GLENDALE, Ariz. — Spring training games begin Sunday for the Dodgers’ minor leaguers, who have been relegated to intrasquad scrimmages and games against France to keep their competitive juices flowing.
At some point, the “baby Dodgers” will get a boost from Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm and/or Zack Greinke. That would appear to be the plan for the pitchers who aren’t starting a game in Sydney, Australia — i.e., everyone not named Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“They’ll continue to stay on schedule,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday. “We’re going to try to keep those guys regular as best as we can. That would be the plan: To keep them as steady as possible.”
There will be 10 days off between the Dodgers’ final Cactus League game Sunday against the Colorado Rockies and the first Freeway Series game against the Angels. That’s a lot of down time for a starting pitcher to fill. Mattingly said the non-Sydney starters will get their work in competitive situations, not bullpens, so the minor-league fields are the logical landing point.
The Dodgers must select 30 players who will be on the plane to Sydney no later than Sunday. That’s when the plane leaves. Twenty-five will be on the active roster by Opening Day. Of the remaining five, one will be a pitcher who starts the exhibition game against the Australian national team a week from Thursday. That pitcher will be one of three players who’s allowed to be on the team’s 25-man roster March 30 in San Diego, but who isn’t allowed to be on the 25-man roster for the two games in Australia.
An example of how that might work: Haren starts the Dodgers’ minor-league game Sunday on regular rest. He could then pitch against the Australian National team Thursday — remember, that’s a 7 p.m. game Sydney time, so it’s only 17 hours shy full rest. On March 25, he’s back in Arizona pitching a minor-league game. He could then get the Opening Day assignment against the Padres on March 30 and start the Dodgers’ home opener against the San Francisco Giants on April 4, both on regular rest.
That’s not necessarily the plan — just one way to do it. Substitute Haren with Beckett or Maholm, and you’ve got another plan. (You’ve also got six starters, with the question of whether Greinke begins the season on the 15-day disabled list, but that’s another matter.) These are the types of conversations taking place behind closed doors in camp right now.
“We’re talking about how we’re going to use the exemptions and the roster in a way that makes the most sense for those two games and also for all of us going forward,” Mattingly said. “Ned (Colletti, the GM) and his guys have spent a lot of time on it. We go back and forth. We’re just trying to figure out the combination of guys that we need really, to put our roster together for the season. Figure out those two games and starting in San Diego at the same time.”
I talked to Beckett and Maholm about the unusual schedule and what it means for their preseason preparation. More from them later.
Some bullet points for a World Plumbing Day:
• Red Patterson was reassigned to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp this morning. There are 42 players in camp (including Scott Elbert, who’s on the 60-day DL, and Erisbel Arruebarruena, who’s been in the DR for more than 60 days).
• Jeez, Drew Butera’s offensive WAR really brings down the entire catching profession.
• Greinke will start tomorrow against the Arizona Diamondbacks if he emerges from today’s morning workouts with no issues in his right calf. Greinke took part in pitcher’s fielding practice (PFP) drills at less than full speed. (It was a full-speed drill for every other pitcher.)
• Like you needed one, here’s one more reason to believe the Dodgers are leaning toward Dee Gordon as their Opening Day second baseman: They’re done trying him out in center field. “I think we’re comfortable that he has no problems going out there in an emergency-type situation,” Mattingly said Tuesday. In other words, Gordon appears to be preparing for a Mark Ellis role and less of a Skip Schumaker role.
• The New York Times used the occasion of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks series in Sydney to write about baseball, Australia, and Mark Twain.
• Yasiel Puig is on the cover of the Dodgers’ pocket calendar.
• Javy Guerra and Drew Butera could be out of the organization soon.
• ESPN.com’s Keith Law called Nick Gordon (Dee’s brother) the best middle infielder in the (2014) draft class, worthy of a top-10 pick.”
• The Dodgers are such heavy favorites this year, this story doesn’t apply to them. But it makes for a good game of Mad Libs!
• If you ever wondered what my job is like, read this. The answer is somewhere on the spectrum of each of these answers.
• Mark Prior is a front office assistant in San Diego.
• MLB Advanced Media did an online Q&A session about its new player tracking system.
• Happy 40th birthday to Bobby Abreu. He’s still trying to latch on with the Philadelphia Phillies.
• Here’s Duane Allman and Wilson Pickett covering the Beatles’ Hey Jude: