Bad Blood Down Under? Baseball Rivals Face Off In Australia To Open MLB Season

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks lost no love for each other last season.

First there was the June brawl sparked by a Zach Greinke pitch that nailed mercurial Cuban rookie Yasiel Puig and led to suspensions for eight players. Then there was the season-long National League West pennant race, which the Dodgers sewed up in early September at Arizona's Chase Field.

That, of course, led to a controversial impromptu swimming pool clinching party by a dozen or so Dodgers, including Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe.

And now, the two teams have traveled around the world to renew their rivalry when they meet to open the major league season Saturday and Sunday at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.

But Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says he doesn't expect any serious animosity to carry over from last year. Of course, he couldn't rule it out either.

"Kirk [Gibson, Diamondbacks manager] talked about it a bit yesterday," Mattingly said. "It's a rivalry when you play somebody 19 times a year in your own division. Those games get heated.

"I don't feel like there is going to be [problems .... These guys play hard, and they're tough. For us, what happened last year is over and we should move forward and play."

Gibson was more or less conciliatory when asked about the rivalry on Tuesday, preferring to mention that Australia aas the location for his 1985 honeymoon, "and that worked out pretty good, so I'm hoping this does. We're ready to go."

Mattingly said people don't think of baseball as a tough, physical sport "in terms of football, hockey or in this country, rugby."

"Baseball is more [about] mental toughness," he added. "Night in and night out, the travel, getting in late, all kinds of different things you deal with."

And he feels like the Dodgers match up.

"We feel like we're tough," Mattingly said. "We got down in the division 10 games at one point, surviving that and then ended up winning by 10 or 11. When you love to play, it's easier to get ready to play. I think we've got guys who love playing."

Mattingly said first baseman Paul Goldschmidt typified the toughness of the Diamondbacks.

"He's kind of gotten to be a beast, hard to deal with, tough to pitch to," Mattingly said. "He's really killed us. He's just getting to be a tough and tougher out. We treat him with a lot of respect."

On Tuesday, Goldschmidt said of the rivalry: "We play each other a lot. Guys aren't going to be worried about being laid back."

Both teams held workouts Wednesday, and some members of the Dodgers went to Bondi Beach to help out local surf lifesavers. First-game starter Clayton Kershaw, celebrating his 26th birthday Wednesday, was photographed with his wife cuddling a kangaroo and received a cake on the SCG field.

On Thursday, the Dodgers will play Team Australia in an exhibition game and the Diamondbacks provide the opposition against Australia on Friday.

"We won't use any top-line pitchers in that game," Mattingly said of the exhibition. "We'll try to make sure we won't have anyone overexposed."

In injury news, Mattingly said he didn't expect a right shoulder injury to Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford during a minor league game Tuesday to be serious. Crawford left the game after the injury.

Mattingly said no MRI exams or other scans were scheduled, "but that could change."

Crawford is one of four Dodgers left behind at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix because his fiancée is about to give birth.

"It sounds like he had a checked swing, and felt a little something in his shoulder," Mattingly said. "He stopped right there. He had a planned day off tomorrow, and we expect him to play the day after."

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