Surprise! Clayton Kershaw to start Opening Day for Dodgers

In perhaps the least surprising announcement in the history of Spring Training, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly today confirmed that reigning National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will start the team’s season opener on April 6.

The news was passed along via Twitter by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, and it came not from an official announcement but in response to a reporter asking if Kershaw would start. According to Plunkett, Mattingly’s reply was, “That’s our plan. … We were just waiting for you to ask.”

This will be Kershaw’s fifth consecutive Opening Day start for the Dodgers, the second longest streak in franchise history behind Don Sutton‘s seven (1972-78), according to True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen. The five overall Opening Day starts also ties Kershaw for fourth in Los Angeles Dodgers history, tied with Ramon Martinez and behind only Sutton (7), Don Drysdale (7), and Fernando Valenzuela (6).

Conspicuous by their absence on that list are two Dodger greats, Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser. Hershiser started four openers (1987, 1989, 1993, 1994), while Koufax started only one (1964). The other Dodgers to start multiple Opening Days since the team moved to Los Angeles are Claude Osteen (3), Burt Hooton (2), Tim Belcher (2), Kevin Brown (3), Hideo Nomo (2), and Derek Lowe (3).

This could easily be Kershaw’s sixth consecutive opener, but the Dodgers opened the 2010 season with six road games, and because he wanted Kershaw to start their home opener, manager Joe Torre tabbed Vicente Padilla to start Opening Day in Pittsburgh ahead of Kershaw in game two.

As Stephen reports, Kershaw said all the right things about the start. “I was preparing for it, but you never know. We have a lot of good pitchers on our staff. Obviously it’s a huge honor,” Kershaw said. “Now I have a goal end date, April 6, to get ready to go.”

The Dodgers face the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium in their opener, so Kershaw will face a test going up against San Diego’s revamped lineup. That lineup includes Kershaw’s teammate the past seven seasons, Matt Kemp, whose first game as a Padre will take place in the only home stadium he has ever known as a big leaguer.

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