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A great first day at camp: Don Mattingly names Clayton Kershaw opening-day starter

February 16, 2011 | 10:29 am

Now, that is a proper start.

Don Mattingly, in his first real day in the clubhouse as Dodgers manager, wasted no time Wednesday in making a positive move.

He named Clayton Kershaw his opening-day starter.

You want a young guy to become your ace, you treat him like an ace.

So in Phoenix, as pitchers and catchers began to report at the Dodgers’ spring training complex, Mattingly immediately named Kershaw to start the season opener at home on March 31 against the Giants.

Last spring, then-Manager Joe Torre hemmed and hawed most of the spring before finally naming journeyman Vicente Padilla as his opening-day starter. This season, Padilla returns in the bullpen.

Torre didn’t want to rush Kershaw, fearing that placing the star tag on him too early might impede his progress.

Only now the gloves are officially off, now Kershaw is the man. Now he can start carrying out the role, and being treated like an ace.

Of course, he further earned an upgrade in status with the way he pitched last season.

Kershaw, who will turn 23 next month, had a 2.91 ERA, going 13-10 in 32 starts, with 212 strikeouts in 204 1/3 innings and a 1.18 WHIP.

Kershaw as the opening-day starter -- it’s actually a non-traditional 5 p.m. start this season -- should pit him in a terrific pitching duel against the Giants’ Tim Lincecum.

-- Steve Dilbeck