Friday, March 4, 2011
Don Mattingly unfazed by offense
By Tony Jackson ESPNLosAngeles.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers staged a furious, late-inning rally after falling behind early in Friday night's Cactus League game -- a 5-3 loss to a San Francisco Giants split squad before 11,261 at the Ballpark -- but that hardly mitigated what had happened up to then. Or, more to the point, what hadn't happened.
On the one hand, the Dodgers are about halfway through spring training, meaning it is certainly too early for definitive judgements about anything. On the other hand, the Dodgers don't appear to have much in the way of offense, whether it's the frontline starters who have been playing the first four innings or the array of reserves, prospects and non-roster hopefuls who have been coming in after that.
Through eight games, the Dodgers have scored 25 runs and are batting a collective .230 (58 for 252).
So is it time to worry? Not at all, says manager Don Mattingly, a man who knows a little bit about hitting.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says it's too early to panic regarding the team's lack of offense.
"For me, it's too early," Mattingly said. "We have been asking guys to get their timing down, and [hitting coach Jeff Pentland] has been talking about seeing more pitches and things like that. I'm certainly not concerned about it. We would be matching guys up differently during the regular season, the lefty-righties and things like that. [In spring training], if it's their day to play, then whoever [opposing pitcher] they get is who they get."
If you subscribe to the notion that spring training is much more about individual players getting themselves ready for the season, then the issue might not be as glaring as it appears to be to the naked eye. Among the Dodgers regulars, Matt Kemp is batting .400 with one strikeout in 10 at-bats, although he has no extra-base hits; Rod Barajas is at .444; and James Loney is hitting a cool .500 (5 for 10) with only two strikeouts, even as those in the Loney-needs-to-hit-for-more-power camp will quickly point out that he also has no extra-base hits.
Even the low batting averages among everyday Dodgers -- Casey Blake is hitting .167, and Andre Ethier is at .100 -- can be written off to the skewed mathematics that come with not having very many at-bats.
Throw in the fact roughly half the Dodgers' plate appearances in every game they have played have been taken by guys who aren't everyday-caliber, major league players, and there is plenty of reason not to care that the Dodgers aren't hitting and aren't scoring.
"We didn't swing the bats very good last year in spring training, and we came out pretty good when the season started," Mattingly said. "I'm not so much worried about results as our approach and our work."
To that end, Mattingly is seeing plenty of positives. He was asked specifically about the running game, which he says he wants to make better use of this season and thus has given new first-base coach Davey Lopes virtual carte blanche in overseeing it. The Dodgers stole two bases against the Giants, including one by Kemp in the fourth inning.
"Our baserunning has been pretty good," Mattingly said. "We have been able to take advantage of some things. We have left a lot of guys on their own so Davey can get a chance to see everybody and the breaks we're getting and how we're picking up everything we have been working on. We're trying to find out who can and who can't, who we need to pull back on a little bit and who we need to be careful with."
The Dodgers have been successful on 11 of 13 steal attempts this spring.
First to go
The Dodgers made their first cut of the spring, reassigning non-roster left-hander Dana Eveland to minor league camp. Eveland, a six-year big league veteran, came to camp with very little chance of making the club, and that probably went from slim to none when he injured his hamstring running sprints just minutes into the first pitcher-catcher workout of the spring more than two weeks ago.
Eveland is said to be close to being ready to pitch, but he didn't make it back in time to appear in a Cactus League game.
The Dodgers signed two players out of their annual tryout camp this week, including one former major leaguer.
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Left-hander Randy Keisler, 35, who pitched for four different clubs over six seasons, most recently for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, was signed to a minor league deal. He has a career big league record of 4-4 with a 6.63 ERA in 55 appearances, including 20 starts. Over the last three seasons, he has spent time with the Triple-A affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets, in the independent Atlantic League and in the Mexican League.
The other player signed was right-hander Robert Romero, who will turn 26 later this month. A seventh-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2005, he has never pitched at any level higher than low Single-A. He spent all of the past two seasons, and most of 2008 as well, in various independent leagues.
Both Keisler and Romero were assigned to minor league camp.
Tucson game finalized
The Dodgers finally announced they will play a charity Cactus League game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Tucson on March 25. Proceeds will not, as previously reported, benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund, but instead will go to the Tucson Together Fund, which provides financial assistance to victims, witnesses and their families for expenses associated with the Jan. 8 shooting rampage that claimed the lives of Christina-Taylor Green and five others.
Proceeds from an additional charity Cactus League game, to be played next Monday in Tucson between the Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox, will benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund. Green, who was 9, was the daughter of John Green, a national crosschecker in the Dodgers scouting department.
The Dodgers-Diamondbacks game will be played at 1:05 p.m. on March 25 at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, the former spring-training home of the Diamondbacks. Tickets range in price from $6 to $20 and can be purchased on line at dodgers.com/spring, dbacks.com/spring, tucsonpadres.com and kinosportscomplex.com. They also can be purchased by calling (520) 434-1367 or at the stadium box office.
Honoring the Duke
A Dodgers spokesman said Friday the team hasn't decided yet how to honor the memory of Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider, who died on Sunday at 84.
"We're still in the process of determining [that]," said Josh Rawitch, the Dodgers' vice president for communications.
However, it would seem highly likely the Dodgers will commemorate Snider with a uniform-sleeve patch, something they previously have done whenever one of their Hall of Fame players has died. The Dodgers also are considering a pregame ceremony honoring Snider before a yet-to-be-selected home game this season.
Winning the battle
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Chris Ramirez, the teenaged brain-cancer patient from the San Francisco Bay area who visited the Dodgers in spring training last year as part of the Make-a-Wish program and got to meet his favorite player, Manny Ramirez, is visiting again this weekend with his mother and sister. This time, a healthier-looking Chris, who played baseball at Capuchino High School in San Bruno, said he had finished his chemotherapy and that he had beaten his cancer.
Right-hander Jon Garland, who traditionally doesn't throw off a mound until he arrives at spring training and thus took a little longer to be ready for game action, finally made his Cactus League debut, going three strong innings and limiting the Giants to an unearned run on one hit. The run was the result of a throwing error by Kemp. Garland, whom the Dodgers signed in November to a one-year, $5 million contract with an $8 million club option for 2012, is expected to be their fifth starter when the season begins. ...
Outfielder Marcus Thames, who missed the previous two days because of discomfort in his foot he quickly identified as the early stages of plantar fasciitis, returned to the lineup as the Dodgers designated hitter, going 0 for 2, drawing a walk and getting hit by a pitch. After trying three different pairs of spikes, Thames, who said he has a history of plantar fasciitis, appeared to have found more comfortable spikes to head off the problem. ...
The Dodgers (2-6) host the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. Clayton Kershaw will pitch for the Dodgers, while Bronson Arroyo will go for the Reds.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.