Rookie managers to preside over Dodgers-Padres opener
SAN DIEGO (AP) There will be rookie managers in each dugout and a familiar lefty on the mound when the Los Angeles Dodgers begin pursuit of a fourth straight NL West title in Monday's opener against the San Diego Padres.
Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start for the Dodgers while San Diego counters with Tyson Ross, making his first opening day start.
Dave Roberts, who played for both the Padres and Dodgers and most recently was on San Diego's coaching staff, was hired as Los Angeles' manager to replace Don Mattingly.
Andy Green, third base coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, was hired as San Diego's skipper after the reworked Padres roster fizzled last year under Bud Black and then interim manager Pat Murphy. The Dodgers are the Padres' biggest rival, and Petco Park will be packed.
''This is real baseball. This is going to be a lot of fun,'' Ross said.
The Dodgers have high expectations.
Catcher A.J. Ellis said the players responded well to Roberts during spring training.
''The confidence that he presents himself with in front of a group and the constant communication and dialogue that he has with all of his players has created an environment that should lend itself to a successful organization with big plans to play in October,'' Ellis said. Kershaw, a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner who added the NL MVP Award to his haul, was 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA and 301 strikeouts, tops in the majors.
''I think what makes Clayton different and unique is his ability to stay in the present at all times,'' Ellis said. ''He doesn't live in the past with his successes or failures and doesn't think too heavily about the future and the anticipation of what's coming up. He's so task-oriented and so focused on what he's doing on that particular day. That diligence and that consistency is what allows him to go out there and perform as consistently as he does.''
The vibe around the Padres is completely different than last year, when there were high expectations due to general manager A.J. Preller's wild offseason shopping spree. The Padres flattered after May and finished 74-88, three losses worse than in 2014.
Green, 38, made opening day rosters as a player, but never got a start in a season-opener.
''There are certain moments in your life that if you let all the extracurriclurs overwhelm you, you don't get to enjoy the moment,'' he said. ''I refuse not to enjoy this. I am going to enjoy having the opportunity to lead this team and be part of what this city's building. At the end of the day it's a challenge and I love a challenge and we're going to do whatever we can to beat Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.''
After last year's flop, Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said he hopes the Padres will be better than .500.
''Chemistry's a big part of it,'' said Ross, who was 10-12 with a 3.26 ERA in 2015. ''We had a lot of new faces last year. We have a lot of new people this year. But it's something we've been working on since Day One, building that team chemistry and kind of creating that identity of who we're going to be as a ballclub and how we're going to go out there and handle our business.''
The Padres will have two winter meeting draft picks on their opening day roster, outfielder Jabari Blash and reliever Luis Perdomo. Each has to remain on the major league roster for an entire season or be offered back to his original club for $25,000.
San Diego set its roster Sunday when they Padres selected the contracts of left-hander Matt Thornton and infielder-outfielder Adam Rosales from the minors; optioned left-hander Robbie Erlin, outfielder Jose Pirela, infielder Alexi Amarista and catcher Austin Hedges to Triple-A El Paso; and designated right-hander Josh Martin for assignment. They also placed right-hander Jon Edwards on the 15-day disabled list with a right flexor strain and left-hander Buddy Baumann on the DL with low back strain. Both moves were retroactive to March 25.