Daily Distractions: What’s next for the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia?


The Dodgers are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I type this blog entry. (I’m in Los Angeles. My skin isn’t Arizona-level dry anymore. It feels nice.) See for yourself: FlightAware.com is tracking the Dodgers’ airplane.

They will have a workout within a few hours of their arrival in Sydney, Australia and roughly another 60 hours before they play their first game against the Australian National Team. All this is by design — specifically, a design to get the players adapted to a time zone 18 hours away. The Dodgers even consulted with NASA, which is a great story for another day.

In the meantime, the club will attend a welcome gala and take a tour of Sydney Harbor. And, ideally, sleep a lot. If any of this makes for good copy it will probably be unplanned. I’m arriving Friday, the morning after the exhibition game. If the Dodgers want to play it boring until then I won’t complain.

Here is the Diamondbacks’ traveling roster. They are bringing 31 players because one, Ryan Rowland-Smith, is an Australian native who will also play for the Australian National Team in its exhibition game Thursday against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a St. Patrick’s Day:
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Chicago Cubs 5, Dodgers 4: Another Dodgers pitcher has another nagging injury.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)


MESA, Ariz. — Josh Beckett was hoping for more out of his third Cactus League start than three innings and 44 pitches.

Because of a right thumb contusion that worsened as the game went on, Beckett was pulled Friday against the Chicago Cubs before reaching his four-inning, 65-pitch target. The veteran right-hander was already staying away from throwing curveballs, the pitch that gave him the most discomfort, before head athletic trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly decided to pull him altogether.

Beckett doesn’t think the injury is serious but said he’ll visit a doctor next week if needed.

“It’s frustrating but it could have happened at a worse time,” he said. “I think right now we’re dealing with it the best we can. If I need a couple days off, we’ll do that. I just don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The injury isn’t related to the right thumb ligament that bothered Beckett in Boston early in the 2012 season with Boston. That injury affected the inside of his right thumb; this one affects the outside, he said.

Eleven days ago, Beckett’s right thumb “got slammed on the outside of a door,” he said. “Somebody was opening the door and — you know how they have signs that say ‘in’ and ‘out’? Somebody came out the in.”

In spite of the injury, Beckett’s fastball and changeup were effective against the Cubs. He allowed one hit, an infield single by Emilio Bonifacio, walked two and struck out one in three scoreless innings.

Beckett and right-hander Zack Greinke have both been ruled out from making the trip next week to Sydney, Australia, leaving the Dodgers with four healthy starters — Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm — one week before the beginning of the regular season.

Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Dodgers to can get with on four starters until mid-April. Beckett shouldn’t need that long.

“It’s not getting worse but it’s not getting better,” he said. “I’m just going to evaluate, maybe see a doctor again next week.”

After Beckett and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks were pulled with the score tied 0-0, both offenses came awake against the bullpens. Jamey Wright (four runs allowed in the sixth inning) and Javy Guerra (walk, single, RBI groundout in the fourth) allowed all the Cubs’ runs.

The Dodgers (5-9-4) clawed back to make the game close. Miguel Rojas doubled and scored on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon in the fifth inning. Alex Guerrero hit a two-run double off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. Drew Butera hit a solo home run to center field off Alberto Cabrera in the ninth inning to provide the final score.

The box score is here.

Some more notes and observations:
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Chone Figgins, Justin Turner in Dodgers’ lineup against the Cincinnati Reds.

Tim Wallach will manage the Dodgers for a second straight day with Don Mattingly away, and two non-roster invitees are in the lineup against the Cincinnati Reds: Justin Turner and Chone Figgins.

In the next three days, the Dodgers will have to make a decision on their travel roster for Sydney, Australia. By extension, the 25-man roster will have to be mostly settled. It’s telling that Turner (at first base for the first time in a Cactus League game this spring) and Figgins (in center field) are in the lineup, and Alex Guerrero is not, with Dee Gordon starting at second base.

If the Dodgers wanted him to get at-bats in order to prepare for a fast-approaching season, Guerrero would probably be in the lineup. Instead, the not-so-early indication is that Figgins and Turner have the inside track on utility roles, Gordon is the Opening Day second baseman, and Guerrero might not be ready for major-league duty in the eyes of the organization (a view held by several evaluators I’ve spoken to before and since Guerrero arrived in camp).

There haven’t been any formal indications about any of this from within the organization, but we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Outfielder Matt Kemp was scheduled to play in a minor league intrasquad game for the second straight day at 12:30 p.m. on the back fields of Camelback Ranch. Kemp had six at-bats and played in the field for the first time yesterday in a minor league intrasquad game and ran the bases.

Minor league players suiting up today include: RHP Red Patterson (#78), LHP Fu-Te Ni (#83), RHP Juan Gonzalez (#94), C Kyle Farmer (#92), INF Darnell Sweeney (#84), INF Ozzie Martinez (#87), INF Daniel Mayora (#88), INF Jamie Romak (#90), OF Jon Garcia (#89), OF Trayvon Robinson (#91) and OF Aaron Bates (#95).

Here are both lineups for the 1 p.m. game:
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Dodgers 7, Royals 5: Minor leaguers clobber the Kansas City bullpen, Van Slyke homers, Haren pleased with results.

Scott Van Slyke

Scott Van Slyke hit a home run that cleared the 400-foot marker in center field at Surprise Stadium on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

SURPRISE, Ariz. — There’s a good reason not to take spring training statistics seriously, a reason that was on full display Tuesday at Surprise Stadium.

Louis Coleman made 27 appearances out of the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen last year. He allowed just two runs, posting a puny 0.61 earned-run average for the season. The right-hander has 117 career appearances and has only once allowed more than three runs to score in a single inning.

But in the ninth inning against the Dodgers, Coleman was pulverized by several players who have never made a major-league at-bat. Alex Guerrero hit a triple off the top of the center-field fence, roughly 400 feet from home plate. Joc Pederson walked and Noel Cuevas (surprise!) followed with a three-run home run. Aaron Bates (who has 11 career major-league at-bats) and Trayvon Robinson singled. The inning ended on a diving catch of a Mike Baxter line drive to right field.

That’s how the Dodgers (5-6-4) rallied from their second deficit of the game to beat the Kansas City Royals 7-5.

Scott Van Slyke hit a two-run home run to deep center field in the eighth inning, his second Cactus League home run. In another spring anomaly, Dodgers right-hander Javy Guerra was the winning pitcher in his worst outing of the year. He allowed two runs (one earned) in the eighth inning, as well as two hits and a walk.

Dodgers starter Dan Haren allowed seven hits, all singles. Haren issued a walk, he said, on an experimental cut fastball that missed the corner to Lorenzo Cain. It was one of 11 walks in the game.

“He’s down and still under control,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Haren. “Looks like he’s controlling the strike zone for the most part. The guy was fairly tight behind the plate, we thought, but both ways. He was consistent, but a lot of those balls were good throws that were down in the zone, just not getting them.”

Haren was pleased with the results, too.

“Last year, beginning of the year, I was haunted by the home run, just leaving too many balls up out over the plate,” he said. “Second half, I was keeping the ball down and getting results more like today — a lot of ground balls.

“It’s more of just a mindset, more of an execution thing. Making sure when I miss, I miss down in the zone like I did today. Trying to work to get ground balls and in big spots not trying to do too much. If I have to walk a guy, I walk a guy. … The split is more of a waste pitch, but last year at the end of the year, I threw any pitch in any count.”

Haren said he felt well enough to throw another inning, but is a bit more tired than usual for this point in spring. The Dodgers still haven’t decided whether or not Haren will be on the flight bound for Sydney on Sunday.

If Haren isn’t on the plane, he hopes that “maybe (I can) take an extra day or two where I can back off a little bit because I’ve pushed it hard to this point.”

The box score is here. Some more notes and observations:

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Daily Distractions: How Alex Guerrero changed the narrative at second base.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero is hitting .294 (5 for 17) in his first spring training with the Dodgers. (Associated Press photo)


GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The narrative in camp surrounding second base so far goes something like this: Alex Guerrero is a project. He didn’t play last season in Cuba, he’s still learning second base, and Triple-A might be the best place for him to get up to speed once the regular season starts. That leaves Dee Gordon as the best option on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster to be the starting second baseman Opening Day. But he hasn’t played much second base either, so Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, Brendan Harris and Miguel Rojas are all getting a long look at the position. (Buster Olney of ESPN.com picked up the Gordon vs. Figgins narrative here, while Ron Cervenka at ThinkBlueLA.com makes the case for Gordon here.)

Meanwhile, Ned Colletti ought to be working the phones, because no respectable team with a payroll in the neighborhood of $240 million ought to be entertaining notions of a platoon involving Gordon/Figgins/Turner/Harris/Rojas at second base. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com recently explored the trade possibilities. (A couple of those scenarios actually make quite a bit of sense.)

With one swing of the bat Wednesday, Guerrero changed the narrative.

His grand slam in the Dodgers’ 10-3 Cactus League victory over the Cincinnati Reds was the first extra-base hit for Guerrero in his seventh Cactus League game. That it came off a left-hander, veteran Jeff Francis, is significant. Gordon has a career .221/.267/.232 slash line against left-handed pitching, compared to .271/.316/.348 against right-handers. (Andre Ethier, by comparison: .235/.294/.351 against lefties.) The Dodgers will take that right-handed slash line from Gordon, maybe with a few walks thrown in for good measure.

The more significant development is that Guerrero, in the words of Don Mattingly, looked “more comfortable.”

“I thought in general, he just looks more fluid and smoothing out a little bit,” the manager said. “For me, early on it was really rough and stiff. It’s gotten better. With Alex, we’re just going to try to keep playing him as much as we can. We’re going to try to keep getting him at-bats.”

Is that progression typical for a player in his first spring training?

“I think it’s typical for a guy who hasn’t played in a while,” Mattingly said. “BP’s a whole lot different from games. As you get in playing every day, I think things just come back to you — more natural. As you get a little tired, you’ve been doing your work and you want things to just come out naturally. That’s what I’m looking for, to see what it’s going to look like when he gets tired taking his ground balls every day.”

If the grand slam was no fluke, and Guerrero has really settled in to the comfort level that earned him a four-year, $28 million contract, it carries an important implication. Namely, that he can be ready for the majors by Opening Day.

That doesn’t bode well for Figgins, Turner, Harris or Rojas. The sample sizes are still small and skewed, but for what it’s worth Rojas — statistically a poor Triple-A hitter in his career — has the best spring batting average of all of them at .417. None of their numbers will matter if Guerrero remains comfortable in the field and at the plate.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Dude:
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Dodgers 10, Cincinnati Reds 3: Alex Guerrero homers, Yasiel Puig leaves, Hyun-Jin Ryu goes 4. Update.

Alex Guerrero

Dodgers second baseman Alex Guerrero hit a grand slam, his first extra-base hit of spring training, on Wednesday.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Alex Guerrero’s fifth-inning grand slam gave the Dodgers the lead for good in their 10-3 win Wednesday night over the Cincinnati Reds.

Guerrero, who was 4 for 15 with four singles to begin his first major-league spring training, hit the first pitch he saw from Jeff Francis high over the left-field fence to give the Dodgers their first runs of the game.

Adrian Gonzalez also homered as the Dodgers improved to 3-4-1.

Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched four innings and allowed single runs in the first and second innings, both earned. He allowed four hits, all singles, walked two and struck out three. The left-hander said after the game that he did not throw a slider until the third inning — then used it effectively. He struck out the side in the third, including Reds slugger Joey Votto on a slider.

Ryu was originally scheduled to pitch three innings, but Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt gave him the option of pitching the fourth and coming out after 10 pitches. He got three outs — a walk, a double-play ground ball, and another groundout — before reaching his 10-pitch limit.

Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig left the game after four innings after experiencing symptoms of inflammation in his upper left back/shoulder area. He was seen grimacing at home plate during his second at-bat of the game, in the top of the fourth inning, against Francis. Puig played the bottom of the fourth inning without making a play in the field, did not bat in the top of the fifth inning, and was replaced by Mike Baxter in the bottom of the fifth. He was the first Dodgers position player to leave the game.

Puig told reporters after the game that he would be able to play tomorrow.

9:25 p.m. update: Here’s what Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said about Puig after the game:

Puig said this via the club’s official Twitter feed:

Reds starter Homer Bailey no-hit the Dodgers through three innings. Francis pitched a 1-2-3 fourth inning before allowing singles to Gonzalez and Juan Uribe — a blooper that fell between three fielders in right-center — and walking Joc Pederson. Guerrero then cleared the bases with his home run.

Tim Federowicz padded the Dodgers’ lead with a two-run double in the sixth inning and scored on an RBI single by Miguel Rojas. Minor-league call-up Aaron Bates hit an RBI double in the seventh inning. Uribe’s sacrifice fly allowed Baxter to tag up and score the Dodgers’ final run.

Jose Dominguez and Paco Rodriguez pitched scoreless relief innings. Matt Magill pitched a scoreless seventh inning and allowed a solo home run to Neftali Soto in the eighth.

The box score is here. Some more notes and observations:
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Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 3.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero went 2 for 4 as the designated hitter Thursday. (Associated Press photo)

On an afternoon in which scheduled starter Zack Greinke was pulled two batters into the game, the Dodgers got their first Cactus League victory.

Miguel Rojas broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning, scoring from second base on an RBI single by Brendan Harris. Harris smacked a line drive to right field off Marcos Mateo, a right-hander who split last season between Double-A and Triple-A. Arizona right fielder Matt Tuiasosopo made a good throw to home plate, but it was slightly up the first-base line. Catcher Blake Lalli reached back to the plate a moment too late to tag Rojas.

Alex Guerrero drove in Justin Turner with an insurance run in the eighth inning off Diamondbacks left-hander Eury De La Rosa.

Juan Uribe tied the game with a solo home run in the fourth inning off Diamondbacks right-hander R.J. Hively, who hasn’t pitched an inning above high Single-A ball in his life. It was the Dodgers’ first home run of the spring.

The Dodgers got on the board in the bottom of the second inning when Adrian Gonzalez dropped a double just inside the left-field line, then scored on an RBI single by Uribe.

Chris Withrow had the unenviable task of relieving Greinke with a 1-1 count on Cliff Pennington. The 24-year-old right-hander, who’s on the bubble for a bullpen job this spring, came in cold and had to warm up on the mound. He retired Pennington but couldn’t get out of the second inning, allowing a walk, a single and an RBI double, followed by a strikeout and an RBI groundout. Five of the nine batters Withrow faced reached base.

The box score is here.

A couple more notes:
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Daily Distractions: Alexander Guerrero’s short practice window opens now.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero said he already feels comfortable playing second base. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Different players have told me on different occasions that only pitchers and catchers need a good four weeks-plus of spring training. Hitters don’t need nearly as much time to prepare for a season — maybe a week or two, as a general rule, if they’re in shape.

There are exceptions to the rule. Alex Guerrero is one.

Guerrero only played 12 games in the Dominican Winter League because of a nagging hamstring injury. That’s simply not enough games to expect the 27-year-old to transform into the Dodgers’ Opening Day second baseman after playing shortstop his entire career. Even Superman doesn’t change capes that fast.

Guerrero will take the field today as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the first Cactus League game for both clubs. (Most other clubs begin playing games no sooner than Friday, since most clubs don’t start the season in the Southern Hemisphere.) Second base is the only Opening Day position remotely up for grabs — unless you count the starting pitcher — so it will be a primary focus on the field, starting today.

In an intrasquad game Sunday, Guerrero flawlessly charged a ground ball, picked it up on the run, and threw across his body to retire the runner at first base. He looked like a second baseman. If Guerrero looks that smooth in today’s game, it will be in large part because of the four lonely weeks he spent fielding ground balls at Camelback Ranch before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.

“I’ve practiced enough that it comes naturally to me,” Guerrero said through an interpreter. “Training’s always going to be different than the game, but I feel comfortable.”

The Dodgers have 19 days’ worth of games — 21 in all — before leaving for Australia. Guerrero said it will be “very important” for him to see game action over the next three weeks at second base. But it’s not as if he’s picking up where he left off Dec. 12, his final Dominican Winter League game.

After receiving his United States work visa and entering the country on Jan. 13, Guerrero came to Camelback Ranch and got to work.

“I feel so much more comfortable at second now … than I did in the Dominican,” he said. “I feel like it’s natural to me now.”

Some bullet points for a National Pistachio Day:
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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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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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