By Josh Tucker
The day before Game 3 of the 2013 NLCS, we watched Brian Wilson have a catch with bullpen buddy Brandon League. The duo appeared to be getting loose with Brian Wilson messing around with what looked (to the untrained eye) to be a knuckleball. Among admirers were Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu:
Oh, wow: https://t.co/R8KyltEp4Z
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 13, 2013
Today, as Ken Gurnick noted, Brian Wilson’s first pitch today looks a lot like a knuckleball.
Brian Wilson’s fitst pitch to start the game? A knuckleball for a strike.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) March 4, 2014
Is this something Brian Wilson is adding to his arsenal for 2014?
By Jon Weisman
The first round of springtime reassignments took place this morning. Pedro Baez, Nick Buss, Stephen Fife, Yimi Garcia and Jarret Martin were optioned to minor-league camp, while Sam Demel, Griff Erickson, Daniel Moskos, Chris O’Brien and Chris Reed were reassigned to minor-league camp.
It all amounts to the same thing; the difference has to do with being on the 40-man roster vs. being a non-roster invitee.
As previously announced, today is a bullpen day while the Australia unbound Zack Greinke gets his calf back on track. Scheduled to follow Brian Wilson are Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, Chris Perez, Jamey Wright and Chris Withrow.
Carl Crawford returns to the defensive end of things today, in left field.
Item from the Dodger press notes: “Scott Van Slyke’s father, Andy, will be in uniform for Seattle this afternoon as he enters his first season as the Mariners’ first base coach.”
And in other news this morning, Ted Lilly, who threw his last Major League pitch for the Dodgers on June 4, has been hired by the Cubs as a special assistant in the front office, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.
By Jon Weisman
It was 10 years ago this July that a 23-year-old prospect with three games of Major League experience was involved in a blockbuster trade that included one of the greatest shortstops of his generation.
Now, they’re both in the world of the Dodgers.
July 31, 2004
As part of a 4-team trade: The Boston Red Sox sent Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton to the Chicago Cubs. The Minnesota Twins sent Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox. The Montreal Expos sent Orlando Cabrera to the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs sent Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris to the Montreal Expos. The Chicago Cubs sent Justin Jones (minors) to the Minnesota Twins.
Garciaparra, of course, later became the Dodgers’ 4+1 hero and is now a SportsNet LA and KLAC AM 570 analyst. Harris, who signed with the Dodgers in November, is one of the crew vying for time in the Dodger infield.
With Beltran and Gonzalez, Harris was in the last group of Major Leaguers to be acquired by the Expos before they would become the Washington Nationals. The Dodgers would be Harris’ seventh-major league team if he makes the active roster at any point. In 1,876 plate appearances over eight seasons, Harris has a .314 on-base percentage while slugging .381. He peaked in 2007 with Tampa Bay, going .343/.434 in 576 plate appearances with 12 homers.
Among other claims to fame, Harris was the last MLB batter to hit in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, making the final out in Game 3 of the 2009 American League Division Series for the Twins against the Yankees.
By the way, in case you’re wondering what the Dodgers were doing on July 31, 2004, they were trading Reggie Abercrombie, Koyie Hill and Bill Murphy for Brent Mayne, Steve Finley and the 2004 National League West title.
By Jon Weisman
The good news for Clayton Kershaw is, he’s healthy.
Not to mention that for the first two innings — six up, six down — of today’s 7-3 loss to Oakland, the Dodger ace made last week’s start look like every bit the aberration we thought it was. Six up, six down.
Then came a third inning which, as much as anything, was reminiscent of the third inning of Game 6 of the 2013 National League Championship Series.
Kershaw allowed two walks, an RBI single and another walk that loaded the bases. Then former Dodger Nick Punto came up, got ahead in the count and began fouling off pitches, just like Matt Carpenter did in his 11-pitch NLCS at-bat against Kershaw.
Punto won this marathon, singling to right field to drive in two more runs, and Kershaw was pulled mid-inning, ultimately charged with five runs.
And by the sounds of it, he was ready to sentence himself to pitcher jail. From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
… “It’s not fun to deal with,” said Kershaw, who has an 18.00 ERA. “Physically, I feel great. I don’t have any excuses. I don’t know, searching for answers right now. I know it’s Spring Training, it doesn’t matter, but it matters to me.”
Mattingly said he wasn’t panicking.
“The first two innings were really good, then he got out of rhythm and couldn’t find it,” Mattingly said. “Good thing is, it’s Spring Training, that’s why we’re here. He had the same kind of spring last year. He has a level of expectation of always being good. I don’t have a problem with that. He expects to be in midseason form, and we keep working toward that. He gets frustrated. That’s why we love him.” …
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Seth Rosin, who followed his two-inning, five-strikeout outing Wednesday by tossing three shutout innings with three strikeouts today. That included pitching out of a second-and-third, none-out jam in the fourth inning, thanks to an Adrian Gonzalez throwing error.
“This outing is actually more impressive to me than his first outing,” SportsNet LA analyst Orel Hershiser said on the air. “Today, he’s facing some adversity, against a team swinging the bat really well, and he’s still able to get them out.”
Rosin, by the way, was born in 1988, 7 1/2 months after Kershaw and a couple weeks after the Dodgers won the World Series.
Coming in behind Rosin on the highlight reel was Dee Gordon, who had an RBI triple for the second consecutive game, and Andre Ethier and Miguel Olivo, who each had two hits.
By Jon Weisman
Andre Ethier takes a turn at center field, while the wheel of Chone Figgins lands on third base. At this point, I won’t be satisfied unless Figgins plays at least eight positions this spring.
Scheduled to follow Clayton Kershaw on the mound today are Brandon League, Seth Rosin (he of the five strikeouts in two innings Wednesday), Pedro Baez, Carlos Frias and Jarret Martin.
By the way, with Zack Greinke missing his scheduled start Tuesday, that game against the Mariners will become a full bullpen day for the Dodgers, with Brian Wilson scheduled to be the first pitcher. Ken Gurnick has more on Greinke and other less-than-100-percent Dodgers at MLB.com.
One more link for the morning: Matt Kemp just needs those wheels unleashed, because his swing is back, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
Mark McGwire joined the Dodgers as hitting coach more than a year after Matt Kemp nearly won the Most Valuable Player Award in 2011, and the swing McGwire saw last year was very different from the powerful and unusually high finish McGwire recalled from the past.
McGwire explains it this way: A right-handed hitter drives with his left arm — his lead arm – and steers with his right. When Kemp was at his best, he had been able to lift and drive the ball to right-center field. But last year, Kemp still seemed to be recovering from the shoulder surgery he had in the fall of 2012, and McGwire never really saw that classic Kemp finish. Rather, his front arm was noticeably lower in his follow-through, and, instead of lifting the ball, he tended to hit looping liners without much carry, a lingering sign that his repaired shoulder was not yet operating at 100 percent.
On Friday morning, before the Dodgers’ exhibition against the White Sox, McGwire saw that old swing again. …
By Jon Weisman
Never underestimate the reach of Vin Scully.
When I spoke with Orel Hershiser the night of the Dodger Town Hall for an upcoming magazine piece, the new SportsNet LA analyst gave me an anecdote that caught me off guard (and I thought would be best to share online).
I was wondering how much Hershiser had gotten to hear of Scully, given that his playing days wouldn’t have offered much opportunity …
“Other than those transistor radios when you step back and you hear, ‘Hershiser winds,’ and you hear everybody’s radio,” Hershiser said. “That was amazing to be on the mound and hear his voice. Oh yeah, you could lock in and know on a day game, if they had the radios on, you could actually be doing something and hearing him announce you doing it. It was unbelievable. It was so much fun. You had to block it out, but I did hear it once in a while.”
“I think I’ll feel the same way as the fans do,” he said. “I’ll feel the same way as Ned Colletti and Stan Kasten do in the front office when they put the team together. I’ll feel the same way as when Don Mattingly puts somebody up to pinch-hit to get a bunt down, and he doesn’t get it down. You’re killing yourself inside, but you figuring out a way. How do I impart knowledge? How do I vent my frustration so they can do better next time? How do I not kill this guy, though? And then when do they well, how do I keep them on a roll. Do you get in their way and compliment them when you’re around them, or do you just leave them alone?”
The 1988 Cy Young winner, famed for his endurance that season, realizes he faces a different kind of marathon with the hefty schedule of daily broadcasts.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “You have to know how to pace yourself. … I’ll be reminding myself – you’ve got a lot of time for a lot of material.”
By Jon Weisman
One of the intriguing questions for the Dodgers this spring, with Matt Kemp likely to start the season on the disabled list, is which of the remaining outfielders will play center field. Today, Yasiel Puig is the middleman, with Andre Ethier lining up in right. Come March 22, we’ll see.
Joc Pederson (pictured above), who would be a center-field candidate should the Dodgers have the unfortunate event of multiple outfield injuries, is in left field today.
Puig is also batting leadoff for the first time in 2014 Cactus League play. After Josh Beckett makes his spring debut on the mound, Paul Maholm, Stephen Fife, Sam Demel and Daniel Moskos are scheduled to follow.
In other pregame news:
- Justin Sellers, who was designated for assignment February 22 after Erisbel Arruebarruena was signed, has been traded to Cleveland for cash considerations.
- Nothing definitive has been announced on Zack Greinke, but the Dodgers’ cautious approach to his right calf issue is decreasing his chances of going to Australia, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. writes.
- Ross Stripling is meeting with doctors this afternoon to go over the results of his MRI, the Dodgers said.
- Chad Billingsley had what is being termed “normal” soreness after throwing breaking balls for the first time in nearly 11 months, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Billingsley plans to include cutters in his next bullpen session Tuesday.
- Pedro Baez, Nick Buss, Jose Dominguez, Tim Federowicz, Stephen Fife, Onelki Garcia, Yimi Garcia, Javy Guerra, Matt Magill, Jarrett Martin, Paco Rodriguez, Seth Rosin, Dee Gordon, Scott Van Skyke and Chris Withrow have signed their 2014 contracts, the Dodgers announced.
- A GIF-filled review of Alex Guerrero’s initial efforts on defense is provided by Daniel Brim at Dodgers Digest.
- Former Dodger reliever Guillermo Mota has reportedly retired, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via MLB Trade Rumors). In two separate stints with the Dodgers, Mota had a 2.79 ERA with a 1.126 WHIP and 7.3 K/9 in 294 innings.
By Cary Osborne
I remember getting deeply into baseball because of statistics. I once devised my own system at the age of 11 that determined that Ted Williams and Babe Ruth were the greatest hitters of all time.
But at some point, my interests changed. I started to link my own personal struggles as an aspiring, yet bench-warming, baseball player with everyday life. The failures, the celebrations and accomplishments, the hard work and struggle. I learned that my psychological roller coaster was not that different from everyone else’s. So that’s the link I found with athletes. I wrote less about batting averages and ERAs and more about the mental side that went into how an athlete got to that batting average and ERA. And I linked the dedicated, obsessive work they put in to my own in school and work.
Thus, I like telling stories more about people, and adversity and the road to success as a means to bridge the gap between professional baseball player and professional salesman or mechanic or businessman. Or student, who can use an athlete’s success as a road map to their own success.
When I think about my love of the Dodgers, I go back to 1986 when I moved to the Los Angeles area. I remember my uncle had tickets to a Dodger game and invited me and my brother, Ryan. I turned it down because my mom was going to the now defunct Pic ‘N’ Save store in hopes that she would buy me a toy. For those who remember Pic ‘N’ Save, the toy would have been below desirable to the regular kid. It was a store packed with discounted closeout items. My mom didn’t buy me a toy, and my brother came back with reports of what a blast Dodger Stadium was.
Needless to say, I took up the next offer to go to a Dodger game and was hooked.
To me, my love grew because Dodger baseball was and is a connection for me.
It is a bond I hold with my uncle Javier, who took me to the October 3, 1993 game in which Mike Piazza hit two home runs and knocked the Giants out of playoff contention in the final game of the regular season.
It is a bond with my mother. For luck, I left my brother and father in the living room to watch the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series on TV. I went to my mom’s bedroom and sat at the foot of her bed and said, “Watch mom, he’s (Kirk Gibson) going to hit a home run.”
It’s been a bond with my friends – Sean and Wojo, Heidi and the others, who have been coming with me to games since we were teenagers.
Dodger Stadium is where my relationship blossomed with a girl who is the love of my life, Claire. More than a decade later, I still remember going to get a Dodger Dog with some friends and coming back and seeing her move from her seat to the one next to me.
Finally, it’s my connection with my father and brother, who at times I’ve had strained relationships with. But we can always go from yelling, “I’m done talking with you,” to “Did you see what Kershaw did last night?”
It all goes back to the mind and psychology and feelings for me.
This marks my fifth season writing about the Dodgers. It’s a huge part of my life. And they would be if I weren’t working here. All I know is, I love doing this and telling Dodger stories.
By Jon Weisman
Watch the video above, with our new friend Justin Turner at the plate (last year while he was still a Met), because something very cool is happening.
You’ve heard of players taking good or bad routes to balls, or having a quick or slow first step? Ever wondered who can come from behind to catch up to a ball the fastest? Now, Major League Baseball Advanced Media is preparing to quantify that.
The system is being rolled out in select ballparks this year but should be fully operational in 2015.
… MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, who spent 20 years in front offices, including four years as an MLB general manager, said this will remove much of the subjectivity from a club’s own player analysis.
“When you look at how scouting has been done in the past, there’s a lot of subjectivity to the evaluation,” he said. “Some guys I have found have varied, from scout to scout, in terms of their opinion of each player. There is a lot of quality defensive statistics out there, but they’re not completely accurate. A lot of them are dependent on somebody charting, whether it’s UZR or DIPS or Defensive Runs Saved, and they can only go so far. Some players . . . range to their left better, some range better to their right, some come in on ground balls better than others, some have better first-step quickness.
“The exciting thing about this new technology is, you can start to take the subjectivity that is given to you by the scout and blend it with raw data now, and come up with a truer picture of evaluating a player. So when you take that data and compare it to others in the game, you can really find out if that position player is the best at his position. You can measure potential free agents, you can measure current free agents.” …
The technology won’t be limited to defensive applications – it will inform every aspect of baseball. Might be more than some of us can digest, but the possibilities are pretty exciting.
- Matt Meyers of ESPN.com wrote about other presentations at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. This part (though the whole article is worth a read), intrigued me …
… “Will we get to a point where a team moves its best defender to different positions from hitter to hitter based upon analytics?”
That was a question asked by the audience that really seemed to resonate with the panelists.
As Neyer noted, the Pittsburgh Pirates showed last year just how much defensive positioning can help a club when the field staff buys into, and Silver posited that it would only make sense, if you had a superlative defender with a variety of skills, to put him in the space where the ball is most likely to be hit.
So if you’re the Braves and you’ve decided to “shift” Ryan Howard, instead of just shifting everyone to the right, you would put Andrelton Simmons exactly where Howard is most likely to hit it, whether or not that is right next to the first baseman or up the middle. Squadron made the point that it’s surprising that teams don’t flip-flop their left and right fielders more often depending on the hitter, and quite frankly this makes a lot of sense. There are a number of teams on which the guys in left and right have extremely disparate defensive skills, and this is an easy, yet logical, switch. …
- Know who Dick “Turk” Farrell was? If not, it’s time to go to Ernest Reyes’ latest at Blue Heaven, the Dick “Turk” Farrell 1961 Union Oil Dodger Family Booklet.
- Dodger farmhand Matt Shelton deserves more attention, according to Harold Uhlman at Think Blue L.A.
- Today in Jon SooHoo.