The Dodgers’ first game of spring training served a valuable purpose for everyone who watched it unfold on a cold day at Camelback Ranch: It reminded us that in spring training, the whole is always less than the sum of its parts.
We hope you took the under on Dodgers runs scored; more than that, we hope you don’t bet on Cactus League games. The Dodgers had their chances to score, and their bats picked up after Juan Uribe ruined Chicago’s chance at a perfect game with a single in the third inning. That sentence may never be written again.
Here are a few takeaways:
• Yasiel Puig‘s penchant for unscripted excitement on the basepaths took a dramatic turn. Well, two dramatic turns. He almost ran through a stop sign, heading for third base on his line drive to the left-center field gap in the ninth inning, before holding up and sliding back in at Tim Wallach‘s behest. When Alfredo Amezaga grounded out to first base, Puig sprinted for third and took a wide turn around the bag. He would have been thrown out — and the game would have been over — had the tag not been bobbled. “He comes around second like a locomotive, comes around third like a locomotive … that’s what you get when we get a guy who’s playing full speed,” Don Mattingly said. “You’d rather have guys being more aggressive, then calm him down a little bit.” The Cuban outfielder may need to calm down a lot.
• Both Mattingly and catcher A.J. Ellis singled out Stephen Fife‘s performance as a standout. Fife allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, Tyler Flowers, then settled down and retired the side in the fourth inning. Ellis said that Fife’s changeup was vastly improved over last season, perhaps enough to give him a third pitch to use alongside his fastball and curve.
• A sneak peek at tomorrow: Second baseman Mark Ellis and shortstop Hanley Ramirez will switch spots in the batting order, with Ellis leading off and Ramirez hitting second. Tim Federowicz will catch. Alex Castellanos will get his first look in center field, and Luis Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier will be back in the lineup again.
• Uribe has been working with Manny Mota on squaring the ball up and hitting it to right-center, Mattingly said. That’s where his third-inning single landed Saturday.
• I’ll write more about Hanley Ramirez’s up-and-down first inning at shortstop tomorrow (he and Mattingly both drew some interesting positives and negatives from it). Here’s one tidbit that won’t fit the narrative: Ramirez said he came into camp at 217 pounds, down from 225 a year ago. He said he typically loses 5 to 7 pounds over the course of a season; maybe playing all winter gave him a small head start. Regardless, 225 seems more befitting of a third baseman and 217 better for a shortstop.
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