Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch on Tuesday, and the first piece of news from camp was the least surprising of all. Clayton Kershaw, reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, will start opening day for the Dodgers on April 5 in San Diego.
Manager Don Mattingly informed Kershaw of the decision on Monday, and said there was also a possibility of Kershaw pitching the Dodgers' home opener on April 10 as well, as the Dodgers have an off day in between starts.
Asked what how he thought Kershaw could improve on last season, one of the best pitching campaigns in Dodgers history, Mattingly said he is just looking for consistency and for all of his players to try and continue to get better.
"Basically every time he pitches, the team he is pitching against knows they are facing one of the best pitchers in the game and last year the best pitcher in the game," Mattingly said. "He'll have more people tugging and wanting him to do this, that, or the other, and he's going to have to make sure he stays in balance to keep himself right."
Kershaw, who said for now his Cy Young Award sits on a table in his home while he figures out a place to put it, was happy to hear the news but downplayed it, saying he didn't care when he pitched but that it was nice to have something to look forward to.
In what could be described as a nod to BABIP and xFIP (Okay, maybe that was a reach) Mattingly noted that while Kershaw and Matt Kemp could improve this season, a little bad luck could affect their numbers.
"Clayton could go out and pitch better, and not have as many wins. Sometimes that's the way it goes. Matt falls into that too. He could go out and train the same way all winter long, come with the same attitude, work as hard, and the ball doesn't drop. Things may not fall his way."
Mattingly would not commit to the order of his starting rotation after Kershaw.
Kershaw said he would like improve his changeup this season, thought he also noted that he has tried to develop that pitch for years.
"It's been hard for me. I tried about ever different way. I definitely made some improvements last year with it," Kershaw said. "Some things come quicker than others, and the changeup is not one of those things. I'll just continue to work on it and not get frustrated with it."
When asked how he could improve on his 2011 season, Kershaw offered a simple and succinct answer that Burgess Meredith would love: "Win."