Uribe, Turner could again form nice duo at third

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers workoutBy Jon Weisman

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Much has been speculated about the upcoming timeshare arrangement for the Dodgers in 2015 at catcher, but third base might not be much different.

After batting .311 with a .337 on-base percentage and sterling defensive work, Juan Uribe is the clear starter at third. Justin Turner is the team’s No. 1 infield utility player, becoming the first Dodger since Jose Hernandez in 2004 and sixth since 1924 to play more than one game at first, second, third and short.

But injuries limited Uribe, who turns 36 in March, to 103 games (98 starts) last year, opening the door for Turner to approach the 59 games (45 starts) he had at third in 2014.

“I think we do give (Uribe) breathers,” Mattingly said. “Definitely, we watch Juan. … and he’s pretty honest with us. Sometimes we get a bad matchup, and J.T. makes it easy to give him some days off.”

While Mattingly is wary of overplaying Uribe, he also finds that Turner wears down if he plays too often. That being said, he raved about Turner’s physical condition heading into camp this year.

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Letter to Jackie, February 1947: ‘As I see it you are definitely going to get a chance’

WS to JR excerpt

Thanks to official MLB historian John Thorn for sharing this February 1947 letter from sportswriter and Jackie Robinson confidant Wendell Smith, addressing Robinson’s concerns for the coming year. An excerpt appears above, the full letter is below (click to enlarge) and at this link.

Also linked here: Branch Rickey’s January 1946 letter to Smith on the issue of making plans for Robinson to go to Spring Training in Florida.

– Jon Weisman

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In case you missed it: Soaking in Spring Training

By Jon Weisman

Man, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. Here’s what’s percolating:

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The mid-80s pitcher’s hero: J.P. Howell

(Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

(Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Cary Osborne

Over the last two seasons, sinkerballer J.P. Howell’s fastball velocity of 86.8 mph is third to last in the big leagues among relief pitchers, according to Fangraphs.

And you know what? It doesn’t really matter that it’s “slow.” Guys still aren’t hitting it.

In fact, Howell’s grouping among relief pitchers with the “slowest” fastball is a pretty good one.

Check out the numbers of the bottom five relievers in fastball velocity from 2013-14:

  1. Brad Ziegler (Arizona): 85.4 mph, 2.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3.55 FIP in 146 appearances
  2. Darren O’Day (Baltimore): 86.7 mph, 1.93 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 3.44 FIP in 136 appearances
  3. Howell: 86.8 mph, 2.19 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.07 FIP in 135 appearances
  4. Josh Collmenter (Arizona): 87.5 mph, 3.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.74 FIP in 82 appearances (28 starts)
  5. Sergio Romo (San Francisco): 87.8 mph, 3.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.38 FIP in 129 appearances

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Sandy Koufax holds court

Sandy Koufax and Rick Honeycutt watching Zack Greinke's bullpen. No big deal. #DodgersST

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

(Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers)

(Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Highlight of Spring Training/2015/Dodger life and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax is at Camelback Ranch, and a reporter asked him today if the juices were still flowing when he put on the Dodger uniform.

“The juices have gotten very thick,” Koufax joked. “They don’t flow.”

Nevertheless, the joy of the annual ritual wasn’t lost on the great lefty.

“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s fun to be around the players. This is a nice time of year — nobody’s lost their job, everybody’s got a job coming. Everybody’s positive. It’s a good time to be around baseball players.

Koufax shared thoughts on a variety of subjects — here’s a snapshot …

On Clayton Kershaw and the 2014 postseason:

“If somebody had told me that anybody would beat Clayton twice in one series, I’d have said ‘No way.’ I probably would have cursed and said ‘No way.’ But it happens. And I have to say, I don’t know if you heard his (award) acceptance speech in New York, but that last line was as classy as it gets. On a night where you’re being honored, to bring up what didn’t go right is pretty classy, pretty special.

“I don’t know if he has any extra fire (heading into 2015), because I think he always has fire. I think he’s a great competitor. So would it be any extra? I hope not, because extra might destroy you. You can just go so far. … I think he’ll be in a lot more postseasons, and I think it’ll be totally turned around.”

On Julio Urias:

“He’s impressive. He’s very impressive. This is the first time I’ve seen him throw. It’s a long way from the driving range to the golf course, and it’s a long way from side sessions to the game. He has all the requisites — we just have to see what happens. Physically, he’s very impressive.”

On Yasiel Puig:

“I think probably he’s never played against talent that might be his equal, so he’s thought, ‘OK, they’ll make a mistake. I can keep running, and they’ll screw it up.’ It doesn’t happen here. I think he’s learned that. … I think there’s a lot of progress. When you’re struggling at the plate, everything looks bad.”

On Tommy John surgery:

“They just wouldn’t operate on an arthritic elbow in those days. It would be a simple surgery. I had arthritic hooks that would be scratching, and my elbow would blow up, fill up with fluid. Then they’d drain it, send you back out there. Surgery would have been easy, they would have done it when the season was over and be fine in Spring Training. They wouldn’t have cut anything — just hammer and chisel.

“I have a lot of theories (on the epidemic of surgeries). Mechanics. I think a lot of people don’t use the lower half of their body as much as people used to. They’re much more straight up and down. Plus, people are doing it prophylactically — before they have a bad elbow, they’re doing Tommy John.

On pace of play:

“I’m not sure what pace of play is bad. It’s slower than it used to be, but you get three more pitching changes than you used to get, so that takes time. I think the strike zone has changed shape — I think it’s gotten narrower and taller and lower. I think a wider strike zone and not necessarily and not necessarily higher and lower would speed up the game. That’s just my opinion — by no means humble opinion.

“It’s not so much the time of the game. I find it hard to watch a pitcher go two strikes and no balls and end up 3-2, and that happens much more than it should.

On the new front-office leadership:

“From everything that everybody’s said, they’re analytic but they’re listening to the players and manager and coaches. You talk about the analytic thing and this all started in Oakland, but no one makes mention of the fact that (Billy Beane) was a player. So he could see talent, and if the analytical was one thing, but if he didn’t like what he saw, he didn’t sign him. It’s a combination of both that’s important.”

On clubhouse atmosphere:

“People pooh-pooh clubhouse (issues), but I think clubhouses are important. I think it’s important players like each other. … You’re together probably eight months out of the year, so if you don’t like each other, it is a grind.”

On the tough finish to the 1962 season:

“It was a strange year. I missed three or four months, whatever it is. There’s a chance we might have won. Not saying that I was that good, but there was a chance we might have won and it would have been a different year. If you lose key players, it affects your team.”

On the absence of Maury Wills and Gil Hodges from the Hall of Fame:

“I think Maury changed the game. He revolutionized the game. He was the most dominant offensive force in baseball, even though (Hank) Aaron might have been the best hitter. Every time Maury got on, it was a double or a triple.

“Gil’s contribution was not only as a player, but as a manager, and a lot of people have been elected because they did both.”

And one more … on picking up a baseball and throwing:

“I don’t throw a thing. Never. That was a long time ago in a land far away. It does not happen. I don’t even throw first balls anymore without moving up to where Vinny is.”

In case you missed it: Strike one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine …

Los Angeles Dodgers workout

For more photos from today, visit LA Photog Blog.

By Jon Weisman

The picture above, of a ball thrown by Clayton Kershaw, efficiently shows he is able to strike out the side at any given moment.

That was then, this is … also then:

  • Kershaw had identical strikeout-walk ratios to righty and lefty batters in 2014, a development that intrigued Alec Dopp at Gammons Daily.
  • Joel Peralta, who is behind on his throwing program, could join Kenley Jansen and Chris Withrow on the Opening Day disabled list, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu was held out of workouts today but is expected back Thursday, reports Gurnick.
  • Newly signed Chad Gaudin missed the 2014 season after having a rare surgical procedure, unprecedented for an MLB player, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
  • Stephen also has an entertaining notebook of Week 1 Spring Training observations.
  • Ryu is the Dodgers’ fastest-working pitcher, and Peralta the slowest. Read more about it from Dustin Nosler at Dodgers Digest.
  • Paco Rodriguez talked about his offseason adjustments with Ron Cervenka of Think Blue LA.
  • Alex Guerrero’s thoughts about changing relations between U.S. and Cuba and his evolving status with the Dodgers can be found in this piece by Bill Plunkett of the Register.

"Goodbye LA. Off to Arizona #SpringTraining." –@tommy2lasorda

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

Dodgers add veteran swingman Chad Gaudin

By Cary Osborne

Keeping with the earlier theme of non-roster invites, the Dodgers just added another one on Wednesday.

The Dodgers signed right-handed swingman Chad Gaudin to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. Gaudin will wear uniform No. 30.

Gaudin missed the entire 2014 season with a neck injury and last pitched with the San Francisco Giants in 2013. He pitched in 30 games (12 starts) and had a 3.06 ERA, 3.34 FIP and 1.25 WHIP.

The right-hander has pitched for nine different teams in 11 Major League seasons and has a career 4.44 ERA, 4.45 FIP and 1.48 WHIP.

Learn the NRI guys — you might meet at least one again

David Aardsma (58) is one of 18 non-roster invites to Dodger camp. (Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2015)

David Aardsma (58) is one of 18 non-roster invites to Dodger camp. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Cary Osborne

Pay attention to those high jersey numbers at Camelback Ranch. From that bunch, someone will likely help the Dodgers.

The Dodgers have 18 non-roster invites to Spring Training camp this season. Some of them are organization top-10 prospects (like Corey Seager, Chris Anderson and Julio Urias), some of them Major League veterans (like pitchers Erik Bedard, David Huff, Sergio Santos and David Aardsma), some new to the organization who have never made the Major Leagues, like Orioles closer Zach Britton’s big brother Buck and power-hitting Kyle Jensen. One of the other names is shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena, who appeared in 22 games for the Dodgers last season.

If recent history is any indication, at least one of those guys will be on the Dodger Major League squad and making some sort of impact in 2015.

The proof goes beyond what Justin Turner, who was signed last February and turned in one of the greatest seasons ever for a Dodger utilityman. Over the past 10 seasons, at least one non-roster Invite to Spring Training has made some sort of contribution to the Dodgers’ Major League club — to varying degrees of success. So believe that one of the 18 could do the same this season.

Here’s a look back at NRI guys since 2004:

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In case you missed it: Brandon Beachy, shadow-pitching

Brandon Beachy, shadow-pitching (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

For more photos from today, visit LA Photog Blog.

By Jon Weisman

All my bags aren’t packed, I’m not ready to go. (Reference lost on anyone under 40 …)

Today’s short stack:

  • Andre Ethier talked to reporters today after meeting with Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Don Mattingly about his prospects for 2015 in the Dodger outfield. Ken Gurnick has more at MLB.com, while Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports adds his own perspective.
  • Zack Greinke had his first 2015 Spring Training bullpen session, which Gurnick covers here.
  • Mike Petriello of Dodgers Digest uses Julio Urias as a launching pad to look back at Adrian Beltre’s Dodger career and the implications of calling a player up in his teens. (Side note: As big a booster as I always was of Beltre, not even I realized his 2004 season might have been the greatest combination of offense and defense in Dodger history.)
  • We touched on this subject recently, but Historic Dodgertown posted a piece on “Dodgertown and the Integration of Major League Baseball Spring Training” by Jerald Podair. Some great history within.

Yasiel Puig, shortstop

Los Angeles Dodgers workout
On Monday, photographer Jon SooHoo captured this no-name guy — not even on the depth chart at shortstop — looking to give Jimmy Rollins a run for his money.

— Jon Weisman

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