By Jon Weisman
For the second time in just a few days, a Dodger hit a long fly ball that sure looked like a home run but wasn’t.
Saturday, it was Joc Pederson. Today’s would-be homerer was Alex Guerrero, who to his credit ran his way to a triple on this ball that he absolutely crushed.
The hit for Guerrero started the Dodgers’ three-run ninth-inning rally, capped by Noel Cuevas’ game-winning home run, that led to a 7-5 victory over Kansas City. (Dick Kaegel of MLB.com has the game recap.)
- We’re sad to relay from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Don Mattingly will miss the next two Dodger games because of a death in the family. Tim Wallach will manage in his absence.
- Dan Haren talked to J.P. Hoonstra of the Daily News about his outing, in which he allowed a run, seven hits and a walk in four innings.
- It’s been speculated that Haren will go to Australia as the Dodgers’ exhibition and/or alternate starter, but Cash Kruth of MLB.com notes that might not happen.
- Playing shortstop, Chone Figgins made an error, his first of the spring, but went 2 for 4. He is only hitting .185, but he leads all of the Major Leagues in walks this exhibition season with eight. His on-base percentage is .371.
- Dee Gordon, who leads the Majors with eight steals (in eight attempts), has an OBP of .267. Gordon has a groundouts-airouts ratio of 2.2 to 1.
- Today in Jon SooHoo.
I mean, come on. A three-run, go-ahead homer in the ninth in your first at-bat with the Dodgers is going to feel good, I don’t care what the stakes are.
What a big smile.
Noel Cuevas, a 22-year-old outfielder who played at Rancho Cucamonga last year, slugged the big blast to bring the Dodgers back from a 5-4 deficit in the ninth inning today against Kansas City.
Cuevas had 25 doubles, 10 triples and 12 homers for the Quakes in 2013, to go with 38 steals in 53 attempts. He walked 37 times and struck out 107 in 536 plate appearances.
The Dodgers selected the Puerto Rico native in the 21st round of the 2010 draft — and in doing so, laid the groundwork for this classic Spring Training moment.
Here he is making a diving catch last summer, just to show he’s not a one-trick pony.
By Jon Weisman
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Sydney …
- The Dodger press notes helpfully point out that the team record for Spring Training ties is five, achieved in 2006.
- Scheduled to follow Dan Haren on the mound today are Jose Dominguez, Javy Guerra, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow and Jamey Wright.
- Red Patterson was reassigned to minor-league camp today.
- Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier will rest today, then be scheduled to play the next five days in a row before the team leaves for Australia, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
- Maury Wills, 27 when he became a Dodger regular, talked to Kevin Baxter of the Times about 25-year-old Dee Gordon.
- Mark Saxon has a couple of pieces at ESPN Los Angeles looking ahead to Australia, including this interview with Australian former Dodger infielder Craig Shipley.
- Sandy Koufax gets the Union Oil 1961 Family Booklet treatment (via Blue Heaven), with this tidbit: “Allegations persist that the Dodgers twice declined to swap Koufax to Kansas City for Roger Maris.” Maris was the American League MVP in 1960, remember, while Koufax was 8-13 with a 3.91 ERA.
When the cycle of exercise drills and exhibition games gets a little stale, finding unique activities to keep one’s interest in Spring Training remains a time-honored tradition. This week marks the anniversary of an unforgettable scene featuring two Hall of Famers, an airplane and a grapefruit.
In March 1917, Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson heard the story of Gabby Street, who in 1908 caught a baseball dropped from a window near the top of the Washington Monument. At age 53, the former catcher thought he could top Street’s feat by catching a baseball dropped from an airplane being flown 525 feet from the ground.
The stunt would take place at the Daytona Beach, Florida training camp. The Brooklyn players watched with anticipation as Robinson stood on the field with his catcher’s mitt. The airplane flew overhead and Robinson readied himself as the round object started its descent. Robinson readied for the catch and suddenly blood was everywhere after the impact on his glove. At least that’s what Robinson assumed as he screamed for help.
Robinson realized he wasn’t dying when his players were laughing and he tasted the liquid around his face. Presumably at the suggestion of Brooklyn outfielder Casey Stengel, aviator Ruth Law had substituted a grapefruit for a baseball for a grapefruit.
By Jon Weisman
Why yes, I have noticed that a certain Even Steven approach to the Dodger exhibition season. Cyndi Lauper is putting out her new single, “Tie After Tie,” as we speak.
Today’s 8-8 deadlock with Oakland widened the Dodgers’ Cactus League record to 4-6-4 and gave them ties in nearly 30 percent of their contests. In their past 10 games, the Dodgers are 2-4-4. Their past six games have been as easy as 1-2-3.
Last year, Los Angeles played 15 extra-inning games out of 162 in the regular season.
The Dodgers allowed a game-tying five runs in the eighth inning today, but it could have been worse. Brian Wilson, still mixing the occasional knuckleball, had a visit to the mound from an assistant trainer in the eighth inning (no, I’m not making a connection there), but the team reported no trouble to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
Wilson was charged with two runs, while Carlos Frias, who retired none of his four batters, was charged with three.
Los Angeles looked great at the outset, with Andre Ethier lovingly smashing a three-run home run in the first inning, Juan Uribe following with a solo shot, and Hyun-Jin Ryu scattering a run and four baserunners over five innings, striking out four.
Miguel Olivo added a three-run double (not to mention a stolen base) in helping boost the Dodgers’ lead to 8-3. In addition, J.P. Howell and Dee Gordon each turned in fine defensive plays.
Following the game today, the Dodgers optioned pitcher Matt Magill and reassigned Frias, J.C. Boscan, Brendan Harris and Clint Robinson to minor-league camp. Harris is the second of the pre-Spring Training infield candidates to miss the cut, following Justin Sellers, who was sent to Cleveland.
Magill has had a nice exhibition season, with six strikeouts against five baserunners in 5 2/3 innings.
And, a postscript: I know the story here is Zack Greinke and Matt Kemp progressing in their rehab, but what really tantalized me was the thought of seeing Kemp bat against Julio Urias. The 17-year-old gave up a sacrifice fly to Kemp in the intrasquad game, but also struck him out.
In short, call it Even Steven.
By Jon Weisman
Welcome to the final week of Cactus League play for the Dodgers.
- Scheduled to follow Hyun-Jun Ryu on the mound today are Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell and Brandon League.
- An interesting, color-coded chart on Dodger fielding (using Inside Edge data from Fangraphs) is provided by Cody Stump at Feelin’ Kinda Blue.
- Here’s Frank Howard, 1961 Union Oil booklet style, at Blue Heaven. Again, these are great primary source documents on figures from our Dodger past.
- Dancing Tommy Lasorda.
- Sunday in Jon SooHoo.
- Here is newly elected Japanese Hall of Fame pitcher Hideo Nomo visiting Vero Beach’s Historic Dodgertown, where he is now a partner with Peter O’Malley, Terry O’Malley Seidler and Chan Ho Park.
“I wish for this to be a place where people can come back to see both what it was and also what it is now,” Nomo said. “To preserve the history of a place that was home to Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax is special, and I hope kids can feel the nostalgia while also creating new memories for themselves.”
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.”
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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.