Thursday, March 15, 2012
Cactus League: Royals 8, Dodgers 5
By Tony Jackson
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon showed what speed can do in the bottom of the first inning of Thursday's Cactus League game, an 8-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals before 5,766 at Camelback Ranch.
After drawing a leadoff walk from Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, Gordon got to first base and surveyed the scene. With Duffy standing on the mound holding the ball in his glove while preparing to pitch to the next batter, Gordon took off for second. He wound up sliding in unchallenged with a stolen base of the unconventional variety.
"The pitcher had the ball, and he was looking down," said Gordon, who estimates he had pulled off that play eight times in his minor league career. "The shortstop was walking with his back toward the bag and the second baseman was walking back (to his position). So I just took off. It's just an instinctive thing. I always look to see where everybody's at when I get on first base."
A couple of minutes later, having advanced to third on a sharp single to left by Jerry Hairston, Gordon danced off the bag just a bit as Duffy went into his stretch and prepared to pitch to Matt Kemp. Duffy's front leg appeared to twitch in response to Gordon's movement, and second-base umpire Ted Barrett immediately called a balk, allowing Gordon to trot home.
"You saw some nice instincts right there," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We always talk about how he knows how to use his speed. It sounds kind of silly, but you just have to know how fast you are. With Dee, it's so fast that it just changes the game, because it's hard to prepare for that."
Ivan De Jesus had three singles in three plate appearances, raising his spring average from a ghastly .176 to a solid .300 in a single afternoon, but it doesn't matter much anyway. Once one of the organization's top prospects and the top pick the Dodgers signed out of that infamous 2005 draft in which they couldn't sign first-rounder Luke Hochevar, De Jesus probably is running out of time if he hasn't already.
That's partly due to bad luck -- he broke his leg in a home-plate collision during a spring-training "B" game in 2009 -- and partly due to the fact that on the rare occasion when he has gotten a chance to prove himself at the major league level, he hasn't done so. He batted .188 in 17 games for the Dodgers as a rookie last year.
"Ivan can hit," Mattingly said. "He can really hit. The problem is finding where and how he fits in with us. I don't know what else to say about it. We have a lot of different people here now. But he can hit, no doubt."
De Jesus still is on the 40-man roster, meaning he always stands some chance of getting a callup or two during the season if the Dodgers suffer an injury to an infielder. But to put a new twist on an old phrase, his future no longer seems to be ahead of him.
Chad Billingsley made his third start of the spring, giving up one run and four hits over 3 1/3 innings, and managed to get through a shaky first inning unscathed despite two walks and a wild pitch, all to the first three batters. He threw 62 pitches. ... Reliever Mike MacDougal, who hadn't given up a run in two previous appearances this spring, gave up four of them in one-third of an inning. ... The Dodgers (7-3-2) host the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers on Friday, with Aaron Harang scheduled to start.