Daily Distractions: Why starting the season in Australia might give Don Mattingly headaches.

Don Mattingly Alan Trammell

The Dodgers’ early-season schedule has the potential to frustrate manager Don Mattingly, who isn’t above taking out his frustration on Arizona Diamondbacks coaches. (Getty Images)

So the Dodgers and Diamondbacks play two games in Australia a week before any other team begins its regular season. Does anything about this arrangement make Don Mattingly‘s job easier?

Maybe a little. If he wants to, the Dodgers manager can have reigning National League Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw start a game in Sydney, then the U.S. regular-season opener seven days later, then the Dodgers’ home opener five days after that. Again: if he wants to.

Things start to get tricky, um, everywhere else. Start with the bullpen.

“If you think about it,” Mattingly said Saturday at the Dodgers’ FanFest, “you’re going into two games in a row (in Australia), you’ve got to kind of save your relievers as you get into that. Then if you don’t use them, now it’s going to be a week or 10 days before they’re throwing in a (regular-season) game.”

As of right now, the Dodgers have exactly one game on their schedule between March 17-21, a time when many managers have the luxury of split-squad games to evaluate players pushing for the final spots on their 25-man roster. That one game is an exhibition against the Australian national team in Sydney on March 20. Two days later, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will celebrate Opening Day.

After the Dodgers play the D-Backs on the afternoon of March 23, they get four days off to fly back to Los Angeles and re-adjust to Pacific Time. All that time off down the road has a ripple effect on players’ routines. Pitchers are hit the hardest.

“These guys are having to throw bullpens before we even get to camp,” Mattingly said. “That seems like a rush to me.”

Don’t expect the three-game Freeway Series against the Angels, on March 27-29, to have the usual look of a “final audition” for roster spots — at least as relief pitchers are concerned. Mattingly said he’ll have to manage his bullpen with an eye toward the March 30 game in San Diego that counts in the standings.

The Dodgers’ position players can’t exactly treat the Freeway Series like an exhibition, either. In a usual year, Mattingly might use those games to rest his projected starting lineup. The quirky schedule makes this year different.

“Starting the season and then not playing for another eight days always bothers me,” Mattingly said, “because once guys turn that clock on, it’s hard to get them to play an exhibition game. That’s where you start to get bad habits. You start the season then it’s like these games don’t count. Guys, they know that. They know that game, the stats don’t count. I worry about bad habits during that period of time.”

The Freeway Series games are scheduled for March 27 and 28 at Dodger Stadium and March 29 at Angel Stadium.

Some bullet points for a Four Chaplains Day:
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It’s a no go for Matt Kemp

It was speculated that Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp would replace Carlos Beltran on the NL All-Star roster, but it turns out that Phillies right fielder (and former Dodger) Jayson Werth will be in St. Louis instead. Werth has hit homers in his last four games and evidently proved his all-star worth to Phillies — and NL — manager Charlie Manuel. All three Philadelphia starting outfielders will be All-Stars.

This means that barring a last-minute injury replacement, the Dodgers will have only one position player in St. Louis: second baseman Orlando Hudson. Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton will accompany the O-Dog as well.

Postgame: Dodgers 11, Mets 2

The Dodgers defeated the Mets 11-2 tonight at Citi Field. For a full recap and boxscore click here

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

The Dodgers ended any suspense by jumping on Mets starter Livan Hernandez for four runs in the top of the first, the big blow coming on a three-run double by Orlando Hudson.

Rafael Furcal, a noted Mets killer in his Atlanta days, feasted on some New York cooking with three hits and three runs scored.

Manny Ramirez added two hits and two RBIs.

Randy Wolf wasn’t as sharp as usual, but after struggling a bit early he settled own with the lead and gave the Dodgers 6.1 innings while giving up two runs on seven hits.

ETC…ETC.

The Dodgers got 2.2 more innings of scoreless relief from their bullpen, this time from James McDonald and Claudio Vargas.

Matt Kemp had three hits and is now batting .319 on the year.

ON DECK:

The Dodgers open a three-game series in Milwaukee sending RHP Chad Billingsley (9-4, 3.14) vs. RHP Braden Looper (7-4, 4.78)

Pregame: 7/5 Dodgers at Padres

Manny, Orlando Hudson out of the lineup for today’s day game. Hudson is one of the Dodgers’ three All-Stars, as named today. Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley also make the list, and Matt Kemp still has a shot to get in with the final vote or as a replacement for the likely-to-bow-out Carlos Beltran. Find out how to vote here.

Rubber game today.

Dodgers
Furcal, SS
Pierre, LF
Loney, 1B
Blake, 3B
Ethier, RF
Martin, C
Kemp, CF
Castro, 2B
Billingsley, P

Padres
Gwynn, CF
Eckstein, 2B
Hairston, LF
A. Gonzalez, 1B
Kouzmanoff, 3B
E. Gonzalez, RF
Alfonzo, C
E. Cabrera, SS
Banks, P