Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis: “It didn’t feel like Opening Day,” and other Game 1 observations.

SYDNEY — If we were to focus just on the baseball, Opening Day followed a very predictable script. Clayton Kershaw was the best pitcher in the ballpark. The Dodgers’ bullpen followed a predictable order of Chris Perez (⅓ of an inning), Brian Wilson (1 inning) and Kenley Jansen (1 inning) in closing out the game without allowing a run. Paul Goldschmidt didn’t waste a single at-bat but the Dodgers have a deeper lineup, and found a way to score more runs than their opponent. The final score was 3-1 and you can read about the game here.

Also, if we were to focus just on the baseball, we would completely miss the point of staging Opening Day on another continent 12,000 kilometers — about 7,500 miles, if this conversion app is working right — away from Los Angeles.

“No, it didn’t feel like Opening Day,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It felt like a game that we’re playing here trying to bring baseball to Australia. We knew this game counted, and this game could be a difference between us making and not making the playoffs. We had that passion and that energy behind the game. There was a different attitude today in the clubhouse, a different attitude in batting practice. As far as feeling like Opening Day, I can’t honestly say in my experience it totally was like Opening Day.”

Ellis is unique among the Dodger players. He came to Sydney in November of last year, along with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin, on a goodwill tour to drum up interest in the two season-opening games in Sydney. It’s fair to say he was more personally invested in the non-baseball aspects of the game than his teammates. Attendance fell short of a sellout by little more than 4,000 fans.

About those fans. As I warned, they weren’t the savviest bunch. They cheered loudly at the sight of the game’s first foul ball, a rare souvenir that means something completely different in baseball than cricket. Thrice a batter fouled a ball atop the roof overhanging the seats behind home plate. On one occasion, the ball remained lodged on the roof; the other two times it fell back toward the waiting hands of the crowd.

When Scott Van Slyke hit the first and only home run of the game — of the season, no less — it landed into a near-empty section of seats just beyond the right-field fence. There were two empty swaths of seats in the outfield, a virtual impossibility in the U.S.

Here, the home run elicited less a reaction than the first foul ball.

“Toronto was like that when we first started going there,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, “but it didn’t take long.”

A few more notes and observations:
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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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Dodgers give Justin Turner the Opening Day nod at second base.

Justin Turner

Justin Turner hit .280/.319/.385 last season for the New York Mets. (Getty Images)

JJustin Turner will bat second and play second base, when the Dodgers play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Opening Day at 1 a.m. Pacific Time Saturday in Sydney, Australia.

The choice of Turner is somewhat surprising, since he was only added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster on the final weekend of spring training. Dee Gordon and Alex Guerrero had been the presumed favorites to get the Opening Day start from the beginning of camp.

Turner, a 29-year-old from Long Beach, has never started on Opening Day in parts of five major-league seasons. He batted .355/.447/.484 in 16 spring training games.

Gordon, who bats left-handed, was not expected to start against the left-handed hitting Miley. Since Turner was chosen over Guerrero, there is a strong chance that Guerrero will be optioned to the minor leagues when the Dodgers hand in their roster to Major League Baseball tomorrow.

Here is the Dodgers’ expected Opening Day lineup:

Yasiel Puig RF
Justin Turner 2B
Hanley Ramirez SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Scott Van Slyke LF
Juan Uribe 3B
Andre Ethier CF
A.J. Ellis C
Clayton Kershaw P

A smattering of notes: Zach Lee starts, Dee Gordon leads off, and Carl Crawford has the flu.

Sydney Cricket Ground

The Sydney Cricket Ground, as configured for four days of baseball games.

Apropos of nothing — the time in Sydney, the time in Los Angeles, my newspaper’s deadlines — I’m checking in with one last update before boarding a flight to Australia.

The Dodgers play the Australian National Team tonight in Sydney. It’s their last exhibition game before beginning the regular season on Saturday (1 a.m. Pacific Time/7 p.m. Sydney Time). Manager Don Mattingly named Zach Lee will start the game.

Here’s how the Dodgers will line up:
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The Dodgers’ 30-man travel roster to Sydney, Australia: A closer look.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero was on the Dodgers’ plane to Sydney, Australia, but might not be on the Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

In case you missed it somehow, the Dodgers announced their travel roster Sunday before boarding a flight to Sydney, Austrlia.

I didn’t have time or space for a longer analysis of the 30 names yesterday, but one is probably needed.
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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 designate Javy Guerra for assignment, add Chone Figgins, release Sydney travel roster.

Chone Figgins

Chone Figgins went 6 for 36 in Cactus League play for the Dodgers. He was added to the team’s 40-man roster on Sunday. (Associated Press photo)


GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dodgers had to be a bit creative in compiling the list of 30 players who will travel to Sydney, Australia for the first two games of the season.

As with many Dodger problems, this was a good problem to have. Too many options are always better than too few in the eyes of a team that carried eight starting pitchers on guaranteed contracts into camp a year ago, seven this year, and have a four-outfielder “dilemma” that makes for good sports-talk radio fodder.

First, the big move: Javy Guerra was designated for assignment and Chone Figgins was added to the major-league roster. The team’s closer coming out of spring training as recently as 2012, Guerra made seven Cactus League appearances, most recently Saturday against the San Diego Padres, and went 1-0 with a 2.25 earned-run average. He allowed nine hits and walked four batters in eight innings. Combined with the fact that he was out of options, that wasn’t a strong enough camp to move Guerra up the depth chart.

Guerra made just nine major-league appearances last year and allowed nine runs. The 28-year-old right-hander made more appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque after ceding the closer’s job to Kenley Jansen midway through the 2012 season.

“It just kind of came down to numbers really in spots,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s kind of been back and forth the last couple years. Obviously Javy’s a guy that I like. His stuff always plays. I feel like he’s a big league pitcher. Javy getting designated (for assignment) speaks to our depth — Chris Withrow and (Jose) Dominguez and some guys that you end up keeping.”

The Dodgers have 10 days to decide whether to place Guerra on waivers, trade him, release him or outright him to the minor leagues.

Figgins hasn’t played in a regular-season game in the majors since 2012, when he hit .181/.262/.271 in 194 plate appearances with the Seattle Mariners. His bat in camp wasn’t much sharper; he’s hitting .167 (6 for 36) with five singles and a double. Figgins hasn’t lost his eye at age 36. He’s drawn nine walks and carries a .326 on-base percentage, and that in turn drew praise from Mattingly earlier in the day.

Here’s the complete list of 30 players who will be making the trip:

Pitchers (14):
Jose Dominguez
J.P. Howell (L)
Kenley Jansen
Clayton Kershaw (L)
Zach Lee
Paul Maholm (L)
Red Patterson
Chris Perez
Seth Rosin
Paco Rodriguez (L)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (L)
Brian Wilson
Chris Withrow
Jamey Wright

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

Infielders (8):
Chone Figgins (S)
Adrian Gonzalez (L)
Dee Gordon (L)
Alex Guerrero
Hanley Ramirez
Miguel Rojas
Justin Turner
Juan Uribe

Outfielders (5):
Mike Baxter (L)
Andre Ethier (L)
Joc Pederson (L)
Yasiel Puig
Scott Van Slyke

Note that Figgins, who’s listed as an infielder, can play all three outfield positions. Baxter and Van Slyke, both listed as outfielders, have seen time at first base in camp.

I’ll take an in-depth look at the travel roster, what it means, and what it means for the players who were left off, in my next blog post.

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’ 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.