What would Opening Day be without a little drama to kick off the new baseball season? The Los Angeles Dodgers begin their season at Dodger Stadium Monday night, as they will play host to their former All-Star Matt Kemp and the San Diego Padres.
Kemp, 30, makes his debut with the Padres after he was traded back in December to San Diego from Los Angeles. The Dodgers are the only team Kemp has ever played for; he was drafted by Los Angeles in the sixth round of the 2003 MLB Draft. Now Kemp returns to Chavez Ravine, this time wearing a different shade of blue.
“I’ve already thought about it. I’m excited. I’m sure it’ll be a little bit different…it’ll be emotional,” said Kemp in an Associated Press report.
Rumors were circulating earlier this year about Kemp being called a “bad teammate” by some Dodgers players. But a Los Angeles Times article reported it as nothing more than something manufactured by the media.
Clayton Kershaw will make his fifth straight opening-day start on the mound for the Dodgers, after a 2014 season that saw him win the National League MVP and his third Cy Young Award. Kershaw talked about how it will be different to face his old teammate.
“Honestly, I have no idea how to get him out yet,” said Kershaw.
But Kemp won’t be the only player to worry about on this new and improved Padres lineup.
In addition to Kemp, other players San Diego acquired in their busy offseason include All-Star catcher Derek Norris and power-hitter outfielder Justin Upton, among others. On Sunday, the Padres made another big deal, trading for closer Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. from the Atlanta Braves. Coincidentally, this move reunites two of the Upton brothers, as both played together for the past two seasons with the Braves.
The Dodgers made some moves of their own this offseason, bringing in veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick to strengthen the middle infield. Catcher Yasmani Grandal was acquired from the Padres to back up starter A.J. Ellis. But the most notable change to the Dodgers lineup is the one taking Matt Kemp’s old spot, rookie Joc Pederson.
Pederson will not only be one of three rookies on the Dodgers’ opening-day roster, but will likely get the start in center field, despite the fact that Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly has yet to confirm it.
“You can pretty much read between the lines and see what we’re doing,” said Mattingly.
When reading between the lines, it can be seen that Pederson started in center field for all three of the Freeway Series preseason games against the Angels. He also made a highlight reel “juggling catch” last Thursday in the first game of the series, showing his defensive capabilities in center.
With both the Padres and Dodgers revamped and ready to make a playoff run this baseball season, it should be an exhilarating Opening Day in Los Angeles. Be sure to catch the first at bat between Kemp and Kershaw, as it will be battle of two former All-Star teammates. The question is, will that battle be won on the mound or at the plate?