GLENDALE, Ariz. — For most of the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, Wednesday's Cactus League opener was just another spring game. For Alex Guerrero, it was the first game of his new life.
"I don't know what to say," he said when asked to reflect on everything he has gone through over the past 15 months, defecting from Cuba and signing with the Dodgers.
"It was a very big experience. Just playing in the United States for the first time is a big deal."
The Dodgers gave Guerrero a pretty good deal - four years and $28 million - with the expectation he would be their primary second baseman this season. Until Wednesday they have had only workouts in which to base their optimism as Guerrero tries to make the switch from playing shortstop in Cuba.
"I'm not going to judge Alex on five innings of defense," Manager Don Mattingly said
Guerrero had just two plays. He seemed slow running down Martin Prado's ground ball to his left in the third inning and was unable to throw out Prado after smothering the ball on the outfield grass. But he was in the middle of turning a double play two batters later. In two at-bats, he took a called third strike and grounded out.
"I felt comfortable today," Guerrero said through his translator. "I'm really just familiarizing myself with second base. It's gotten a lot better throughout spring training. I feel I'll be ready for the big leagues and to play second base at that level.
"At the end of the day, it's just playing baseball ï¿½ the same as in Cuba."
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was banged around in his first spring start, allowing three runs on five hits (though one was a misplayed fly ball by left fielder Carl Crawford) and a walk in two innings.
"I'm a results-based guy," he said. "I want to see results. I want to get outs so today left a lot to be desired.
"It wasn't very pretty. My arm feels good. My body feels good. That's the main thing. But obviously there's a lot of work to do."
There isn't a lot of time to do it. Kershaw figures to get just three more starts in Arizona before the Dodgers leave for their two-game series against the Diamondbacks in Australia. Kershaw would not respond when reporters asked if he expected to ï¿½ or wanted to ï¿½ pitch one of those two games, saying only, "Ask Donnie."
Mattingly has been quizzed repeatedly on that subject and remained evasive Wednesday, saying the Dodgers plan to have four starting pitchers stretched out to 90 pitches and ready to take the ball in Australia if asked.
"With Clayton from the very beginning, it's been whatever we want to do," Mattingly said. "He's getting ready to pitch. That's all there is to it. Clayton is getting ready to pitch. Zack (Greinke) is getting ready to pitch. Four guys (including Dan Haren and Hyun-Jin Ryu) are getting ready.
"Right now, there's been nothing that's happened that would keep us from doing whatever we want at that point."
Javy Guerra, Seth Rosin and Jose Dominguez followed Kershaw with four shutout innings, combining for eight strikeouts (five by Rosin). Mattingly joked that the pitching was "all good if it wasn't for that Kershaw guy." ...
Mattingly and several other managers met Tuesday with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, members of MLB's playing rules committee, to discuss the new replay-review rule. "There's a lot of things, a lot of notes I wrote and we'll go back through them (with the coaching staff)," Mattingly said. "Basically, (they were) talking about making sure we're using it in the spirit of the game and not just using it to stall and get a pitcher ready. ... It's going to be a learning process."