Winter is far too long and much too cold for baseball fans. They sit inside conjuring their inner Ray Kinsella, Christmas happily taking place in the background as they stare out the window, straight-faced and vigilant, at a ballpark buried in snow, longing for the spring to return and the magic to take hold. No, Shoeless Joe will not be appearing in Iowa anytime soon. But on Saturday, ball fans everywhere can finally rejoice as the Los Angeles Dodgers kick start the Major League season in Australia as they face off against division rival Arizona Diamondbacks.
Clayton Kershaw, the reigning National League CY Young award winner, will take the mound in Sydney on Saturday for a star-studded Dodgers squad looking for redemption after losing to the Cardinals in last season’s National League Championship Series. Los Angeles certainly has enough firepower to find their way back to the NLCS, and possibly beyond, with players such as Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and last season’s rookie sensation Yasiel Puig filling out the roster.
But more importantly the Dodgers have the pitching staff to go the distance. Joining Kershaw in the rotation is Zack Greinke, a former CY Young recipient in his own right, as well as second year starter Hyun-jin Ryu, and free agent acquisition Dan Haren. Former all-star Josh Beckett, currently working his way back from injury, could be the fifth starter, while there have also been reports that Chad Billingsley may be ahead of schedule in his rehab from Tommy John surgery so do not count him out for the season. Add a stacked bullpen headlined by closer Kenley Jansen, former Giants closer Brian Wilson, and key set up man Chris Perez, and the only problem Manager Don Mattingly might have is figuring out how to utilize all that talent while still keeping everybody happy.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have decided to give Wade Miley the nod in the opener after scheduled starter and young ace, Patrick Corbin was ruled out with an elbow injury that may pull the plug on his season. Miley, a former rookie of the year runner up, will look to regain his all-star form from two years ago and bring his A-game to Aussie country. As far as the D’Backs season is concerned, though, the potential loss of Corbin is certainly not a great way to start the year after finishing .500 and 11 games back of the Dodgers last season. However, Arizona is not the only team experiencing pre-season woes on their pitching staff.
In the NL East the Atlanta Braves have high hopes going into the 2014 season but somewhat of a shadow has been cast over the team with injuries to starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. While Beachy is still seeking a second opinion on his troublesome elbow, Medlen has officially been ruled out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. In the wake of such a loss the Braves quickly signed Ervin Santana to a one year deal to try and stop the bleeding, so to speak, but potentially losing two key starters could be very difficult to overcome. In any regard, it must feel good to be a Dodgers fan.
In baseball nothing comes easy. It is a 162 game marathon between 30 teams and only one will cross the finish line. Nothing is guaranteed and everything must be earned. However, there is one thing for certain. When the Dodgers kick start the Major League season in Australia tomorrow, all will be well in the world of baseball fans once again.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky