Major League Baseball teams take great care to spare their best players from having to travel to the other side of town during spring training, much less the other side of the planet. Thinking along those lines, the Los Angeles Dodgers are hesitating to commit Clayton Kershaw to pitch in their season-opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Australia on March 22-23.
This is what the Aussies have been fearing, especially since Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke commented that he feels zero enthusiasm for making the 7,800-mile (or so) trip from spring training in Glendale, Ariz.
Try as he might, reporter Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times could not coax an answer from Kershaw or the manager:
"You have to ask Donnie," Kershaw said, passing on the question to Manager Don Mattingly.
Asked if he wanted to pitch in Australia, Kershaw smiled. "Ask Donnie," he said.
Predictably, Mattingly remained secretive about the team's rotation plans for the two-game series in Australia. The Dodgers are thinking of sparing Kershaw the exhausting voyage to the other side of the world.
Kershaw pitched two innings in the Dodgers' exhibition opener Wednesday, meaning he will be as ready as any of the team's pitchers to take the mound for the start of the regular season March 22. He should be able to throw 90 or more pitches by then, according to Mattingly.
The Dodgers probably should not have committed to going to Australia for games that count in the standings without planning on bringing their best players along. If they won't bring Kershaw, who else might be omitted from their 25-man roster? Is Mattingly going to play first base instead of Adrian Gonzalez? They don't necessarily owe the Australians the best possible show — it's likely that the fans there will be plenty impressed by Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe — but these are two games the team might need in the NL West race.
They have to ask themselves: How much of a toll does a voyage halfway 'round the world actually take on a major league athlete? Traveling such a distance is fun but also arduous, mentally and even physically. Jet lag is a real thing. Changing time zones. Water circling the drain the wrong way. Kangaroos hopping around all in your face.
But the Dodgers and D-backs also don't travel quite like the rest of us plebes. They charter their own plane — a nice plane with first-class accommodations, not a supersaver. There are people to handle the luggage. There are no connecting flights. They probably will have military escort jets. There are fewer hassles by half. Just smile and eat your vegemite sandwich.
Really, recovering from a first-class trip to Australia should be nothing that a long nap couldn't fix. Send your best Down Under, Dodgers. Send Kershaw.
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