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Dodgers, D-backs ready for Sydney

SYDNEY -- After taking its opener to Mexico, Japan and Puerto Rico over the past 15 years, Major League Baseball is expanding to a new territory this weekend: Down Under.

When Arizona's Wade Miley throws the first pitch of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the teams will be nearly 7,800 miles from Chase Field in Phoenix.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw celebrated his 26th birthday Wednesday by cuddling a kangaroo.

“It's been a good experience for us and, hopefully, we can get a couple of wins and make it a great one,” Kershaw said. “Opening day is always fun, no matter what continent it's on.”

The games will be played at a revamped cricket field that seats 40,000-plus.

Some things will be familiar: Vin Scully will be in the Dodgers' broadcast booth for the start of his 65th season, a run that dates to the team's time in Brooklyn.

Baseball began its season at Monterrey, Mexico, in 1999; at Tokyo in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012; and at San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2001. This series marks the 100th anniversary of an exhibition game between the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox at the same venue on Jan. 3, 1914.

The Cricket Ground, opened in 1882, has been transformed into a baseball field over a few weeks. The right- and left-field foul poles are each 328 feet from home plate and straightaway center field is 400 feet away. From all reports, balls have been carrying.

The Dodgers defeated Australia's national team 4-2 Thursday night in an exhibition that drew just 14,385. Yasiel Puig, batting .122 (5 for 41) coming in, hit a two-run homer in the eighth, two innings after throwing out Mike Walker at the plate from right field.

On Friday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he expected Adrian Gonzalez to play in the opener despite the first baseman having tweaking his back in the exhibition game and coming out in the fourth inning. “I've seen no red flags to suggest otherwise,” Mattingly said.

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The Arizona Diamondbacks train at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia on Friday, March 21, before playing Team Australia in an exhibition game. Major League Baseball will open their season Saturday in Sydney with the Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the Diamondbacks. (AP)

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