Kershaw's moxie sets tone as LA tops Friars
Dodgers ace guts out flu while Kemp and Co. pick up slack
SAN DIEGO -- Wins, complete games, shutouts. These are the marvelous contributions the Dodgers now expect from Clayton Kershaw.But with incoming and outgoing owners Magic Johnson and Frank McCourt watching side by side on Thursday, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner added to his list of impressive achievements on Opening Day when he lasted only three innings. Literally sick to his stomach, Kershaw gutted out 39 pitches so the Dodgers wouldn't burn out the bullpen with 161 games to go. Relievers handled the other six innings and Matt Kemp elicited "M-V-P" chants from visiting fans with a homer and three RBIs in a 5-3 win over the Padres. "The last time I looked, he's laying on the floor in the tunnel and I knew he was done," manager Don Mattingly said of his ace's condition while the Dodgers batted in the top of the fourth. "It's not a real good sign when your starting pitcher is laying down." Catcher A.J. Ellis realized Kershaw was in trouble before the game started. "After warming up, I didn't think he would start the game at all," said Ellis, who singled and received one of four walks from losing pitcher Edinson Volquez in a two-run fourth inning. "He's so routine and detail oriented. He throws a set amount of pitches to each side of the plate, but he finally said, 'five more' and then he walked straight to the clubhouse. That's not him. "He wasn't letting loose. It was as if he was afraid he'd throw up if he followed through. "For him to do what he did -- not to get over-dramatic -- but three innings was really, really awesome. He's dying in the trainer's room right now." Kershaw, who rolled to an All-Star berth, the Cy Young Award and a $19 million, two-year contract with a 95-mph fastball last season, opened this season with an 85-mph fastball. He topped at 92, but was consistently 87-89, pitching stiff and upright. "Warming up, he was just flipping the ball," said Ellis. "I said to him, 'We'll be crafty today.' He threw a lot of really good changeups and got outs. Maybe he'll have more confidence in that pitch." Mattingly said he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt talked about scratching Kershaw entirely, replacing him with Jamey Wright and going with an entire bullpen game. It was the shortest Opening Day start by a Dodgers arm in 20 years (Ramon Martinez, 2 2/3 innings, 1992). But, said Mattingly, Kershaw "wanted to go. He just kind of pitched. I'm sure [the Padres] were looking for a lot more, like 93 and 94. His fastball looked like some type of changeup. He was just trying to get quick innings and get off the field." "It's nice to get him out of the game," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "The Cy Young winner is out [of the game] with six more [innings left] ..." The win went to Josh Lindblom, who was in the ballpark only because Ted Lilly went on the disabled list with a sore neck. Lindblom, told Tuesday night he made the club as an eighth reliever, pitched two perfect innings. "It's been an awesome 48 hours for me," he said. "My first Opening Day, I relieve and get the win. It's a special, special experience I'll remember the rest of my life." Lindblom, one of Kershaw's closest friends on the team, said the outcome might have been different if Kershaw hadn't pitched his three innings. "He went out and battled, and I wouldn't expect anything less out of Kersh," he said. "But in the dugout, he looked terrible." Lindblom also wasn't surprised that the Dodgers would deal so smoothly with Kershaw's setback. "You'll see a team through the presence of the manager and all year you'll see a lot of that," Lindblom said. "Guys picking each other up." Matt Guerrier pitched a scoreless seventh and Javy Guerra the ninth for his first save. But Mike MacDougal's control problems persisted as he allowed a run, and Kenley Jansen -- who allowed three homers in nine spring innings -- served up a 445-foot two-run blast to Cameron Maybin in the eighth inning that made for Guerra's save situation. Kemp went 2-for-4 with a hard-hit one-hopper booted by shortstop Jason Bartlett that drove in a run. The home run was a towering blast that landed on the top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field. "It was good seeing Magic," said Kemp. "I've seen him before but never had a conversation. I met him before the game. He walked in our dugout and said, 'You look focused; I won't bother you.' He said, 'Congratulations on everything and go get 'em.' Right when I came in the dugout after the home run, he stuck his head in the dugout and said, 'Nice going, kid.' That's Magic Johnson." "That ball he hit -- wow," said Mattingly. "Guess we're not worried about spring anymore." Kemp hit .262 in Spring Training with 26 strikeouts in 65 at-bats. Juan Rivera also had two hits.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.