SAN DIEGO — Jamey Wright was sitting in the visiting clubhouse at Petco Park before the Dodgers' season opener when utilityman Adam Kennedy told the reliever to start stretching.
Clayton Kershaw was sick. Really sick.
"It's not funny on opening day," Wright told him.
But Kennedy wasn't kidding.
Kershaw made it to the mound to face the San Diego Padres in front of new owner Magic Johnson on Thursday — long enough to spare Wright from making an emergency start but not long enough to provide the bullpen with a day off.
With a stomach virus knocking Kershaw out of the game after three scoreless innings, the 5-3 victory required the use of five relievers and a two-run home run in the eighth inning by Matt Kemp.
"We had to step up in all aspects," outfielder Andre Ethier said. "The bullpen did a great job. We got some key hits and key runs. We came up with a good win here."
The Dodgers were grateful they were able to get even three innings out of Kershaw, which prevented them from using a sixth, or perhaps even a seventh, reliever.
"You don't want to do that on opening day, basically blow up the 'pen," Manager Don Mattingly said.
Kershaw had trouble eating. He cut short his warmup. Afterward, catcher A.J. Ellis saw him slumped over on the dugout steps.
"I didn't expect him to start the game at all," Ellis said.
But Kershaw insisted on pitching.
"We have to be crafty today," Ellis said he told Kershaw.
Ellis was right. The velocity of Kershaw's fastball was down.
"When he's throwing fastballs at 88, 89 [mph], you know he's not feeling good," Mattingly said.
The Padres' No. 3 hitter, Chase Headley, noticed too.
"I was wondering what was wrong," Headley said. "But at the same time, nothing was in the middle of the plate. He was still nasty."
Headley faced Kershaw with two out and the bases loaded in the third inning and Kershaw struck him out with a 92-mph fastball to preserve the scoreless tie.
"He really reached back for that fastball," Ellis said. "It was probably the only pitch he let loose all day."
Kershaw's day was over. Soon after, Mattingly said he saw Kershaw lying down in the tunnel between the visiting dugout and clubhouse.
Kershaw didn't speak to reporters after the game, saying he felt too sick.
When Kershaw departed the game, he was the only player with a hit against Edinson Volquez. But the hard-throwing Volquez struggled in the fourth inning, allowing the Dodgers to take a 2-0 lead.
Volquez walked James Loney with the bases loaded to push home Kemp. Ellis also drew a walk with the bases full, this one scoring Juan Rivera.
The Dodgers added another run in the fifth. Dee Gordon led off with a deep fly ball to center field that was dropped by Cameron Maybin. Gordon reached third and scored when shortstop Jason Bartlett failed to properly field a sharply hit grounder by Kemp.
With Kershaw ineligible for the win, the victory went to the man who replaced him: Josh Lindblom.
Lindblom was told two days earlier that he had made his first opening-day roster. Now he was being asked to pitch two innings, something he didn't do once during spring training.
Lindblom's two innings were perfect.
"Awesome 48 hours," Lindblom said. "I couldn't imagine making my first opening-day roster and have that win on opening day and be a part of all that. It's a special, special experience I'll remember for the rest of my life."
There were some turbulent times over the final four innings as Mike MacDougal was charged with a run in the sixth inning and Kenley Jansen served up a two-run home run to Maybin in the eighth.
But Javy Guerra closed the game by pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save.