Dodgers 5, Chicago White Sox 0.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu threw two scoreless innings in his first Cactus League start Friday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A 0-0 pitchers’ duel through six innings turned in the Dodgers’ favor on a two-run home run in the seventh inning by Joc Pederson. Pederson ripped into a 2-2 pitch from Jake Petricka, showing some impressive opposite-field power in lifting the ball high over the left-field fence.

The Dodgers tacked on three more runs in the eighth inning. Dee Gordon walked and stole second base, then scored on an RBI double by Mike Baxter. Clint Robinson followed with a two-run home run that provided the final score.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, making his first Cactus League start of 2014, did not allow a run in two innings. Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright and Matt Magill finished the game with seven shutout innings. The White Sox were limited to three hits and three walks.

The box score is here. Some more notes:
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers love Australia! (Sure they do.)

Dan Haren

Clayton Kershaw (left) and Dan Haren (right) figure to be on the plane to Sydney, Australia to begin the 2014 regular season. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A scrum of reporters was gathered in one corner of the clubhouse Monday, surrounding a player with questions that had nothing do with Sydney, site of the Dodgers’ regular-season opener March 22. Once the questions and answers stopped, the player tacked on three words with a poo-eating grin: “I love Australia!”

Earlier, pitcher Dan Haren was asked about being on a short list of pitchers who might start one of the Dodgers’ season-opening games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Which answer do you want, the politically correct answer?” Haren said. “I think Stan (Kasten, the Dodgers’ president) would probably like me to give the politically correct one.”

The fallout from Zack Greinke‘s candid comments about beginning the season in Australia was ringing loud and clear in the clubhouse Monday. Greinke told ESPN.com Saturday that “I would say there is absolutely zero excitement for (the trip). There just isn’t any excitement to it. I can’t think of one reason to be excited for it.”

Haren wouldn’t go that far. He has orders not to. But he articulated a few more practical concerns about the trip Monday.

“Going over there, it’s going to be tough but we have to think of the games as real regular-season games. We have to turn the switch on,” he said. “In regards to the actual trip, it’s going to be a lot to handle, especially for the starting pitchers making the trip. But are we really complaining about flying a charter plane, staying at a hotel, all-expenses paid? I really don’t want to be complaining about it.

“That’s a lot to ask for the players, but I think everyone understands why we’re doing it. We’re trying to build the brand, I guess. We just have to welcome it I guess.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has not said who will start the two games. He’s said that five starters might be too many to bring for two games, so the top four — Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Haren — figure to be on the plane.

“We don’t really know who’s pitching or anything yet,” Haren said. “It would really stink to fly 30 hours and not pitch, I guess. I really don’t know what my role is going to be there.”

Kasten said Sunday afternoon that he had not been approached by organizers of the Australia games. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that this might change.

Haren doesn’t want to give the Australians anything more to complain about, and not because he fears a public booting.

“I’m new on the team,” Haren said. “I only have a one-year contract.”

Some bullet points for a Mexican Flag Day:
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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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Source: Dodgers have expressed an interest in free agent Suk-Min Yoon.

The Dodgers are among several major-league teams that have expressed an interest in free-agent pitcher Suk-Min Yoon, a source told the L.A. News Group on Wednesday.

Multiple teams have recently reached out to Yoon’s agent, Scott Boras. The Baltimore Sun reported today that the Orioles are one of “several” teams that have extended an offer. It’s unknown if the Dodgers are in that group, or how competitive their offer is.

The Orioles and Texas Rangers are reportedly the front-runners for the 27-year-old right hander. Both teams have starting rotation vacancies to fill, and Yoon has told reporters that he prefers to start.

Yoon is a three-time KBO All Star and 2011 MVP who starred in the 2009 World Baseball Classic for Korea. He announced his intention to pursue a major-league contract after going 3-6 with a 4.00 earned-run average for the Kia Tigers in 2013.

Yoon missed the beginning of the year with a shoulder injury and split the season between the bullpen and the rotation. According to the Korea Times, Yoon throws a “solid” slider among four pitches. He is the consensus best pitcher in Korea, after Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the Dodgers in December 2012 and posted a strong rookie season.

With Josh Beckett expected to be healthy from the start of camp, the Dodgers appear to have a set five-man rotation already. Beckett missed most of last season with thoracic outlet syndrome. Right-hander Chad Billingsley is expected to return from Tommy John surgery as early as June and give the Dodgers six proven starters.

In addition to Yoon, the Dodgers have also had conversations with starter Bronson Arroyo.

Hyun-Jin Ryu elaborates on his weight loss.

Hyun-Jin Ryu isn’t familiar enough with American cliches to say that he’s in the best shape of his life. Truth is, he might be close.

“I’m definitely lighter, more fit than I was at this time last year,” he said, but he wouldn’t say how much he weighed. Last year, Ryu was listed at 255 pounds.

Ryu said Friday that he came into camp “underprepared.” He elaborated a bit at the Dodgers’ FanFest on Saturday, saying that contract negotiations with the Dodgers — which dragged into the final hour before the Dec. 2013 deadline — delayed his off-season training regimen.

A couple other nuggets from Ryu’s press conference Saturday:

• “Last year was the first time my breaking balls weren’t working so I’m going to work on that early this year.”

• He’s leaving for spring training later today after FanFest. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report next weekend.

• His Super Bowl pick: “The better team will win.”

Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu isn’t taking spring training lightly.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu said he started training two weeks earlier this season after feeling “underprepared” his rookie year. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)

Hyun-Jin Ryu made a lasting impression early in his first major league spring training. He finished last in a conditioning run among the Dodgers’ pitchers — by a large margin.

Friday, Ryu pledged to be better.

“I realized I was underprepared,” he said through an interpreter. “I came two weeks earlier (this year). I feel like I should be better prepared when the season starts.”

Underprepared mentally or physically? “Both,” he said, “but mostly physical.”

Ryu said he hasn’t been dieting per se. He’s listed as 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, same as a year ago. He’s been encouraged not to eat his way any higher on the scale. Ryu doesn’t think that will be a problem.

“Naturally during spring training we all lose weight,” he said.

Whatever Ryu did last year worked: In addition to a 14-8 record and 3.00 ERA, he finished the season with 192 innings pitched, first among major-league rookies. His 30 starts were second only to Clayton Kershaw on the Dodgers.

Ryu might prefer the word “durable” to “heavy,” but there’s no reason both can’t be accurate.

“As always I try to go for double-digit wins and a low ERA,” he said, “but I want to get through a full season without any injuries.”

Daily Distractions: Don Mattingly, Dodgers are reportedly close on a contract extension, and the timing makes sense.

Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti might have a more pleasant news conference in the near future than their last one. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)


If the Dodgers and Don Mattingly reach agreement on a contract extension this week, the timing actually makes sense.

According to multiple reports Monday morning, the two sides are finally close to a contract that would keep Mattingly on the bench beyond this year. (His contract is set to expire at the season’s end.) It just so happens that Mattingly is in town for the Dodgers’ annual prospect camp. When he isn’t in town, Mattingly is more likely to be found on a farm in Indiana, or a college basketball game.

He mentioned all the way back in November that the Dodgers had begun talks on an extension, and that there was “no rush” to complete the deal. Two months later, with Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti talking to the prospects, this seems like a logical time for the two to wrap up their own discussions.

As we mentioned last week, Mattingly’s status was going to be a burning question unless an extension was completed before spring training. That it’s taken this long to complete could simply be a reflection of Mattingly’s preference as he went about his usual off-season routine. It could also be a reflection of the complicated nature of manager’s contracts, which are not as uniform as player contracts.

Either way, this appears to be one storyline we can put to bed soon.

Lots of bullet points today:

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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers are the new Lakers.

A couple weeks ago, I received an official voter’s ballot for a trivial contest. There were 10 slots to fill.

And no, I’m not talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This was the annual Los Angeles News Group Top 10 Sports Stories of the Year ballot. All the stories we considered involved people and teams who hailed from, or competed in, the greater Los Angeles/Orange County/Inland Empire area. The number-one story on my ballot didn’t involve an athlete, let alone anyone connected to baseball. It was about Jerry Buss, whose death in February took up four of five columns on the front page of that day’s Daily News:

I was surprised to see my colleagues disagreed. The Dodgers’ tumultuous “return to glory” captured their hearts. The sample size of our staff writers may be smallish, but what do I know? L.A. likes a winner.

Then we chose Yasiel Puig as the Los Angeles Sports Person of the Year.

Then Ken Gurnick of MLB.com broke down the Dodgers’ season in 874 words and it didn’t seem like enough.

Then Puig was arrested. (Again.)

Then David Vassegh of KLAC (570-AM) tweeted this:

And suddenly, the Dodgers had become the Lakers.

Debate it all you want, but it seems the tides of buzz and drama and relevance have turned in the Dodgers’ favor. If there’s room for two teams in the public consciousness — as Magic Johnson said roughly one year ago — the Lakers aren’t taking advantage of it right now. The Dodgers are.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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Daily Distractions: The market has been set for J.P. Howell, but will the Dodgers go along?

J.P. Howell

Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell went 4-1 with a 2.18 earned-run average in 67 games for the Dodgers in 2013. (Getty Images)

For a left-handed set-up man like J.P. Howell the market has pretty much been set. Right?

Javier Lopez got three years and $13 million from the San Francisco Giants.

On Friday, Boone Logan got three years and $16.5 million from the Colorado Rockies.

Howell was just a nudge better than those two in 2013 while doing essentially the same task, retiring left-handed batters in close games before the ninth inning. He’s 30; Logan is 29 and Lopez is 36. If the market trend continues, Howell can probably make a good case to earn a little more money than Logan. Say, three years and $18 million.

The Dodgers don’t necessarily see it that way.

They have one left-handed specialist in Paco Rodriguez. Another, Scott Elbert, could be ready to join the team at midseason. Right-hander Carlos Marmol has had good historical success against lefties as well, though the Dodgers haven’t had much communication with him since the off-season began.

Would they like Howell back? Sure. They’ve been more talkative with Howell’s camp than perhaps any left-handed reliever to this point. But general manager Ned Colletti suggested Saturday he isn’t as desperate for help in that area as the Giants and Rockies were when they signed Lopez and Logan, respectively.

“You have to make the right decisions despite sometimes what other teams were doing,” Colletti said, speaking generally about the market for left-handed relievers. “Some teams do it because they don’t have anybody else. It’s something done out of desperation. I get that. We’ve had to do it too from time to time. But (Howell) is another guy we’ve had a lot of conversations with. We’re still trying to get him signed.

“Whether we do or not, we’ll always figure it out. We might not figure it out on Dec. 14.”

After reportedly signing Juan Uribe on Saturday, bolstering the bullpen is Colletti’s top task. The market seems to be pointing in one direction for Howell, but the Dodgers might ultimately decide to go a different direction.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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Daily Distractions: What the absence of a new Posting System means for Masahiro Tanaka, Dodgers.

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)


The Associated Press reported this morning that Major League Baseball is withdrawing its proposal for a new bidding system with Japan.

What does that hold for Masahiro Tanaka, Japan’s best pitcher? Without agreement on a new bidding system, Japanese players would not be able to sign with MLB until they had nine years of service time and could become free agents. Tanaka has seven years of service time in NPB, Japan’s top league. You do the math.

Imagine for a moment that the best available free-agent pitcher is now off the market. Every other pitcher at the top of the free agent crop — Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, etc. — now jumps up a spot on teams’ wish lists. And those teams still have all their money to spend.

That figures to help a pitcher like David Price, who is not a free agent, but whom many expect the Tampa Bay Rays to dangle as trade bait. Perhaps Price’s price just rose too.

The New York Post reported today that a complete elimination of the posting system is now possible, which might ground Tanaka in Japan for another two years. It’s not clear what will happen to the proposal MLB just withdrew, which the Post described as “a moderate tweak of the old system: The team with the highest bid on a posted player would still win exclusive negotiating rights with that player, but the amount of the bid would be an average of the top two bids. … Furthermore, a team would be fined if it failed to sign the player after securing the negotiating rights.”

FanGraphs.com speculated that if this system were ratified, “the player won’t gain any leverage in order to get a better contract for himself, or play in a different city. But! If the posting fees actually do go down, the player should get a bigger slice of the pie.” The team with the highest bid still won.

Now? Even is if no agreement is reached this winter, the Dodgers’ odds of signing Tanaka might decrease. Their team payroll is expected to exceed baseball’s luxury-tax threshhold again in 2014, which means the Dodgers will be taxed 30 percent on every dollar spent on player salaries above $189 million. The tax rises to 40 percent if the Dodgers exceed the threshhold in 2015, and 50 percent in 2016. Team president Stan Kasten has said repeatedly that he doesn’t intend to pay these luxury taxes indefinitely, and that 50 percent tax-rate could be where the Dodgers decide to draw the line.

According to Cots, the Dodgers are already on the hook for $122 million for SEVEN players in 2016, and that doesn’t include a possible extension for Clayton Kershaw.

So assuming Tanaka’s health and effectiveness hold steady for two more years, would the Dodgers be restricted in their willingness to spend on Tanaka in the winter of 2015-16? Under the old system — and, presumably, under Monday’s proposal — posting fees don’t count toward a team’s luxury tax. But at least one small-market club reported by the Post, the Pittsburgh Pirates, would like to see that changed.

There are some variables in this equation that definitely work against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Colombian Woman:
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