After a forgettable year on the East Coast, Dan Haren has returned to Los Angeles, albeit in a different league than his last stint in his hometown area.
His Dodgers debut comes Wednesday night when he closes out a three-game series in San Diego with the added pressure of helping his new staff through a pair of injuries to its ace and a key reliever.
The Dodgers (3-1) learned Tuesday that reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw will not be ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible April 14 and could be out for over a month with a Teres Major muscle strain near his left armpit.
"This thing is going to take some time," manager Don Mattingly said before taking the field for a 3-2 victory over the Padres.
After the game, Mattingly announced reliever Brian Wilson will go on the DL with nerve irritation in his right elbow, adding that team doctors found no ligament damage.
To ease the pitching pain, Haren, who spent two-plus seasons in Los Angeles with the Angels, will have to put behind him a year in Washington in which he went 10-14 over 30 starts with a 4.67 ERA - his worst since a 5.08 in 14 starts as a rookie in 2003.
In four spring starts, Haren went 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 12 innings. He hasn't had any more success recently in San Diego, going 0-3 with a 8.64 ERA in three starts dating to July 16, 2010.
The Dodgers followed the Kershaw news by beating the Padres (1-1) behind a first-inning two-run homer from Yasiel Puig off Ian Kennedy, who ignited a brawl at Dodger Stadium last season while with Arizona when he plunked both Puig and pitcher Zack Greinke.
"He's a really good hitter," Kennedy said. "Puig did a good job of hitting what I thought was a good pitch. But he's one of the best hitters in the National League."
Greinke opposed Kennedy again and continued Los Angeles' strong starting pitching to begin the season, allowing two runs on two hits in five innings to earn the win in his first start. Dodgers starters have posted a 1.14 ERA and held Arizona and San Diego to a .146 average through four games.
The bullpen, however, has struggled with a 5.56 ERA and 11 walks in 11 1-3 innings. Closer Kenley Jansen struck out Nick Hundley with the bases loaded to end Tuesday's game and avoid a bigger mess.
"We're getting it done, but it's just a little rough right now," Mattingly said. "It's not as smooth as it can be."
Padres left fielder Seth Smith continued his hot start with a 2-for-3 night and his second home run in four at-bats.
San Diego will counter Haren with a pitcher they hope is trending in a more positive direction. Tyson Ross went 3-8 with a 3.17 ERA in 2013, his first in San Diego. The Padres are hoping Ross, Andrew Cashner and Kennedy will form a solid trio atop the rotation to help them keep pace with the Dodgers in the NL West.
After making three April starts last season, Ross landed on the disabled list and moved to the bullpen, but he returned to the rotation in late July. In 13 starts from July 23 on, he went 3-4 with a 2.93 ERA, striking out 85 over 80 innings while limiting opponents to a .201 batting average.
Ross could be helped along by players such as third baseman and No. 3 hitter Chase Headley coming around at the plate. Headley is 0 for 8 to start the season.
"It's frustrating ... you want to get off to a fast start and help your team," Headley told the team's official website. "But in looking at my swings, they're just a tick off."