Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Sellers, Lindblom make 25-man roster
By Ramona Shelburne
LOS ANGELES -- And then there were 25. Or there will be 25 after the Dodgers make it official Wednesday afternoon. But the team did decide the winners of its final position battles Tuesday night after a 4-1 win over the Angels in the middle game of the Freeway Series.
Infielder Justin Sellers and right-hander Josh Lindblom will make the club. Infielders Luis Cruz and Josh Fields will be reassigned along with lefty reliever Scott Rice before the team leaves Los Angeles for Thursday's season opener in San Diego against the Padres.
Sellers earned the final nod over Fields and Cruz because of his versatility in the infield -- he can play shortstop, second base and third base -- and because he made the necessary adjustments at the plate after hitting just .203 in 36 games last season.
"The biggest thing Justin needs to do is understand who he is as a hitter," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "When you play in basically a pitchers' ballpark, you can't hit fly balls. He's got a little bit of pop, but enough to get him in trouble. He needs to hit the ball low, especially into right field.
"If he wants to be here, you can't lead our team in fly ball percentage at 170 pounds. Matt Kemp hits 'em out over there, but I don't know about Justin."
This spring Sellers took those notes and worked on his approach at the plate. He brought his average up to .310 with an RBI single in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game. When Jerry Sands fizzled this spring and was reassigned to minor league camp, the door was open for Sellers to try to beat out Fields -- who once hit 23 home runs with the White Sox in 2007 and got off to a hot start this spring but fell off toward the end of camp.
"He's earned it," Mattingly said of Sellers. "He's done all the work. From Sells' standpoint, he's the kind of guy that I like because I know he's not afraid of anything and he's going to catch the baseball. He's tough as can be."
Mattingly said it was a "back-and-forth" decision to go with Lindblom over Rice, a 30-year-old non-roster invite who has never pitched in the big leagues.
"I think he pitched well all spring, too. That wasn't an easy decision," Mattingly said. "That was a back-and-forth, having the second lefty in the 'pen.
"I stood in with him and it's nasty. It's late and it has a good chance to have success here."
Ultimately Lindblom won out because of his consistency and performance this spring.
"We felt like Josh really pitched as good as anybody in camp," Mattingly said. "A few years ago in spring, he was kind of light's out in spring and it was like, 'Who's this guy? He's big, he attacks the strike zone, he can come after ya.'
"The discussion through the organization was maybe this guy can start. It's not easy to find starting pitching. That just didn't work and it kind of set him back, and next thing you know he lost velocity and had a rough year there. Last year he got back on track. We put him back in the 'pen, let him do his thing. He's a smart kid; if he gets a scouting report he's going to know what to do with it. And he's not afraid, he throws strikes, he doesn't walk people."