Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis: “It didn’t feel like Opening Day,” and other Game 1 observations.

SYDNEY — If we were to focus just on the baseball, Opening Day followed a very predictable script. Clayton Kershaw was the best pitcher in the ballpark. The Dodgers’ bullpen followed a predictable order of Chris Perez (⅓ of an inning), Brian Wilson (1 inning) and Kenley Jansen (1 inning) in closing out the game without allowing a run. Paul Goldschmidt didn’t waste a single at-bat but the Dodgers have a deeper lineup, and found a way to score more runs than their opponent. The final score was 3-1 and you can read about the game here.

Also, if we were to focus just on the baseball, we would completely miss the point of staging Opening Day on another continent 12,000 kilometers — about 7,500 miles, if this conversion app is working right — away from Los Angeles.

“No, it didn’t feel like Opening Day,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It felt like a game that we’re playing here trying to bring baseball to Australia. We knew this game counted, and this game could be a difference between us making and not making the playoffs. We had that passion and that energy behind the game. There was a different attitude today in the clubhouse, a different attitude in batting practice. As far as feeling like Opening Day, I can’t honestly say in my experience it totally was like Opening Day.”

Ellis is unique among the Dodger players. He came to Sydney in November of last year, along with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin, on a goodwill tour to drum up interest in the two season-opening games in Sydney. It’s fair to say he was more personally invested in the non-baseball aspects of the game than his teammates. Attendance fell short of a sellout by little more than 4,000 fans.

About those fans. As I warned, they weren’t the savviest bunch. They cheered loudly at the sight of the game’s first foul ball, a rare souvenir that means something completely different in baseball than cricket. Thrice a batter fouled a ball atop the roof overhanging the seats behind home plate. On one occasion, the ball remained lodged on the roof; the other two times it fell back toward the waiting hands of the crowd.

When Scott Van Slyke hit the first and only home run of the game — of the season, no less — it landed into a near-empty section of seats just beyond the right-field fence. There were two empty swaths of seats in the outfield, a virtual impossibility in the U.S.

Here, the home run elicited less a reaction than the first foul ball.

“Toronto was like that when we first started going there,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, “but it didn’t take long.”

A few more notes and observations:
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Dodgers, Diamondbacks announce Opening Day rosters and lineups.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues Friday to get the Dodgers to 25 men on their Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

SYDNEY — Greetings from tomorrow.
The Dodgers, as expected, trimmed their roster to 25 this afternoon. Outfielder Joc Pederson, pitcher Zach Lee and infielder Miguel Rojas were reassigned to the minor leagues. Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Brandon League were given roster exemptions and begin the season as “inactive.” Carl Crawford was placed on paternity leave. Pitchers Chad Billingsley (right elbow surgery) and Josh Beckett (right thumb contusion) and outfielder Matt Kemp (ankle surgery) on were placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday.

Not as expected: Catcher Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues. Federowicz was on a short list of players with contract options, so even though he spent all of 2013 as the backup to A.J. Ellis, Federowicz won’t be active for the first two games of the season. Drew Butera will back up Ellis.

First pitch is at 1:47 a.m. Pacific Time — not 1, or 1:30, as previously reported here. There is a chance of rain in the forecast and, fortunately, sliding glass windows in the press box.

Game 2 pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will be speaking at a press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground shortly, followed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. If you’re not following me on Twitter or Tout, hop on it and you’ll get game updates throughout the middle of the night.

Or you can just wake up in the morning like a normal person, come back to this blog and catch up on what you missed.

Here is the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, by position:
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Dodgers give Justin Turner the Opening Day nod at second base.

Justin Turner

Justin Turner hit .280/.319/.385 last season for the New York Mets. (Getty Images)

JJustin Turner will bat second and play second base, when the Dodgers play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Opening Day at 1 a.m. Pacific Time Saturday in Sydney, Australia.

The choice of Turner is somewhat surprising, since he was only added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster on the final weekend of spring training. Dee Gordon and Alex Guerrero had been the presumed favorites to get the Opening Day start from the beginning of camp.

Turner, a 29-year-old from Long Beach, has never started on Opening Day in parts of five major-league seasons. He batted .355/.447/.484 in 16 spring training games.

Gordon, who bats left-handed, was not expected to start against the left-handed hitting Miley. Since Turner was chosen over Guerrero, there is a strong chance that Guerrero will be optioned to the minor leagues when the Dodgers hand in their roster to Major League Baseball tomorrow.

Here is the Dodgers’ expected Opening Day lineup:

Yasiel Puig RF
Justin Turner 2B
Hanley Ramirez SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Scott Van Slyke LF
Juan Uribe 3B
Andre Ethier CF
A.J. Ellis C
Clayton Kershaw P

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Josh Beckett thrives, Matt Kemp struggles, in Dodgers’ latest minor-league spring training game.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs on March 15 before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)

Josh Beckett threw four mostly successful innings against the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A club at Camelback Ranch on Thursday. It was his first appearance since being pulled from a Cactus League start against the Chicago Cubs on March 15 with a contusion on his right thumb.

The right-hander allowed six hits and one earned run, walked one and struck out four. He threw 52 pitches, 39 for strikes. Beckett was said to have used his curveball well, a pitch that gave him trouble in his last start because of the thumb injury.

Playing in the same game, Matt Kemp continued his struggles at the plate as he returns from off-season ankle surgery. Kemp went 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts. Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford was 3-for-3 with a home run and two hard singles to left field. He played five innings in left field and was caught stealing.

Brandon League pitched in a Double-A game at home against Cincinnati and allowed one home run in 1 ⅓ innings. League threw 18 pitches, 12 for strikes, walked none and struck out none.

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A smattering of notes: Zach Lee starts, Dee Gordon leads off, and Carl Crawford has the flu.

Sydney Cricket Ground

The Sydney Cricket Ground, as configured for four days of baseball games.

Apropos of nothing — the time in Sydney, the time in Los Angeles, my newspaper’s deadlines — I’m checking in with one last update before boarding a flight to Australia.

The Dodgers play the Australian National Team tonight in Sydney. It’s their last exhibition game before beginning the regular season on Saturday (1 a.m. Pacific Time/7 p.m. Sydney Time). Manager Don Mattingly named Zach Lee will start the game.

Here’s how the Dodgers will line up:
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Reports: Dodgers’ Carl Crawford injures shoulder in minor-league game.

Carl CrawfordCarl Crawford left a minor-league spring training game against the Seattle Mariners after two innings Tuesday. According to multiple reports the Dodgers’ left fielder tweaked his right shoulder.

Crawford did not accompany the Dodgers to Sydney, Australia for Opening Day because of the anticipated birth of his child with fiancee Evelyn Lozada. He was scheduled to play with the Dodgers’ minor-league squad in Arizona until the major-league club returns.

In the Dodgers’ first Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Feb. 26, Crawford tweaked a muscle in his right quadricep and missed the next two games. In 12 major-league spring games he batted .188 (6 for 32).

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The Dodgers’ 30-man travel roster to Sydney, Australia: A closer look.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero was on the Dodgers’ plane to Sydney, Australia, but might not be on the Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

In case you missed it somehow, the Dodgers announced their travel roster Sunday before boarding a flight to Sydney, Austrlia.

I didn’t have time or space for a longer analysis of the 30 names yesterday, but one is probably needed.
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Daily Distractions: What’s next for the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia?


The Dodgers are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I type this blog entry. (I’m in Los Angeles. My skin isn’t Arizona-level dry anymore. It feels nice.) See for yourself: FlightAware.com is tracking the Dodgers’ airplane.

They will have a workout within a few hours of their arrival in Sydney, Australia and roughly another 60 hours before they play their first game against the Australian National Team. All this is by design — specifically, a design to get the players adapted to a time zone 18 hours away. The Dodgers even consulted with NASA, which is a great story for another day.

In the meantime, the club will attend a welcome gala and take a tour of Sydney Harbor. And, ideally, sleep a lot. If any of this makes for good copy it will probably be unplanned. I’m arriving Friday, the morning after the exhibition game. If the Dodgers want to play it boring until then I won’t complain.

Here is the Diamondbacks’ traveling roster. They are bringing 31 players because one, Ryan Rowland-Smith, is an Australian native who will also play for the Australian National Team in its exhibition game Thursday against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a St. Patrick’s Day:
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