The Dodgers announced their 2014 spring training schedule Monday. The slate of preseason games begin Feb. 26, ends March 16, then takes a detour to Australia before returning to Southern California for the Freeway Series.
The Dodgers will play a total of 24 Cactus League games this spring, in addition to an exhibition game against Team Australia in Sydney, Australia on Friday, March 21, the day before Los Angeles faces the Arizona Diamondbacks in MLB’s Opening Series on March 22-23 at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground. The Dodgers play 13 games at Camelback Ranch, a facility they share with the Chicago White Sox.
The Dodgers still have eight starters in camp, and all eight remain on a starter’s plan. Even Ted Lilly.
“We’ve had some conversations with guys, but at this point everyone is working as starters,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters in Glendale this afternoon. “Anything could happen. Until Opening Day we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve talked about the possibilities of it with guys just so psychologically guys could know where it sits. We’ve tried to prepare for that as much as possible.”
That the Dodgers are in no rush to get a look at Lilly, Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang as relievers is a strong indication that a trade or two (or three) will come soon.
The spring training leader in batting average won’t begin the season in the majors. Or in Triple-A for that matter.
The Dodgers optioned Yasiel Puig, their most productive hitter since Cactus League play began, to Double-A Chattanooga, ending weeks of speculation about where the organization’s most intriguing prospect will begin his first full season outside Cuba.
Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano threw 85 pitches on a back field Monday against a team of Cleveland Indians minor leaguers. He went seven innings, allowing three hits, no runs, striking out 11 batters and hitting another with a pitch.
The performance came on the same day that the Dodgers’ coaches were expected to meet to discuss plans for the pitching staff. There’s still a surplus of three starters with one week left before opening day. Aaron Harang is listed as the starter tomorrow against the Rockies. Capuano stretched himself out today. The only one of the octet that isn’t starting a game anytime soon appears to be Ted Lilly.
Lilly, as we’ve noted repeatedly, was the first Dodgers starter to raise his hand when asked if he’d accept a bullpen role. It could be that this is the direction the team is leaning. We’ll learn more tomorrow.
Carl Crawford is playing his third straight game in left field tonight as the Dodgers visit the Kansas City Royals in Surprise.
The Dodgers didn’t want to pencil in Crawford as their Opening Day left fielder until he passed a threshhold for throwing distance, mentioned previously at 125 feet. He has passed that threshhold “and he’s still got five days of throwing,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noted Monday. That’s great news for Crawford, who underwent Tommy John surgery just last August and was initially speculated to be out until May.
That’s not great news if you were hoping to see Yasiel Puig in left field come Opening Day.
It definitely won’t be in Anaheim. Manager Don Mattingly said Saturday that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start the “Freeway Series” opener against the Angels at 7 p.m.
There’s also a 6 p.m. split-squad exhibition game that night against the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at The Epicenter. That would be the logical place for Billingsley to start, but it would cause a minor inconvenience if the Dodgers decide to put the right-hander on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised index finger when the regular season begins.
If Billingsley pitches in Rancho he wouldn’t be able to start his potential disabled list stint until March 29 because the exhibition game has a paid attendance. That’s an MLB rule. If the DL is still a possibility for him in four days, Billingsley would pitch in a game without a paid attendance, such as a simulated game at Camelback Ranch.
Billingsley wouldn’t be eligible to come off the DL until April 13 if he starts against the Quakes.
Even though he was able to pitch 4 2/3 pain-free innings Saturday, Billingsley didn’t throw a curveball because he can’t throw a curve without pain. Last year Billingsley threw curves on less than 3 percent of his pitches, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Billingsley “is going to need to have all his weapons” by the time he makes his first start of the season. Right now, that’s scheduled for April 2. If Billingsley goes on the DL, Ryu will make the start instead.
Speaking of Ryu, here are the projected Freeway Series matchups:
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.”
Dee Gordon will start at shortstop today against the Cincinnati Reds, and Carl Crawford will make his debut in left field tomorrow against the Chicago White Sox, as the Dodgers explore options for their Opening Day lineup.