By Jon Weisman
James Shields, who today was named the San Diego Padres’ Opening Day starter April 6 against the Dodgers, will be making his first career National League appearance — but the right side of the Dodger infield has a friendly history with him.
Second baseman Howie Kendrick is 14 for 29 with four doubles, a triple, a homer and a walk in his career against Shields, good for a .500 on-base percentage and .793 slugging percentage. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is 8 for 25 with a homer and three walks (.379 OBP, .440 slugging).
Those are the only Dodgers who have faced Shields more than a dozen times. Carl Crawford (2 for 11 with a walk) and Jimmy Rollins (4 for 12 with a double and home run) are next in plate appearances against Shields.
Shields made his only previous appearance against the Dodgers last year on June 25, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk in seven innings while striking out two. In that game, Dee Gordon (the man Kendrick is replacing) and Yasiel Puig hit back-to-back triples off Shields in the third inning, and Puig followed a Gordon single with an RBI double in the fifth. (Los Angeles broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth when Wade Davis hit A.J. Ellis with a bases-loaded pitch.)
This will be the seventh career Opening Day start for Shields, who grew up going to Dodger Stadium and graduated from Hart High School in Newhall. That includes some season-opening outings at Tampa Bay under current Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Last year, Shields pitched 6 1/3 innings on Opening Day for the Royals, allowing three runs on six baserunners with three strikeouts.
In case you’re wondering, the current Padre with the most regular-season history against Dodger Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw is Justin Upton, who is 4 for 38 with three walks and 11 strikeouts (.355 OPS). San Diego’s active leader against Kershaw is Clint Barmes (7 for 27 with a homer and three walks, .704 OPS). Matt Kemp is 0 for 0.
Shields and Kershaw will write some new history when Opening Day arrives — in only nine days.