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Dodgers hope to have Kemp for home opener against Giants

(SportsNetwork.com) - After traveling two hemispheres in 18 days, the Los Angeles Dodgers are set for their home opener Friday, as they welcome their National League West rival San Francisco Giants to Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers opened the season in Australia with a two-game sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks, then went to San Diego this week and took two out of three from the Padres. It will be a packed house as L.A. fans get their first glimpse at the $234 million team that has overtaken the New York Yankees for baseball's highest payroll.

On top of that, Matt Kemp is slated to make his season debut after recovering from offseason ankle and shoulder procedures. Injuries have limited the slugger to just 179 games over the last two seasons, although his return now creates a logjam in an outfield that also includes Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig.

Meanwhile, San Francisco has also gotten off to a solid start with wins in three of its first four games, including Thursday's 8-5 win over Arizona. Angel Pagan sparked a five-run eighth inning with a three-run homer, and Brandon Belt also went deep for the third time in the first four games. He joins Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Kevin Mitchell as the only Giants to accomplish that feat.

"I said before the season I would hit 74 home runs," Belt joked. "So we'll see what happens."

Manager Bruce Bochy said it takes comebacks like Thursday's -- and like Monday's late rally against Arizona -- to have a winning season. Pagan echoed that sentiment.

"My teammates, including me, are trying to be patient, not panicking when we're behind," Pagan said. "I think everybody feels good about what we have right now."

Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong will make his season debut for San Francisco as he looks to rebound from a rough 2013 season. Vogelsong was limited to 19 games because of a broken bone in his pitching hand, and he wasn't very good when healthy, going 4-6 with a 5.73 ERA. He posted an 8.44 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

His counterpart, Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the nod in place of Clayton Kershaw, who may miss all of April with a back injury. Ryu had a strong rookie campaign last year (14-8, 3.00 ERA in 30 starts) and has not allowed a run through 12 innings so far this year. He had a 2.48 in five starts against the Giants in 2013.

Ryu will try to pick up where Dan Haren left off Haren quieted the San Diego Padres in Wednesday's 5-1 win. The Dodgers' starting rotation has combined for a 0.91 ERA with 30 strikeouts and seven walks.

"It's nice winning four of five games, and we haven't had a home game yet," Haren said. "I've only been in the Dodgers' clubhouse for two days, really, so it will be nice having a homestand. We've had so many off days and the schedule is crazy. The home opener should be fun, exciting, too."