SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When the Los Angeles Dodgers presented the week-long Australia trip for player approval, then-Dodger Peter Moylan must have voted, like, 11 times.
Because, you know, he's from Australia. And some of the remaining Dodgers don't seem particularly enthusiastic about the journey. And that doesn't seem to be going over very well in Sydney.
The morning paper there compared Zack Greinke, he of the "absolutely zero excitement" observation, to "England fast bowler Stuart Broad," which I'm guessing is the villainous equivalent in, say, San Diego to being compared to "Los Angeles fastballer Zack Greinke."
Now there appears a chance the Dodgers will hold Clayton Kershaw out of the Australia series, in part because Kershaw threw a career-high 259 innings last season, and the early schedule is a little funky, and Kershaw doesn't seem all that into it.
The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks play two regular-season games in Sydney, fly home, then restart their regular seasons a week later. That's the norm for these international showcases, but not for Greinke or Kershaw (or any starting pitcher on any team, for that matter), and the Dodgers' first responsibility is to the welfare of their personnel, particularly the personnel they're into for another $345 million. The second priority is to the game's globalization. Let's also remember that many of the Dodgers, maybe even the majority, think a week in Sydney sounds like a fair dinkum good time. Moylan always spoke highly of the place.
This isn't a controversy as much as it is a curiosity, as neither Kershaw nor manager Don Mattingly will say if the unquestioned staff ace will – or is scheduled to – pitch against the Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Grounds, or if Kershaw will even get on the airplane in 2 ½ weeks. (Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson hasn't identified his starters either.) If he were not going to pitch, Kershaw would be best left at home, where he could finish a relatively normal spring training and taper into the Sunday night season-opener in San Diego. Same for Greinke, who presumably would follow Kershaw in the rotation.
"We're getting four guys ready to go to Australia," Mattingly said, meaning Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. "It'd be easy for us to put any of them in. When it's time to make that decision we will."
The topic came up because Kershaw made his first spring start Wednesday at Salt River Fields against the Diamondbacks – the first time both teams were on the same field since one of them overran the other's pool. Over 42 pitches in two innings, Kershaw gave up five hits and a walk. He said he felt fine. Then he was asked about pitching in Australia.
"You'll have to ask Donnie," he said.
Asked if he wanted to accompany the team to Australia, he smiled and said, "Ask Donnie."
Without instigation, he later doubled back on the subject.
"The Australia trip, it's going to be fun," he said. "We're going to make the most of it."
He pointed out that the series was going to happen, that the games will count, and somebody had to win them.
"Might as well enjoy it," he said with debatable enthusiasm. "We're not really concerned with all that stuff. We just know we're playing in Australia."
The Dodgers have plenty of issues beyond getting beat up on the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. The right fielder is a tad chubby, the best two pitchers seem displeased with the travel schedule, the second baseman may or may not be able to play second base, and the center fielder hasn't been cleared to run. You know, the usual spring training stuff.
So, this matter – will Kershaw pitch on March 22 or not – will be more about the reaction to the decision than it will the decision itself. And the guy answering for it will be Mattingly.
Told Kershaw deferred to him on whether he – Kershaw – wanted to go, Mattingly said, "Oh my god. No, no, no. With Clayton, from the beginning, it's whatever we want to do. He's getting ready to pitch. That's all there is to it.
"I think we're all on schedule right now. [You] are getting concerned about something that's down the road. Right now there's nothing that's happening keeps us from whatever we want at that point."
As Mattingly said, they could make their plans, only to have a blister, a turned ankle or, heaven forbid, "something on their toe" foul the whole thing anyway. Maybe it's best then to assume we'll know when we know, and the Dodgers – like the Diamondbacks – will decide what's best for their long-term good, and nobody should take it personally. It'll be fine. You could ask Donnie.