GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New Dodgers acquisition Chris Capuano made his first start of the spring on Sunday against Clayton Kershaw in an intrasquad game on a back Minor League field at Camelback Ranch.
Capuano has had two Tommy John surgeries on his left elbow and is penciled in to be the fifth starter if he remains healthy -- following Kershaw, Chad Billingsly, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang. Capuano and Harang are both newcomers as free agents.
Capuano signed a two-year, $10 million guaranteed contract, after making 33 starts last season for the Mets. The southpaw missed all of 2008 and pitched only nine Minor League innings in '09 while with the Brewers. He threw two innings on Sunday, and faced seven batters without much incident.
"The last two offseasons for me have been normal, as far as I've been able to train as much as I want to with no restrictions," Capuano said on Sunday. "I feel great. I feel normal. After what I went through in 2008 and '09, I had to come to a certain sense of peace. Now, I enjoy every day I'm out here."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on Sunday that he's set up his spring rotation so that Capuano pitches the last exhibition game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium on April 4.
Capuano would then not pitch again until April 11 at the earliest. The Dodgers open with a four-game series against the Padres at San Diego on April 5. They have an off-day on April 9, before opening at home against the Pirates the next day. Kershaw will get both the season opener and home opener.
Mattingly said on Sunday that he hasn't decided whether to come back with his fifth starter on April 11, or stay in rotation. In that case, Capuano wouldn't make his first start until April 14 at Dodger Stadium against the Padres.
"We're going to keep guys, as much as we can, kind of on a rhythm of what's close to [the] season," Mattingly said. "We haven't really set anybody up yet [at the back of the rotation]. It seems like Capuano is that guy. As of right now, he's throwing the last game of spring. He's throwing fifth in the spring. There's kind of a drop-dead date, as far as lining guys up so we can play around until that day."
That drop-dead date is around March 16 or 17.
Kershaw lining up perfectly for Opening Day
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw began his long slog toward starting the season opener on April 5 in San Diego by tossing two flawless innings in an intrasquad game on Sunday.
The scene was a Minor League field in the back of the Camelback Ranch complex, far from the 45,000 who will be on hand at Petco Park and seemingly just as far from the smaller Spring Training yard where the Dodgers will open their Cactus League schedule against the White Sox on Monday.
Kershaw threw 23 pitches and struck out five batters -- nine in the second inning. The other out was an infield roller. Before Kershaw even knew it, his first outing of the spring was over.
"It was fine," Kershaw said. "It was good to get in that game setting and kind of get in back in that routine of every fifth day. It gives me something to do, so it's good."
The reason why Kershaw threw in an intrasquad game rather than on Monday in the stadium is that it already lines up perfectly on a five-day rotation for his Opening Day start against the Padres, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Mattingly added that he wanted Kershaw spaced out so he could travel to Los Angeles on March 15 to be honored as the Sportsman of the Year at the seventh annual LA Sports Awards. The Dodgers also have a spring off-day on March 22.
"The organization really wanted him to be at that," Mattingly said about the awards ceremony, which will be held at Club Nokia at LA Live downtown near the Staples Center. "So this sets him up [to pitch] on the ninth, the 14th and be right on track for Opening Day."
Mattingly said on Saturday that Kershaw will also start the home opener at Dodger Stadium against the Pirates on April 10. He'll be the first Dodger since Tim Belcher in 1989 to start both the season and home openers.
Kershaw had a busy offseason. He won the National League Cy Young Award and was the Triple Crown winner this past season with a 21-5 record, 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts in 33 starts. This will be his second Opening Day start in a row, and second of his career.
Kershaw said he'd rather have made his first start in the ballpark rather than a back field, but that will be long forgotten in about a month when the regular season rolls around.
"It's difficult to get the same sense of it," Kershaw said. "But at the same time, it's probably a good transition. You go from live batting practice. This is the next step. Once you get in the games, you're pretty prepared for it. It's probably not ideal. But at the same time, you get your work in, you face hitters and it's a game situation."
Barry M. Bloom a> is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.