Outside of the news that Matt Kemp will be in center field for the first time this spring, the most interesting tidbits out of the Dodgers’ camp this morning regarded the starting rotation.
Tim Lincecum and Josh Beckett will pitch their first Cactus League games today when the Dodgers play the Giants at Camelback Ranch. Dodger pitchers Brandon League, Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell will also make their debuts in relief of Beckett.
The Giants are 1-1-1, having tied the Chicago White Sox 9-9 last night.
Update: Luis Cruz was a late lineup scratch with a stomach flu.
Some links for a Tuesday morning:
In a typical off-season, Aaron Harang said he’ll wait until mid-November to train for the upcoming season. After last season, he moved the plan up a month.
“This year I just decided to take some time to let my body recover — I didn’t go crazy. I did a lot of circuit-based training so it’s not as hard on the body.”
In circuit training, the participant moves from station to station, exercise to exercise, in a rapid fashion.
“I focused on trying to increase my strength from what I had in the past,” Harang said.
His training, combined with a new diet, allowed Harang to come into camp looking slimmer than he finished last season. He wouldn’t say how much weight he lost, but 10 pounds would be a conservative estimate.
When the Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday, they present a puzzling situation that only time can solve. Chad Billingsley hopes time can heal the torn ligament in his elbow, not season-ending Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly hopes he can pitch like a legitimate fifth starter, having not pitched in the majors since last May because of injuries. He, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang may have to hope that Colletti can find a desirable destination for their talents outside of L.A.
If healthy, it’s hard to imagine this group staying together. Otherwise, the Dodgers are left with the first eight-man rotation in major-league history, and wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome to what promises to be an interesting camp.
The United States roster for the World Baseball Classic was announced today. Have a look:
Obviously there are no Dodgers on the roster, but that could change. Think of this roster as a rough draft; teams must submit their final roster on Feb. 20, and all non-WBC players must report to spring training by then.
“Rough” is also a good way of describing the United States’ preliminary starting rotation. Beyond veterans R.A. Dickey and Ryan Vogelsong, who were both excellent in 2012 (and rarely so before 2010), Team USA would have to roll out Derek Holland and Kris Medlen if the tournament started today. Fortunately it doesn’t start today. It starts with three games in three days March 8, 9 and 10 – and possibly a fourth game on March 12 if they can place first or second in a four-team pool that includes Canada, Mexico and Italy. Can Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke sneak in one start? What about Justin Verlander, David Price, Jered Weaver or Matt Cain? Seems like the star power is falling short.
Some links, *some* of which actually relate to baseball …
Joe Blanton will start for the Dodgers if they can force a game 163 on Thursday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manager Don Mattingly made the announcement prior to Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.
“If we get to that game, we’re going to be feeling really good,” Mattingly said. “Joe’s been throwing the ball good. Joe’s pitched in the World Series. We’re going to have the freshest arm.”
A lot would have to go right for that to happen — the Dodgers must beat the San Francisco Giants today and tomorrow, while the Cincinnati Reds must beat the St. Louis Cardinals tonight and tomorrow. If the Dodgers win that game, they will have to turn around and fly to Atlanta for the wild-card game, which factored into Mattingly’s decision not to pitch Josh Beckett on three days’ rest.
Ned Colletti was in a chatty mood Friday.
Did he sound dour? No. Philosophical? Yes.
So much so that it was easy to miss this nugget of wisdom, which the general manager dropped when he was asked if the Dodgers’ 5-12 stretch since Aug. 26 has caught him by surprise: “I try not to ever be surprised,” he said, “because I accept every day for what it brings.”
It’s easy to see where he’s coming from. One day, your cleanup hitter is James Loney. Next it’s Adrian Gonzalez. One day, you’re working for Frank McCourt. The next day, it’s Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson.
If recent history is any indication, Josh Beckett could be in trouble today when he makes his Dodgers debut in Colorado.
Five times this season, Beckett has pitched on six or more days rest. In those starts, he is 1-2 with a 10.13 earned-run average. He’ll hope to buck that trend on seven days’ rest today. Beckett was scheduled to face the Kansas City Royals on Saturday before he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers.
The veteran right-hander pitched better on extra rest before this season (20-13 with a 3.19 ERA, well below his career ERA of 3.93), and Beckett offered some nuance to the numbers on Sunday morning.
Conventional baseball wisdom holds that pitching takes on greater importance in the playoffs than the regular season, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has lived it.
When he was the New York Yankees’ batting coach from 2004-07, he recalled, “(Robinson) Cano was hitting ninth. It was dangerous. But those clubs didn’t win.”
Mattingly believes the reason was simple.
“We didn’t pitch enough,” he said. “Playoffs are a whole different animal. Short series are always tough, even a seven-game.”
Assuming the Dodgers qualify, who will begin the playoffs in the starting rotation? Mattingly ducked the question for a second straight day Sunday and he can for the moment, with only five healthy starters on the active roster. He won’t be able to if/when Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are all healthy.
This could be the manager’s biggest decision all season, if not in his brief career.
When Adrian Gonzalez hit the second pitch he saw in a Dodger uniform for a three-run home run Saturday, it culminated general manager Ned Colletti’s season-long pursuit of the Boston Red Sox first baseman.
“I talked to [Red Sox general manager] Ben Cherington back in April about Adrian,” Colletti said. “As the talks went on, they were sporadic. We talked about other players. At the [July 31 non-waiver trade] deadline, they weren’t prepared to do anything. The more scouts talk, you get a feel for where the match may be – you get a feel for what players in your system they would like. … You don’t get the crystal clear picture of it, but you get an idea where their interest lies. We just kept turning, kept turning. I stayed in touch with Ben through the month of August. He all of a sudden knew that we were in the market to pick up star players. We were also looking to add as much pitching as we could add.”
Colletti said that Gonzalez was a topic of daily discussion, internally and externally, every day for the last week.
The home run was nice, but the Dodgers will need to get a lot more out of Gonzalez if today’s trade is to pay off. He’s under contract through 2018 for a total of $128 million after this season. Gonzalez turns 36 during the final year of his contract.