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The Opener: Spring Training, Kershaw, Manfred

On the heels of some early morning news out of St. Petersburg, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Spring Training begins! (For one club):

Dodgers players are reporting to camp today, marking the official beginning of Spring Training for the club. While most clubs are reporting next week, L.A. and San Diego are both reporting early in preparation for the Seoul Series, where the Dodgers and Padres will kick off the 2024 regular season with a two-game set in South Korea. That series is set to begin on March 20, just over a week before Opening Day for the other 28 clubs occurs back in the states on March 28. With the Dodgers’ spring ending a week early, the club is kicking preparations for the season off ahead of time as well to ensure its players get a full Spring Training.

It’s been an exciting offseason for Dodgers fans, highlighted by the club’s acquisition of two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Looking beyond their most famous acquisition, L.A. overhauled its rotation by adding Tyler Glasnow, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and James Paxton to a group that already featured the likes of Walker Buehler and Bobby Miller.  They also transformed the outfield mix with the additions of Teoscar Hernandez and Manuel Margot, as well as a reunion with Jason Heyward.

2. Kershaw to undergo physical:

Longtime franchise face Clayton Kershaw returned to the Dodgers earlier this week on a two-year deal earlier this week. The tentative pact between the sides is pending a physical, which will take place today. After pitching through shoulder woes last season to post a strong 2.46 ERA in 131 2/3 innings of work, Kershaw went under the knife back in November. Assuming the contract becomes official post-physical, the club will need to open up a 40-man roster spot for Kershaw going forward.

Fortunately, with camp opening for the club today, the Dodgers will now be able to place players on the 60-day injured list, which removes them from the 40-man roster for the length of their stay on the IL. With Kershaw not expected back on a pitcher’s mound until August at the earliest, the veteran figures to be placed on the 60-day IL himself alongside righties Tony Gonsolin (Tommy John surgery last August) and Dustin May (Tommy John revision and flexor surgery last July).

3. Manfred to hold press conference:

As noted by Evan Drellich of The Athletic, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to speak with reporters later today following the conclusion of the owners’ meetings in Florida. The comments from Manfred come not only at the cusp between the offseason and the return of baseball, but also amid a push for MLB players to participate in the 2028 Summer Olympics. Prior to the World Series back in October, Manfred declined to discuss potential rule changes for the 2024 season, though he noted that any changes would be smaller than the ones implemented last year. 2023 saw the league implement a pitch clock, larger bases, and infield shift restrictions among other rules.

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