with an injury suffered in camp are Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett. Greinke strained his right calf muscle and Beckett sprained the thumb on his pitching hand.

Greinke’s absence will force Kershaw to pitch in Sydney, something the Dodgers wanted to avoid in order to manage his workload. Beckett’s injury resulted in no changes; he was unlikely to make the trip regardless of his health status.

Former closer Brandon League also stayed in Arizona to pitch in minor league games. League posted a 16.87 earned-run average in three exhibition games, appearing to be the same pitcher he was in the disappointing first season of his three-year, $22.5-million contract. The Dodgers figured League would have a better chance of improving his mechanics on the quiet back fields of their spring-training facility rather than at the Sydney Cricket Ground.


When the Dodgers set their opening-day roster, Beckett will probably be put on the disabled list, along with Kemp and Billingsley. Haren, Greinke and League are expected to be designated the three players exempt from roster rules.

Carl Crawford will be on paternity leave and also won’t occupy a roster spot. Crawford will be in Arizona for the impending birth of his third child.

Javy Guerra didn’t make the trip, as he was designated for assignment. The former closer was removed from the 40-man roster and can be traded or claimed on waivers by another team over the next 10 days.

Thirty players traveled to Australia, including players who aren’t on the 40-man roster: outfielder Joc Pederson, and right-handers Zach Lee and Red Patterson. The Dodgers were allowed to take extra players for an exhibition game they will play Thursday against an Australian all-star team.

Second baseman Alex Guerrero and infielder Miguel Rojas are other players in the traveling party who might not be part of the 25-man opening-day roster.

Utilitymen Chone Figgins and Justin Turner, who went into camp on minor league contracts, will be on the regular-season roster. Both players were added to the team’s active roster Sunday.


Others who figure to be on the bench are catcher Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera, and outfielder Mike Baxter.

The bullpen will be significant in size, consisting of Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell, Jose Dominguez, Paul Maholm, Chris Perez, Seth Rosin, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and Jamey Wright. Maholm will double as an emegency starter in case Kershaw or Ryu are scratched from their scheduled appearances.

The bullpen will be reduced in size for the team’s domestic opener March 30 in San Diego.

As for the starting lineup, Dee Gordon appears to have claimed the job at second base. Gordon batted .286 with four triples in the Cactus League. He was successful on all nine of his stolen-base attempts.

Right fielder Yasiel Puig batted only .122 in the Cactus League, but Mattingly said he still intends to bat him leadoff.

Against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, the Dodgers fielded what was believed to be their regular lineup until Kemp returns. Puig led off, followed, in order, by left fielder Crawford, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, center fielder Andre Ethier, third baseman Juan Uribe, catcher A.J. Ellis and Gordon. With Crawford unavailable on opening day, Scott Van Slyke is expected to start in his place.

Twitter: @dylanohernandez