During his morning media session, Joe was asked about Nomar, and all his answers seemed to be pointing to Nomar coming off the bench. He talked about how veteran players tend to adjust to it better than younger players and mentioned Nomar’s ability to hit in the clutch (he batted .370 w/RISP over the past two seasons), etc. So I asked him that if all things are equal, meaning both Nomar and Andy LaRoche have good springs, would he lean toward LaRoche as the regular 3B? In other words, is it Andy’s job to lose? But Joe wouldn’t bite. “Nomar’s experience will certainly play into this thing,” he said. “I definitely wouldn’t say it’s (LaRoche’s) job to lose. Nomar, with his experience, we’ll look at how he can best help the club and go from there.”
There is a saying about spring training: Every day is Tuesday. What that means is that every day is exactly the same, with no differentiation between weekends and weekdays and no breaks. This year, we don’t even have any night games down here, except for one on March 4 that is part of a day-night, split-squad doubleheader. So basically, I’m getting up at the crack of dawn every morning for the next five weeks, which I realize most of the world does every day, so I’ll stop complaining. Hey, it beats working for a living. … Those of you who have been following this blog for a while might recall that last spring, I trumpeted the fact that Vero Beach finally got a Starbucks. Well, in keeping with the widely known fact that Starbucks outlets multiply more quickly than rabbits, Vero Beach now has FOUR Starbucks (that I know of). I can’t imagine any more definitive proof than that to indicate the demographics of this town have changed dramatically over the years. It’s tough to imagine even one Starbucks surviving in what is basically a retirement town, and the fact that there are several of them, and they appear to be thriving, means this isn’t a retirement town anymore. It’s also another indication of just why, with a few exceptions, there aren’t that many people around here who are going to care that much that the Dodgers are leaving town. … On my way back from lunch yesterday, I heard Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story on the radio. It started out with Dodgers GM Buzzy Bavasi calling a young pitcher named Tom into his office to send him to the minors, and Tom responding by saying they should keep him and send that left-handed kid with the control problems to the minors instead. I didn’t have to listen any further. I immediately recognized the story as one I had heard a hundred times from Tom himself.
George Lombard, a non-roster outfielder who is a long shot to make the club, suffered a strained left calf during a conditioning drill and will be out for a few days. … Also, the Dodgers’ exit agreement with Indian River County was ratified today, clearing the way for the team to leave Vero Beach after this spring, assuming everything in Glendale, Ariz., proceeds on schedule.
Officially, it was three hours and 15 minutes because they didn’t really, technically start working out until about 11. But they were on the field stretching a few minutes after 10, and the position guys didn’t come off the field until almost 2:30. I know it’s the first full-squad workout, but you have to wonder if it’s going to be like this every day. … Pitchers will start throwing live batting practice tomorrow (except Schmidt and Brazoban, who will continue to throw bullpens). Rick Honeycutt said that once pitchers start throwing BP, they’ll split into three groups and throw every third day instead of two groups throwing every other day in the bullpen.
Asked him the same question we asked him at the Caravan, that of whether he plans to retire after this season. Got basically the same answer. “That will come out at another time and another place,” he said. … By the way, Joe Torre DID ask Joe Beimel to cut his hair, which Beimel did, although it’s still long in comparison with today’s style. “He said it didn’t have to be a crew cut,” Beimel said. As for troyfromwestvirginia, who took the time to post a comment on this blog after I posted a link to his Beimel tribute videos on youtube, Joe said he is aware that Troy is on the way to Vero Beach in a few days. “I might give him a wave or something, but I don’t think I’ll be going to dinner with him. … Jason Repko is leaving camp tonight to fly home to Richland, Wash., where his wife, Traci, is scheduled for induced labor tomorrow. This is the couple’s first child, a boy, and they plan to name him Tyler Jason Repko. Best of luck to all. As many of us already know, and as Jason and Traci will soon find out, becoming a parent is the single greatest experience life has to offer.
For those who haven’t seen it, there is a Dodgers fan who has posted a bunch of Joe Beimel tribute videos on youtube under the name troyfromwestvirginia. you can find them all at the following link.
You can also find some responses that Joe’s friends have posted by simply going to youtube.com and typing “joe beimel” into the search box. This whole thing is taking on a life of its own, right up to the fact that troyfromwestvirginia has announced in his latest video post that he has decided to actually come to Vero Beach to see his hero, none other than Dodgers situational lefty reliever Joe Beimel, and actually waves his travel itinerary in front of the camera to prove to the viewer that he is, in fact, coming. Troy explains in his first video that the reason he is such a Beimel fan is that “I root for the underdog.” Well, Troy, we look forward to seeing you at Dodgertown next week. I hope you get to meet Joe, who is one of the most personable, fan- and media-friendly guys on the team. By the way, Joe Torre said today that he has a pretty strong idea of whether he is going to allow Beimel to keep his long hair, but he wouldn’t tell us until he tells Joe. Reading between the lines of that, it sounds like a trip to the barber is in Beimel’s immediate future, but I could be wrong.
Juan Bustabad, the Cuban-born manager of the Dodgers’ low Single-A Great Lakes affiliate, was happy to learn that Fidel Castro had stepped down after almost a half-century as Cuba’s president. But Bustabad also realizes that it might not mean much, given that Castro’s brother is taking the reins.
“We left when I was 3 years old, so I really don’t remember anything,” Bustabad said. “Talking to my mom and dad, I know we got to a point where we just had to leave the country. We had to go through Mexico to get a visa to come to the United States. But nobody likes to live under communism. It’s one of those situations where eventually it had to come to an end. That time had come, and hopefully, things will be different. But with his brother in power, you just don’t know.”
The Dodgers are already one step ahead of where they were at any point last season: Rafael Furcal is healthy. The strained left knee he suffered in a Grapefruit League game last spring, the one that hampered him all year, is finally healed.
“It was bad when I played last year like that,” the switch-hitting Furcal said. “Hitting right-handed, I felt better. But left-handed, I couldn’t stand on my ankle. But I didn’t say anything because I wanted to keep playing. After the season, I got a lot of treatment before I started playing (in the Dominican Winter League), and that made me feel so good.”
Furcal had a great showing in the Caribbean World Series, going 10 for 25.
“If this team is healthy, I think we will make (the playoffs),” Furcal said. “I played last year, but it wasn’t the way I was used to playing. I think if Jason (Schmidt) and I had been 100-percent healthy, we could have made it last year. And now, we have Andruw (Jones) to give us another bat.”
Don Mattingly has arrived and will be here longer than we thought. About three weeks, he said.
Initially, he fouled off the question of whether he thinks he’ll rejoin the coaching staff in 2009.
“I hope so, but right now, I’m not thinking too far down the road,” he said. “I’m not going to make decisions right now, because this isn’t a good time to make decisions. At this point, it’s anything Joe wants me to do and if I can help (hitting coach) Mike (Easler) in any way. But I need to take a back seat and make sure (Easler) is the guy out front, the lead guy. There needs to be one voice coming out all the time, and it needs to be Mike’s.”
Later, Mattingly hinted that he will return next year. His reason for backing out of the hitting coach’s job is that he wants to stay home in Evansville, Ind., with his youngest son, Jordan, 16, during Mattingly’s ongoing divorce from Kim, his wife of 28 years.
“He needs to get a solid year, and I want to make sure he gets that during this transition year,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly also said the decision to back out of the hitting coach’s job was a no-brainer, but a tough one nevertheless.
“Family decisions are always easy decisions for me,” Mattingly said. “(But) it was hard because this was the first time I ever made a commitment to someone and couldn’t live up to that.”
Joe Torre has pointed out repeatedly in recent days that he understands we have a tough job right now, finding ways to fill space in the paper at what even Joe admitted is a “boring” period of camp. Things should liven up considerably in the next couple of days, though, as the position players arrive and things start to take off. As great as Dodgertown is, one of the things that makes it tough from a writer’s perspective, especially early in camp, is that it is so spread out that you can’t possibly monitor everything that is going on on every field. When I covered the Reds a few years ago, their entire spring-training facility, stadium and all, was confined to a single plot of land about one mile by one-half mile over on the Gulf Coast in Sarasota. There was nothing special or charming about it. The back fields consisted of one of those four-diamond, cloverleaf setups. But while it was all very antiseptic, it was easy to simply climb the stairs to the second-floor observation deck in the middle and observe the goings-on of all four fields. Here, there are a lot of places we need to be at various times, and some of those are nowhere near each other. What I generally try to do during the workout is hang out near the area where pitchers are throwing side sessions (they call it the old strings area, for reasons you might already know and that I’m not going to take the time to get into if you don’t). That’s also where most of the coaches and front-office officials can be found, and a lot of my job is simply chatting up those folks, building relationships with them and culling whatever information I possibly can. I admit that I don’t spend a lot of time watching PFP over on Field 2 or bunting practice in the indoor cages, but somehow, I don’t think I’m missing much.