SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres will miss $215 million man Clayton Kershaw in baseball’s North American opener Sunday night.
They’ll face pretty much the rest of the $235 million roster of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who sit atop baseball’s payroll perch and the NL West.
Padres third baseman Chase Headley said his team has a “healthy dislike” of the Dodgers, who won the division last year after going on a 42-8 run that began with a victory in San Diego.
That said, the Padres welcome the prime-time spotlight, rare for a team that’s lost 91, 86 and 86 games the last three seasons and hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006.
“I think it’ll be fun,” said Headley, whose future is uncertain because he and the club failed for the second straight offseason to agree to a long-term contract. “It’s just a good opportunity for the Padres. Being in this market, we don’t get that opportunity a lot. It’ll be exciting to be the one and only game on. Hopefully we’ll go out and play the way we can and maybe some fans that wouldn’t necessarily watch us will get to see we’re a pretty good team.”
Kershaw, who last fall won the NL Cy Young Award for the second time in three seasons, was scratched from Sunday night’s start on Wednesday because of an inflamed muscle in his back. He landed on the disabled list Saturday for the first time in his career.
The Dodgers will turn to left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-0), who won the second of two games against the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney. The Dodgers came home leading the NL West at 2-0.
The Padres, who have a relatively modest payroll of $90 million, the highest in their history, will counter with right-hander Andrew Cashner, who was 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA last year.
“It’s pretty neat with us being the only game in baseball on Sunday,” Cashner said. “So that’s a big honor for us and our city. We’re looking forward to it.”
The big Texan, obtained in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in January 2012, has quickly ascended to the top of San Diego’s rotation.
Being tapped as the opening day starter by manager Bud Black “is huge for me, just the road I’ve come, the injuries I’ve had, just last year, learning a lot and coming around to the player I thought I could be,” Cashner said. “It’s a big honor.”
In three starts against the Dodgers last year, Cashner lost by scores of 3-1, 2-1 and 1-0, while striking out 16 and not allowing a home run in 22 innings.
“He’s got a power arm and tries to keep the ball down,” said Adrian Gonzalez, who was with the Padres from 2006 until being traded to Boston after the 2010 season. “We beat him three times without a homer, so hopefully we’ll beat him without a homer again.”
The Padres play in a pitcher’s park “and they always seem to keep coming up with more and more arms,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Cashner at the end of the year last year was filthy. They’ve got good arms, they’ve got guys that play the game right and they play hard. They’re tough because Bud always matches up with you right and left pretty good, and they’re getting more and more experience.”
Los Angeles’ season-changing, 42-8 surge in 2013 started with a win at Petco Park on June 22. The Dodgers salvaged the final two games of a four-game series.
“It felt good to win those two games,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “We were definitely scuffling at that time and you’re hoping that was the turn. But to go 42-8, starting with that, that was the last thing in any of our thoughts.
“But it was good to see (Zack) Greinke throw the ball well, kind of kick things off and see him get healthy and in the form he’s accustomed. Hanley (Ramirez) was playing; Yasiel (Puig) was up in the big leagues, so a combination of health and getting some guys hot at the right time. We knew we had the talent to do it; it was just a matter of executing and getting the job done on the field.”
The Padres think they’ll be better this year, but already there are signs of trouble. Left fielder Carlos Quentin (sore left knee) and right-handed starter Josh Johnson (forearm) were placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday.
With Quentin going down, both rookie Tommy Medica and 35-year-old Xavier Nady made the squad.