It’s only been six weeks since Howie Kendrick become a Dodger.
More accurately, you might say it’s only been two days. Kendrick took part in the Dodgers’ community caravan Friday, participating in everything from a visit to City Hall to a Brazilian dance routine with elementary school students. Today he’s among the bigger names at the team’s annual FanFest. He hasn’t played in a game or met more than a couple new teammates.
So, first impressions?
“This is my first time ever caravaning,” he said. “We did FanFest, I think, my first year with the Angels and it was a blast. Getting the experience in now doing the caravan — that was my first caravan, yesterday — you feel the love from the community. I think that’s what’s important, is being able to give back to the community. Yesterday I talked about growing up in a small community where everybody knows everything you do. These guys know everything that happens and everything that you do. They know the stats, they know the players, they love their team.”
Switch-hitting Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has a 105 OPS-plus in his career batting left-handed and an 88 OPS-plus batting right-handed. (Getty Images)
Yasmani Grandal‘s brief major league career is checkered at best. He was suspended for 50 games in November 2012 following a positive test for testosterone. He’s batted just .224 since. His 2013 season ended when he tore multiple ligaments in his right knee during a collision at home plate, an injury that required reconstructive surgery.
And this was the player the Dodgers coveted in a trade for Matt Kemp?
Chris Withrow had a rough 2014. He had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in June and surgery on the herniated L5/S1 vertebrae in his back in December. The original 12-18 month timetable for his recovery is still intact, he said — the back surgery won’t push back his recovery — but he still hasn’t begun to throw.
“I honestly can’t tell you when I’ll start throwing, either,” Withrow said. “I’ll come out to Arizona the 10th of February. The doctor has it laid out day by day, as to what you’re capable of doing. Once I pass the test then I’ll be able to move on to the next step. I kind of gave up on the fact of looking ahead so far in advance, because you lose focus on that day that you really need to focus on. So I take it a day at a time, try to accomplish what I need to accomplish that day and look forward two weeks or two months.”
New Dodgers pitcher Chris Hatcher was changing planes on a troops visit in Southeast Asia when he learned he was traded. (Getty Images)
Dodgers pitcher Chris Hatcher
wins the award for the best where-were-you-when-you-found-out-you-were-traded story. Certainly this off-season. Maybe ever.
Hatcher was visiting U.S. military troops in Southeast Asia with his Miami Marlins teammates — a trip the team arranged — when he was traded to the Dodgers on December 11. The 30-year-old from North Carolina, speaking with a slight Southern drawl, said he was changing planes walking to an airport when he heard the news.
“We had just landed in Oman. We were getting on a plane to go to Abu Dhabi,” he said. “One of my teammates at the time, (Justin) Bour, was like ‘you just got traded to the Dodgers.’ I told my wife before the trip, ‘it’ll be my luck I’ll get traded.’ I welcome it. It’s a good opportunity. I’m happy to be here.”
Three Dodgers prospects ranked among the top 13 in baseball on MLB.com’s annual rankings of the top 100 prospects in baseball.
Shortstop Corey Seager (7), pitcher Julio Urias (8), outfielder Joc Pederson (13) and pitcher Grant Holmes (95) all made the list. Pitcher Zach Lee, MLB.com’s number-63 prospect prior to the 2014 season, dropped off the list entirely.
If you’re seeing a pattern here, good. That means you’ve been paying attention.
ESPN.com had Seager, Urias and Pederson as the Dodgers’ top three prospects.
BaseballAmerica.com and BaseballProspectus.com have Seager, Urias and Pederson as the Dodgers’ top three prospects. Their top 100 overall prospects have yet to be revealed.
DodgersDigest.com counted down its rankings to number 21 today; the top 20 have yet to be revealed.
You can guess how the list ends.
Autograph sessions for tomorrow’s FanFest at Dodger Stadium are sold out, according to a team spokesperson.
The “FanFest Meet and Greet” with Howie Kendrick, and the “FanFest Interview Room Q&A and Photo,” are not. Click here for more info.
Joc Pederson flew home after playing only 22 Dominican Winter League games because of a stomach ailment traced to gluten or dairy sensitivity. (John McCoy/staff photographer)
It started last November in the Dominican Republic with a bowl of soup and some fish. It might have been a side dish. Joc Pederson
Whatever it was, something Pederson ate turned on him quickly. He woke up the next day feeling so bad he couldn’t play baseball, caught a flight home, and was ultimately was unable to return to the Dominican Winter League after playing just 22 games.
“I had to meet a bunch of doctor specialists down here,” Pederson said Friday at a Dodgers Community Caravan stop in Northeast Los Angeles. “They told me I can’t digest gluten or dairy so I haven’t eaten gluten or dairy since, like, Thanksgiving. It’s not really a choice. I wish it was a choice.”
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig said he’s worked on speed this off-season. (Getty Images)
With speedy leadoff man Dee Gordon and slugger Matt Kemp both traded, it’s not clear where Yasiel Puig will bat in the Dodgers’ lineup this season. He batted second most of last season, has hit first in the past, and has enough power to anchor the middle.
“I haven’t been told where I’ll be hitting,” he said in Spanish at Los Angeles City Hall on Friday. “Miguel Cabrera has given me some advice on working out, weightlifting. I’ve been exercising more this off-season than other years. … I’ve been concentrating on my speed to steal more bases.”
Sounds like he’ll be ready for anything. Here’s more from Puig (in Spanish):
Chad Billingsley made two rehab starts for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014 before an elbow injury ended his season. (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Twitter)
was chosen by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2003 draft. Since then, the Dodgers were the only franchise that employed him. That changed Thursday, when Billingsley signed an incentive-laden, one-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
In Philadelphia, Billingsley joins a starting staff that includes Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, former Dodger Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan.
Once heralded as a possible right-handed anchor to complement Clayton Kershaw in the Dodgers’ rotation, Billingsley was the Dodgers’ minor-league pitcher of the year in 2004 and 2005. But he only pitched two games the last two years because of elbow injuries. The Dodgers filled out their starting rotation this winter by signing Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson then added depth by acquiring Joe Wieland, Mike Bolsinger, Juan Nicasio and others. By the end of December, Billingsley’s time with the Dodgers was all but officially through.
Billingsley’s 1,037 strikeouts are the 13th-most by a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. In an interview last September he reflected on his time in the organization, noting that he’s been with the Dodgers more than a third of his life.
A local World War II veteran wanted to meet Tommy Lasorda before he died. Clifford Rich, 90, crossed the item off his bucket list recently when Lasorda called to chat; he died the following day.
Here is the touching story from colleague Dennis McCarthy.