Kershaw leaves a rough spring behind

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have been taking this Australian time-zone challenge seriously.

Team trainer Stan Conte has been conferring with sleep experts for weeks. The squad is installing special light bulbs on the team plane to mimic the daylight hours in Australia. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and some players are wearing special watches to monitor their vital signs.

There is a workout mere hours after the team plane touches down in Sydney simply to keep the players from sleeping during the day.

But, no matter what they do, it’s still going to be a little strange, especially for Clayton Kershaw.

Opening Day 2014 will offer a series of challenges to Kershaw, but none figures to be more extreme than the fact he will be pitching in the middle of the night. The first game of the Dodgers’ season starts Saturday at 7 p.m. in Australia, or 1 a.m. Pacific.

The Dodgers are scheduled to arrive in Australia on Tuesday morning. Kershaw will have four days to adjust.

“They’re trying everything,” Kershaw said. “They’re trying to keep us up right now, just try to stay up as late as possible. You get on the flight, you’re supposed to stay up for a few hours. If you can stay up for the first few hours, that’s a game plan. I’m going to try.”

He downloaded multiple episodes of “Friday Night Lights” to watch on the team’s flight, which should last about 15 hours. Kershaw didn’t have a particularly dazzling spring in 2013 -- a 4.18 ERA in seven starts -- and things worked out just fine. Kershaw won his third consecutive ERA title and won his second Cy Young in three years.

This has been a rougher spring, and also a shorter one. After giving up two home runs to the Chicago White Sox in a 5-4 loss Saturday night -- one of which was an inside-the-park job that should have been ruled a Joc Pederson error -- Kershaw will end his exhibition season with a 9.20 ERA in four starts. He said he his arm feels good; he just hasn’t found his best command yet.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have a 9.00 ERA in the regular season, so I’m going to try not to have that,” Kershaw said.