As season ticket sales top 30,000, a renovated Dodger Stadium braces for Opening Day impact.

Dodger Stadium renovations

Dodgers president Stan Kasten returned from the construction zone that is Dodger Stadium with a vision of the future.

“Maybe not by Thursday,” he said, “but by Friday it will get done.”

The media, whose tour of the new-look stadium is still a few days away, aren’t the only ones skeptical of this pronouncement. The renovated clubhouses are supposed to be ready by Thursday, one day before the Dodgers host their first exhibition game against the Angels, and “I’m fully planning on winning several bets I had with a number of our players who doubted us,” Kasten said.

The ambitious project included unforeseen snags and cost overruns that ran the total bill “north” of $100 million, but overall Kasten had an upbeat outlook Saturday.

“We’re happy, proud and a little surprised it did get done,” he said.

If anything should make him nervous it’s Opening Day.

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Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley encouraged by Triple-A start.

Chad BillingsleyHow good is Chad Billingsley without his curveball?

He was OK on Saturday afternoon in a Triple-A game against the Cleveland Indians at Camelback Ranch. Facing live hitters for the first time since he bruised the index finger on his right hand eight days ago, Billingsley threw 92 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, two runs, walking four and striking out seven. He threw one wild pitch and no curves.

More importantly, Billingsley reported no discomfort after the start. Can he start against the San Francisco Giants 10 days from now?

“As long as there’s no setbacks, yeah,” Billingsley said. “I’m planning to be ready.”

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Like Magic: Dodgers clubhouse comes alive by Magic Johnson’s visit

By Vincent Bonsignore

By most accounts Friday was just another day in spring training, and with the Dodgers stay in Arizona winding down next week the general feeling is guys can’t wait to pack their bags and head home.

Which made Magic Johnson’s appearance at Camelback Ranch so timely, the jolt of energy the Dodgers minority owner provided immediately evident the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse and made his way from locker to locker visiting with each player.

“He just brings life and energy to the clubhouse,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said.”He cares about how we do, and he had a lot of success in his career and he’s just trying to pass some of that information onto us. It was cool.”

Afterward Johnson conducted a Q&A with players during a team meeting that touched on everything from leadership to expectations to increased focus playing on the road.

“We got to ask a lot of questions, it was good,” Kershaw said.

The sessions was as informative for Johnson as the players, he said, and he came away confident a team leader will emerge this year from a group of six or seven candidates – including A.J. and Mark Ellis.

“I call them the Ellis brothers – and I just talked to them too about this same thing. The intensity they bring every night, they’re leaders,” Johnson said “That becomes infectious to the other guys.”

He left an impression on A.J. Ellis.

“Those are conversations that last a lifetime.” Ellis said.

Johnson also believes leadership comes in different forms, and that a low-key player like Adrian Gonzalez can lead just as effectively as a vocal player like Matt Kemp.

“Adrian can lead as a quiet guy; we don’t want anyone to change. Be who you are,” Johnson said. “We want Matt to bet that rah-rah guy, we need guys who will pick people up. Everybody has a role.”

Kemp, incidentally, challenged Johnson to a one-on-one basketball game. Magic promised him a game after the Dodgers win the World Series.

“Whenever that happens, he can have a piece of me,” Magic said.

@DailyNewsVinny

Magic Johnson: No discussions about NFL Stadium at Chavez Ravine

By Vincent Bonsignore

While admitting it was a compliment to hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell say kind things about Chavez Ravine as a potential site for a new football stadium, Dodgers minority owner Magic Johnson said nothing is happening on that front.

“Have we explored that? No.” Johnson said Friday on a Spring Training stopover in Arizona to visit the Dodgers.

And Johnson doesn’t expect anything to happen until the NFL makes a decision on the Anschutz Entertainment Group’s downtown Farmers Field project, which is cleared for construction pending a team moving there.

AEG head Phil Anschutz recently pulled his company off the sale market and has promised a re-energized effort to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles. Until that quest sorts itself out, Dodger Stadium is not a focus.

“I think the first thing (the NFL) wants to see is what’s going to happen with the downtown site,” Johnson said.

Meanwhile, the football fan in Johnson is eager for the return of the NFL to Los Angeles, having been a fan of both the Rams and Raiders during his Lakers playing days.

“All I want is football back in L.A., how about that?” Johnson said.

And it sounds like he’s rooting for Farmers Field – although the situation changes if AEG and the NFL can’t come to an agreement.

“If (you’re asking) if we want football back in L.A., we hope it’s downtown,” Johnson said. “But if they ever approach us, I’m sure that (Dodger ownership) will deal with it at that time.”

 

Dodgers: Did a door open for Dee Gordon at shortstop?

By Vincent Bonsignore

GLENDALE, Arizona – The dominos are beginning to fall in the Dodgers infield now that shortstop Hanley Ramirez will be sidelined at least two months with a thumb injury.

Initially it appeared a window opened for Dee Gordon to sneak back into the picture as the regular shortstop, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s first inclination is to slide Luis Cruz from third base to short instead.

When asked Friday if he was disappointed to hear that, Gordon just shrugged it off.

“That ain’t got nothing to do with me, that’s him,” Gordon said. “He’s the manager, I’m just here to play. Whatever he tells me to do I do. If he doesn’t tell me to go out there I don’t. If he tells me I’m part of the nine I’ll go out there and do my thing.”

Cruz, meanwhile, is open to a move back to his natural position after playing third the last two years.

“I just want to be a part of the team and to help the team,” Cruz said.

With 10 days remaining in spring training, though, things can change. And for Gordon that means there is still time to play his way into an every day job – although he steered clear of saying Ramirez’s injury opened a door for him.

“Like I’ve been telling you guys all spring, I’ve just been playing,” Gordon said. “I can’t go off what happened to Hanley, I’m just trying to make the team on my own. I’m just here to play, whatever they need me to do.”

Twitter: @DailyNewsVinny

 

Injured at the 2009 WBC, Alfredo Amezaga can relate to Dodgers teammate Hanley Ramirez.

Alfredo AmezagaThis spring marks the second go-around for Alfredo Amezaga in the Dodgers organization. You’re forgiven for not remembering the first.

Amezaga signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers in Feb. 2010, less than a year removed from major knee surgery. He didn’t play in spring training. He didn’t play in the regular season either, save for one game at Double-A Chattanooga. Amezaga spent nearly the entire season on the disabled list and became a free agent in October.

On the day the Dodgers learned that Hanley Ramirez would miss the next eight weeks with a thumb injury, it’s worth noting where Amezaga suffered the injury that caused him to miss all but 31 games in a two-year span: The 2009 World Baseball Classic.

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Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley to throw Saturday, confident he can make first regular season start.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley confirmed that he’ll pitch in a minor-league game Saturday at Camelback Ranch.

Billingsley bruised the index finger on his pitching hand six days ago in a bunting drill but came back to throw a pain-free bullpen session Wednesday. His last Cactus League start was March 7 against the Texas Rangers. His last start of any sort came in a five-inning simulated game against minor leaguers on March 13, when Billingsley threw 78 pitches.

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Dodgers lose Hanley Ramirez for eight weeks with thumb injury.

Hanley Ramirez

Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez will have surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb Friday in Los Angeles, the team announced. He is expected to miss eight weeks, which projects to May 17, the Dodgers’ 39th game of the season.

“It’s bad,” he said. “But it’s something that I can’t control. It could have happened anywhere. It could have happened here. Unfortunately it happened at the WBC. It’s very disappointing.”

Dr. Steve Shin, a sports medicine hand specialist at Kerlan Jobe, will perform the surgery. Ramirez will have his thumb immobilized for 3 weeks.

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