Sandy Koufax’s pitching lesson is still sinking in with Chris Capuano.

Sandy Koufax made his spring training debut on Sunday for the Dodgers. He got rocked for a triple.

At least, that was the lazy conclusion to draw after Hyun-Jin Ryu threw one curveball in one inning against the Chicago White Sox, and DeWayne Wise drove it for a three-bagger. Five days earlier, Koufax was teaching Ryu a new grip on the curve — deeper in the palm of his hand — and Ryu tried it. Once. It was hit for a triple.

Chris Capuano tried another Koufax-taught technique Monday against the Cubs, pitching out of the stretch starting with his legs closer together than he had in the past (see here). This didn’t seem to work on first try, either. Darnell McDonald blasted a three-run home run off Capuano, who said he wasn’t comfortable out of the stretch in his first competitive inning of the season.

“I’ve got a little bit of a different setup out of the stretch now with my feet together,” Capuano said. “I’m trying to be a little quicker to the plate, still get the same amount of stuff on it. I thought I did make some good pitches out of the stretch today. That one I threw down and in there (to McDonald) wasn’t a great pitch. I felt like I was feeling for it in the first inning, and the second inning I kind of let it go and it started coming out of my hand better.”

Blame Koufax? Not a chance, Don Mattingly said. “I’m not going to rip Koufax. That’s how you keep your life in L.A. You’ll get shot on the beach somewhere walking one morning.”

Blame a game that doesn’t count for anything, and a veteran pitcher who’s aware of it? OK. Capuano is one of eight starters vying for five spots in the Dodgers’ rotation, but that won’t stop the left-hander from experimenting in his first start of spring training.

“It’s going to help me get a little better downhill plane out of the stretch, a little better stuff on the ball, and also be consistent and quick to the plate,” Capuano said. “Last year I went back and forth between a slide step and a leg kick. I want to be consistent out of the stretch this year.”

Capuano’s line Monday: two innings, three hits, four runs (all earned), one walk, two strikeouts. That’s more likely to hurt his trade value than his chances of becoming a starter for the Dodgers this season, but in reality it shouldn’t hurt either.
If it makes him a better pitcher out of the stretch, the Dodgers — or whoever Capuano winds up pitching for this season — will tolerate crooked stats in the spring. Pitchers are usually more successful out of the windup; last year the league batted .249 with the bases empty and .262 with men on. Capuano’s splits were even more exaggerated: .243 with the bases empty and .272 with men on.
So Koufax’s heart and, now, Capuano’s legs may be in the right place. Capuano just has to put it all together.
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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.