October 21, 2014

And We’re Off! Dodgers’ 2011 Spring Training is Open for Business

Wednesday is one of my favorite days of the year: the start of Spring Training!  Sure the Dodgers have more question marks than we would like and more than a few glaring holes (left field, a lack of power, a questionable closer, and a suspicious defense to name a few), but at the same time, there’s a lot to look forward to with expected monster years for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, as well as one of the best starting rotations in the major leagues.

I personally love the unexpected stories of heart and grit that come out of Spring Training…there’s always one feel good story in camp each year and I’m eager to see whixh left-for-dead vet or up and coming youngster seizes the opportunity in front of them (the trendy media pick these days seems to be outfielder Chris Gwynn).  Can’t wait to see who it is this year.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2011

Dodgers Historic Trip to China May Not Be So Memorable

Dodgers and Padres
I’ve been in Paris all week, well insulated from Spring Training and the plight of the Dodgers and their upcoming two game series against the Padres in China. I happened to log-in from the Paris airport just now and get caught up on things while I await my flight back to the states and ran across T.J. Simers take on the Dodgers trip to China.

While the premise that sending a hodgepodge of Dodger players to face off against “the Pads” seemed like a story that was created because there wasn’t any other interesting news on the Dodger front, it did get me thinking: What are the Chinese (or the rest of the world) going to get from this display?

If you take a look at who we’re sending, it certainly doesn’t smack of something for the history books: Eric Hull, Mike Koplove, Hong-Chih Kuo, Greg Miller, Justin Orenduff, Chan Ho Park, Matt Riley, Brian Shackelford, Eric Stults, Ramon Troncoso and Tanyon Sturtze. Hell, half of these guys are non-roster spring training invites! I doubt that the people in attendance at this game realize that many of these guys will never see the permanent roster at the end of March – smacks of self-promotion and media spin to me.

What are we really saying to the world with this trip? “Sorry, can’t spare our top talent for this little venture as we’ve got some gelling to do in Vero Beach before the season starts” comes to mind. I remember attending the first interleague game at the Ballpark in Arlington between the Giants and the Rangers. Lots of fanfare, all of the marquis players doing battle, and a tribute to Jackie Robinson. What could be better?

Evidently, not much. Besides a big paycheck that MLB is no doubt receiving for this little bit of East-West diplomacy, I don’t see what other benefit there is. The Chinese will see a random assortment of players on an unfamiliar field in an exhibition game that will likely look nothing like a real game (except for the rules and the uniforms). Ah yes, now I remember – we want to keep recruiting Chinese players for the league!

Bud Selig evedently disagrees. “It’s quite an experience, to say the least,” Selig said. “I’m thrilled with it. So this is great. This is history in the making. Someday I’ll look back on all this and say, ‘It was great to go for the first time.’ ” . I think he really meant so say ‘this will be a great help in recruiting our sixth Chinese national to MLB so we can continue to pilfer from their talent pool and strengthen our position in an era of declining interest and large salaries for American players.’

Outsourcing may be taking on a whole new meaning…

Who’s on Third (For the Dodgers)?

One key question that needs to be answered during spring training is who the Dodgers will entrust with the third base position at the beginning of the season.

Much speculation has been floating out there about who Torre’s choice might be. Will he go with Garciaparra, whose 11 years of MLB experience (plus a stint last year at third for the Dodgers) certainly makes him a contender or will he lean towards rookie Andy LaRoche?

The answer was very noncomittal when the boss was pressed. “Nomar’s experience will certainly play into this thing,” said Torre. “There are going to be tough decisions here, and when you have a lot of young players, they can’t all play. In a way, it’s a good problem to have. In another way, you’re dealing with people’s lives, so it becomes a little more of a sensitive issue. Only so many people can make the club, and only so many people can play at one time.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s (LaRoche’s) job to lose. Nomar, with his experience, we’ll have to see how he best helps our club and go from there.”

Garciaparra’s strong bat may actually hurt him in the race for a starting position at third, as Torre may decide that Nomar’s pinch hitting abilities would be a better strategic play for the team. During the last two seasons, Garciaparra batted .370 with runners in scoring position. Then again, the Dodgers were able to land former SF Giant Mark Sweeney for one-year deal and he led the majors with 24 pinch hits last season.

One possibility – a “job share” of sorts whereby LaRoche starts most games and Garciaparra comes in as a pinch-hitter when the opportunity presents itself (but typically earlier than most pinch hitting situations late in the game due to Garciaparra’s ability to cover third effectively). Executing this strategy frequently enough would enable Nomar to stay fresh at either first or third while giving the Dodgers some additional flexibility to leverage opportunities where the bases are loaded and a power hitter could significantly impact the game. Until the lineups are firmed up, however, it’s difficult to see how this would play out as optimal situations to utilize Nomar may mean someone other than LaRoche being asked to ride the pine and some shuffling of the positions…

Dodgers Spring Training Schedule

Well, it’s official – the Dodgers spring training schedule is now live. The Dodgers posted their schedule via press release on mlb.com. There’s a lot of “tentative” and “likely” sprinkled through it, so I’m guessing that there is more detail to come.

Two interesting notes:

1. The Dodgers are pushing for an exhibition game in Beijing against the San Diego Padres on March 15 and 16. Not sure how all the travel and jetlag will affect the spring performance of the team.

2. The Dodgers will be headed to Arizona and work out of the Oakland facility (Phoenix Municipal Stadium). They will host the Chicago White Sox on March 20th. The Dodgers are, of course, headed to Glendale Arizona for Spring Training 2009.

Here is the entire schedule, straight from the Dodgers:

LOS ANGELES DODGERS’
TENTATIVE 2008 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE
Day Date Opponent City Time
Thu Feb. 28 Atlanta Braves Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Fri Feb. 29 @ Atlanta Braves Orlando 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 1 @ New York Mets Port St. Lucie 1:10 p.m.
Sun March 2 New York Mets Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Mon March 3 Baltimore Orioles Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Tue March 4 @ Washington Nationals Viera 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 5 @ New York Mets Port St. Lucie 1:10 p.m.
Thu March 6 @ Boston Red Sox Fort Myers 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 7 St. Louis Cardinals Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 8 @ St. Louis Cardinals Jupiter 1:05 p.m.
Sun March 9 Boston Red Sox Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Mon March 10 @ Baltimore Orioles Ft. Lauderdale 1:05 p.m.
Tue March 11 Florida Marlins Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 12 Washington Nationals (ss) Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Thu March 13 @ Houston Astros (ss) Kissimmee 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 14 St. Louis Cardinals (ss) Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 15 @ Washington Nationals (ss) Viera 1:05 p.m.
Sun March 16 Florida Marlins (ss) Vero Beach 1:05 p.m.
Mon March 17 Houston Astros (ss) Vero Beach TBA
Tue March 18 @ Florida Marlins (ss) Jupiter 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 19 OFF DAY ******** *******
Thu March 20 Chicago White Sox Phoenix, AZ 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 21 @ Arizona Diamondbacks Tucson, AZ 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 22 LA Angels of Anaheim Phoenix, AZ 1:05 p.m.
Sun March 23 @ Colorado Rockies Tucson, AZ 1:05 p.m.
Mon March 24 @ Kansas City Royals Surprise, AZ 6:05 p.m.
Tue March 25 @ Milwaukee Brewers Phoenix, AZ 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 26 OFF DAY ******** *******
Thu March 27 @ LA Angels of Anaheim Anaheim 7:05 p.m.
Fri March 28 Boston Red Sox Dodger Stadium 7:40 p.m.
Sat March 29 Boston Red Sox L.A. Coliseum TBA
Sun March 30 Boston Red Sox Dodger Stadium 1:10 p.m.
Schedule subject to change; (ss) Denotes split squad game; all times listed are local