Mexico, Japan and Puerto Rico have all hosted the first games of
the new season in the past 15 years and this weekend it is the turn
of Australia, which last witnessed live major league baseball a
The Sydney Cricket Ground, the storied temple of Australia's
favorite sport, has been transformed into a ballpark and sell-out
crowds of 40,000 are expected to watch the National League West
rivals duke it out in games on Saturday and Sunday.
Duke it out they might literally if their meeting in June last year
is anything to go by — a game marred by an ugly bench-clearing brawl
that led to suspensions for eight players.
The players and coaches, perhaps aware of their ambassadorial role,
have all made the right noises this week about a new season being a
"Everybody knows what happened last year but it's a new year and
we're just going to go out and compete," Wade Miley, the D-Backs
starting pitcher on Saturday, said on Friday.
"If things get heated, they get heated but nobody's going out there
looking for anything like that.
"We're just going to go out and play nine innings twice and (may)
the best team win."
In Saturday's opener, Dodgers ace southpaw Clayton Kershaw will make
his first start since signing the richest ever contract for a
pitcher in January.
Kershaw, who now earns $30 million a season, has won the National
League Cy Young award for two of the last three years and finished
the 2013 campaign with a major-leagues leading ERA of 1.83.
There have been some concerns among Dodgers fans about his form in
spring training but he brushed those aside.
"That's over now so that doesn't really matter anymore," he said.
"Now, it helps me to simplify it, just win, and that's what I'm
trying to do."
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Miley got his chance due to the misfortune of Patrick Corbin, who
was scheduled to start the game but suffered a partial tear of his
ulnar collateral ligament last weekend and looks likely to be ruled
out for the season.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity, it sucks what happened to
Pat and everything," said Miley, who conquered his fear of flying to
get to Australia.
"I'm just going to come out here tomorrow night like it's any other
start and hope for the best."
The Dodgers are expecting the Diamondbacks to give them nothing for
free and manager Don Mattingly summed up his feelings about the
toughness of the opposing team in his assessment of first baseman
"He's kind of gotten to be a beast," Mattingly said. "Hard to deal
with, tough to pitch to. He's really killed us.
"He's just getting to be a tough and tougher out. We treat him with
a lot of respect."
The big-budget Dodgers have raised expectations that they can go all
the way to the Fall Classic this year after falling one step short
If they are to reach a first World Series since 1988, beating their
fierce divisional rivals in back-to-back games 7,500 miles away from
home would not be a bad way to start.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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