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Mattingly reluctant to overwork Kershaw early

Schedule allows for three starts in first six games, but manager wary

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The unusual scheduling necessitated by the Dodgers' season-opening trip to Australia could allow National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to pitch three of the club's first six regular-season games. But manager Don Mattingly said he thinks that's asking too much.

"I feel like it is," Mattingly said on Sunday, before Kershaw was slated to pitch batting practice for the first time. "We have to be very mindful of Clayton and the number of innings he pitched last year -- and the short winter.

"It's not being cautious or babying him, but being mindful of him. He's a workhorse, he pitches deep into games. We have to take care of him, give him an inning off here and there when we can."

Mattingly hasn't announced an Opening Day starter or his rotation. He said Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren will be readied for Australia, while Josh Beckett won't pitch overseas.

Kershaw downplayed last year's workload, saying he had a normal offseason and said "everything still works" after throwing 25 pitches on Sunday to Minor League hitters.

Kershaw said he's only concerned with monitoring "stressful innings," and he'll be ready to pitch "whenever they tell me to pitch."

A secondary reason not to pitch Kershaw in too many of those early games is that it would completely mess up the scheduling of the other starters, specifically Ryu and Haren.

"We want to keep other guys on schedule," said Mattingly. "Otherwise, you'll have guys that may not pitch for 12 days."

Games 1 and 2 of the regular season are March 22-23 in Australia. The next regular-season game is March 30 in San Diego, with a day off March 31, games in San Diego April 1-2, a day off April 3 and the home opener on April 4.

So Kershaw could conceivably start the first game in Australia, the first game in San Diego and the first game in Los Angeles.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["australia_series" ] }
{"event":["australia_series" ] }