Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will be ready wherever and whenever his manager wants.
With the Dodgers playing their opening series against Arizona in Australia March 22-23, there is a chance he can start three of the NL West champions' first six games.
"I'll pitch when they tell me to," Kershaw said Sunday. "I'll be ready."
The two-time Cy Young Award winner could start March 22 in Sydney, March 30 in San Diego and the Dodgers' April 4 home opener. But manager Don Mattingly thinks that might be asking too much from his ace who pitched 236 innings in the regular season last year.
"We have to be mindful of Clayton, the number of innings he pitched last year and the short winter," Mattingly said Sunday before Kershaw pitched batting practice for the first time this spring.
"It's not being cautious or babying. It's being mindful of him," Matting said. "He's a workhorse. He pitches deep into games. We have to take care of him, give him an inning off here and there when we can."
The Dodgers have yet to announce their rotation, and Mattingly said how many times Kershaw pitches early on depends on the makeup of the starting five.
"We want to keep other guys on schedule," Mattingly said. "Otherwise, you'll have guys who may not pitch for 12 days. Again, we look at all the options. This spring will tell us what's going on. Is Clayton going good, is Zack Greinke feeling good? How's the spring going on? Is it a little rough? Whatever it is, it factors into making our decision."
Kershaw worked a career-high number of innings last year, including 236 in the regular season and 23 in postseason.
"I felt good toward the end of the season, which is great," Kershaw said after throwing 25 pitches during batting practice. "I didn't feel tired or anything all the way through the playoffs. Everything felt good. In the offseason, I take six weeks off regardless. Whenever the season ends, I take six weeks off from throwing. I started throwing right around December.
"My arm today felt great. I haven't been sore yet or anything. Everything feels pretty good," Kershaw added.
Kershaw said the number of innings is misleading. But long innings, he said, can take a toll.
"I think stressful innings are what you've got to monitor," he said.
Kershaw arrived at camp with a record-breaking contract. In January, he signed a seven-year deal worth $215 million. Big contracts can come with even bigger expectations.
"I would say that I put enough expectations on myself that I really don't have to worry about all of that other stuff. But I definitely understand that people's expectations are raised. I definitely feel a responsibility to live up to the life of the contract," Kershaw said. "But as far as my mindset, I don't think anything will really change."