- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Before the Dodgers played the Angels on Monday night, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he and the team were just happy to be back home and out of Arizona.
“It’s nice,” Mattingly said. “You know what the best thing is? Waking up today and not having to come straight to the ballpark.”
Mattingly probably wishes he were anyplace else other than the ballpark after the Angels beat up on the Dodgers, 12-3, Monday night. The game was so one-sided, almost all of the 33,111 in attendance were long gone by the time the final out was recorded as the public address announcer had to remind the crowd on more than one occasion that the exhibition game would go the full nine innings regardless of the score.
The Dodgers and Angels will finish the final two games of the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Dodgers open their season on Thursday in San Diego.
When the Dodgers finally do play games that matter, the focus will shift to the team’s two biggest stars, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, as they attempt to replicate two of the best seasons from a pitcher and a hitter in team history.
As Mattingly looks at his two star players, he said he will closely monitor both to make sure they aren’t trying to do too much this season to live up to the hype and expectations they created for themselves last season.
“There are a lot of guys that have a Cy Young award,” Mattingly said. “You know, they’ve had a good season, but if you get into what Clayton can be and what Clayton wants to be over time; it’s time. It’s consistency, it’s every year, it’s a true ace that you can count on every year and every start. So one year is great but knowing Clayton he wants to go do it again and that’s what we’re going to have to be aware of, him trying to do a little too much and thinking he has to do everything, every time and pitch nine innings and win every time out ... The same thing goes for Matt, both of those guys.
Mattingly knows from his days as a player, Kershsaw's stellar performance might not always lead the record and accolades he deserves and that's something he simply can not control.
“Clayton could actually go out and pitch just as good or better and maybe win 15 games where if things don’t go his way or he doesn’t get the runs, you don’t know,” Mattingly said. “I played with a guy in New York, and I won’t mention his name, but he won 16 games one year and he had no business winning 8. He had 8-10 runs every time he pitched and he shouldn’t have won 8 but he did. Clayton could play as well as he did last year and we might not play as well and he might not do as well. I just want him to go be himself.”
It’s a simple message that Mattingly has tried to convey to all his players as opening day approaches.
“I ask all these guys to play up to their level and if they play to their watermark we’ll be fine,” Mattingly said. “If these guys do what they’re supposed to do and do what it says on the back of their card and have been consistent, we’re going to be OK.”
2dBrian Heyman, Special to ESPN.com