Thanks to a gentleman’s agreement with the Tigers entering the ninth inning, the Dodgers managed to get through the entire Grapefruit League season without a single extra-inning game (WOO-HOO!!!!!!) — and trust me, tomorrow’s split-squad game with the Mets back in Vero ain’t going extras, either. Bench coach Dave Jauss, who will manage in that game, and the handful of players going back to Los Angeles with him are going to try to catch a 7 p.m. commercial flight out of Orlando, which is about a 90-minute drive away. Ramon Martinez’s ankle was fine, as was Juan Pierre’s right leg (he fouled a ball off it), and Grady said both guys will be able to play in tomorrow night’s Freeway Series opener — all of which probably means Wilson Valdez’s only shot of making the club is for Rafael Furcal to not be ready by opening day. If anyone cares, the Dodgers are 16-13-1 for the spring.
Although he still hasn’t officially been added to the roster, Rudy Seanez has ended any speculation as to whether his contract will be purchased. The veteran right-hander capped his near-perfect spring with a scoreless fifth inning on the heels of Derek Lowe, who went four innings in his final tuneup for opening day. Seanez gave up two hits this time, but got out of the jam when he whiffed Detroit’s Craig Monroe. Dodgers 3, Tigers 3, top 7
It is amazing how roster issues always seem to fall into place right at the end of camp. In the bottom of the first inning today, Wilson Valdez went into the hole at shortstop to snare a hot grounder by Detroit’s Gary Sheffield, planted, and threw to second trying to force Placido Polanco. The throw got there a fraction of a second late, and Polanco slid into Ramon Martinez’s right ankle. Martinez then hopped away in obvious pain before eventually being led off the field by trainer Stan Conte. Martinez has a mild sprain, and it isn’t clear how long he’ll be out. But if he begins the season on the DL, Valdez, who is hitting .377 and is out of minor-league options, will be the guy who takes his roster spot. Even if Martinez IS good to go, Valdez also would make the club if Rafael Furcal’s sprained left ankle hasn’t completely healed. Tigers 3, Dodgers 0, top 4, on a three-run homer by Sheffield.
Nomar Garciaparra was called back to Los Angeles late last night when his wife, soccer star Mia Hamm, told him it was time. Mia gave birth to twin girls, and everyone is said to be doing fine. Nomar and Mia are parents for the first time. Congrats to them both.
A solemn, symbolic moment this morning: I closed the door behind me on my rented condo for the last time this spring (by the way, thanks to Sue Powell at Michael Thorpe Realty for setting me up in style these past six weeks). Then spent the next 2 1/2 hours driving to Lakeland, which is almost all the way across the state, to cover this afternoon’s game. Will drive back across the state, this time to Melbourne, tonight for a quick night — and I do mean quick — at the Marriott Courtyard before a 6 a.m. flight out of town tomorrow morning. Got word this morning that this Dodgers blog is doing really, really well, so thanks to all of you for checking in so often. And be sure to tell all your friends, your mother-in-law, your dog, whoever. The beauty of this thing is it allows me to get breaking news up almost immediately, and certainly within minutes. And when there isn’t much to report, it’s fun to just post frivolous stuff that I find interesting and hope you will too. Looking forward to a fun season. Later.
The Dodgers optioned lefty reliever Tim Hamulack to Triple-A Las Vegas and reassigned pitcher Joe Mays and catchers Sandy Martinez and Kelly Stinnett. Of that bunch, Mays has the best chance of playing at Dodger Stadium this season. The veteran righty is in camp on a minor-league deal, but he has an out clause that can be exercised on May 15, so don’t be surprised if he shows up sometime between now and then. He’ll start for the 51s, but he could provide bullpen help in the majors. Stinnett and Martinez won’t get promoted unless either Russell Martin or Mike Lieberthal suffers an injury. But for those Dodgers fans just dying to get a glimpse of some Kelly Stinnett action, take heart: he will play in the Freeway Series. Dodgers fell to 16-13 for the spring.
In what probably was his last appearance of the spring, fifth starter Brett Tomko cruised through five innings, giving up two runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out three, but the second run scored as a result of his walking the leadoff man (Yadier Molina) in the fifth inning. He punctuated his performance by getting Jim Edmonds to ground into a double play, right after Matt Kemp gunned down Albert Pujols trying to go from first to third on Scott Rolen’s single to right. Tony Abreu has two hits for the Dodgers. Cardinals 2, Dodgers 0, bottom 7
Brett Tomko has retired nine of 11 hitters, giving up only a solo homer to Albert Pujols (his first of the spring, believe it or not, in his 63rd at-bat) and a harmless, two-out single by Yadier Molina in the second. But Chris Carpenter, as he has a tendency to do, has shut down the Dodgers’ offense, giving up only a legit single to Tony Abreu and an infield hit to James Loney. Carpenter also has walked one and hit a batter. Cardinals 1, Dodgers 0, top 4
Turns out that not only was Lou Holtz here this morning, but so was Tom Crean, the hoops coach at Marquette. And yesterday, the General himself (aka Bobby Knight) was here visiting La Russa (aka Abner Doubleday, as a rival manager who had previously played for La Russa once referred to him), as was Bill Parcells. Or at least that’s the rumor floating around. A big-name manager who has a lot of big-name friends who are hanging around all the time … sound familiar, Dodgers fans?
The legendary college coach is standing behind the batting cage watching the Cardinals take BP. I’m guessing he’s here as a guest of Tony La Russa, who seems to know a lot of guys like that (Bobby Knight, et al), but that’s just a guess on my part. Right now, Rich Donnelly has Lou cornered, probably talking about Rich’s favorite subject, Steubenville (Ohio) High School football. The Big Red, as they are known, are one of the premier programs in the country, and Rich faithfully goes to every game, home and away, when he gets home from baseball season. But if these Dodgers are as good as Sports Illustrated, Street and Smith’s and Baseball America seem to think they are, Rich might not be home until the state playoffs this year. … Ran some numbers this morning and realized the Dodgers still have nine more cuts to make before the roster is finalized. It doesn’t have to be finalized until noon on Sunday, but it makes you wonder why the obvious ones — Kelly Stinnett, Sandy Martinez, Andy La Roche, Matt Kemp, Tim Hamulack, etc. — haven’t been made yet. … Oh, Brady Clark isn’t expected to join the team until Thursday in Los Angeles. I covered this guy in Cincinnati, he’ll fit right into this clubhouse, which is full of good, professional guys. And Dodgers fans will love the way he plays.