Daily Distractions: ‘Analyzing’ the Dodgers-Diamondbacks ‘rivalry.’

The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants has coasted for more than a century on a steady undercurrent of organic circumstances. There have been personal grudges (Wilbert Robinson vs. John McGraw), geographical allegiances (Manhattan vs. Brooklyn; San Francisco vs. Los Angeles), beanballs and brushbacks (Juan Marichal vs. John Roseboro). The fan violence is beyond unhealthy but there it is, holding up the ugliest corner of the narrative. It’s raw. It’s real.

And really, what says “raw” and “real” more than this:

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a pool to protect when the big, bad, overpaid Dodgers invade Chase Field for three games starting Friday. You know, when they “renew a rivalry” that has already been renewed three times in spring training and twice in Sydney. To protect the pool, the good people of Phoenix deployed their finest … mermaid, flanked by another woman dressed as the Jolly Green Giant and a dude wearing a Neptune costume. We can only hope that Arizona Sen. John McCain approves.

How seriously can we take a “rivalry” symbolized by a woman wearing a dolphin’s tail?

Seriously enough that MLB.com ran with the headline “Dodgers, D-backs return to ‘pool party’ scene.” The topic will probably get some airtime on Phoenix sports-talk radio. Maybe in Los Angeles too, unless the Lakers decide to “relieve Mike D’Antoni of his coaching duties” (or however someone gets fired these days … do coaches still get fired?).

Here’s a better storyline: Who wants these games more, a 3-8 Diamondbacks team that has been outscored 67-45, or a 6-4 Dodgers team that just split a pair of 10-inning burners against arguably the most talented club in the American League? It’s early April, not an important juncture in the baseball season. Though, for what it’s worth, no team is farther out of first place in any division than Arizona (four games).

Maybe that matters. Maybe it doesn’t. Until someone drops a shark in the pool, let’s not dwell on the pool.

In the meantime, here is the Diamondbacks’ PR director doing some kind of shoulder-shake dance. Or something:

 

Some bullet points for a Siblings Day:
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Dodgers acquire Colt Hynes from the Cleveland Indians, designate Mike Baxter for assignment.

Mike Baxter

The Dodgers designated outfielder Mike Baxter for assignment in order to make room for left-handed reliever Colt Hynes on the 40-man roster. (Getty Images)

In a move designed to add depth to their left-handed relief corps, the Dodgers acquired left-hander Colt Hynes from the Cleveland Indians for minor-league pitcher Duke von Schamann on Sunday.

Hynes, 28, was assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque. To make room for Hynes on the 40-man roster, outfielder Mike Baxter was designated for assignment.

Baxter appeared in parts of four games with the Dodgers, going 0-for-7 with a walk, before being optioned to Albuquerque to make room for Matt Kemp on the active roster.
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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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Dodgers 5, San Diego Padres 4: Julio Urias debuts, and the Dodgers hold on for a win.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The story of the game was Julio Urias, the 17-year-old prodigy who needed 14 pitches to mow down the San Diego Padres’ first three batters. Mike Brito, the scout who signed Urias, had a cigar hanging from his mouth as he walked the Dodgers’ clubhouse after the game.

Don Mattingly said Urias will be in the rotation by May “at the latest”: “For me, with young guys, you know it’s going to be a little while. You have to build him up. He hasn’t thrown that many professional innings. To me, you can like him all you want but you really need to grow up, and part of that is the expectation for a 17-year-old. You’re always going to get a lot better. Well, he has to get a lot better, right?

“I had a kid a couple years ago in the (Arizona) Fall League who was a can’t-miss, can’t do anything (wrong) and he’s still not in the big leagues,” Mattingly continued. “I think it’s just easier to let him grow up. He looked really good. For 17, 18, 19 or 20 he looked really good, but I still think we have to let him grow up.”

So we shall. The game that followed Urias’ debut was a good one for a number of Dodgers. Dee Gordon tripled, scored a run, and laid down a bunt for a base hit. He also stole his ninth base (in nine tries). Miguel Rojas went 2 for 3, raising his average to .440. Hanley Ramirez singled, stole second base and scored on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez.

The major-league portion of the Dodgers’ bullpen had no trouble. Javy Guerra, J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen and Chris Perez combined to throw three scoreless innings.

San Diego rallied for four runs in the eighth inning off minor-league right-hander Romulo Sanchez. Sanchez got out of his own bases-loaded jam by striking out former Dodgers farmhand Alex Castellanos to end the inning.

Mattingly said after the game that Guerra, and possibly Jansen and Howell, would pitch in tomorrow’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

The box score is here.

There’s another game here starting in 80 minutes.

Some notes and observations:

Mike Baxter had a busy day in the field. He played right field, center field and first base in the game. He hasn’t played first base to this point in spring training but he told me that he played the position in college (Vanderbilt) and has been taking ground balls with the other infielders throughout camp.

• Gordon’s bunt hit was not a drag bunt, just a 10-footer between home plate and the mound that made the Padres scramble. He beat the throw by a step.

• The Dodgers drew seven walks in the game. Andre Ethier had two.

Carl Crawford went 0 for 3, lowering his Cactus League batting average to .138. More from the bad batting average department: Joc Pederson (0 for 1), .192; Hanley Ramirez (1 for 4), .229; Tim Federowicz (0 for 3), .077.

• I wonder which can’t-miss prospect Mattingly was referring to. Could it have been this guy?

Daily Distractions: SportsNet LA officially launches on February 25.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully will call all the Dodgers games in California and Arizona on SportsNet LA. (Associated Press photo)

It’s official. SportsNetLA exists.

The network has a website but it doesn’t have an actual studio yet — that’s under construction in El Segundo as I type. The network doesn’t even have a live channel; the official launch date is Feb. 25, one day before the Dodgers’ first Cactus League game. By then, Time Warner and its 2-plus million subscribers in Southern California are guaranteed to not miss a game. AT&T, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, Dish and Verizon FiOS customers don’t have that luxury yet.

The message splashed across the top of the website, in all caps — “DEMAND YOUR DODGERS NOW” — seems to anticipate a conflict. When the Lakers broke off their relationship with Fox in 2012 to launch their own channel (TWC SportsNet), non-TWC customers were unable to watch games well into the season. The millions of Laker fans who didn’t subscribe to Time Warner became a group of angry nomads, left to seek out homes, bars, restaurants and pirate internet feeds that carried the games until their provider agreed to pay for the new channel.

Dodger fans, this could be you soon. We don’t know.

Here’s what we do know:

1. Vin Scully will broadcast all the Dodgers’ games in California and Arizona for the third straight year. Charley Steiner (who moves over from the radio play-by-play chair) and analyst Orel Hershiser (who moves over from eight years with ESPN) will call the games that Scully does not.

2. Nomar Garciaparra and Rick Monday will be the new Dodgers’ radio team on 570-AM.

3. Garciaparra and Jerry Hairston Jr. will contribute to SportsNet LA’s pre- and post-game coverage, both live from the stadium and from the SportsNet LA studio.

4. Hershiser will also be a part of the pregame broadcasts from the SportsNet LA studio on occasion.

5. Alanna Rizzo, late of the MLB Network, will be the in-game reporter during games called by Steiner and Hershiser.

6. John Hartung will be the studio host for SportsNet LA, anchoring the network’s live shows. He joins the network from KABC-TV in Los Angeles, where he spent the past 11 years as a sports and news anchor.

7. Fox’s pre- and post-game studio was set up behind the center-field fence at Dodger Stadium. That’s gone. Expect something in the area of the home dugout.

Some bullet points for Answer Your Cat’s Question Day:
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Daily Distractions: Tender deadline looms at 9 p.m. tonight.

Ronald Belisario

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (left) and pitcher Ronald Belisario (right) are both arbitration eligible. (Associated Press photo)

By 9 p.m. tonight, A.J. Ellis, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen will have been tendered a contract by the Dodgers. That much we know. The deadline for teams to tender a contract to their arbitration-eligible players is fast approaching, and the Dodgers won’t leave Kershaw, Ellis and Jansen behind.

We don’t know how much the Dodgers will offer each player, how much they’ll ultimately sign for, or if Ronald Belisario — the final remaining member of the Dodgers’ arbitration-eligible class — will get an offer at all. MLBtraderumors.com made some predictions here.

So far, the Dodgers have only dipped into the free-agent market for a starting pitcher, Dan Haren. But they had enough interest in adding a right-handed reliever that they were among the first teams to offer a contract to Joe Smith. Smith ultimately signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract with the Angels.

Did the Dodgers hope to replace Belisario with Smith, a sinker/slider pitcher who rarely exceeds 90 mph on the radar gun? Or do they still see a need for a power arm to complement Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez, and any other right-handers who might be in the mix for 2014?

Belisario’s lousy September (7.94 ERA, .842 opponents’ OPS) obscured what was previously a solid year. Statistically speaking, the Dodgers had one of the National League’s better bullpens in 2013. Bringing back everyone, or attempting to, isn’t out of the question.

Three other arbitration-eligible Dodgers already agreed to contracts for 2014. Scott Elbert signed for $575,000 for 2014 with up to another $100,000 in possible incentives on the table. Drew Butera and Mike Baxter both signed for $700,000.

That’s three down, three (or four) to go.

Some bullet points for a Laotian National Day:
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Dodgers trade Alex Castellanos to Boston Red Sox for minor-league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker.

The Dodgers today acquired minor league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and cash considerations from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Castellanos.

Since Castellanos had been designated for assignment on Oct. 17 (to make room for Mike Baxter), Hazelbaker does not immediately join the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.

Hazelbaker, 26, spent the entire 2013 season with Triple-A Pawtucket, batting .257/.313/.374 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 121 games. He was fifth in the International League with 37 steals.

The Muncie, Indiana, native has a .258/.338/.421 with 194 steals, 60 home runs and 247 RBI in 530 games in five professional seasons since being selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of Ball State University — the alma mater of former Dodger Larry Bigbie.

The Red Sox designated Pedro Beato for assignment to make room for Castellanos on their 40-man roster.

Minor matters: Dodgers designate Alex Castellanos for assignment, claim ex-Mets OF Mike Baxter.

The Dodgers claimed former New York Mets outfielder Mike Baxter Thursday and designated Alex Castellanos to clear room on the 40-man roster.

Baxter, 28, played 194 major-league games, all with the Mets, over parts of the last four seasons. He’s got a career .229/.335/.348 slash line in the majors. A left-handed batter and right-handed thrower, Baxter played 59 games at Triple-A last season, batting .289/.380/.519.

Baxter is perhaps most famous in New York for making a sliding catch to preserve Johan Santana‘s no-hitter last June.

Castellanos wasn’t included on the Dodgers’ playoff roster and wasn’t traveling with the team. Originally acquired from St. Louis in the Rafael Furcal trade, Castellanos batted .257/.347/.468 at Triple-A Albuquerque this year. He saw action in 24 games with the Dodgers the last two years, hitting two home runs and batting .171/.186/.390 overall.