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Mattingly Keeps It Cool

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, right, talks to Tommy Lasorda in the dugout before the Dodgers' spring training baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, March 15, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Say what you will about the Dodgers lineup and how bleak it may seem. As people start filing into Dodger Stadium for Game No. 1 there is always a newfound sense of hope and renewal.

“I’m definitely excited,” manager Don Mattingly said hours before managing his first Major League game that counts. “I’m a little better than I thought I would honestly. I thought I’d be a little bit more edgy.”

With lots of people texting him, reserving a suite for friends and family (including his son and Cleveland Indians’ minor-league prospect Preston Mattingly coming in from Arizona) and five hours of sleep, he seemed ready to go.

After getting that 2-1 victory over the rival San Francisco Giants, he was upbeat but tempered.

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“It feels good, but it’s about these guys out there.”

And nearly 20 hours after getting that official “W” he’s still downplaying the significance even after getting messages from Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez.

“Well every day is a grind. It’s early. I don’t think you want to take a deep breath. I just want to stay ready every day. I ask my guys to be ready every day.

“Yesterday’s gone. That don’t help us today. We’re going to try and win the ballgame today.”

Even when closer Jonathan Broxton tried to give Mattingly the ball he hesitated.

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“Brox gave me the ball. It told him to keep it, but he insisted I take it. I’m not huge on that stuff.”

X-FILES

A player who is excited to be on the 25-man roster is left fielder Xavier Paul making his first opening day roster in his ninth season in the Dodger organization.

“It feels great man,” Paul told me. “It’s kind of like my first big league call-up - it’s a similar feeling.”

And considering his spring training statistics which were unimpressive at best: batting average of .232 with a team-leading 22 strikeouts and OPS of .678. Despite that Mattingly was confident in Paul’s past history.

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“X can hit. He’s been okay in spring. I think he’s been pushing a little bit, knows he’s out of options, knows he’s got a chance, sees what’s been going on with Gibby [Jay Gibbons].

“X’s history tells me he can hit, and what I see is he can hit. X is going to play.”

Paul agrees with Mattingly’s assessment.

“This spring for me was pretty tough: the feeling of not knowing your status, knowing that this was my last chance in making the squad on opening day.

“From day one I came into camp knowing this was my last chance. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself than what was necessary instead of going out there and playing my game.”

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With the dawn of a new season all of that is in the rear view mirror.

“It’s a huge weight off of my shoulder, and now I can focus on playing baseball.”

JUAN URIBE SCRATCHED

After taking a Tim Lincecum 92 mph fastball to the elbow in yesterday’s game, Mattingly initially had Uribe penciled into the lineup for today’s game.

“I had him in the lineup and he came in swollen,” Mattingly said. “Stan [Conte, Director Medical Services] was actually a little surprised. So I don’t feel like he can get an extension in that elbow. He’ll get today. Hopefully it’s nothing going on.”

Uribe will have x-rays taken and be re-evaluated.