LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw has some homework to do before his opening-day start for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The reigning NL MVP and Cy Young Award winner needs to figure out how to get ex-teammate Matt Kemp out.
Sure, Kershaw watched Kemp hit during his several years with the Dodgers, but now Kemp is part of the opposing San Diego Padres, who bring their retooled lineup to Dodger Stadium in the teams’ season opener Monday.
“Honestly, I have no idea how to get him out yet,” Kershaw said, who will be making his fifth career opening-day start.
The left-hander was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA last season for the two-time defending NL West champions. He’s 3-0 on opening day, allowing one earned run in 25 2-3 innings, with 26 strikeouts and three walks.
“Clayton’s on the move, as far as never looking back and always getting better,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “That’s basically what everybody wants out of all our guys, to just to continue to get better and to push themselves to get better.”
A stunned Kemp left the only baseball home he’d ever known in Los Angeles to move down Interstate 5 to San Diego. The Padres are counting on him, along with new outfielders Wil Myers and Justin Upton, to punch up an offense that was baseball’s worst last season.
“I’ve already thought about it. I’m excited,” Kemp said of his return to Dodger Stadium. “I’m sure it will be a little bit different, especially going to the stadium where I grew up in my professional career. It’ll be emotional.”
James Shields, the new lynchpin in the Padres’ rotation, opposes Kershaw. The right-hander was 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA for Kansas City last season before signing a $75 million, four-year deal with the Padres. He often visited Dodger Stadium growing up in nearby Newhall.
“Adding Shields and some of those other guys to the mix, man, it makes the pitching staff even better than it was last year,” Kemp said. “If everybody stays healthy and does what they can do, this team is going to be special.”
Both teams went through major overhauls during the winter, with the Dodgers’ goal to win the World Series for the first time since 1988 and the Padres aiming to get back to the playoffs, where they haven’t been since 2006.
Los Angeles fans attending the sold out game will get their first up-close look at baseball’s highest-paid team, with the Dodgers’ $272 million projected payroll moving them well ahead of the second-place New York Yankees.
Besides Kemp, the Dodgers bid farewell to Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and Dan Haren. They brought in veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick to shore up the infield defense, added former Padre Yasmani Grandal behind the plate and are expecting big things from rookie Joc Pederson in centerfield.
Much of the makeover occurred during a dizzying 48-hour stretch at the winter meetings in early December, when the Dodgers moved 19 players in six different deals, including two that involved three teams.
“It’s crazy. We basically got a whole new team at the winter meetings,” Kershaw said. “It was fun to watch. The whole goal is to win, and hopefully we can do that with these guys.”
Besides redoing the outfield, the Padres added third baseman Will Middlebrooks and catcher Derek Norris.
“This year they’re just going to try to hit that three-run homer every game,” Kershaw said of the Padres. “They’ve got so many guys that can drive the ball out of the ballpark, so it’s a completely different team than last year.”
Shields has been a workhorse, throwing more innings than any pitcher in baseball since 2007. He’s joined by a pair of durable rotation mates in Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. Andrew Cashner has looked dominant this spring coming off elbow, shoulder and neck injuries last season.
“You’re talking good players who are happy to be there,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “That’s a good thing.”
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