Dodgers mindful of Kershaw's workload

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In a sense, Clayton Kershaw's 2014 season will begin Sunday morning, on a back field at the Dodgers’ spring training camp with a handful of fans in attendance.

Kershaw, along with young pitchers Ross Stripling and Seth Rosin, was scheduled to throw live batting practice to Dodgers hitters, his first time throwing to hitters since Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Presuming Kershaw gets through the spring without any physical setbacks, he figures to start the Dodgers’ opener in Australia on March 22.

Because the Dodgers have a week off when they return to the United States and open dates on March 31 and April 3, they could use Kershaw three times in their first six games. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that won’t happen.

"We’re very mindful of Clayton and the number of innings he pitched last year and the short winter," Mattingly said. "We’re not going to baby him, but we’re going to pay attention to how many innings."

Kershaw, 25, who signed a record-breaking, seven-year, $215 million contract last month, pitched 259 innings last season. That eclipsed his previous career high by more than 15.

Kershaw’s worst outing of the season came in that final playoff game, when he allowed seven St. Louis Cardinals runs on 10 hits over four innings. Previous to that, Kershaw had been dominant in the playoffs after winning his second Cy Young award in three seasons.

"You’d see it three or four times last year where it’s just not clean. He’s having to fight the whole game," Mattingly said. "Those wear on guys. There are other games where you throw nine innings, but it’s 10, 11 pitches an inning and it seems like he’s just out there playing catch."

The Dodgers have not announced an Opening Day starter yet.