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No major league grudges for Down Under openers

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Arizona Diamondbacks are not planning to reignite their feud with the Los Angeles Dodgers in this weekend's Major League season-openers in Australia but if a volatile situation arises, there will be no backing down.

Three separate incidents over the last three seasons, including a celebratory dip in a swimming pool after their last meeting, have made the rivalry between the National League West contenders one of the most talked about in baseball.

Arizona coach Kirk Gibson was one of those ejected after the second, a bench-clearing brawl last June, and said such incidents were not scripted, not personal and more akin to fighting between brothers.

"Our focus is on winning the game, it's not like we're sitting here planning, 'we're going to do this, we're going to do that,' it doesn't work that way," he told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

"That was a very volatile situation, you don't usually pre-meditate those situations. They're the Western Division champs, we owe their ass. When the Giants won the World Series, we owed them, we took them down.

"Our focus is on taking these guys down, and the other teams in our division so we can get back into the playoffs and try and win a world championship.

"Along the way, whatever comes along, we have to be up to it. If that happens, we just have to deal with it. And they're going to do the same."

Last June's spat, like another in 2011 that led to the ejection of Dodger Clayton Kershaw, came about when a pitcher struck a batter with the ball.

Gibson said the circumstances around such incidents were "perfect storm-ish" and certainly "not normal" but that aggressive play was part and parcel of major league baseball.

"We can't predict what's going to happen in any game against any opponent," added the 56-year-old former Dodger.

"We're going to play baseball, we're going to play as hard as we can. We're going to try and break up the double play, we're going to be aggressive, we're going to have to throw the ball inside, they're going to throw the ball inside.

"That's just baseball."

HEATED GAMES

The last time the teams met, some Dodgers players were slammed as "classless" and "arrogant" after celebrating clinching the National League West title by jumping into the pool at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said as far as he was concerned, his ballclub had moved on from last year's spats and was just focused on playing.

"When you play someone 19 times a year, in your own division, those games get heated," said Mattingly, who was ejected with Kershaw after the 2011 incident.

"I don't think there's going to be (a residual effect) but maybe there is. Those guys, they play hard and they're scrappy and they're a good club so we have to come to play.

"For us, I think what happened last year is over."

Gibson laughed off the pool row as a media beat-up and said the Diamondbacks were determined to give Australia a true taste of America's game on Saturday and Sunday.

"We certainly know we're here to promote the game, we believe in doing things the right way. We will do things the right way," he said.

"It's not about me, it's a not about the team, it's about the great game we think we have. We're trying to let everybody know why we think it's so cool and try and create some history here."

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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