By Jon Weisman
One day after the appearance of the spring Solis-tice, the image above shows the Dodger bench for today’s split-squad game against Oakland — the first of four Dodger games beginning between 1:05 p.m. today and 1:10 p.m. Saturday.
Here’s what’s percolating …
- Bill Shaikin of the Times had a nice scoop Thursday, reporting that on the final day of the 2015 regular season, October 4, every MLB game will start at 12 Pacific. That will heighten the drama and also reduce the competitive advantage for those teams that had later starts.
- David Huff’s Saturday start has been moved to Sunday. Huff and his wife, Lisa, had a baby boy Thursday. Ethan Thomas Allen Huff now shares the same birthday as Clayton Kershaw. Congrats to the Huffs! (By the way, happy birthday to my littlest guy, who turns 7 today!)
- Brandon League felt “free and easy” in his second consecutive day of throwing as he works his way back from right shoulder irritation, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
- Yasmani Grandal is not only working with Dodger pitchers to get to know them better, but also A.J. Ellis, writes Chad Thornburg of MLB.com. “I’ll talk to (Ellis) about guys and different things he likes to do and kind of just try to get a feel of how Dodger baseball is played.”
- How did the Alamodome become baseball-ready? Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. uses Twitter to illustrate the process.
- From Thursday …
By Jon Weisman
Considering that Kenley Jansen’s foot surgery took place just before Spring Training began, it had been a relatively quiet time for injuries at Camelback Ranch in the month since pitchers and catchers reported.
Some players on the long road back from injuries, while others including J.P. Howell and Brandon League have been briefly slowed, but nothing of note had affected a starter.
That just changed, with the news, as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes, that Hyun-Jin Ryu has received an injection for left shoulder tightness, will be shut down for three days and could start the 2015 regular season on the disabled list.
On September 12, a left shoulder issue that cropped up during a nine-batter, one-inning start at San Francisco sidelined Ryu for 24 days, until he made his return in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. Speaking to reporters in Arizona today, Don Mattingly said Ryu’s current malady was very similar.
“It’d be a pretty safe assumption that this is going to set him back a little bit, and we’re definitely going to be cautious,” Mattingly said.
“I am frustrated,” Ryu said through an interpreter to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News. “For this year, I put in a lot of preparation. I’m just going to have to start all over. I’m a little frustrated I got stopped right now.”
It’s still 17 days until Opening Day, so an official decision could be far away and this could all quickly become a forgotten footnote to the preseason. But the Dodgers don’t need a fifth starter until April 14, which is 25 days from now — and in fact, that’s the only day the Dodgers need a fifth starter until April 25. So don’t be surprised if Los Angeles plays it cautiously with Ryu and begins the season with four starting pitchers and an extra reliever amid what has been a spirited competition for spots in the bullpen. (That, of course, assumes the Dodgers’ other four starting pitchers stay healthy.)
Mike Bolsinger, Erik Bedard, Carlos Frias and Joe Wieland are among the starting pitchers in the system that could take Ryu’s place, as well as swingmen including Chad Gaudin and David Huff.
By Cary Osborne
We’ve established that Yasiel Puig likes video games. Recently, Puig involved himself in another PlayStation initiative and in doing so is raising money for charity.
Owners of the PlayStation 4 can purchase digital items through their gaming console on an app called “PlayStation HEROES.” They will be entered in a sweepstakes, and one winner will eventually be able to play a video game against Puig.
Sony Computer Entertainment America will donate money from purchases to Make-A-Wish, the USO and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Puig, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, snowboarder Shawn White and recording artist Snoop Dogg are all part of the effort and will go one-on-one with a randomly selected gamer. They have also been turned into cartoon form to promote the effort (as seen in the photo above).
The deadline for entry to play against Puig is Saturday.
By Jon Weisman
With the Dodgers about to play four games in the next two days in two different states, the team emptied its bench and then some today, with a number of minor-leaguers receiving their first (or nearly first) action ever playing for the big-league Dodgers.
Lars Anderson, Ali Solis and Dillon Moyer were among the position players coming off the bench, while Jharel Cotton and Michael Johnson pitched the final two innings. Solis had a seventh-inning sacrifice fly for the Dodgers’ final run of the day and a 7-5 lead.
The 23-year-old Cotton, who had 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.16 WHIP for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last year, pitched a shutout eighth but got in trouble in the ninth, and Johnson couldn’t bail him out.
The result: Two ninth-inning runs by the Angels, a 7-7 final score, and the Dodgers’ improbable, record-setting sixth tie of Spring Training. Los Angeles is 8-3-6.
It was an odd game that saw starting pitcher Brett Anderson allow seven hits to the 12 batters he faced over 1 2/3 innings, only for the Dodgers to quickly rally for five runs in the bottom of the second. Alex Guerrero continued his efforts to make his contract status a moot point, starting a double play from shortstop in the first inning and hitting a three-run homer in the second.
Andre Ethier, meanwhile, had a single and a double. Joc Pederson and Matt Carson had the Dodgers’ other extra-base hits.
By Jon Weisman
Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney, who was a Dodger for a couple of hours midway through his journey from the Marlins to Orange County, today will face his former team, so to speak.
- David Huff is still planning to start for the Dodgers’ split-squad team Saturday against Cleveland, even though his wife went into labor today.
- Albert Pujols tagging up and going from first to second on a medium fly ball has had a long-term effect on Yasiel Puig, writes Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles.
- Puig had a .912 OPS on the first pitch of an at-bat last year, notes Bill Chuck of Gammons Daily.
- Submariner reliever Ben Rowen is the latest Dodger to be reassigned to minor-league camp.
- Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk is a long-time Braves fan, but he explains in this fun piece why his sons have become Dodger fans.
- The artwork on the 2015 Dodger media guide cover is by Stephen Holland, the same artist who produced our 2015 Yearbook cover painting of Fernando Valenzuela. The media guide is not for sale.
By Jon Weisman
There was plenty of action in today’s 7-5 Dodger loss to the Cubs, but the marquee attraction in the “Have You Seen This Before?” Department was … no, not Sergio Santos’ four-strikeout inning, but the fact that he had a 1-3 strikeout on a pitch that caromed back to him before he threw the batter/runner out at first.
By Jon Weisman
How many steps must a man run down
Before he realizes he’s not going to catch that home run by Howie Kendrick?
The answer, my friend, is 11. That’s about how many footprints Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin made before he watched forlornly as Kendrick’s homer sailed about a first down or two beyond the outfield fence.
Here is some postgame reaction, from Pedro Moura of the Register:
It was 11 a.m. Tuesday, two hours before the Dodgers were to play the Texas Rangers here, 20 minutes away from their spring-training home, and Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins had made plans to carpool.
Kendrick was dressed and ready to go; Rollins was still in his workout gear, needing to shower. They chided each other in the clubhouse, Rollins telling Kendrick to slow down, Kendrick telling Rollins to speed up. That’s the relationship the two men have developed in three weeks as teammates after almost a decade of mutual, cross-league admiration.
So, after Kendrick smashed perhaps the longest homer of his pro career Tuesday, at least 440 feet to dead center off Rangers left-hander Joe Beimel, no one in the Dodgers clubhouse was better suited than Rollins to provide perspective.
“Actually, I kind of thought I missed it a little bit,” Kendrick tried to say. “I guess the wind was blowing today.”
Rollins interjected: “In other words, I’ve never hit one that well.” …
Click here to read the entire article. And now, here are some more morning links …
- Baseball Prospectus gives the Dodgers an 89.7 percent chance of making the playoffs and 17.6 percent for winning the World Series, significantly higher than the other 29 teams. Will Leitch writes about the playoff odds today at Sports on Earth.
- MLB.com offers a sortable Milestone Tracker (link via Openers), putting the spotlight on future achievements great and small. Here are the lists for Dodger hitters and for Dodger pitchers. Now you know when Jimmy Rollins will enter MLB’s all-time top 50 in steals.
- J.P. Howell warmed up too long during the Dodgers’ seven-run fifth inning, the pitcher and Don Mattingly told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. On the bright side, Howell a) learned his lesson and b) doesn’t figure to make many appearances after the Dodgers score seven runs in an inning.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu’s fluctuating velocity (well, the fluctuating velocity of Ryu’s pitches, not Ryu himself) is the subject of this piece by Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A.
- Andrew Friedman on meeting Sandy Koufax, via J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News:
“It’s very rare in life where you have incredibly high expectations for someone and they actually exceed them,” Friedman said. “It’s really all encompassing — the type of person he is, the way he articulates his points, the knowledge he has, the way he’s able to question things in a very thoughtful way. I had so many different conversations over the span of that week that were incredibly thought-provoking and got me thinking.”
- Today is the 60th anniversary of Koufax’s first game at Spring Training in Vero Beach, we were told by Historic Dodgertown in a press release. At age 19, he faced seven batters, walking two and striking out five. In the same game, 18-year-old Don Drysdale pitched four innings and struck out eight.
- Brandon Beachy threw off a mound Tuesday for the first time since his second Tommy John operation, reports Gurnick, who adds that Beachy was both excited but keeping his enthusiasm in check.
- Director of player development Gabe Kapler is a big booster of social media for athletes. At his blog Kaplifestyle, he explains why.
- No more hanging chads at the ballpark: All-Star Game balloting is going all digital, notes Mike Oz at Big League Stew. End of an era …
- Finally, we’re looking ahead to today’s biggest contest …
More from Hoornstra here.
Today brought the Dodgers’ ugliest game of 2015, with four errors — including a pair in a three-run third inning by Texas — and a pickoff play that saw the fleet Scott Van Slyke run all the way from first base to second to tag out Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus.
J.P. Howell, Pedro Baez, David Aardsma and Daniel Coulombe combined to allow eight runs in relief, and Ramon Troncoso — back from obscurity (and minor-league camp) for his first appearance as a Dodger since 2011 – gave up a two-run single before preserving the 11-11 tie, the Dodgers’ record-tying fifth of Spring Training.
This was a half-full, half-empty cup — a humongous half-full, half-empty cup.
With 15 hits (including Howie Kendrick’s monster three-run homer in the fifth inning) and five walks, the upside of the Dodger offense spoke for itself. But quietly, there was another interesting sidelight.
When I was out at Spring Training before Cactus League in February, it appeared to me that Alex Guerrero was comfortable taking grounders at third, and nothing I’ve seen this month has sharply dissuaded me of that point.
Today, Guerrero got his first game action for the Dodgers at shortstop, the position that he played throughout his Cuban career but that he has been steered away from since coming to Los Angeles. And whether it was backhanding a line drive, charging a slow grounder or starting the game-on-the-line forceout with the winning run in scoring position, Guerrero looked very easy and relaxed.
And by the way, he’s 9 for 20 with a walk and only two strikeouts in Spring Training, after OPSing .978 in Triple-A last year — despite his ear calamity — so he’s not exactly hopeless at the plate.
I don’t pretend to assume that Guerrero is Ozzie Smith on defense — I’m not even sure if he’s Ozzie Smith on offense. Far savvier people than me have critiqued his fielding. But if Guerrero is merely adequate at multiple positions (second, short, third and left), that changes the tone of the conversation about him considerably. There’s been a lot of concern that Guerrero will be stealing a roster spot from someone more deserving. I look at him, and I don’t at all see a black hole.
Players such as Darwin Barney and Kike Hernandez are absolutely deserving of being on the Opening Day roster. But if they start 2015 in the minors to allow the Dodgers a longer look at Guerrero, there are far worse things for a contending club.
By Jon Weisman
Here are the Dodgers who have seen the most Cactus League action so far this spring:
Most innings in the field: Darwin Barney (52), Juan Uribe (48), Kike Hernandez (46), Andre Ethier (45), Scott Van Slyke (43).
Most plate appearances: Adrian Gonzalez (26), Kike Hernandez (26), Andre Ethier (24), Yasmani Grandal (24), Joc Pederson (24).
Most batters faced: Clayton Kershaw (34), Joe Wieland (24), Carlos Frias (23), Zack Greinke (21), David Huff (21), Brandon McCarthy (21).
And now, some info-to-go …
- The Dodgers haven’t committed to Joc Pederson as their starting center fielder, but he’s done nothing to dissuade them, reports Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
- Kenley Jensen has shed his crutches after four weeks but remains in a walking boot, writes Stephen.
- Don Mattingly on Corey Seager (via Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles): “I’m watching him play short and I’m thinking, ‘It looks like he can play short to me,’ but what do I know.”
- Paco Rodriguez is motivated by missing out on the Dodgers’ playoff roster the past two seasons, writes Kevin Baxter of the Times.
- Mike Adams is a man of “meticulous routine,” according to this story by Pedro Moura of the Register.
- Earlier this month, the Dodgers added a nice touch to the left-field entrance to the Club Level hallway at Dodger Stadium. Here are a couple of cellphone pics: