Daily Distractions: How Dodger Stadium will turn into a hockey venue.

Dodger Stadium hockey game

Dodger Stadium’s transformation into a hockey venue began Monday. (Instagram)

Dodger Stadium opened its outfield gate Monday, and the transformation began.

A crew of about 200 local workers spent their day trudging on and off the field, carrying the components of a giant stage deck that was laid over the infield. Then came the plywood, then the 30-foot long aluminum pans holding enough refrigerant to cool a 2-inch thick sheet of ice to 22 degrees Farenheit.

Over the next 12 days, the transformation from baseball field to hockey venue will be complete. The Kings and Ducks are scheduled to play the first outdoor hockey game in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. as part of the NHL’s “Stadium Series,” a slate of five outdoor games this winter.

The stories of the meticulous transformation, the man behind it, and the preposterousness of playing an outdoor hockey game in Southern California, will wait for another day. NHL ice-maker Dan Craig, Kings president Luc Robitaille, and Dodgers president Stan Kasten filled in some of the smaller blanks yesterday:

• Robitaille said that 50,000 tickets have been sold, and the venue will accommodate up to 54,000 for the game. That’s 2,000 less than Dodger Stadium’s baseball capacity. So where can’t you sit? Kasten said he wasn’t aware of any sections that will be blocked off. It could be that another 2,000 seats will be added if there’s enough demand.

• There will be no seats on the field.

• In order to level the playing field (literally), Craig’s team used a laser from the bottom deck of Dodger Stadium to measure the incline of the field. The pitcher’s mound has been leveled; that’s where the penalty boxes will go. The Kings’ and Ducks’ benches will be in the shallow outfield.

• Kasten got assurance from the NHL that the rink construction won’t interfere with the ongoing renovation projects outside the bullpen areas. “We’ll just have to direct people around some of the fenced-off areas,” he said.

• Craig’s crew will not work during the day. A tarp will be covering the rink area to shield the sunshine.

Some (more) bullet points for a Ratification Day:

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers, others still waiting on first domino to fall in free-agent pitching market.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)

Tim Hudson is off the board.

So is Jason Vargas.

So when will the Dodgers jump into the free-agent fray and sign a starting pitcher?

A few days ago, I was doing an interview with a Japanese television station that was interested in gauging the level of interest and awareness about Masahiro Tanaka in the United States. Frequently, the question of how good Tanaka might perform in the U.S. was raised; as the presumed cream of the free-agent crop, I guessed that the bar is being set pretty high.

And because he is considered the cream of the crop, Tanaka has the potential to hold up the market until MLB and NPB can agree to a new posting system. In my interview I theorized that a new posting system might cause a domino effect on the entire free-agent pitching market, with Tanaka becoming the first domino to fall.

That appears to be the case now, at least for the Dodgers and several other teams that have been linked to Tanaka. The Giants and Royals must have decided internally that they weren’t going to enter the bidding war, so they moved on with Hudson and Vargas, respectively. Confirmation was buried in this story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press which mentions, among other things, that the Minnesota Twins have shown “initial interest” in signing Chris Capuano:

Bidding on Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has yet to open as Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball continue to haggle over a new posting system.

A Twins official recently called Tanaka “a key domino, from the financial to the ability.”

“For sure,” the official added, “he is a major linchpin in the pitching market.”

So while the Dodgers kick the tires on some of the second-tier free agent pitchers — Dan Haren has been reported, and there are certainly others — those pitchers might be nothing more than Plans B, C, D, E, and so on.

Some bullet points for a Lebanese Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: Finally, a major-league job for a longtime Dodgers minor-league coach.

Matt Martin

Matt Martin, right, coached in the Dodgers’ organization for six years (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Matt Martin took the long way to the major leagues.

Given the newly created title of defensive coordinator today by Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Martin has strong ties to the Dodgers organization, but is unknown to the casual major-league fan. That’s because he spent 18 years as a minor-league coach, including five years as the Dodgers’ minor-league infield coordinator (2007-11), and one year (2012) as the coordinator of Arizona instruction at Camelback Ranch and manager of the Arizona Fall League Dodgers.

De Jon Watson, the Dodgers’ vice president of player development, called Martin “an extremely hard worker” who is “really sound on infield defense.”

“Matt’s bilingual and he’s worked his tail off to be fluent in Spanish,” Watson said. “He really has a good rapport with most of the players I’ve worked with.”

Young players were Martin’s specialty. When the Dodgers moved to Camelback Ranch, “we wanted a strong entry-level teacher who can walk these guys through the daily grind, preparation, how to know the uniform,” Watson said. “It was a teaching position.”

Why did it take Martin so long to get a major-league job? Watson couldn’t say.

Gabe Kapler, who worked with Martin while in Dodgers camp in 2011, indulged his theory in a recent article for BaseballProspectus.com:

Partially because he’s different and opinionated, and because baseball is notorious for disliking both attributes. His appearance and teaching style are drastically divergent from the MLB cultural norm. In a world where conformity feels safe, Matt can come off as threatening—not in the least to players, but certainly to other staff members.

When he disagrees with you, he will let you know, no matter who you are. Sometimes without filter and often times when he shouldn’t. Sugarcoating doesn’t sit well with him. He views it as disingenuous.

“Matt will give his honest opinion, even if he stands alone,” (Dodgers manager Don) Mattingly told me.

Standing alone, it turns out, is not conducive to ladder climbing.

Mattingly also told Kapler that Martin is known for his loyalty. Watson said the same thing.

Martin parted amicably with the Dodgers to become the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league infield/Latin American field coordinator last year. Climbing the next rung on the ladder, in any business, is often about who you know, and Ausmus and Martin knew each other from Ausmus’ brief time in the Dodgers’ organization.

It’s a slow baseball news day, yes. Also a good time to flesh out the interesting back stories that don’t often get told.

Some bullet points for a Latvian Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: Nick Punto signs with the Oakland A’s.

Nick Punto

Nick Punto’s new contract will nearly double his $1.5 million salary from 2013. (Getty Images)

Nick Punto did enough in his brief time as a Dodger to remind fans why he was included in the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. And that was enough.

Punto signed with the Oakland A’s on Wednesday. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the contract pays $2.75 million in 2014 with a $2.75 million vesting option for 2015 based on time spent on the active roster, or a $250,000 buyout.

Primarily a pinch-hitter, defensive subsitute, and shortstop during Hanley Ramirez‘s multiple absences in 2013, Punto batted .255/.328/.327 as a Dodger. He appeared in six playoff games, going 2-for-6 with a double, and led the Dodgers in headfirst slides and shredded jerseys after walk-off victories. He was the team’s nominee for the annual Heart and Hustle Award.

Defensively, Punto was the Dodgers’ best shortstop, and an adequate fill-in at third base. The A’s have recently turned versatile platooners like Jed Lowrie, Eric Sogard, Brandon Moss and others into productive contributors as dictated by matchups, and are likely to do the same with Punto.

https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/400702602578374656

Some bullet points for a World Kindness Day:
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Daily Distractions: Onelki Garcia undergoes arthroscopic procedure on left elbow.

Onelki Garcia

Onelki Garcia made three appearances for the Dodgers following his first major-league call-up in September. (Getty Images)

Before Clayton Kershaw wins the National League Cy Young Award tomorrow — as close to a sure thing as there in this year’s BBWAA awards — leave it to the Dodgers to fill the week with injury news.

Left-handed reliever Onelki Garcia had arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow Friday, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. According to the team, it was “a basic clean out procedure and spur removal.” Garcia is expected to be throwing in about 5 to 6 weeks and “should be competitive” by the beginning of the regular season.

Garcia made his major-league debut with the Dodgers in September after being added to the 40-man roster from Triple-A Albuquerque. In three games, the 24-year-old from Cuba allowed two runs in 1 ⅓ innings, walking four batters and striking out one.

Matt Kemp had surgery on his left shoulder and left ankle in October, and is currently rehabbing at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

Some bullet points for a Tuesday:
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Daily Distractions: On the traveling advance scout, a species facing extinction.

Sorry for the delay here. I spent the morning critiquing my college newspaper. I tried to lift their spirits, since any of them intending to pursue journalism professionally are in danger of being crushed upon receiving their first paycheck. There’s a time and a place for everything.

That segues clumsily into my topic for today, advance scouts.

I was surprised to learn that the Dodgers had only one advance scout listed in their 2013 media guide, Wade Taylor, and he was let go last week. Many members of the front office do some advance scouting from time to time, but indeed, there’s only one major-league advance scout assigned to the task full-time, working mostly on the road.

“For the postseason, we have an army of scouts,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said. “We have two or three guys on each of the possible teams we could meet in October, in September. Regular season, there’s one principal one. Teams are going away from advance scouts, doing it via video.”

A small sampling of major-league teams affirms this trend. For convenience’s sake, let’s look at the other four National League West teams. All have exactly one advance scout listed in their media guide. Two have at least one assistant dedicated to advance scouting via video. Like the Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants deployed a similar “army” of scouts during their playoff push in September 2012.

The Dodgers aren’t expected to be adding more than one advance scout this off-season. Thanks to video, the full-time traveling advance scout is something of a dying breed, a department of one from April to August.

Maybe if his team is contending in September, the advance scout has help — a time and a place for everything.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday:
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Corey Seager among eight Dodgers listed on preliminary Arizona Fall League rosters.

Corey Seager

Dodgers prospect Corey Seager will play in the Arizona Fall League. (Associated Press photo)

Corey Seager was among eight Dodgers listed on the preliminary rosters for the Arizona Fall League, an off-season development circuit for the majors’ top prospects.

Seager, the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2012, will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs, based out of Camelback Ranch. He’ll be joined by catchers Pratt Maynard and Chris O’Brien (Rancho Cucamonga), outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Chattanooga), and four Dodgers pitchers to be named later.

Seager, 19, was promoted from low-A Great Lakes to high-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga at midseason and batted .165 with four home runs in 21 games after the promotion. With Great Lakes, the shortstop batted .309 with 12 homers in 74 games.

Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton, who was chosen the number one prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, is also on the Desert Dogs’ roster.

Jeff Smith, a coach in the Twins’ organization, will manage the squad. The AFL begins play on October 8.

Daily Distractions: The significance of 2-2.

Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers are 38-8 in their last 46 games and need to win two of their next four to join an elite group of major-league teams. (Associated Press)

In his seminal 2000 book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell identified a handful of small phenomena that predict wider epidemics. The Dodgers’ next four games could be one of those small phenomena.

If that seems a bit arbitrary, it is. Play along for a minute anyway.

On SportsIllustrated.com, Jay Jaffe tracked down the 16 major-league teams that have won at least 40 games over a 50-game stretch. Of the 16 teams, 15 reached the postseason and 13 reached the World Series. Two of the 40-win teams reached the World Series after divisional expansion in 1969: the 1998 Yankees and the 1975 Reds. (The 1977 Royals and 2001 Mariners did not.)

Now I don’t know if the 1912 New York Giants, whose 43-7 mark set the 50-game standard, could survive three rounds of playoffs and still win a World Series. I also don’t know if 50 games is the exact Tipping Point for identifying World Series-bound teams, the sample size that separates the champions from the streaky.

What I do know is that if the Dodgers go 2-2 in their next four games, they will do something achieved by only 16 other teams in major-league history — 81.3 percent of whom have gone on to reach the World Series. I like those odds.

Some links for a national left-hander’s day (which might favor Hyun-Jin Ryu tonight against Matt Harvey):
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Daily Distractions: More on Yasiel Puig, and when the media glare becomes too bright.

Yasiel Puig ESPN
We in the media wrote a lot about Yasiel Puig yesterday.

If anything, you’d figure that would dispel any misconceptions about the Dodgers’ outfielder. Such as this one:

By my count Puig did two interviews — one via sattelite on SportsCenter and another group interview in the Dodgers’ clubhouse — before yesterday’s game. He did another group interview afterward, when most of the questions were about his sore hip.

Whoever says he doesn’t talk to reporters has confused the facts; he simply doesn’t enjoy talking to reporters. “The press is something new for me,” Puig said yesterday (in Spanish, with clubhouse attendant Alex Torres interpreting), “and it’s something new and it’s difficult because sometimes they put in things that I never said.”

Puig became particularly heated with ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez before yesterday’s game. The conversation was in Spanish, and even the most fluent Spanish speaker couldn’t make out the particulars after Hanley Ramirez dialed the volume up to 11 on the salsa music playing in the clubhouse. Puig isn’t unique among professional athletes getting angry at reporters, though he’s among few whom the world’s largest cable sports outlet has (temporarily) assigned a personal reporter. And before arriving in America, he’d never had more than two reporters to deal with at a time. These days, he’s up to 20 or more.

All of this is only relevant because it’s a small part of the larger assimilation process for Puig as a major-league baseball player, a process that has taken some strange twists on and off the field.

Fact is, he’s talking to reporters. For now.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:
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Daily Distractions: Predicting the Dodgers’ plan at the draft table.

Corey Seager

Infielder Corey Seager (left, with Matt Kemp) was the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick last year. (Associated Press photo)

Aaaaand, stop. Put down your pencils.

Time to turn in your mock drafts. The real First-Year Player Draft begins with the first round sometime after 4 p.m. this afternoon and picks up tomorrow with the second round. The Dodgers hold the 18th pick.

SportsIllustrated.com broke down what each draft pick has yielded from 1990 to 2010. The 18th pick has yielded, um, not a lot:

… (R.A.) Dickey’s prominence is just further proof that this has been the worst pick among the top 25 over the last two decades. Beyond Dickey, the only No. 18 picks in the majors are Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (2007) and Mets first baseman Ike Davis (2008). Aside from Dickey and Davis, no other No. 18 pick from 1990 to 2010 has produced as much as two wins above replacement. The only No. 18 pick with a career bWAR greater than Dickey’s is Willie Wilson (CF, Royals, 1974)

The Dodgers have drafted pitchers with their first pick in seven of the last 11 years. Corey Seager, a shortstop-expected-to-be-turned-third-baseman was an exception in 2012. MLB.com thinks the Dodgers will buck the trend again and draft juco shortstop Tim Anderson. ESPN, SBNation.com and BaseballAmerica.com believe the trend will continue with (respectively) University of Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek, prep left-hander Rob Kaminsky or right-hander Hunter Harvey.

Click on those links and there seems to be a consensus of, say, five or six names that will be available to the Dodgers at 18. Remember, unlike most drafts there are no trades in baseball, so the Dodgers have no choice but to make the accursed pick. I’m told that whoever he is might be speaking to the media tonight or tomorrow.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:

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