Left-hander Clayton Kershaw is set to make his season debut when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game series on Monday night.
The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner was shut down during spring training because of inflammation in his throwing shoulder and didn't make the Opening-Day start for the Dodgers for the first time since 2010.
"He's champing at the bit," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Kershaw will likely face two former teammates in Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.
Both were traded to the Reds, along with starting pitcher Alex Wood, in December to potentially clear payroll space to sign free agent Bryce Harper, who ended up choosing the Philadelphia Phillies.
Puig and Kemp are both off to slow starts in Cincinnati.
Puig went 2-for-5 on Sunday with his first home run of the season in a 9-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Monterrey, Mexico, but he's still hitting just .163.
Kemp delivered a pinch-hit single on Sunday, but he's at .162.
Before Sunday's loss, the Reds had won four in a row, which has given the team some optimism.
"Guys have responded," Reds manager David Bell said. "They've stayed ready on certain days that they're not playing, and they're playing well."
The Dodgers filled Puig's spot in right field with Cody Bellinger at the start of the season, but rookie Alex Verdugo is earning more playing time with his performance at the plate, moving Bellinger to first base.
Verdugo started two of the three games against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers last weekend and went 2-for-4 on Sunday with a home run and three RBI to help the Dodgers end a six-game losing streak with a 7-1 win.
"It's not easy when you're not playing every day, but to go up there and put up quality at-bats, he's earning more playing time," Roberts said. "He just has a very good ability to put the bat on the baseball, and he really has an understanding of the strike zone."
Los Angeles has gone deep in 29 consecutive home games, three off the major league record set by the Colorado Rockies in 1999.
Kershaw began throwing live batting practice on March 20, and participated in a simulated game at Angel Stadium five days later. After another simulated game at Dodger Stadium on March 30, he made two rehab starts in the minors.
"We've done what we can to put him in the best chance to help himself and us," Roberts said. "Clayton's done that, we've done that, so we feel good about Monday."
Luis Castillo (1-1, 0.92 ERA) is scheduled to start on the mound for the Reds.
He's allowed two runs in 19 2/3 innings and hasn't given up a run in his past 12 innings.
Castillo most recently threw seven shutout innings in a 14-0 win against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.
In his other two starts, the Reds combined for one run in the 12 2/3 innings he was in the game.
Castillo is 2-0 in his career against the Dodgers, with both wins coming last season.
He held them to one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings and earned the win in a 3-1 victory in Cincinnati on Sept. 11. Castillo beat Los Angeles on May 13 at Dodger Stadium, combining for 17 strikeouts and one walk in the victories.
Dodgers first baseman David Freese is 4-for-8 in his career against Castillo with a home run, but he's seeing less playing time with the emergence of Verdugo.
--Field Level Media
Kershaw to make season debut as Dodgers host Reds
More TOP STORIES News