Saturday, February 19, 2011
Davey Lopes tutoring Matt Kemp, others
By Tony Jackson
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Davey Lopes, the former Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman and baserunning guru the team hired over the winter to be its new first base coach, spent the first 45 minutes or so of Saturday's spring training workout with several of the club's players who are considered stolen-base threats. The fact much of that time was dedicated to one-on-one work with center fielder Matt Kemp was by design.
"I see a lot of things that he is doing," Lopes said. "Some of the stuff he does, or has been doing, takes away from his quickness a little bit. So we're trying to eliminate some body movement and iron out some things and just make him a little smoother."
Lopes has been giving these tutorials every morning this spring, and after a few minutes on Saturday, Kemp was joined by outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., shortstop Rafael Furcal, highly touted prospects Dee Gordon and Trayvon Robinson and non-roster outfielder Trent Oeltjen. Not one of those players is required to be in camp until Monday, but several of the team's position players chose to report early.
Lopes' group spent the entire session taking leads off first, crouching and breaking toward second base, though they weren't running at anything close to full speed and they stopped about halfway there.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get an idea of what they do and what they attempt to do and see if there is something we can try to adjust to make it a little better fit for them," Lopes said. "Basically, we're just breaking down their movements."
Although Kemp is generally viewed as a five-tool player, one of the knocks against him last year was that he didn't utilize one of those tools, his speed, well enough. After stolen-base success rates of 76.1 in 2008 and 81 in 2009, that number nosedived to 55.9 percent (19 of 34) last year. Lopes, who was coaching first base for the Philadelphia Phillies last season, didn't want to speculate as to what might have been the reason for that.
"Not seeing his actual performance, it's hard for me to say exactly what it was," Lopes said. "What we're going to do now is try to make that [percentage] a little better. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admitted he would like for the team to make better use of the running game this season, but he qualified that by adding that doesn't necessarily mean he wants Kemp or any other player to set any records.
"We want to take advantage of anything we can take advantage of," Mattingly said. "Maybe taking advantage of the running game means a guy getting 12 bags instead of a guy getting 50 bags. Maybe it means five guys get eight or nine bags. You really just have to take advantage of what the other team is giving you, such as if they don't think you can run or they're not paying much attention to you [on the bases]."
In Mattingly's first spring as the team's manager, he already has employed at least one unconventional tactic. Often, when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, Mattingly will grab a bat, step into the left-handed batter's box and get into the familiar stance he employed for so many years as a six-time All-Star first baseman for the New York Yankees.
"It gives me a better look at a guy's stuff," Mattingly said. "[By standing there], I can tell if what a guy is throwing can get somebody out or it can't."
Mattingly conceded that some of his pitchers -- especially those who will spend the spring fighting for a roster spot -- might be a bit unnerved by firing a baseball in the general direction of the boss's body. In deference to that, he said he steps out of the box when it comes time for a pitcher to throw to the inside part of the plate.
The Dodgers will begin selling single-game tickets for the regular season on Feb. 26. A limited number of tickets for the March 31 season opener against the San Francisco Giants also will be made available at that time, but those can be purchased only at Dodger Stadium. Single-game tickets to any other game also will be available for purchase at 10 a.m. that day on line at dodgers.com/tickets or by calling 866-DODGERS.
Parking Lot P at the ballpark will open at 8 a.m., at which time fans will receive numbered wristbands, and a starting lottery number will be randomly selected at 9 a.m. to determine who will be first in line.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Follow him on Twitter.