PHOENIX — The annual worst-kept secret of Dodgers camp at spring training was revealed on Tuesday, with ace Clayton Kershaw named the club’s opening day starting pitcher for what would be a franchise record eighth time.
“The cat’s out of the bag,” manager Dave Roberts said on the first day of pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch.
The Dodgers open their regular season on Thursday, March 29 against the Giants at Dodger Stadium, and if Kershaw takes the mound as scheduled he will surpass Don Drysdale and Don Sutton for the most opening day starts in Dodgers history. Kershaw (2011-17) and Sutton (1972-78) at the moment are tied for most consecutive opening day starts in franchise history.
Best opening day ERA
Kershaw will throw his first official bullpen session of spring training on Wednesday.
One of the great quirks in Dodgers history is that Sandy Koufax only started on opening day once, in 1964, the same number of times Vicente Padilla did for the franchise. That Koufax only had one opening day start is the same reason Kershaw getting the opening day nod every year, while obvious and expected, is still newsworthy because you just never know.
Padilla was the last Dodgers pitcher besides Kershaw to get the first-game nod, in 2010. Another Hall of Fame pitcher, Dazzy Vance, also started just one opening day with Brooklyn, in 1925.
Kershaw has been dazzling in his openers, allowing six total runs in his seven starts, including four scoreless outings. On opening day Kershaw has a 0.99 ERA with 52 strikeouts and six walks in 45⅔ innings. The Dodgers have won all seven games, the longest opening day win streak in franchise history.
The highlight of those was in 2013 when Kershaw pitched a shutout and broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth inning with a solo home run against George Kontos in what became a 4-0 win over the Giants.
Among pitchers with at least five opening day starts since 1908, Kershaw’s 0.99 ERA ranks second only to former Braves pitcher Rick Mahler, who posted a 0.92 ERA in his five opening day starts for Atlanta (1982, 1985-88), including three complete-game shutouts.
With an eighth consecutive opening day start Kershaw would move into select company, with only 14 pitchers starting that many lidlifters (copyright Bill Plunkett, Orange County Register) in a row in MLB in the last 110 years.
Jack Morris, who will be inducted in Cooperstown in July, had the longest such streak, starting 14 straight opening days for the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays from 1980-93. The only other double-digit streaks belong to Robin Roberts (12 straight), Tom Seaver (12), Steve Carlton (10) and Roy Halladay (10). The first three of those pitchers are already in the Hall of Fame, and the late Halladay enters the ballot for the first time this year.
The longest active streak of opening day starts by a pitcher is nine, by Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.
Longest streaks of consecutive opening day starts (1908-2017)