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Dodgers announce Clayton Kershaw will start season opener in Australia

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(USA Today)

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been hesitant to commit to using ace Clayton Kershaw during their season-opening series down in Australia. That changed on Sunday, however, as MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports the team has officially announced Kershaw as their starter for the season opener on March 22.

The assignment will mark Kershaw's fourth consectuive opening day start. A remarkable feat considering Kershaw will only turn 26 on March 19. Gurnick notes the last Dodger to start four straight openers was Ramon Martinez from 1995-98. Don Sutton still holds the team record with seven from 1972-1978.

Up until manager Don Mattingly confirmed Kershaw's status on Sunday, it wasn’t even clear if Kershaw would make the trip to Australia to begin with. At one point the Dodgers seemed to be strongly leaning toward leaving him behind to rest and stay on a normal schedule. Perhaps that thought process changed a bit when it became apparent that Zack Greinke won't be available in Australia. In fact, it's still unclear if Greinke will be ready for their opener in the United States the following weekend.

If not that, perhaps there was just a little bit of pressure from Major League Baseball to give the Australian fans a little more star power during the historic showcase series.

Either way, it's good news for those fans and good news for all of us as we'll have some more incentive to stay awake and watch the opener live. Not that we'd really need a lot.

The Dodgers have also announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the second game in Australia. That's a tough pair of lefties the Arizona Diamondbacks will have to deal with straight out of the gate, and it will only be made tougher by the travel and the unusual circumstances that come with beginning a week early.

The D-Backs will counter with Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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