Opening electricity 

Kershaw starts Opening Day in Oklahoma City on rehab assignment.

click to enlarge After a $2.5 million facelift, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark features a new field, LED lights and a lounge along the first baseline. - JACOB THREADGILL
  • Jacob Threadgill
  • After a $2.5 million facelift, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark features a new field, LED lights and a lounge along the first baseline.
Although Clayton Kershaw’s franchise-record streak of starting eight consecutive opening day games for the Los Angeles Dodgers ended last week due to lingering shoulder inflammation, he’ll be on the mound for opening day in Oklahoma City.

The seven-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner will throw the first pitch of the season at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark against the San Antonio Missions. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

“You couldn’t ask for a better guy to pitch your Opening Day,” first-year Oklahoma City Dodgers manager Travis Barbary said of Kershaw. “[With] the history he’s had in the Dodgers organization and the success he’s had, just him being here, I know everyone is excited. It’s going to be big time for the team, fans and city of Oklahoma City.”

Barbary was unsure of the exact length of Kershaw’s start during Wednesday’s media day, but the LA Times reports he’s expected to throw four or five innings.

Kershaw last made an appearance at Bricktown Ballpark in 2017, and more than 13,000 fans turned out to see him throw five innings in a rehab start.

“[It] will make for an electric experience for opening night, which would already be a great night since it’s the opening night of baseball,” said Michael Byrnes, Oklahoma City Dodgers president and general manager. “It’s going to be a packed house anyway, so you add in that element and there’s certainly been interest from a ticket sales standpoint that have been moving over the last couple of days. We expect an electric atmosphere.”

The Oklahoma City has produced major league stars every year since it has become an affiliate of the Dodgers in 2015. First, it was shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman Cody Bellinger, then last year saw pitcher Walker Buehler fulfill his prophecy as top prospect and Max Muncy emerge out of obscurity to hit 35 home runs in the majors.

The 2019 roster includes eight players on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 40-man roster and other top prospects. Dennis Santana — the organization’s no. 7 prospect — is on the 40-man roster after a one-game appearance with the big club last season.

“Dennis is one of these guys that has great stuff: heavy sinker, good slider, really good change-up,” Barbary said. “I except a lot of good things from him. ... We expect him to have a good year.”

Pitchers Josh Sborz, Jaime Schultz, lefty Donnie Hart and J.T. Chargois are also on the 40-man roster.

Right-handed pitcher Tony Gonsolin, who checks in at No. 5 in the organization’s rankings, joins Santana in the rotation. Gonsolin had a 2.60 combined ERA in stops at Rancho Cucamonga and Tulsa last season with 155 strikeouts in 128 innings.

“Tony had a great spring. He opened a lot of eyes — not that he wasn’t on the radar going into spring training," said Barbary. "He stayed in big league camp awhile and pitched really well. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

Infielders Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios are back in Oklahoma City this season but are one call away from Los Angeles, as they are on the 40-man roster. Rios his .304 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in 309 at-bats for Oklahoma City last season. He checks in as the organization’s No. 13 prospect. Barbary singled out Beaty and Rios as being breakout candidates this season. Beaty spent the offseason strengthening his core after a quad injury shelved him on the injury list for most of last season.

Barbary takes over managerial duties after serving as the organization’s catching coordinator since 2007. He also said catcher Will Smith — the organization’s No. 6 prospect — has the ability to be the big club’s next impact player.

“Will has had a really good spring," Barbary said. "Defensively, there’s no question he’s as a good as it gets. He can really catch; he can really throw. Towards the end of spring training, he was really heating up with the bat. The last three or four games, he hit three or four home runs. I think he feels really good offensively about where he’s at.”

Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark will debut its $2.5 million facelift that includes a new field, patio seating along the first baseline and state-of-the-art LED field lights.

"[The ball looks like] a volleyball,” Rios said of the new lights. “You can see that thing. I’m excited about it and can’t wait to hit tomorrow.”
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