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Rivals rarin' to go Down Under

SYDNEY — Adrian Gonzalez ripped line drives to all areas of the park, often scattering his Dodgers teammates in the outfield from the safety of the batting cage. It was just a few hours after arriving in Australia, with his body thinking it was about midnight.

Still, the first baseman who led Los Angeles in hits, home runs, RBIs and games played last season did a good job of making Sydney Cricket Ground, the home for two season-opening games this weekend, sound and look like a real ballpark.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks arrived early Tuesday on separate jumbos from the West Coast. It was a 15-hour flight and took the teams across the International Date Line, missing Monday altogether, and putting them in a time zone 18 hours ahead of the one they left behind.

Hence Gonzalez in the batting cage was well past his usual bedtime, but looking pretty impressive.

"We're all very excited to be here," Gonzalez said before the Dodgers' workout. "We'll have a few hits, see how the ball carries, but it all looks like a real ball park."

Vin Scully, the 86-year-old Dodgers announcer, proclaimed after he got off the plane that "it's great to be here," and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Diamondbacks counterpart Kirk Gibson later gave the field a similar thumbs-up.

"No question, everyone is saying that having a chance to start the season here in Sydney, to be able to get out of spring training a bit early, it's great," Mattingly said. "Let's get this thing started."

INJURED ACE OPTIMISTIC: Mets right-hander Matt Harvey had Tommy John surgery Oct. 22 and isn't expected to return until 2015, but he's convinced that he'll be able to pitch this season. "I still have in my mind that I want to come back this year, and whether the doctors clear that or the people upstairs have other ideas, my mind-set as a competitor is to get back on the field," Harvey said.

MARINERS: Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, out for more than a month with a strained tendon in his right middle finger, was cleared to resume throwing after meeting with team doctors.

MARLINS: Second baseman Rafael Furcal (hamstring) took batting practice and went through some baseball activities, and he could return to action in a few days.

ROYALS: Rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura, 22, won a job in the starting rotation, the Kansas City Star reported. Ventura has been clocked up to 100 mph.

Rivals rarin' to go Down Under 03/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 7:50am]
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