July 24, 2014

Back at the (Camelback) Ranch!

The dodgerfan.net guys are once on scene at the Dodgers’ Spring Training at Camelback Ranch!  We’ll be tweeting from games today, Friday and Saturday, so shoot us your questions and we’ll do our best to get them answered for you.  We’ll also be uploading photos throughout the day, so check back here.

Also, check back later this weekend for a dodgerfan.net exclusive (we’re keeping it under wraps for now)!

The Dodgers in Taiwan: Our Favorite Photos

One of the best parts of the Dodgers trip to Taiwan is living vicariously with the group by reading all of the articles by Ken Gurnick and the blog posts and tweets by Josh Rawitch and Ramona Shelbourne.  But the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” definitely applies here with the work of Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo.  Following are a selection of our favorite images from the trip so far.  Take a look and enjoy!  And be sure to click the link to see the rest of Jon’s work.

Fans take cover during the downpour.

Hyang-Cam, Gabriel Gutierrez, Robert Boothe and Chin0lung Hu sit during a rainout.

Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo eats during a rainout in Taiwan.

Eric Stults and Robert Boothe sign for fans.

Manny Ramirez and teammates wave to the fans.

Hong-Chih Kuo talks to the media after the rainout.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers

Taiwan Trip is Part of the Dodgers DNA

And so it begins…the Dodgers have arrived in Taiwan and completed their first international press conference of their four days in Asia.

I know this trip is an inconvenience on many levels, including the logistical issues and obvious delays in the Spring Training program, but I don’t think it’s nearly as disruptive as events such as the World Baseball Classic. In fact, I would argue that the only people that the Taiwan trip really may impact at all are the pitchers that go. Steve Lyons was saying on yesterday’s televised Dodgers-Diamondbacks game that batters only need about 40 at-bats to find their rhythm, while pitchers need the additional time to find their groove. Of course, the flip side of this argument is that there are now a bunch of minor leaguers at Camelback Ranch that are relishing the extra time they’re getting in real game action, and this will only enhance their development.

Plus, I’m a sucker for history, and the Dodgers connection with Asia is something that I’m glad the McCourt’s are continuing. It would be very easy for them to pass on opportunities like this for a number of reasons (even if Major League Baseball is paying for it).

Per the Dodgers:

The Dodger franchise’s ties to the continent of Asia date to 1956, when the Brooklyn Dodgers took part in a postseason tour of Japan. Since that time, the team has stayed intricately involved in the worldwide expansion of baseball, becoming the first Major League team to open an office in Asia (1998), the first to play a game in Taiwan (1993) and the first to host a game in China (2008).

And it’s for this reason, that I think the trip is worthwhile. The Dodgers are trailblazers, and international firsts have become part of the DNA of the franchise: they toured Japan (1956, 1966 and 1993). They played exhibition games across the Western Hemisphere, including Puerto Rico (1988) and Mexico (1964, 1991 and 2003).  They held Spring Training in Havana, Cuba in 1941-42 and in the Dominican Republic in 1948.  The Dodgers opened Campo Las Palmas in the Dominican Republic in 1987, marking the first time a MLB franchise has opened a baseball academy outside of the U.S., developing future Dodgers players, including Adrian Beltre, Pedro Martinez, Raul Mondesi and Pedro Astacio, among others.  Furthering baseball abroad is simply part of the legacy of the club.

Ok, back to Taiwan. I also love this series for a bunch of other reasons than just the history:

I love that the first two games sold out in record time.

I love that the Taiwanese fans care about which players attend (and don’t attend).

I love that Chin-Feng Chen (the first Taiwanese player to appear in an MLB game) will face his former team during this series for the first time.

I love that the Dodgers players are excited about making the trip (or are getting paid $170,000 in personal appearance fees to attend).

I love the passion of the fans. After experiencing the electric atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic finals at Dodger Stadium last year, I bet the games will take on a life of their own.

Secretly, I hope that all of this means that the Dodgers have an inside-edge (along with the Mariners and their Japanese ownership) on signing the best free agents coming out of Asia. Maybe that’s not true in today’s world, but hey, I’m a fan and I have my own hopes for the team, no matter how unrealistic they are.

Let’s play ball! (and you know I would have said that in Taiwanese if I knew how!)

Photo credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers

Notes from Spring Training: Day 17

Sorry for the delay, folks.  Here are today’s official Spring Training notes from the Dodgers:

ROCKIES ROAD: The Dodgers will face the 2009 National League Wild Card entry Colorado Rockies today at Camelback Ranch – Glendale. Last year the NL West race came down to the final weekend of the season with the Dodgers clinching the title on Oct. 3 at Dodger Stadium behind 6.0 scoreless innings from Clayton Kershaw and perfect bullpen outings from Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton. Kershaw made his Cactus League debut yesterday and the relief trio will be on display for the first time this afternoon. The Dodgers travel to Tucson to play the Rockies on March 30.

STAYING ROUTINE: For the fourth consecutive game, the Dodgers first five in the order will be Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez and James Loney. Casey Blake will miss today’s contest to rest his back, which he slightly tweaked yesterday while throwing. The red-hot Blake DeWitt will also start his fourth straight game and looks to improve on his near-perfect start that has seen him go 4-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and four walks.

THERE GOES OUR HIRO: Dodger right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will make his Spring Training debut today, kicking off his third season with Los Angeles. Since coming over from Japan, Kuroda is 17-17 with a 3.74 over 52 games (51 starts) in his two years with the Dodgers. Kuroda will be followed to the mound by RHP Charlie Haeger, LHP Hong-Chih Kuo, RHP Jonathan Broxton and LHP George Sherrill. The Rockies will send RHP Ubaldo Jimenez to the hill.

TAIWAN TWO-STEP:  The Dodgers have packed their bags for the 15-hour 6,414-mile flight to Taiwan tomorrow morning. Taiwan natives Chin-lung Hu and Hong-Chih Kuo along with familiar faces Manny Ramirez, James Loney and Joe Torre will headline the club’s travel roster that is set to take on a team comprised of Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars in the three-game goodwill series. In addition, MLB International and PRIME TICKET are both onsite today to tape some last-minute footage of the Taiwan preparation before the long flight tomorrow.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR – The Dodgers’ roster in Taiwan is represented by seven countries – the United States, Taiwan (Kuo, Hu), South Korea (Choi), the Dominican Republic (Ramirez, Alvarez, Perez and Berroa), Mexico (Castillo, Felix and Gutierrez), Venezuela (Bastardo) and Curacao/Netherlands Antilles (Jansen).  In fact, all seven nationalities are represented on the pitching staff alone!

LET’S PLAY “2″: Yesterday, the Dodgers ended up playing a “B” game at the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch in addition to their regularly scheduled contest with the Giants in Scottsdale. The morning “B” game, which ended in a 3-3 tie, saw Josh Lindblom fire 2.0 scoreless innings and Ramon Troncoso, Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen and Travis Schlichting fire a scoreless inning apiece. Brian Giles collected two hits in the contest. During the afternoon match-up in Scottsdale, Matt Kemp blasted his first homer of the spring and Blake DeWitt went 2-for-2 with two walks. On the mound, Josh Towers (2.0), Jon Link (1.0) and Carlos Monasterios (2.0) tossed scoreless baseball.

THE OLD WISE ONES: The longest tenured Dodger in camp is Jason Repko, who has been in the Dodger organization continuously since starting with Rookie-level Great Falls in 1999. Right behind Repko is left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, who started with San Bernardino in 2000. The longest continuously tenured Dodger at the Major League level who has not been sent down to the minors at any point is Jonathan Broxton, who has been a Los Angeles Dodger since May 1, 2006. Broxton made his big league debut on July 29, 2005, but started the 2006 season in Triple-A Las Vegas. Just for fun, Andre Ethier debuted on May 2, 2006 and Russell Martin on May 5, 2006.

THE WISEST ONE: Of course, the longest tenured Major Leaguer in Dodger camp is today’s starting catcher Brad Ausmus, who has logged 16 years and 70 days in the big leagues, just ahead of Manny Ramirez’s 16 years and 33 days. Ausmus is 50 games away from 2,000 in his career and is tied with Benito Santiago for eighth on the all-time games caught list with 1,917.

LYONS DEN: The Dodgers would like to welcome Steve Lyons back to Camelback Ranch – Glendale. Lyons was here when camp opened to shoot pieces for PRIME TICKET and will broadcast games for PRIME TICKET with Josh Suchon today vs. Colorado and with Ken Levine vs. Arizona tomorrow.

OLD SKIPPER, NEW SKIPPER: The Dodgers would like to welcome former manager Jim Tracy to Camelback Ranch. Last season, Tracy took over the Rockies in May, led them to the playoffs and was named NL Manager of the Year. While in Los Angeles from 2001-2005, Tracy went 427-383 (.527), which is the eighth-best winning percentage all time among Dodger Managers with a minimum of 50 games managed. Current Manager Joe Torre finished third in the NL Manager of the Year balloting in 2009 and his 179-145 record (.552) ranks him sixth among Dodger skippers in winning percentage.

COME OUT TO THE PARK!: Dodger single-game tickets are now on sale at Dodgers.com or over the phone by calling 866-DODGERS. On Saturday, more than 3,500 rabid fans showed up to purchase single-game tickets at Dodger Stadium at an on-sale event in Lot P with Dodger legends Ron Cey and “Sweet” Lou Johnson and Opening Day sold out in less than 10 minutes.

VEGAS, BABY:  Tickets are currently on sale for the Dodgers vs. Reds contest in Las Vegas on March 31. Los Angeles will send a split squad to Cashman Field with the rest of the club remaining in Glendale to battle the Giants.  Tickets can be purchased online at Dodgers.com and over the phone at 1-800-745-3000.

Should the Dodgers Trade for Catching Help?

Yes, Russell Martin is out for four to six weeks, with four of those weeks being during Spring Training.  But I don’t think the Dodgers should hit the panic and trade for a replacement catcher.  We’re talking about two weeks people!  Steve Dilbeck at the Los Angeles Times agrees:

“If that’s the length of his absence, making a trade seems unlikely and unwise. You don’t give up a young player to plug a two-week hole.

And, really, there is no catcher of significance left who’s a free agent. The only free-agent catcher of any renown is Paul Bako, and the Dodgers have already had that experience. He was a backup to Dioner Navarro in 2005.”

I’m with you, Steve.  Bako is no better than the young A.J. Ellis.  The Dodgers obviously feel comfortable with the kid (after all, they traded top catching prospect Carlos Santana for Casey Blake in 2008), with backup support from the 41 year-old Brad Ausmus.  Ausmus should be a fantastic influence on Ellis, while he tries to make the adjustment to being an everyday catcher at the big league level.  Here’s a little more on Ellisfrom Ken Gurnick:

Ellis, 28, was an 18th-round pick out of Austin Peay University in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft who has a .278 career Minor League batting average and more career walks than strikeouts.

He hit .314 in 90 games at Triple-A Albuquerque last year, leading the organization with a .438 on-base percentage. He had brief callups in 2008 and ’09.

Joe Torre is also on board with A.J. Ellis:

“I have no hesitation at all,” Torre said of catching Ellis, who has 12 games of Major League service and a .077 career batting average. “He handles a game well. He’s a tireless worker. Being a former catcher, I know how important the defensive end is. He’s made himself a good hitter, he’s a grinding type of guy. I’ve seen him enough to be comfortable with it.”

Here’s my real worry with this situation right now: I’m a little worried that Martin totally downplayed the abdomen issue when speaking to reporters the first time, calling it “not anything major.”  Yes, I’m encouraged that he thinks he’ll be back by opening day, but abdomen injuries like this are tricky and Martin has never had to deal with something like this on a professional level.

When I read quotes from Martin about his desire to continue to bulk up while resting his abdomen like, “I know my guns are going to be even bigger,” I worry that he’s not looking at potential causes for the injury (over-training) and potentially being naive when it comes to his recovery.

My opinion?  Take all the time you need, Russell.  If Martin doesn’t rest enough, comes back early and promptly gets hurt, the Dodgers are screwed and Martin may be battling through this thing for months, if not longer.  That’s another story, and one I would prefer to not think about right now.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers