Pregame notes: Which Dodgers are on the plane, plus lineups for the Cactus League closer.

Brandon League

Associated Press photo


GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dodgers have about 12 hours before their plane departs for Sydney, Australia and their 30-man travel roster is mostly set. Here’s the latest on a few players who were on the bubble going into today’s final Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch.

Still in limbo:

Brandon League. “The biggest thing for us with Brandon is it’s the best thing for him to pitch over on that (minor-league) side,” manager Don Mattingly said, but he wouldn’t confirm that League is staying behind. Sounds like League is an insurance policy in case any pitchers (particularly right-handed relievers) sustain an injury today.

On the plane:

Chone Figgins. The Dodgers haven’t made a formal decision about Figgins, who is not on the 40-man roster and has hit poorly in camp. “We feel like his bat’s been OK. He hasn’t necessarily had that many hits but he’s gotten some walks to and had the kind of at-bats we like,” Mattingly said. “We feel the at-bats will get better and better. Not playing a year, he’s getting back to that.”

Justin Turner and Mike Baxter. Their numbers (Turner is batting .333/.432/.467, Baxter .286/.316/.343) and versatility left little doubt that they would make the trip. I thought I’d throw them on the list in case there was any confusion.

Chris Withrow. He wasn’t really in danger of being left off the plane either, despite walking seven batters and allowing four runs in five Cactus League appearances. Withrow’s value as a right-handed set-up man goes up if League finds himself working minor-league games the next 10 days. Since he has two options left on his contract, the Dodgers could have optioned Withrow to their minor-league camp. They might still do that after they land in Sydney, but by bringing Withrow the Dodgers have some additional bullpen flexibility for their first two games.

Not on the plane:

Carl Crawford. His fiancee didn’t give birth last night, so Crawford will not be on the plane. Mattingly said that the team will be able to place Crawford on the paternity leave list, so the Dodgers won’t have to burn a 25-man roster spot, or one of their three “exempt” roster spots, while Crawford plays minor-league games in Phoenix.

Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett. We knew that already. Mattingly talked about the plan for Kemp this morning; he and Crawford will form a mini minor-league Murderer’s Row while their teammates play overseas. Greinke, Haren and Beckett will pitch some minor-league games in Arizona too.

Miguel Olivo. The catcher confirmed an MLB.com report that he asked for his release yesterday after being told that he won’t make the Sydney trip. The Dodgers had three healthy catchers on their 40-man roster in A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera. They’re apparently comfortable with that trio, even if one of them gets injured in the final Cactus League game today. Ellis is starting and all four catchers in camp — including Olivo — are listed on the active roster for the 1 p.m. game against the Colorado Rockies.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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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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Zach Lee, Dodgers square off against Texas Rangers.

The Dodgers have a chance to achieve a rare feat by hitting a grand slam in their third straight game today when the Texas Rangers visit Camelback Ranch.

Alex Guerrero hit one against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night. Scott Van Slyke hit a grand slam in Thursday’s 4-4 tie against the Angels.

Starter Zach Lee will be limited to about 30 pitches, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. Hopefully that gets him through at least one inning. If not, at least the Dodgers have plenty of reinforcements lined up in the bullpen.

Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, Chris Perez and Brandon League are all scheduled to throw. Tom Windle, the Dodgers’ second-round pick in the 2013 draft, is also in uniform along with fellow minor-league call-up Fu-Te Ni.

Windle (like 2013 first-round pick Chris Anderson yesterday) will be facing live opponents for the first time. The Dodgers minor-leaguers had an exhibition game against France. Otherwise, they have only seen live batters in batting practice and intrasquad contests.

Before the game, Mattingly said that Zack Greinke is scheduled to face live hitters tomorrow, likely on a minor-league field.

Chone Figgins will play right field, his seventh position of the Cactus League season.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for highly touted Rangers prospect Rougned Odor. He’s in uniform for the game (#73).

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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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’ 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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Daily Distractions: Which non-roster invitees have a chance at making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster?

Clint Robinson

Who is non-roster invitee Clint Robinson, and does he have a chance of making the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster? (Answer: Not really) (Getty Images)

With the addition of Justin Turner on Wednesday, the Dodgers have extended spring training invitations to 17 non-roster players:

Infielders: Turner, Chone Figgins, Miguel Rojas, Brendan Harris, Clint Robinson
Outfielder: Joc Pederson
Catchers: JC Boscan, Griff Erickson, Chris O’Brien, Miguel Olivo
Pitchers: Sam Demel, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, Daniel Moskos, Red Patterson, Chris Reed, Ross Stripling

Two years ago, Jamey Wright made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster out of camp as an NRI. Last year, no non-roster invitees made the roster — though you figure Kevin Gregg was close. The Dodgers’ surplus of starting pitchers squeezed Gregg out of a job in Los Angeles, and he eventually became the Chicago Cubs’ closer.

So recent history says that the 17 NRIs are competing for one job at most. Not all have a realistic chance of making the team. In most cases, injuries will dictate the winner of the logjam. That’s particularly true for Pederson, the catchers and the pitchers.

The Dodgers are carrying four outfielders (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig) with large guaranteed contracts. The fifth is Scott Van Slyke, who has value as a corner outfielder/first baseman with power off the bench. Pederson, who turns 22 on April 21, can turn heads in camp if his .912 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League was no fluke, but that might be all he can do. There’s no job for him without another significant injury hitting the outfield — and remember that Kemp still isn’t running on his surgically repaired ankle.

Among the catchers, all A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz need to do to reprise their 2013 Opening Day jobs is stay healthy. Olivo, who’s played in more than 1,100 major-league games since 2002, knew that when he signed with the Dodgers on Jan. 17. He’ll try to push Drew Butera for the primary catcher’s job at Triple-A Albuquerque.

The pitching staff is also surprisingly stacked with veterans who are difficult to displace. Lee, Stripling, Reed, Patterson and Frias are competing to make an impression and learn the ropes in their first camp, not land an Opening Day job. Demel and Moskos have major-league experience but are slotted for roles in the Albuquerque bullpen and rotation, respectively.

So that leaves us with the infielders. Second base is an open competition until Alex Guerrero learns the position defensively. Until we see him in camp, it’ll be hard to pin down Guerrero’s learning curve. Other than starting third baseman Juan Uribe, and light-hitting utilityman Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon is the only player on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster with experience at second base. He only learned the position last year. There’s a reasonably wide opening here.

Rojas will go as far as his bat will take him – historically, he’s struggled to hit at the Triple-A level.

The same goes for Figgins, whose 68 OPS+ the last three seasons isn’t enough to justify a 40-man roster spot. Figgins will have to prove in camp that his bat speed at age 36 is as major-league ready as his foot speed and defensive versatility — he’s played 647 career games at third base, 274 at second and 27 at shortstop. No other player in camp is quite as versatile, and the longtime leadoff hitter will help his cause if he can steal a base.

In some ways, the 33-year-old Harris is a slower version of Figgins. He’s able to play third base, shortstop and second base, and carries a light bat (.695 career OPS).

Robinson is a 28-year-old first baseman whose career consists of 3,337 at-bats in the minors and four in the majors. With at least two first basemen ahead of him on the depth chart in camp, Robinson’s chances of getting a major league at-bat this season range from slim to none.

Turner is an above-average fielding second baseman and has been for parts of five major-league seasons. What really makes him stand out in this group is his track record at the plate. Turner is the definition of an average hitter, as a 100 OPS+ and 0.9 oWAR last season attest. Baseball-reference.com’s version of oWAR rated Turner a 1.6 in 2011, his only full major-league season.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti have agreed that second base can be a defensive position in 2014. But if they want to give the second-base job on Opening Day to an above-average fielder and an average hitter, Turner might be the only man in camp who fits that description.

Some bullet points for a Ronald Reagan Day:
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Dodgers sign Justin Turner to a minor-league contract.

Justin Turner Dodgers

Long Beach native Justin Turner batted .280/.319/.385 in a utility role last season for the New York Mets. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers added to their weakest area Wednesday by signing infielder Justin Turner to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Turner, 29, batted .280 with two home runs and 16 RBIs in 86 games with the Mets last season. He appeared in games at all four infield positions and one in left field.

The former Mayfair High and Cal State Fullerton standout has a .260 batting average with eight homers and 89 RBIs in 318 games over five seasons.

Turner figures to compete with Dee Gordon and non-roster invitees Chone Figgins, Brendan Harris and Miguel Rojas for backup roles. If Alex Guerrero fails to impress in his first major-league spring training, all four players could vie for the Opening Day second baseman job.

The Dodgers’ infield depth plummeted when Mark Ellis, Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto signed elsewhere in the offseason and Jerry Hairston Jr. retired.

Daily Distractions: Dodgers president Stan Kasten named ‘Sports Executive of the Year.’

Stan Kasten

Stan Kasten was named the 2013 Sports Executive of the Year by the Los Angeles Sports Council (Getty Images)


Stan Kasten didn’t take long to make a name for himself in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers president hasn’t been on the job for two years, but on Tuesday he was named the 2013 Sports Executive of the Year by the Los Angeles Sports Council. Kasten will be honored during the 9th Annual LA Sports Awards, March 5 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The awards dinner and gala, emceed by comedian Bill Engvall, will be televised on Prime Ticket on March 14 at 9:30 p.m., with multiple airings to follow. The ceremony also will feature the presentation of the Sportsman, Sportswoman, and Coach of the Year Awards.

Under Guggenheim Baseball Management, an ownership group including Kasten, chairman Mark Walter and Magic Johnson, the Dodgers led all major-league teams in home and road attendance last season. The Dodgers capped season-ticket sales at 32,000 last year and are currently deciding where to cap that number this year.

Guggenheim’s greatest feat: Negotiating an $8 billion television contract with Time Warner Cable that kicks in this year. The network co-owned by the Dodgers and TWC, SportsNet LA, is set to launch on Feb. 25.

Previous Sports Executive of the Year honorees are: Tim Leiweke, AEG (2012); Arte Moreno, Angels (2011); Tim Leiweke, AEG (2010); Jerry Buss, Lakers (2009); Mitch Kupchak, Lakers (2008); Brian Burke, Ducks (2007); Ned Colletti, Dodgers/Brian Burke, Ducks (2006); and Arte Moreno, Angels (2005).

Some bullet points for a Data Protection Day:
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Dodgers sign Chone Figgins to a minor-league contract.

The Dodgers have signed veteran utilityman Chone Figgins to a minor-league contract, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

Figgins, who turns 36 today, did not play last season after being released by the Miami Marlins in spring training.

At his peak with the Angels in the mid-2000s, Figgins was an on-base machine capable of stealing a base and playing six positions — all except first base, pitcher or catcher.

He quickly wore out his welcome after signing a lucrative free agent contract in 2009. In four seasons he batted .227/.302/.283 before being released with one year left on his contract.