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.”
Continue reading

Matt Kemp makes progress in Dodgers’ minor-league game, major-league games still a ways off.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp played one inning in center field in a minor-league intrasquad game Wednesday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For as much progress as he made Wednesday, Matt Kemp‘s measured thoughts after his latest minor-league rehab game proved just how long a journey he faces before he’s able to play for the Dodgers.

Kemp took a big step forward by playing one inning in center field against a group of Dodgers minor leaguers, something he hasn’t done in any kind of competitive environment since Sept. 27, 2013. Three weeks after that, he had a major microfracture surgery performed on the talus bone in his left ankle.
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Predicting the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.

Javy Guerra

Javy Guerra is on the bubble for the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster. (Associated Press)

Opening Day seems a long ways away. The calendar says the regular season doesn’t begin for the Dodgers for another 10 days, and the roster shows more than 40 players in the Dodgers’ major-league camp.

Yet because they leave for Sydney, Australia on Sunday, management must decide on a 25-man roster by the end of the week. The next four days will pass quickly.

So here’s our first stab at what the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster will look like. MLB imposed some unique restrictions on the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks for who can and can’t be on the Sydney roster, and we’ll get to those. As manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday, “we’re just trying to figure out the combination of guys that we need really, to put our roster together for the season, figure out those two games (in Sydney) and starting in San Diego at the same time.”

This roster tries to address both:

Catchers (3)
A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz
Drew Butera

Comment: Butera is out of options, so he cannot be one of the three players designated as “inactive” who can then be activated for the Dodgers’ first regular-season game in North America on March 30. Adding him to the Opening Day roster gives the Dodgers more time to decide whether to keep or cut Butera. Ellis and Federowicz were locks from the beginning of camp.

Infielders (7)
Adrian Gonzalez
Dee Gordon
Alex Guerrero
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Justin Turner
Chone Figgins

Comment: Turner or Figgins might not be on the March 30 roster, but since the Dodgers can’t list them as “inactive” (since they’re non-roster invitees), they make the Opening Day roster.

Outfielders (5)
Carl Crawford
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Mike Baxter
Scott Van Slyke

Comment: No real surprises here. Van Slyke has value as a backup first baseman and a fourth outfielder. There might not be room for Baxter on the roster come March 30 (like Turner and Butera), but he makes the trip to Sydney.

Starting pitchers (2)
Clayton Kershaw
Hyun-Jin Ryu

Comment: The Dodgers only need two starters for the two games if Kershaw and Ryu are healthy. By bringing just the two of them, there’s extra room in the bullpen for some pitchers on the bubble.

Relief Pitchers (8)
Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
J.P. Howell
Paco Rodriguez
Chris Perez
Brandon League
Jamey Wright
Seth Rosin

Comment: Picking Rosin over Javy Guerra, who’s out of options, might be the toughest call of them all. But Rosin has been preparing as a starter, and the guess here is that he can eat some innings in the Dodgers’ exhibition game against the Australia National Team if needed. Guerra has simply been crowded out of a job, largely because of the final two years of League’s contract. The Dodgers can take advantage of the option in Chris Withrow’s contract to get a longer look at Rosin, who was obtained at the Rule 5 draft and would have to be placed on waivers if he isn’t on the Opening Day roster.

Extra (3)
Paul Maholm
Josh Beckett
Dan Haren

Comment: These three players don’t necessarily go to Sydney, but the Dodgers will need one to start the exhibition game on March 20.

15-day disabled list (2)
Matt Kemp
Zack Greinke

Comment: Both will be eligible for the Dodgers’ home opener against the San Francisco Giants, because their DL stint can be backdated to March 19.

60-day disabled list (1)
Scott Elbert

Again: This is just a guess and very much open for debate. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Some bullet points for a World Day Against Cyber Censorship:
Continue reading

Dodgers’ lineup takes on a normal look against the Kansas City Royals.

Dan Haren

Dan Haren will make what could be his final Cactus League start today against the Kansas City Royals. (Associated Press)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The end is near.

If Twitter’s brief, apocalyptic mid-morning shutdown (for “maintenance,” we were told) didn’t hint at the end of life as we know it, the Dodgers’ schedule does — at least for those of us who have been with the team in Arizona the better part of a month.

There are six days and seven games left on the schedule beginning with today’s tilt against the Kansas City Royals in Surprise, Ariz. There’s no Andre Ethier, no Hanley Ramirez and no Dee Gordon or Alex Guerrero in the Dodgers’ lineup. Otherwise, it has a very start-to-the-regular-season kind of look.

“We want to play Dre (to play) probably the last five,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Same with Hanley.”

Yasiel Puig is in right field and Scott Van Slyke in center, a late switch. “We just wanted to see Slyke in center as much as anything,” Mattingly said, dropping the “Van” that makes for so many good last-name puns. “It seems like the right day.”

In one of those great only-in-spring training curiosities, the Dodgers will not use a designated hitter. The Royals will.

Dan Haren is making what ought to be his final Cactus League start. More on him later.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:
Continue reading

Dodgers tie Oakland, trim camp roster by five.

Matt Magill

Pitcher Matt Magill was optioned to the minors on Monday, one of five players cut from the Dodgers’ major-league camp roster. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers trimmed their camp roster by five after tying the Oakland A’s on Monday.

There were no surprises on the list: Pitcher Matt Magill was optioned to the minor-league side, and non-roster invitees J.C. Boscan, Carlos Frias, Brendan Harris and Clint Robinson were reassigned to the minor-league side.

Magill, the only player of the group on the 40-man roster, pitched 5 ⅔ innings, allowing three hits, one run, walking two and striking out six. The only run came on a solo home run March 5 by Cincinnati Reds prospect Neftali Soto. Magill, a 24-year-old right-hander from Simi Valley, was not a candidate to make the major-league rotation.

Of the four non-roster invitees, Harris had the most realistic chance of earning a major-league roster spot, if only because of the Dodgers’ needs on the bench and at second base. He needed a good camp to prove that he was not the same player who registered -2.3 WAR (baseball-reference.com version) since 2009. Harris didn’t have a good camp. He batted 3 for 19 (.158) with three walks.

Boscan, a 34-year-old catcher with 30 major-league plate appearances to his credit, went 1 for 4 with a pair of walks.

Frias made four Cactus League appearances and allowed five runs, including three Monday without recording an out in the Dodgers’ 8-8 tie. The 24-year-old right-hander advanced as high as Double-A last year and could earn a promotion to Triple-A at some point this season.

The 29-year-old Robinson showed why the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal in the off-season, batting .348 (11 for 23) with a solo home run. Robinson batted .292 at Triple-A Omaha last year and is expected to start at first base this year for Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers have 41 players on their camp roster, not including pitcher Scott Elbert (on the 60-day disabled list) and infielder Erisbel Arruebarruena, who is still awaiting his U.S. work visa. The roster must be down to 28 — 25 players who are eligible to play the two games in Sydney, Australia, plus another three designated as inactive — by 7 p.m. March 21.

Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager active for Dodgers’ tilt with San Francisco Giants.

Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw will try to lower his 18.00 earned-run average today before a sold-out crowd at Camelback Ranch.

Manager Don Mattingly announced Sunday morning that Kershaw will take the ball March 22 in Sydney, Australia. The 25-year-old left hander will only have one Cactus League start after today before the regular season begins.

Yasiel Puig bats third today after leaving the team to attend to a personal matter Saturday.

Infield prospect Corey Seager is in uniform for the game, wearing number 91. So are minor leaguers Ozzie Martinez (#87), OF Jeremy Hazelbaker (#89), OF Scott Schebler (#90 and OF Noel Cuevas (#92). Minor league right-handers Steve Edlefsen (#84) and Justin Souza (#88) will back up Kershaw, Javy Guerra and Red Patterson.

Here are the lineups for today’s game:

Giants:
Angel Pagan CF
Juan Perez LF
Brandon Belt 1B
Buster Posey C
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Joaquin Arias SS
Brandon Hicks 2B
Tyler Graham RF
Edwin Escobar LHP

Dodgers:
Chone Figgins CF
A.J. Ellis C
Yasiel Puig RF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Justin Turner 3B
Mike Baxter LF
Alex Guerrero 2B
Miguel Rojas SS
Clayton Kershaw LHP

Dodgers 5, Texas Rangers 5: ‘Starters’ Paul Maholm and Seth Rosin star in another tie game.

Paul Maholm

Paul Maholm allowed three hits, one run, walked none and struck out four batters Saturday. (Associated Press photo)


SURPRISE, Ariz. — Based on how they’ve been used in the past and how they’ve pitched in spring training, Paul Maholm and Seth Rosin could both be in a major-league rotation this season. Yet if either pitcher makes the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, it will probably be as a reliever.

That’s simply a function of where the numbers are right now; the Dodgers began camp with five healthy starters on guaranteed major-league contracts before bringing in Maholm and Rosin. Zack Greinke‘s mild calf injury aside, that hasn’t changed.

The 31-year-old Maholm has been a starter for his entire career, and he started Saturday. He threw more than 50 pitches — 41 in the first three innings of the Dodgers’ 5-5 against the Texas Rangers and another “12 or so” in the bullpen.

“I’m preparing for the season like I have for, I think this is my 11th spring,” Maholm said. “I’m going to try and get quick outs. The stuff with mechanics is stuff that you deal with during the season. I’m going to prepare and pitch whenever they tell me to. If I pitch well everything’s going to work out. I’m not concerned with roles or anything. You pitch well, they find a spot for you.”

Rosin is on a starter’s program too. The 25-year-old right-hander threw three innings (4, 5 and 6) while allowing only one unearned run before an announced crowd of 8,153 at Surprise Stadium. His third Cactus League appearance was easily his worst so far. He struggled with command, walking a batter and throwing a wild pitch, and also balked runners to second and third base in the fifth inning.

But he left the game with the Dodgers ahead 3-2. Rosin still hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight spring innings. He’s struck out 10 batters in eight innings and allowed only five hits.

“These guys are both being built as starters and right now that’s where we’re at,” Mattingly said, after declining to comment on the possibility that either would begin the season in the bullpen.

Continue reading

Dodgers 2, Texas Rangers 1: Zach Lee and Tom Windle offer a glimpse of the future.

Zach Lee

Zach Lee didn’t allow a run against the Texas Rangers in his Cactus League debut Friday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zach Lee came into camp hoping to make the Dodgers’ 25-man roster. Seriously.

The 22-year-old pitcher only reached Double-A last year, three years after the Dodgers selected him with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft. Only a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle suffered early in camp forced Lee to temper his expectations.

By waiting until Friday to make his Cactus League debut, Lee knows he’s ticketed to the minors to start the season.

“Anytime you set a goal you want to set it high,” he said. “If you set it too low, you’ll probably meet it and get content with it.”

Lee pitched two scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday at Camelback Ranch. He allowed only two hits, walked none and had something to be proud of at the end of his long-awaited debut.

The right-hander from McKinney, Texas survived a loud leadoff double to Shin-Soo Choo — “a 2-1 fastball right down the middle that you don’t want to throw,” he said — to survive a 21-pitch first inning on consecutive ground-ball outs by Elvin Andrus, Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre.

After a smooth second inning in which he allowed a single to Jurickson Profar, Lee’s day was over. He faced eight hitters, almost all major leaguers, and did not look out of place on the mound.

“He just looks like he belongs around the clubhouse, around the fields. He does everything well,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got a clean delivery. We feel like he’s going to be able to throw the ball where he wants. Just like in his composure — pretty much everything about him.”

Lee has a preternatural calm in the presence of almost anyone — reporter, major leaguer, minor leaguer. He said he’s tried to stay in the background like most rookies, while also trying to pick the veterans’ brains.

“I’ve talked a lot with (Josh) Beckett and (Zack) Greinke,” he said. “Probably Greinke a little more than Beckett from a baseball standpoint just because me and his game are kind of similar as far as our repertoire goes, how we pitch. It’s always good to get an outside perspective, especially with a guy who’s had the success he’s had and kind of the similar stuff we have and how we approach the game.”

Both pitchers share an analytical approach to baseball, something that impressed Dodgers management about Lee since his first days in the organization. Lee’s numbers in his second season at Double-A Chattanooga were better in almost every category in 2013, when he was named the organization’s pitcher of the year.

Lee took part in the Dodgers’ prospect camp at Dodger Stadium in January. Finally on Friday, he had a chance to show everyone what he’s gained since last season.

“Growing up, the way I looked at pitching, I was more of a cerebral, analytical person,” he said. “I really thought more kind of gameplanning and what (Greg) Maddux did back in the day, where he was able to pinpoint location rather than overpowering people. I kind of took after them and that’s where my game’s developed.”

Young power pitchers are often the first to reach the majors. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Shelby Miller, a 2012 draft pick who beat the Dodgers twice in last year’s National League Championship Series, is a protypical example.

Pitchers like Lee, who mix and match an assortment of pitches and rely more on location and guile, often take longer. This season marks his fourth in the organization and only his first major-league camp.

Lee said he threw all his pitches Friday and “some worked better than others.” For Mattingly, the first impression was a good one.

“I think that’s what you like about him: You see him around the clubhouse, the way he handles himself, gets after his work, does everything pretty well, takes fielding his position seriously, holding runners — all the things you don’t get a lot of attention for — but we like everything about him.”

Some more notes and observations:
Continue reading

Zach Lee, Dodgers square off against Texas Rangers.

The Dodgers have a chance to achieve a rare feat by hitting a grand slam in their third straight game today when the Texas Rangers visit Camelback Ranch.

Alex Guerrero hit one against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night. Scott Van Slyke hit a grand slam in Thursday’s 4-4 tie against the Angels.

Starter Zach Lee will be limited to about 30 pitches, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. Hopefully that gets him through at least one inning. If not, at least the Dodgers have plenty of reinforcements lined up in the bullpen.

Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, Chris Perez and Brandon League are all scheduled to throw. Tom Windle, the Dodgers’ second-round pick in the 2013 draft, is also in uniform along with fellow minor-league call-up Fu-Te Ni.

Windle (like 2013 first-round pick Chris Anderson yesterday) will be facing live opponents for the first time. The Dodgers minor-leaguers had an exhibition game against France. Otherwise, they have only seen live batters in batting practice and intrasquad contests.

Before the game, Mattingly said that Zack Greinke is scheduled to face live hitters tomorrow, likely on a minor-league field.

Chone Figgins will play right field, his seventh position of the Cactus League season.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for highly touted Rangers prospect Rougned Odor. He’s in uniform for the game (#73).

Here are the lineups for both teams:
Continue reading