By Jon Weisman
It’s official: Clayton Kershaw has been named the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter in Australia on March 22, where he will be followed in the second game by Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“Kershaw will be the first Dodgers pitcher to make four consecutive Opening Day starts since Ramon Martinez from 1995-98,” writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “Don Sutton has the Los Angeles record with seven (1972-78).”
Kershaw and Ryu are scheduled to face Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill.
In addition, though Matt Kemp isn’t expected to make the trip to Australia, Mattingly has said that the outfielder is close to making it into Spring Training action.
“We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” said Mattingly (via Gurnick). “He’s swinging the bat good. It won’t be long before he’s in a game.”
A few other notes:
- Kershaw today will be the first Dodger starter to bat for himself in a game this year.
- Prized infield prospect Corey Seager is suiting with the big club for a Cactus League game for the first time today.
- Among those scheduled to follow Kershaw on the mound today are Javy Guerra and Red Patterson, each of whom working on shutout streaks of at least four innings in Spring Training.
- At this morning’s L.A. Marathon, which began at Dodger Stadium, J.P. Howell’s wife Heather ran to raise support and awareness to counter human trafficking. From the Dodger press notes: “Howell is affiliated with ‘Run for Hope’ at the marathon and is running for two shelters located in Southern California: one is a 72-hour rescue center, and the other a long-term rehabilitation and restoration program that provides for intense counseling, medical, and legal needs of victims, as well as GED and job search.”
By Jon Weisman
The last time I had this level of anticipation in March for a Dodger season was in Manny Ramirez’s brief but shining heyday with the team, and perhaps not even then.
There are the fears, as I briefly alluded to Friday with Hanley Ramirez, that potential could go poof in a moment’s broken bone or ligament tear. But it’s not every year that the sky’s the limit with a team. And with this team, it kind of is.
The possibility of a great pitching performance every night. A lineup that, while not quite Murderer’s Row, has strength after strength.
With question marks even so.
And so when I follow these Spring Training games, games that in and of themselves don’t mean anything, I see them through the prism of what might happen in the regular season. It doesn’t matter that the Dodgers blew a lead in one game Saturday or missed rallying in another. It just makes me play “What if?” over and over again.
Take Joc Pederson, who bridged both split-squad games today. The prospect struck out in all three at-bats in the lidlifter, then absolutely torched two balls in the nightcap: a drive over the fence in center field, 410 feet away, that looked like a home run to my eyes but was called a double, then another shot that was a no-doubt tater. In case we needed the reminder, when Pederson’s number is called sometime this year, whatever the month, it could be heartbreak or heroics.
Justin Turner went 2 for 2 with a walk … and an error. Paul Maholm was effective; Josh Beckett, not so much. Seth Rosin had another three innings without allowing an earned run, and still we don’t know how exactly there will be a roster spot for him.
Dee Gordon has taken us down this road for a few years now. As much as he might struggle to get on base, the electricity he generates when he does is too much to ignore. Perhaps the truly compelling aspect to Gordon in 2014 is that rather than be demoralized by having his native shortstop position closed off to him, he seems galvanized. Second base seems to suit him, marking a potential new beginning rather than an end.
Certainly, uncertainty remains. Gordon has had better springs than this as precursors to disappointing regular seasons. In the 2012 Cactus League, he had a .446 on-base percentage and .485 slugging, and throughout his exhibition career with the Dodgers, he has stolen 26 bases in 30 attempts. Reality has its way of insinuating itself in unpleasant ways.
But isn’t this why we come back to baseball each year? To say, “What if this year is different? What if this year is the one?” Isn’t this why Dodger fans keep burning the candle, 26 years removed from 1988?
Remember this: Every team has weaknesses and anxieties. The best you can have at this time of year is fewer of them than the next team. After that, it’s just seeing where the ride takes you.
The Dodgers fell to 4-5-3 in Spring Training (so close to the improbable 4-4-4). And still, this team fills me with anticipation. What if? What if?
By Jon Weisman
Paul Maholm starts the first of two Dodger games today, with the other partition of the team taking on Seattle at Camelback this evening.
According to the Dodger press notes, six players are pulling double-duty today and are scheduled to appear in both games: Mike Baxter, Joc Pederson (starting both games), Alex Guerrero, Miguel Rojas, Clint Robinson and Brendan Harris.
Today additionally brings what I think you might call a highly anticipated appearance from Seth Rosin, who has pitched five innings this spring with no walks and eight strikeouts. Also suiting up is Steve Edlefsen, one of two players the Dodgers signed from their open tryout.
Last pregame press note: “This morning, Zack Greinke threw approximately 35 pitches in a simulated game to Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp, who is also progressing in his rehab. Kemp took some limited-range flyballs today in the outfield to supplement his running program.”
It wasn’t as loud as Hanley Ramirez’s mammoth home run to dead center, accounting for the Dodgers’ only runs in a 2-1 victory over Texas today, but Zach Lee made a nice first impression in his Spring Training starting debut.
Lee allowed two hits in two shutout innings, walking none while striking out one. Bookending Lee was 2013 second-round draft pick Tom Windle, who closed out the final two shutout innings by also allowing two baserunners while striking out one.
Infield candidates Chone Figgins and Brendan Harris had the only other Dodger hits. Dee Gordon had one of five Dodger walks, stole his fifth base in five attempts this spring and made a fine defensive play diving to his right back of second base.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com has more on Lee:
“I think I’m somewhat like [Greinke], although I don’t think I take it to the extent that he does,” Lee said. “Growing up, and the way I looked at pitching, I was always a cerebral and analytical person. I really thought more about game-planning and what [Greg] Maddux did back in the day, where he was able to pinpoint with location rather than overpower you.”
* * *
Several more fond remembrances of Dr. Frank Jobe emerged today, many of them captured by Sanchez. You also won’t read anything more powerful than what Dodger director of team travel Scott Akasaki or vice president of medical services Stan Conte shared with Kevin Baxter of the Times.
Cliff Corcoran of SI.com shared the five top Tommy John surgery success stories.
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Finally, don’t miss today in Jon SooHoo.
There was a pitch in Thursday’s 4-4 Dodger tie with the Angels that was heading scarily toward the same spot on Hanley Ramirez’s body that turned the 2013 National League Championship Series on its rib.
The good news is that the pitch hit Ramirez’s triceps and that, as predicted by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, he is playing today.
The bad news is that ballplayers and dreams are still too fragile.
In other news … (more…)
It doesn’t seem possible to appreciate Dr. Frank Jobe’s importance to baseball. You’d be better off trying to take a closeup of Kilimanjaro.
Think of how many innings, how many careers — how much joy — that Jobe’s innovation brought to the world of this sport.
Somehow, Jobe isn’t in the Hall of Fame, although in essence, he reached exponentially beyond the 300-win and 3,000-strikeout plateaus that typically serve as qualifiers.
Jobe died this morning at the age of 88. You can find an obituary from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com. Here’s what I wrote about Jobe and John in 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die: (more…)
By Jon Weisman
I’m pleased to introduce Dodger Insider magazine, the in-depth companion to the Dodger Insider blog.
The first of eight monthly editions in 2014 is on sale now. You can purchase a digital download of a single issue, or subscribe either to the digital (with embedded video links) or print editions.
The print subscription comes with a free 2014 Dodger yearbook which — trust me — you are going to want.
Print editions are also on sale at Camelback Ranch and Dodger Stadium.
As a teaser, we’re presenting “Team on a Mission,” this month’s cover story, online for free. So check that out, but understand that there’s much, much more content in the magazine itself — including great features, news stories, historical pieces, photos and games. The March preseason issue is 72 pages, with next month’s April issue coming in at well over 100.
Get your copy of Dodger Insider today!
Update: Print subscriptions will be available for online order next week, but to order a print subscription by phone today, call (877) BLUE-062.
By Jon Weisman
Second batter of the game, and our baseball world went wild.
Trout hit the ball about 360 feet, ran about 360 feet, and was out after about a 360-degree review.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) March 6, 2014
For what it’s worth, I don’t think much more time, if any, was taken by the replay process than would have been taken by a garden variety argument anyway.
By Jon Weisman
Today’s the first day that the Dodgers will have a chance to test out expanded instant replay with an umpire challenge. Dodger video coordinator John Pratt will be assisting with the replay process.
- Carl Crawford told Kevin Baxter of the Times that he won’t go to Australia if his third child, whose birth could arrive at any time, isn’t born before the trip.
- Zack Greinke threw a 25-pitch bullpen session today and could return to game action next week, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
- Gurnick also visited with Team France manager Eric Gagne for this feature.
- Chris Anderson, the Dodgers’ top draft pick in 2013, will suit up in the Dodger uniform for a game for the first time today.
- The Life magazine website presents some great Dodger photos from Spring Training 1948.
- There will be baseball at Dodger Stadium three weeks from today.