Dodgers’ Dee Gordon has a new position (second base) and a new outlook (no pressure).

Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon went a combined 1 for 3 in the Dodgers’ two intrasquad games Sunday and Monday. (Getty Images)

If Alex Guerrero and Dee Gordon weren’t the Dodgers’ preferred candidates to man second base this year, they wouldn’t be on the 40-man roster. Sure, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, Brendan Harris and Miguel Rojas are in camp as non-roster invitees, and that’s a testament to Guerrero and Gordon’s relative inexperience at the position.

Some of the NRIs might eventually have outstanding Cactus League seasons, but Guerrero and Gordon are getting the first crack. That was confirmed Sunday and Monday, when Guerrero and Gordon played all seven innings at second base over the Dodgers’ two intrasquad games.

Each did a little something to impress. Let’s start with Gordon, who drove the second pitch he saw from Hyun-Jin Ryu on Sunday over the right-field fence.
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Daily Distractions: Some not-so-final thoughts on home plate collisions.

Brian Jordan

Home plate collisions are rare and exciting, but their elimination was a calculated risk by Major League Baseball. (Associated Press photo)

In my story for today’s newspaper about the Dodgers’ reactions to the new rule banning home-plate collisions, I focused on the micro: The thoughts in the moment, the individual experiences that gave birth to the thoughts in the moment.

Here are some big-picture figures and facts worth mentioning:

A.J. Ellis is entering his 12th season of professional baseball. He’s played 890 games and estimates that he’s been part of “a dozen or more” home-plate collisions in his career.

Tim Federowicz is entering his seventh season of professional baseball. He’s played 568 games and has been involved in two collisions.

Drew Butera is entering his 10th professional season. Six hundred ninety two games, “five or six” collisions.

In reality, the scope of Rule 7.13 banning home-plate collisions in baseball is extremely limited. The three catchers on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster have played a total of 2,150 professional games — the equivalent of 13 full seasons, and then some — and have been part of a total of 20 collisions. Let’s call it one collision every 100 games.

The plays are memorable precisely because they are rare. “In all of them,” Butera said of his collisions, “they were in close games, toward the end of the game.” Fans remember those kind of plays.

That said, the tradeoff for the league was a calculated one.

Those are the facts, and baseball isn’t hiding them. If anything, the tipping point might have been when Joe Mauer visited the Mayo Clinic following a concussion and came back a first baseman.

Still, Federowicz wasn’t convinced that he’s entirely safer because of the rule.

“Instead of being able to hit us in the chest,” he said, “they have to take out our knees. I guess we have to learn a new technique for tagging guys out.”

Remember, rule 7.13 is “experimental” for this season. If catchers are still in line for serious injuries, the league will simply change the rule.

Some bullet points for a Soviet Occupation Day:
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Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks announce lineups for Cactus League opener.

The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks have announced their lineups for Wednesday’s Cactus League opener at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. The game begins at noon Pacific (1 p.m. in Arizona) and will be televised on SportsNet LA.

Thanks to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com for snapping the Diamondbacks’ lineup.

Dodgers Diamondbacks
Chone Figgins SS A.J. Pollock CF
Carl Crawford LF Aaron Hill 2B
Yasiel Puig RF Paul Goldschmidt 1B
Juan Uribe 3B Martin Prado 3B
Joc Pederson CF Mark Trumbo LF
Scott Van Slyke 1B Miguel Montero C
Tim Federowicz C Matt Tuiasosopo DH
Alex Guerrero 2B Gerardo Parra RF
Justin Turner DH Cliff Pennington SS
(Clayton Kershaw P) (Brandon McCarthy P)

Dodgers’ second intrasquad game is in the books; pitchers take the spotlight.

Chris Reed and Dan Haren threw two shutout innings, and the Dodgers’ second spring intrasquad game in as many days ended in a 0-0 tie. Paco Rodriguez and Jamey Wright each threw one inning to complete three-inning scrimmage.

Reed allowed a line-drive single to Joc Pederson on his second pitch, then got the better of Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig to end the inning. Crawford was jammed on a four-seam fastball and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, ably turned by Dee Gordon to Chone Figgins to Adrian Gonzalez. Puig struck out swinging on a changeup. “It’s my out pitch,” the left-hander said.

In the second inning, Reed struck out Scott Van Slyke then got A.J. Ellis to fly out in shallow right field. The 23-year-old from Reseda has never pitched above Double-A, but wasn’t ready to bask in his modest achievements.

“I got a taste of it last year in split-squad games,” Reed said, “but anytime you’re out there for the first time in spring it’s big.”

Reed believes he still has some fine-tuning to achieve by the end of spring and is glad he’ll have time to do it.

Haren said the same thing.

“I felt pretty smooth in my mechanics,” Haren said. “The second inning was definitely harder, just because of the sitting down and getting up. That’s the first time I’ve done that. That was a little tough to get used to, but it was good to have that coming into the first (Cactus League) game.”

Some more notes:
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers love Australia! (Sure they do.)

Dan Haren

Clayton Kershaw (left) and Dan Haren (right) figure to be on the plane to Sydney, Australia to begin the 2014 regular season. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A scrum of reporters was gathered in one corner of the clubhouse Monday, surrounding a player with questions that had nothing do with Sydney, site of the Dodgers’ regular-season opener March 22. Once the questions and answers stopped, the player tacked on three words with a poo-eating grin: “I love Australia!”

Earlier, pitcher Dan Haren was asked about being on a short list of pitchers who might start one of the Dodgers’ season-opening games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Which answer do you want, the politically correct answer?” Haren said. “I think Stan (Kasten, the Dodgers’ president) would probably like me to give the politically correct one.”

The fallout from Zack Greinke‘s candid comments about beginning the season in Australia was ringing loud and clear in the clubhouse Monday. Greinke told ESPN.com Saturday that “I would say there is absolutely zero excitement for (the trip). There just isn’t any excitement to it. I can’t think of one reason to be excited for it.”

Haren wouldn’t go that far. He has orders not to. But he articulated a few more practical concerns about the trip Monday.

“Going over there, it’s going to be tough but we have to think of the games as real regular-season games. We have to turn the switch on,” he said. “In regards to the actual trip, it’s going to be a lot to handle, especially for the starting pitchers making the trip. But are we really complaining about flying a charter plane, staying at a hotel, all-expenses paid? I really don’t want to be complaining about it.

“That’s a lot to ask for the players, but I think everyone understands why we’re doing it. We’re trying to build the brand, I guess. We just have to welcome it I guess.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has not said who will start the two games. He’s said that five starters might be too many to bring for two games, so the top four — Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Haren — figure to be on the plane.

“We don’t really know who’s pitching or anything yet,” Haren said. “It would really stink to fly 30 hours and not pitch, I guess. I really don’t know what my role is going to be there.”

Kasten said Sunday afternoon that he had not been approached by organizers of the Australia games. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that this might change.

Haren doesn’t want to give the Australians anything more to complain about, and not because he fears a public booting.

“I’m new on the team,” Haren said. “I only have a one-year contract.”

Some bullet points for a Mexican Flag Day:
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Dodgers’ intrasquad game is in the books; Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez make some noise.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed home runs to Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez in the first inning of the Dodgers’ intrasquad game on Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez hit home runs against Hyun-Jin Ryu in the first inning of the Dodgers’ 4-inning intrasquad game Sunday at Camelback Ranch. Those accounted for all the runs in a 3-1 victory for Team Wills (drafted by Matt Kemp) over Team Koufax (drafted by Zack Greinke.)
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Venezuelan protests affecting family of Dodgers catcher J.C. Boscan.

J.C. Boscan

Catcher J.C. Boscan, a non-roster invitee in Dodgers camp, said his parents have been deeply affected by the food shortage in their native Venezuela. (Wikipedia image)


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Earlier this week, Miguel Rojas spoke at length about his concerns for his wife and family back in Venezuela. The 24-year-old minor leaguer received an invitation to the Dodgers’ major-league camp for the first time this year. While he’s trying to focus on baseball, his attention is justifiably divided by the ongoing protests in Venezuela.

Rojas isn’t alone. There were 94 Venezuelan-born players on major-league rosters last year, according to baseball-reference.com. Many more are in spring training on minor-league rosters and major-league coaching staffs, such as Detroit Tigers first base coach Omar Vizquel.

The Tigers’ Venezuelan contingent recently took to Twitter to show their support for their homeland; at least five other teams have done the same thing since. FoxSports.com spoke with a number of Venezuelan natives attending the San Francisco Giants’ camp. That’s a good read if you can spare 5-10 minutes.

Earlier today, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro reportedly blamed major-league owners for pressuring Venezuelan players to show their support. The Dodgers only have two Venezuelan natives in camp: Rojas and 34-year-old catcher J.C. Boscan, also a non-roster invitee. Neither has been pressured by Dodgers ownership to give an interview.

Boscan shared his concerns Saturday.
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Matt Kemp and Zack Greinke drafted two teams of Dodgers. How will they line up Sunday?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dodgers will play a pair of intrasquad games Sunday and Monday at Camelback Ranch, their first of spring training. Tomorrow’s game begins at 11:30 a.m. on the first back field (closest to the major-league clubhouse) and is free to the public.

The method for choosing position players was interesting.

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Dodgers finalize contract with Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena — note the spelling.

Erisbel Arruebarrena

Screenshot courtesy of uni-watch.com.

Erisbel Arruebarrena has a new spelling and a new contract.

Arruebarrena, whose name was clearly spelled differently during the 2013 World Baseball Classic (right), has finalized a five-year, $25 million contract with the Dodgers, the team announced Saturday. Terms of the contract were first reported yesterday.

That’s a large contract for a player who might not begin the season on the major-league roster, but the Dodgers did no shortage of homework.

“Bob Engle and his scouts have seen him for quite a while,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “Rick (Ragazzo) and Vance (Lovelace) saw him this past winter. He brings really excellent defense with him. We still have a few crossroads to get through as far as getting him to the States. We think he adds to our major-league club at some point this year. He can play shortstop at a high level, second base and third base as well, but we see him as a shortstop.”

Justin Sellers was designated for assignment to make room for Arruebarrena on the 40-man roster.

Arruebarrena, 23, posted a .276 batting average with 67 doubles, 25 triples, 27 homers and 171 RBI in 437 career games in six seasons for Cienfuegos in the Cuban Serie Nacional from 2007-2013. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, who is known for his defense, has appeared primarily at shortstop during his career, but has also played second base and third base professionally. With Cienfuegos during the 2012-13 season, Arruebarrena hit .293 with a .366 on-base percentage, six home runs and 32 RBI in 70 regular-season games before going 6-for-14 (.429) in six postseason contests.

“We are excited to sign Erisbel, who we’ve scouted in international competition for a long time.” said Dodger Vice President, International Scouting Bob Engle. “He brings another superb glove to our organization.”

The Cienfuegos, Cuba native was the starting shortstop for his home country in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, batting .375 with a .444 on-base percentage, four runs scored and two RBI in six games in the tournament. He also played internationally for Cuba in the 2011 Pan American Games and batted .445 (8-for-18) with three runs scored, a double and an RBI in five games.

Arruebarrena was a teammate of Dodger outfielder Yasiel Puig with Cienfuegos in 2010-11.

Dodgers pitcher Paco Rodriguez wants to see Mark Mulder pitch again.

Paco Rodriguez

Paco Rodriguez and would still like to see Mark Mulder come back. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)

The story is by now well-told. Retired pitcher Mark Mulder was at home, watching Paco Rodriguez pitching for the Dodgers late last year. He tried copying Rodriguez’s delivery and found it worked for him.

Mulder decided he would try to come back after a seven-year layoff. He worked out over the winter, tried out for a few clubs, and got a minor-league contract from the Angels.

Rodriguez’s reaction?

“My buddies texted me about it, then I saw the article,” he said. “It would’ve been a great story if he was able to come back. I helped create it, I guess. It would have been a great story.”

The story took a grisly turn when Mulder ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon on the first day of camp last week, effectively ending his season.

Is Mulder’s career over — again? Rodriguez hopes not.

“I do hope he does try to come back, to give it a shot and try to compete again,” Rodriguez said. “I saw him when he was with the A’s. Between him, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson it was impressive.”