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.

Daily Distractions: With 10 days off between games, what will the Dodgers do with their non-Sydney starters?

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is one of four starting pitchers in camp with guaranteed major-league contracts who might be pitching a lot of minor-league games in the coming weeks. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Spring training games begin Sunday for the Dodgers’ minor leaguers, who have been relegated to intrasquad scrimmages and games against France to keep their competitive juices flowing.

At some point, the “baby Dodgers” will get a boost from Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm and/or Zack Greinke. That would appear to be the plan for the pitchers who aren’t starting a game in Sydney, Australia — i.e., everyone not named Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu.

“They’ll continue to stay on schedule,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday. “We’re going to try to keep those guys regular as best as we can. That would be the plan: To keep them as steady as possible.”

There will be 10 days off between the Dodgers’ final Cactus League game Sunday against the Colorado Rockies and the first Freeway Series game against the Angels. That’s a lot of down time for a starting pitcher to fill. Mattingly said the non-Sydney starters will get their work in competitive situations, not bullpens, so the minor-league fields are the logical landing point.

The Dodgers must select 30 players who will be on the plane to Sydney no later than Sunday. That’s when the plane leaves. Twenty-five will be on the active roster by Opening Day. Of the remaining five, one will be a pitcher who starts the exhibition game against the Australian national team a week from Thursday. That pitcher will be one of three players who’s allowed to be on the team’s 25-man roster March 30 in San Diego, but who isn’t allowed to be on the 25-man roster for the two games in Australia.

An example of how that might work: Haren starts the Dodgers’ minor-league game Sunday on regular rest. He could then pitch against the Australian National team Thursday — remember, that’s a 7 p.m. game Sydney time, so it’s only 17 hours shy full rest. On March 25, he’s back in Arizona pitching a minor-league game. He could then get the Opening Day assignment against the Padres on March 30 and start the Dodgers’ home opener against the San Francisco Giants on April 4, both on regular rest.

That’s not necessarily the plan — just one way to do it. Substitute Haren with Beckett or Maholm, and you’ve got another plan. (You’ve also got six starters, with the question of whether Greinke begins the season on the 15-day disabled list, but that’s another matter.) These are the types of conversations taking place behind closed doors in camp right now.

“We’re talking about how we’re going to use the exemptions and the roster in a way that makes the most sense for those two games and also for all of us going forward,” Mattingly said. “Ned (Colletti, the GM) and his guys have spent a lot of time on it. We go back and forth. 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 and starting in San Diego at the same time.”

I talked to Beckett and Maholm about the unusual schedule and what it means for their preseason preparation. More from them later.

Some bullet points for a World Plumbing Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks won’t have expanded instant replay in Sydney. That’s OK.

Sydney Cricket Ground baseball

A construction crane works on the area around the right field foul pole at the Sydney Cricket Ground. (John Blundell’s Twitter account)

The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks won’t have expanded instant replay available to them for their season-opening games at Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22 and 23.

From the Associated Press:

The technology that MLB will use at other games during the regular season won’t be in place for the opener. Standard replay will be available in Australia for disputed home run and boundary calls under the format in place since 2008.

That could be a good thing.

There have been a few concrete takeaways from the use of instant replay so far in Cactus League. One is that the managers and umpires truly need time to practice. Learning what calls can be challenged by a manager, what calls can be challenged by an umpire — and when — hasn’t happened overnight.

Another is that some stadium camera angles suck.

Take this incident from yesterday’s game between the Angels and Cincinnati Reds:

(Angels catcher) Hank Conger was called safe at second base trying to stretch an RBI single into a double in the fifth inning. Reds manager Bryan Price challenged the call made by umpire Jim Reynolds. A television replay showed that Conger was tagged out, but the call was upheld by umpire Gerry Davis, who was monitoring replays from a truck in the parking lot.

Randy Marsh, MLB’s director of umpires, said that the television replay wasn’t available to Davis during the 2-minute, 15-second review. Only four in-house camera angles at Tempe Diablo Stadium were available, and none conclusively showed Conger being tagged out.

Davis saw the television replay after the call was upheld.

“It was an umpires’ nightmare,” Marsh said.

Price lost his only manager’s challenge of the game because of the decision to uphold the call.

Here’s a relevant question for the two games in Sydney: What’s worse, relying on the umpires to get the call right like baseball has for 125 years, or relying on less-than-conclusive camera angles just because the rules say you can?

Some bullet points for a Middle Name Pride Day:
Continue reading

Clayton Kershaw will start on Opening Day, Hyun-Jin Ryu to follow, Dodgers announce.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw will start his fourth consecutive Opening Day, the Dodgers announced Sunday. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

The Dodgers announced Sunday, finally, that Clayton Kershaw will be their Opening Day starter in Sydney, Australia on March 22. Hyun-Jin Ryu will pitch the March 23 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kershaw has started every Opening Day for the Dodgers since 2011. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 2011 and 2013. Last year, he won his third consecutive National League earned-run average title (1.83) to go along with a 16-9 record and a league-leading 232 strikeouts.

Even though he was the obvious choice in the middle of another injury-free (albeit ineffective) spring training, Kershaw’s status was still up in the air until Sunday. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly repeatedly declined to name his starters for the two games in Sydney, saying only that he was preparing four pitchers to start the games until Zack Greinke suffered a mild right calf strain in his Cactus League debut.

That left Kershaw, Ryu and Dan Haren as the obvious choices to start the two games.

The Diamondbacks previously announced that left-hander Patrick Corbin will start Opening Day in Sydney and right-hander Trevor Cahill will start the second game.

Ryu was outstanding as a 26-year-old rookie, going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in the first year of his six-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers. He’s allowed two runs in two Cactus League starts.

Kershaw has been downright bad in the early stages of spring, but that’s become typical for the 25-year-old. In his first two starts, Kershaw has pitched just four innings and allowed eight runs. Opponents are batting .368 against him. Last spring, Kershaw went 2-3 with a 4.18 ERA.

Because the Dodgers don’t play another game for another four days after the Sydney series, the season-opening rotation is difficult to predict. Expect Haren, Greinke (if he’s healthy), and Josh Beckett and/or Paul Maholm to get some work in during the Freeway Series against the Angels on March 27-29.

The Dodgers’ first game in North America is March 30 in San Diego.

Daily Distractions: Dodgers won’t say when Matt Kemp will play in a game.


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Somewhere, the AlterG treadmill that served as Matt Kemp‘s exercise lifeline for weeks is collecting dust. Kemp is out in the open, where he should be, taking batting practice and running on a baseball field.

Tuesday, he was cleared to run a curved path with Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes watching. Since he was first cleared to run on Saturday, he had only been running straight lines.

His swing (above) looks normal. His body, chiseled from an off-season spent doing upper body work in the gym, looks better than normal. The only question is, when will Kemp be able to start playing games?

“Part of the plan is not to have a timetable,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday, “as far as throwing a date out there, so you guys can say ‘April 1,’ then we get to April 1 and he’s not quite ready so now he’s off schedule. If something happened he had ‘a setback.’

“The more he does, the more he steps forward, continues to do more without having setbacks, the more he continues to do and that tells us where we’re at.”

Kemp has said repeatedly that he won’t rush himself back. Playing in the Dodgers’ season-opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia is out. The first game on North American soil, March 30 against the Padres in San Diego, hasn’t been ruled out.

That’s the good news. It’s also all the news.

“Stan (Conte, the Dodgers’ head athletic trainer) has characterized it as kind of like the fifth stage of a seven-stage rehab,” Mattingly said. “So (Kemp) is getting there. We’re confident that he’s going in the right direction. I don’t think anyone wants to put pressure on Matt to say ‘this is the date’ because then it’s an artificial timetable. Then if he’s not ready he starts to feel like he’s behind schedule.”

Some bullet points for a Holy Experiment Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Chad Billingsley will try to take a big step forward tomorrow.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley will attempt to throw curveballs off a mound for the first time tomorrow. (Associated Press photo)

When the Dodgers needed to add shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena to their 40-man roster last week, they faced an important decision. Ultimately, Justin Sellers was designated for assignment to open a roster spot, but the Dodgers could easily have placed Chad Billingsley on the 60-day disabled list instead.

“We’re not prepared yet to set a timetable of 60 days for Chad,” general manager Ned Colletti said at the time.

That could change soon.

Tomorrow, Billingsley is scheduled to throw curveballs off a mound for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last April. The right-hander has been throwing curveballs off flat ground and fastballs off the mound since camp opened. However, the stress on his surgically repaired elbow — specifically, the ulnar collateral ligament that was transplanted from his left forearm — has been relatively light.

The curveball, Billingsley said Wednesday, “puts the most torque on the elbow.” At least one study has produced a different conclusion (specifically, that the fastball and curveball require the same amount of elbow torque), but the fact that he hasn’t attempted to throw the pitch with full force yet makes it a new test.

If he passes the test and emerges pain-free, Billingsley said he’ll be cleared to throw sliders. Adding the slider would give Billingsley the full arsenal he needs to face live batters in a rehab game.

In his last bullpen session Tuesday, Billingsley said his fastball topped out at 87 mph — the fastest he’s thrown the pitch since camp began. His fastball has was topping out around 95 mph prior to the surgery, but comparing games to bullpen sessions is unfair.

“When you’re throwing bullpens it’s hard to go max effort and hit a really high velocity,” Billingsley said. “You’ve got to have adrenaline, the hitter’s presence in the batter’s box.”

Billingsley recently said that, in a best-case scenario, he would be able to start a minor-league game by the end of camp.

We’ll know tomorrow whether or not that scenario is still realistic.

Some bullet points for a Rare Disease Day:
Continue reading

Zack Greinke removed from first Cactus League start with right calf injury.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zack GreinkeDodgers right-hander Zack Greinke was removed from his first Cactus League start Thursday afternoon three pitches into the game with a mild right calf strain.

“It felt like nothing really,” Greinke said. “There was something there. Stuff like that will happen all the time, then the next pitch it’s gone. This time the next pitch, it wasn’t gone and it took a little while. Usually if you walk it off it goes away, but it didn’t go away. So that was kind of the thing that was different.”

Greinke needed one pitch to retire leadoff hitter Tony Campana on a fly ball to left field. The next batter, Cliff Pennington, took a ball and a strike from Greinke before head athletic trainer Stan Conte visited the mound. Conte and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly watched Greinke take a couple practice pitches and discussed the situation before Greinke walked off on his own power with Conte.

“The first (warmup pitch) that I threw, I didn’t really push off with my leg and it was fine,” he said. “I’m sure I could’ve pitched a whole game not pushing off during the season but right now it’s a risk/reward. I say I’m sure I could’ve — maybe I couldn’t have. The one pitch that I didn’t push off on, I didn’t feel it too much. Then the second one I tried to push a little bit more and I did feel it.”

Chris Withrow came in from the bullpen to finish the at-bat with Pennington.
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Seth Rosin, still a work in progress, makes a good first impression with Dodgers.

Seth Rosin

Seth Rosin is trying to make the Dodgers’ roster as a Rule 5 draft pick. (Associated Press photo)

Seth Rosin has never pitched above Double-A in his life. The 25-year-old right-hander doesn’t look like a rookie at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds. On the mound Wednesday, he didn’t pitch like one.

Rosin, whom the Dodgers selected in the Rule 5 draft pick in December, faced seven Arizona Diamondbacks batters and struck out five. After the game, Rosin sounded like a kid who had just faced major-league hitters for the first time. He didn’t hide the truth.

“It was really fun to pitch against guys like (Paul) Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock,” he said. “You see them on TV. You always wonder, ‘what would I do if I could pitch against them?’ It was a lot of fun.”

The experience wasn’t as fun for Goldschmidt and Pollock, both of whom struck out in their only at-bat against Rosin. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called it a “good first impression.”

Rosin gets by on three pitches: A fastball that tops out in the low-to-mid 90-mph range, a slider and a changeup. He said the changeup did most of the damage Wednesday.

The performance was more remarkable when you consider that Rosin’s mechanics are still a work in progress. The Dodgers’ coaching staff, including bullpen coach Chuck Crim, has suggested some tweaks — mostly focused on Rosin’s lower body — designed to add a couple more ticks on the radar gun.

Ben WeberRosin threw entirely out of the stretch. His condensed windup was deliberate nearly to the point of being awkward, almost a less exaggerated version of former Angels reliever Ben Weber (right).

Rosin described his mechanics Wednesday as a mixture of old and new.

“It wasn’t fully incorporated, what I’ve been doing in the dry work, but it’s a process,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go out there and try something totally new in front of the coaches my first time out there. Hopefully by the last couple games in spring training it’s going to be 100 percent there and everything’s going to be like I want it to be.”

For Rosin to make the Dodgers, he’ll need to string together more performances like Wednesday’s. Even then, he might need an injury or two to befall one of the right-handed middle relievers ahead of him on the depth chart — Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Jamey Wright, Jose Dominguez and Javy Guerra.

If Rosin isn’t on the 25-man roster to begin the season, Rule 5 dictates that he must be designated for assignment and placed on waivers, where any of the other 29 teams can claim him.

Some bullet points for a Dominican Independence Day:
Continue reading

Fans outside of Los Angeles, Phoenix markets can watch Sydney games on MLB Network.

Sydney Cricket Ground

The Sydney Morning Herald published this photo of what the Sydney Cricket Ground might look like converted for baseball. The Dodgers open the 2014 season with two games here against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Local fans bent on watching the Dodgers play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia on Opening Day have an option besides flying to Sydney, or watching the game on SportsNet LA: Drive.

MLB Network will televise the Dodgers’ regular season-opening games against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia on March 22 and 23. A local blackout will be effect in the greater Los Angeles and Phoenix markets. Time Warner Cable and SportNet LA also consider Las Vegas, the Coachella Valley and Hawaii to be Dodgers territory, and therefore subject to the blackout rule. ¡Viva Mexico!

The games will be simulcast on ESPN in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. Nine Network, the highest-rated Australian network, will also carry the two games in Australia.

The first game will air live at 1 a.m. Pacific Time on March 22, and MLB Network will replay the game at 4 a.m. The second game airs at 7 p.m. that night.

In Australia, ESPN will also exclusively broadcast the exhibition games that the Diamondbacks and Dodgers will play against Team Australia prior to the two regular-season games.

MLB Network is currently distributed in approximately 70 million homes throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

Daily Distractions: Dodgers aren’t counting on Matt Kemp to appear in Sydney games.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp hasn’t begun running in spring training. The Dodgers depart for Australia on March 16. (Associated Press photo)

Don Mattingly solved the “The Four Outfielder Problem.” For two games, at least.

The Dodgers’ manager doesn’t believe that Matt Kemp will be available for the Dodgers’ season-opening trip to Sydney, Australia on March 22. Kemp hasn’t been cleared to run on flat ground and won’t be until he undergoes an MRI exam next week.

“I don’t think we’re — we’re not hopeful for Australia,” Mattingly said. “The MRI next week … will let us know where he’s at.”

Kemp is facing live pitching on a minor-league field at Camelback Ranch today. Throughout spring training he has been able to maintain his weightlifting regimen and exercise on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill.

But that is different from running on flat ground, or patrolling the outfield, or turning around first base.

“It’s just the fact that he hasn’t been on the grass, running and cutting,” Mattingly said. “How long that takes, once they clear him to start that type of thing, that will be a progression.”

For now, expect an outfield of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig in Australia — if all are healthy.

Some bullet points for an International Mother Language Day:
Continue reading