Peavy Gets Opening Day Start

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After a winter of uncertainty, Jake Peavy will start the 2009 season the same way he did last year -- in a San Diego Padres uniform.

Peavy, who was on the trading block for much of the offseason, will start the Padres' opener on Monday afternoon against Manny Ramirez and the defending NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park.

For a while, Peavy had no idea who he'd be pitching for this year -- the Braves and Cubs were interested as the Padres tried to shed the ace's big salary during the winter, but both dropped out.

"To be honest with you, I stayed out of it, but I certainly didn't know," said Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner. "Sometimes through the winter I did think I'd be throwing opening day and sometimes I thought I may be elsewhere. But all in all it's all behind us, and I'm here, and I'm excited to be here, and I'm just going to give everything I've got to the boys in this room and the San Diego Padres."

Of course, the saga might not be over. The Padres lost 99 games last year and former agent Jeff Moorad has completed the first phase of his acquisition of the team from John Moores.

Peavy will make $11 million this season and is owed $63 million over the life of his contract, so if the Padres struggle they may look to dump his salary and obtain prospects.

At the very least, he gets to make another opening day start, his fourth straight.

"Opening day is a special day," he said. "There's a lot of excitement from the guys getting out spring of training. It's a cool deal and it's an honor on a staff of other pitchers like Chris Young. It's special and you just want to set the tone for a good year and a chance to win. In the big scheme of things it's just another start."

Peavy was 10-11 with a 2.85 ERA last year, when he spent nearly a month on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. He was 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA in 2007.

Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA) will start for the Dodgers.

Manager Joe Torre said he picked Kuroda based on his two big wins in the postseason, against the Chicago Cubs in the division series and the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL championship series.

"What he did in the second half is one thing. What he did in the postseason was another thing," Torre said about Kuroda, who was a rookie last year after spending 11 seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese Central League. "I mean, he won two huge games in the postseason against Philly and Chicago that I think really got our attention."

"A lot of people were telling me the same thing -- that it was those two games that really influenced his decision," Kuroda said through a translator. "I'm really glad that I was able to pitch my game in those two games."

Kuroda started on opening day five times for his team in Japan, going 3-1 with a no-decision.

He will become the third different Japanese-born pitcher to start for a major league team on opening day, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Hideo Nomo did it for Detroit in 2000, and for the Dodgers in 2003 and 2004. Daisuke Matsuzaka was Boston's opening day starter last season.

"I try not to think about it too much because I'm not at the level that Nomo was," Kuroda said. "I'm still working hard so that I can be at that level, so I'm not really thinking about who are the past Japanese pitchers who have pitched opening day. But I think it's such a great honor to be selected as the opening day starter for a team that has so much tradition and so much history."

There's less commotion surrounding Torre, who signed with the Dodgers after leaving the New York Yankees following the 2007 season.

"I feel a lot better about it," Torre said. "I mean, last year I was still a little uncomfortable -- new league, new team, and the new players that you don't know exactly what you're going to see. So I felt much better going into spring training with the thought of pretty much having an idea."

The Padres' biggest question mark will be their inexperienced bullpen, which has had dramatic turnover. Setup man Heath Bell moves into the closer role after all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman moved on to Milwaukee after the Padres pulled their contract offer.

"Our everyday lineup has shown the ability to score runs and I think defensively we're going to be solid," general manager Kevin Towers said.

"I think it's really all going to boil down to pitching. We'll be as good as we pitch. I think it will really boil down to health and holding leads, very inexperienced bullpen, different closer. How these guys are going to react once the bell rings, you know, but we'll find out soon."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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