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Mattingly taps Kershaw for Opening Day start

Ryu gets call for Game 2 of Los Angeles' season-opening series in Australia

Mattingly taps Kershaw for Opening Day start

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will start Opening Day and Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 2 of the season-opening series in Australia on March 22-23, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced Sunday.

Kershaw will be the first Dodgers pitcher to make four consecutive Opening Day starts since Ramon Martinez from 1995-98. Don Sutton has the Los Angeles record with seven (1972-78).

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After throwing five innings and 70 pitches Sunday with an extra day of rest from his previous start, he will make his last Cactus League start Saturday, again on an extra day of rest. Will he be ready for Opening Day?

"I better be ready," he said. "I'll be ready.

"Any time you start Opening Day, no matter what continent it's on, it's pretty cool. I've done it now for a few years in a row and it's special. I don't take it for granted."

Kershaw, who has made several charitable pilgrimages to Africa, said he wasn't sure how the long trip would impact him.

"To be honest, it's new territory for me, for everybody," he said. "I kind of know how my body reacts to jet lag and how I react, but I've never had to compete and pitch. Everybody's got to do it. I've talked to a couple guys that have gone on these trips. Everybody feels different."

The left-hander, who turns 26 on March 19, is coming off his second Cy Young Award in the past three seasons -- with a runner-up finish in between -- and was rewarded with a seven-year, $215 million contract extension.

He won his third consecutive MLB ERA title in 2013 with a 1.83 mark, the first Dodger ever to three-peat and the first in the game to do so since Greg Maddux in 1993-95. Kershaw became the franchise's first multiple ERA winner since Sandy Koufax (1963, '65, '66), which is fitting because the 1.83 ERA is the best by an NL lefty since Koufax's 1.73 in 1966. It's also the lowest ERA in MLB since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 in 2000 -- and lowest in the league since Maddux's 1.63 in 1995.

Kershaw was selected to the All-Star Game for a third consecutive year, led the Majors with a 0.92 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), led the NL with 232 strikeouts, was second in both innings (236) and opponents' batting average (.195), and tied for third with 16 wins.

The Dodgers' ace was the only pitcher in the league to finish in the top three in wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched.

This year's Opening Day will be like no other, as the Dodgers will be the visiting team against Arizona at the fabled Sydney Cricket Ground, which has been transformed into a Major League Baseball configuration.

On Opening Day last year, Kershaw slugged a home run and pitched a shutout against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw went 1-2 with a 3.13 ERA during the postseason last year, which included a start on three days' rest against the Braves in the NL Division Series clincher. But he was also roughed up for seven runs in four innings when the Dodgers were eliminated by St. Louis in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

Kershaw's workload last year -- just shy of 260 innings, not counting Spring Training -- had the club considering skipping him for the Australian Series. But, apparently, the decision was made that he would start in Australia even before No. 2 starter Zack Greinke was slowed by a mild right calf strain that will keep him from making the trip.

Mattingly did not reveal the rest of the Dodgers' rotation, because it really won't become a rotation until well into April. The Dodgers return from Australia, have two days off, then play three exhibition games against the Angels before the regular season resumes March 30 in San Diego, with an off-day on March 31, then two more games in San Diego, followed by a day off, then the home opener April 4 against the Giants.

It's conceivable that Kershaw could start in Australia, in San Diego and also the home opener -- three of the club's first six games. But Mattingly again implied that wouldn't happen.

"We've got a lot of off-days early and we'll take advantage of those off-days to give him his rest," Mattingly said. "We're not going to abandon ship about [Kershaw having thrown] a lot of innings."

Dan Haren is the fourth starter, and the Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until the middle of April. At this point, Josh Beckett is considered likely for that role. Because Beckett is coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, the club signed Paul Maholm, who is also a candidate for that spot.

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

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