Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Opening Day

Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Pitchers

Having glanced a snapshot of the position players on the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers, let’s now turn to the pitchers. 

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Previewing the 2021 Dodgers: Position players

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Hey there! Since I haven’t actually written much on the defending World Series champions this year, I thought I’d throw down some of the stuff that’s been percolating inside my head about the 2021 Dodgers ahead of Thursday’s Opening Day. Let’s start with the position players. (Note: Some of these thoughts materialized during the chats we’ve had on Clubhouse.) 

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Most obscure but memorable Opening Day starters for the Dodgers, 1989-2019

For no particular occasion …

In honor of Mike Ramsey (1987), here are the most memorable Opening Day starters for the Dodgers since they last won a World Series:

Trenidad Hubbard, CF (1998)
Blake DeWitt, 2B (2010)
Olmedo Saenz, 1B (2006)
Juan Rivera, LF (2012)
Jason Phillips, C (2005)
Juan Encarnacion, RF (2004)
Luis Cruz, 3B (2013)
Justin Sellers, SS (2013)
Vicente Padilla, P (2010)

Emotional first-pitch salute to Vin Scully opens 2016 season at Dodger Stadium

[mlbvideo id=”585753483″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

By Jon Weisman

In a breathtaking experience that traversed Dodger history from Don Newcombe to Clayton Kershaw, Vin Scully received an emotional tribute before the first pitch of his final Opening Day at Dodger Stadium as the team’s broadcaster.

Al Michaels, who was considered by some a possible successor to Scully four decades ago, hosted the tribute that mixed video (including messages from Henry Aaron and Kirk Gibson) with live presentations.

The roll call of Dodgers that took the field went as follows: Newcombe, Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Al Downing, Rick Monday, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Tommy Lasorda and Kershaw, with Magic Johnson and Peter O’Malley then escorting Scully on to the hallowed stadium grass, before an enormous standing ovation from the crowd.

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Top series by Jon SooHoo, bottom by Juan Ocampo

A baseball autographed by every participant was then passed down the line to Scully, who truly looked moved by the moment and said afterward he was “overwhelmed.”

Watching him from ground level, as the scoreboard camera circled around him for its closeup, I never felt more how much of a living legend we were privileged to know, and to call our own.


Opening Day advisory for Dodger Stadium on Tuesday: Come early, respect the neighborhood


By Jon Weisman

Stadium and auto gates will open at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday for Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. Beat the traffic by coming to the game as early as possible, consider the many alternate transportation options and make sure you prepay your parking in advance to save time and money if you do drive.

And also, take note of the following …

The Dodgers and the Los Angeles Police Department are spreading the word that fans should not park on the Avenue of the Palms (Stadium Way) between Scott Road and Academy Road. This street will have a “No Parking” restriction from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, in order to keep all attendees safe, LAPD officers will be patrolling the area and will enact a zero tolerance policy for drinking in public or in the parks. Tailgating also is not permitted on the Dodger Stadium premises.

The Dodgers and the LAPD wish everyone a safe and fun-filled day of baseball, and ask fans to respect the neighborhood and stay safe.

Dodgers’ outrageous Opening Day offensive onslaught

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Box score

By Jon Weisman

A historic day for the Dodgers began with something between a hunch and an observation by new manager Dave Roberts.

Chase Utley isn’t the Dodgers’ permanent leadoff hitter. He was simply the kind of hitter, based on his long history in the game, whom Roberts thought might do well batting first against Tyson Ross on Opening Day.

Coming up to start the 2016 season, Utley fell behind 1-2, worked the count to 3-2, and then stroked a simple, solid, sinking drive to left-center at which Jon Jay dove fruitlessly, good for a double.

No. 2 hitter Corey Seager, with almost none of Utley’s past but potentially all of his future and more, then boomed a double off the left-field wall on the fly, and it was on.

How on, we had no idea.

Their 15-0 victory (recapped by was the largest Opening Day shutout by any team in Major League history, according to Elias, breaking a 105-year-old record set by the Pirates at Cincinnati on April 12, 1911, 14-0.

“That first inning really set the tone for us,” Roberts said after the game. “After that, guys kept having good at-bats.”

The dominant performance created this cavalcade of conquest …

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Clayton Kershaw nearly perfect in season debut

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Photos by Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Every season, every single season in this glorious era of Clayton Kershaw, it’s impertinent to ask whether he can top himself. How can you demand more of someone who has perched at the summit so long, we’re all losing oxygen?

It seems gauche even to hope Kershaw can match his performance from previous years, during which he led the Majors in ERA for four of the past five seasons and had a 1.99 FIP in the year he didn’t.

And yet out comes Kershaw in San Diego, into the gloaming as he begins what unbelievably is his ninth big-league campaign. And as he has he before, he picks up the thread from the last season like it is one continuous stitch.

In the last meaningful regular-season game he pitched in 2015, he allowed one hit and one walk, pitching the Dodgers to a National League West-clinching victory.

In his seven innings tonight, while the Dodgers built a 15-0 lead, Kershaw allowed one hit and one walk, pitching the Dodgers toward a sixth consecutive Opening Day victory.

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Dodgers-Padres Opening Day notebook

Presenting the #Dodgers 2016 #OpeningDay lineup.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

By Jon Weisman

With less than an hour to go before first pitch, here are some last-minute Opening Day notes …

  • Not that this move needed defending, but Dave Roberts explained his choice to bat Corey Seager second, saying that Seager a) was a good matchup with Padres starter Tyson Ross, b) would give good at-bats and c) had the experience of batting high in the order during last year’s National League Division Series. Roberts also noted that Seager was not up there to bunt.
  • As for Chase Utley batting leadoff, Roberts said that he trusted the veteran’s at-bats and believes he can get on base.
  • Howie Kendrick is soon moving back to live batting practice and continues to aim for a return to active duty at next week’s home opener.
  • The Dodgers are facing five straight right-handed starting pitchers to open the season, but Roberts said right-handed batters Kiké Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson would see action before they presumably start against Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco on Saturday.
  • One quirk I liked about this year’s lineup: It’s the first in Los Angeles Dodger history where all four infielders batted before all three outfielders (with the catcher and pitcher finishing things off).
  • Do you think of Petco Park as a tough place to play for the Dodgers? Los Angeles has won the majority of games there for five consecutive seasons, going 30-17 (.638) since 2011.
  • Here’s a profile of Ross from Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This next batch of notes is courtesy of the Dodgers’ public relations department …

  • The Dodgers are 31-27 on Opening Day since moving to Los Angeles in 1958.
  • With five consecutive Opening Day wins, the Dodgers and Orioles have the second-longest active streak in MLB, behind Seattle (nine).
  • The Dodgers have an active six-game win streak against the Padres. The last time the Dodgers beat the Padres seven times in a row was when they won 16 in a row over the Padres from September 9, 1973-September 20, 1974.
  • Clayton Kershaw’s career Opening Day ERA of 1.14 is the second-lowest in the big leagues for pitchers with at least five season-opening starts since 1920, behind Rick Mahler (0.92).
  • Austin Barnes, Louis Coleman (who turns 30 today), Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Seager, Thompson and Hernandez will take part in their very first Opening Day.
  • Roberts and Padres manager Andy Green form the first Opening Day meeting of two rookie managers since Fredi Gonzalez (Florida) and Manny Acta (Washington) in 2007.
  • Pitching matchups for the next two nights: Scott Kazmir vs. James Shields on Tuesday, Kenta Maeda vs. Andrew Cashner on Wednesday.

On the first day of baseball, my true love gave to me

Dodgers at Padres, 4:05 p.m.
Kershaw CCXLIII: Kershawtlight
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Watching Madison Bumgarner of the Giants issue a bases-loaded walk in the first inning today grooved me to remember not to invest too deeply in Opening Day.

That RWI was the set-up to a punchline. The next batter hit into an inning-ending double play, and as far as I was concerned, baseball began being baseball right away in 2016.

And we’ve got a lot of baseball ahead of us.

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Dishing on Dodger road openers

Clayton Kershaw opens the 2014 MLB season in Sydney, Australia.

Clayton Kershaw opens the 2014 MLB season in Sydney, Australia.

Dodger road openers since 1988
(with starting pitchers)

4/3/89 (Belcher): Reds 4, Dodgers 2
4/10/91 (Belcher): Dodgers 5, Braves 4
4/5/93 (Hershiser): Marlins 6, Dodgers 3
4/25/95 (Martinez): Dodgers 8, Marlins 7
4/1/96 (Martinez): Dodgers 4, Astros 3
3/31/98 (Martinez): Cardinals 6, Dodgers 0
4/3/00 (Brown): Dodgers 10, Expos 4
3/31/03 (Nomo): Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 0
4/5/05 (Lowe): Giants 4, Dodgers 2
4/2/07 (Lowe): Brewers 7, Dodgers 1
4/6/09 (Kuroda): Dodgers 4, Padres 1
4/5/10 (Padilla): Pirates 11, Dodgers 5
4/5/12 (Kershaw): Dodgers 5, Padres 3
3/22/14 (Kershaw): Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1

By Jon Weisman

Since 1988, the Dodgers are 8-6 when they’ve opened the season on the road, including their farthest trip, which delivered a 3-1 victory over the designated host Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney on March 22, 2014.

In San Diego, where the Dodgers begin the 2016 season Monday, the Dodgers won season-opening games at San Diego in 2009 (behind Hiroki Kuroda) and 2012, with Josh Lindblom getting the win after illness forced Clayton Kershaw from the game after three innings.

Before that, believe it or not, the only time the Dodgers opened a regular season in San Diego was 1973, when a three-run eighth lifted the Padres over Don Sutton, 4-2.

Sutton got revenge the following year, winning 8-0 at Dodger Stadium over the Padres on Opening Day 1974.

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Dodgers announce 2016 Opening Day roster

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

The pieces have been falling together for the past several days, and now, the puzzle is in place. Here’s the Opening Day roster, the first under manager Dave Roberts, for the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers …

Starting pitchers (5): Scott Kazmir, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood

Relief pitchers (7): Pedro Baez, Joe Blanton, Louis Coleman, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen

Catchers (2): Austin Barnes, A.J. Ellis

Infielders (6): Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Kiké Hernandez, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chase Utley

Outfielders (5): Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke

Disabled list (10): Brett Anderson (60-day), Mike Bolsinger, Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal, Alex Guerrero, Howie Kendrick, Brandon McCarthy(60-day), Frankie Montas(60-day), Josh Ravin, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Matt Kemp’s Opening Day visit to Dodger Stadium is unprecedented

Matt Kemp first faced the Dodgers in a March 12 exhibition game. A week from today, it counts.

Matt Kemp first faced the Dodgers in a March 12 exhibition game. A week from today, it counts. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

For photos from Sunday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Brett Anderson, P

By Jon Weisman

If you’re like Vin Scully, and you think it’s going to be weird to see Matt Kemp suit up for the Padres against the Dodgers on Opening Day in his first official career game for another team, you’re right.

Nothing like it has ever happened.

In the history of Dodger Stadium Opening Days, no other former Dodger — let alone one of Kemp’s current magnitude — has made his debut for an opponent before Scully and friends.

There have been a few former Dodgers to play for the opposition at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, most recently Dave Roberts for the Giants in 2008 and Ismael Valdez for the Padres in 2004, but not very many, and they were always years removed from their last appearance in Dodger blue. (If you want to include road openers, former Dodger knuckleballer Charlie Hough pitched the Marlins’ first MLB game ever, against the Dodgers in 1993.)

Steve Garvey — the biggest name to go directly from Los Angeles to San Diego before Kemp — was at first base for the Padres at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day 1986, but Garvey was already in his fourth season with San Diego.

WelcomeThe highest-profile Dodger ever to play his next game for an opponent on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium was Reggie Smith, who started at first base for the Giants on April 6, 1982 — Los Angeles’ first official game since winning the World Series. Even this couldn’t be considered a big a deal as Kemp. Though revered by this author, Smith was not a career Dodger, and he had already ceased to be an integral part of the team by 1981, collecting seven hits and seven walks the entire year.

To find a Dodger regular who played an Opening Day for an opponent in Los Angeles the very next year, you have to go all the way back to a different venue and the very first Game No. 1 played in Los Angeles: April 12, 1960. (The Dodgers opened on the road for their first two seasons after moving from Brooklyn.) That player was Don Zimmer, who had been pushed to the bench by shortstop Maury Wills midway through the 1959 season.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some shock for local fans: Zimmer was traded to the Cubs on April 8, only four days before the start of the season, which found him at third base for Chicago at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Still, Don Zimmer playing for the Cubs at a Dodger home opener is nothing compared with what it’s going to be like to see Matt Kemp playing right field for the Padres a week from today. Surreal is a word that comes to mind. As Scully put it, the idea of Clayton Kershaw facing Kemp with the game on the line is, for now at least, mind-blowing.

That being said, time marches on, and so eventually will our sensibilities. If we could get used to Garvey in a Padre uniform, anything’s possible. (Well, almost anything.)

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