Dodgers executive De Jon Watson, Matt Kemp’s agent, among Arizona GM candidates.

De Jon Watson, the Dodgers’ director of player development, and former Dodgers pitcher Dave Stewart are on the initial list of nine candidates for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ general manager vacancy.

The Diamondbacks reassigned Kevin Towers on Friday, before the Dodgers swept the three-game series with Arizona.

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Dodgers demote slumping Yasiel Puig to seventh in the batting order.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig hasn’t hit a home run since July 31 and is batting .211 since. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)


One day after Yasiel Puig was given a day off to recover from a stomach ailment that required IV treatments, the All-Star outfielder found himself hitting seventh Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It’s the second time this week that Puig has been dropped to the lowest spot in the batting order in his career. Monday against the Washington Nationals, Puig batted sixth for the first time.

Puig owns a .211/.301/.239 slash line since August 1. He hasn’t hit a home run during the 29 games since.

Puig is playing right field, while Andre Ethier is batting fifth and starting in center field for the first time since August 29. Ethier has a .259/.300/.333 slash line in 30 plate appearances against Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:

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Diamondbacks relieve Kevin Towers of general manager duties.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are looking for a new general manager after informing Kevin Towers that he’s been removed from the role. The Diamondbacks visit Dodger Stadium for a three-game series beginning today.

Towers hasn’t been fired per se, as was initially reported. Rather, the Diamondbacks said that Towers has been offered another position within the organization, and is considering the opportunity. In a prepared statement, Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa says that Towers “would like to see who the general manager is before making his own decision.”

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers never completed a trade during Towers’ tenure in Arizona, which began in September 2010. The Diamondbacks have posted a 320-317 record since.

Last October, when asked about the Dodgers’ celebration in the Diamondbacks’ pool after a September 2013 game, Towers told a Phoenix radio station that “if I would have had a carton of baseballs I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.”

It sounds like the Dodgers won’t have to worry about that anymore. (Phew.)

That brings the total of general manager changes in the National League West this year to two. The San Diego Padres replaced Josh Byrnes with A.J. Preller earlier this season. Byrnes never made a trade with the Dodgers, either, which isn’t unusual considering it happens once every 15 years on average.

Daily Distractions: Dodgers don’t make good rangers, among other problems in the field.

Hanley Ramirez

Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez committed one of two Dodger errors in a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford wasn’t sure he could get to Carlos Ruiz‘s fly ball in the 10th inning Tuesday. There are two problems with this.

One, Crawford was able to get to the ball. (Check out the clip.) Ultimately he failed to recognize this and call off his shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.

Two, the reason Crawford didn’t know that he could get to the ball is because he has poor range for a left fielder. He basically admitted it afterwards, saying, “I didn’t think it was clearly my ball. That’s a long run for me.”

So if we’re really going to analyze the fielding woes that doomed the Dodgers in their 3-2 loss to Philadelphia last night, it’s not as simple as logging the number of errors (for the record, they have made errors in five straight games, a total of eight in that span). The best defensive metrics are never that simple.

What do the complicated metrics say?

FanGraphs’ Range Runs statistic measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, as determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. Range Runs says that the Dodgers have four above-average fielders at their positions (among regulars): Yasiel Puig in right field (+2.3 runs), Juan Uribe at third (+2.2), Andre Ethier in center (+1.4) and even Crawford in left — albeit barely (+0.3).

Ethier has been below average this season when he shifts to right field (-0.5), as is Dee Gordon at second base (-0.2), Adrian Gonzalez at first base (-0.6), Hanley Ramirez at shortstop (-0.8) and Matt Kemp in center, by quite a bit (-2.0).

Translating that 2 into layman’s terms: The average center fielder has enough range to prevent two more runs from scoring than Kemp, and we’re less than a month into the season. That might be fine, except that Ethier and Crawford don’t offer much range in left and right, respectively. With Kemp in center, no wonder Puig acts like the only fielder capable of overcoming the limited range of literally every player around him — he is.

Maybe that’s why Kemp feels compelled to call off Puig on fly balls hit within 10 feet of him, which he did at one point Monday night.

A team’s fielding percentage tends to fluctuate with mistakes, like the occasional poor throw. Even Mark Ellis makes an occasional poor throw. Puig, for what it’s worth, hasn’t been charged with an error this season.

Range, however, is more fixed. So long as the body parts responsible for running are healthy — Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez, Gonzalez and Gordon fall in this category — it’s unfair to expect significant improvement in their range. If anything, ordinary wear and tear might restrict their range further as the season goes on.

So it’s fairly safe to say the Dodgers have a range problem. Monday, Crawford complicated things by underestimating even his own range and not calling off Ramirez on a ball that should have been his.

It was a tough play to watch, and there will probably be more of those in the future.

Some bullet points for a Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day:
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Dodgers, Diamondbacks announce Opening Day rosters and lineups.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues Friday to get the Dodgers to 25 men on their Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

SYDNEY — Greetings from tomorrow.
The Dodgers, as expected, trimmed their roster to 25 this afternoon. Outfielder Joc Pederson, pitcher Zach Lee and infielder Miguel Rojas were reassigned to the minor leagues. Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Brandon League were given roster exemptions and begin the season as “inactive.” Carl Crawford was placed on paternity leave. Pitchers Chad Billingsley (right elbow surgery) and Josh Beckett (right thumb contusion) and outfielder Matt Kemp (ankle surgery) on were placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday.

Not as expected: Catcher Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues. Federowicz was on a short list of players with contract options, so even though he spent all of 2013 as the backup to A.J. Ellis, Federowicz won’t be active for the first two games of the season. Drew Butera will back up Ellis.

First pitch is at 1:47 a.m. Pacific Time — not 1, or 1:30, as previously reported here. There is a chance of rain in the forecast and, fortunately, sliding glass windows in the press box.

Game 2 pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will be speaking at a press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground shortly, followed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. If you’re not following me on Twitter or Tout, hop on it and you’ll get game updates throughout the middle of the night.

Or you can just wake up in the morning like a normal person, come back to this blog and catch up on what you missed.

Here is the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, by position:
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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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Dodgers’ Sydney shuffle: Dan Haren and Carl Crawford out; Paul Maholm, Drew Butera in.


With roughly 24 hours left to choose which 30 players will be on a flight bound for Sydney, Australia, Don Mattingly said he’s “99 percent” certain on how to set the Dodgers’ travel roster.

Carl Crawford is out. His fiancee, television personality Evelyn Lozada, is due to give birth soon. MLB rules allow the Dodgers to place Crawford on the paternity leave list, which provides between one and three days for a player to attend to the birth of his child. Crawford could be re-activated for the Dodgers’ series against the San Diego Padres beginning March 30.

Mattingly said that who plays left field in the two games will depend on who’s pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott Van Slyke is the favorite to play against left-hander Patrick Corbin, the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter. Since scheduled Game 2 starter Trevor Cahill is day-to-day with a knee injury, Mattingly wouldn’t venture to guess who starts in left field beyond Opening Day.

On the pitching front, Mattingly said that Dan Haren will not make the trip and Paul Maholm will. That still depends on the health of Clayton Kershaw, who starts against the Chicago White Sox tonight, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who starts tomorrow against the Colorado Rockies. So long as both Kershaw and Ryu are healthy, Maholm is the favorite to start the Dodgers’ exhibition game against the Australian National Team next Thursday in Sydney.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks get three “exempt” roster spots for players who will not play in Sydney, and then can be activated for their first regular-season game in North America March 30 in San Diego. Haren is one of the three as of now. Maholm could be another, then start the game against the Australian National Team, so long as Kershaw and Ryu are healthy.

How certain is all of this?

“We’ve pretty much decided,” Mattingly said. “Nothing’s been in stone for us just because of what could happen. Everybody that we feel like’s going to go for the most part, 99 percent, kind of knows that’s where we’re leaning at this point without any last-second stuff. The guys that we think are going to pitch over there know as of now.”

Mattingly added that three catchers will make the trip. A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz have been locks since camp began. Drew Butera is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster and seems like the favorite for the third job.

Dodgers’ Zack Greinke throws two innings, ‘still a ways to go’ before he’s ready for a real game.

Zack GreinkeZack Greinke‘s right calf is not at full strength and his arm is in its typical early-spring shape. That is, poor.

His honesty is in midseason form, and the 30-year-old pitcher reserved the most brutal of his honesty Wednesday for simulated games. He doesn’t like them.

“Those are awful,” Greinke said. “It’s not the same. You make a mistake, they miss those. You make a mistake in the game, they hit those harder.”
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