By Jon Weisman
Justin Turner is looking forward to leaping into 2016, but he’ll be leaping cautiously at first.
As a precaution and not unexpectedly, Turner won’t play in the first week of Cactus League games, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes.
Dave Roberts told reporters today that Turner, who is recovering from November microfracture knee surgery, remains on schedule for Opening Day, and that he can get at-bats in minor-league camp in the interim.
Howie Kendrick and Chase Utley will get some starts at third base in the meantime, Roberts said.
By Cary Osborne
This story by Sporting News contributor Graham Womack wasn’t on my radar until my colleague Jon Weisman forwarded it my way. It’s a good thing he did, being it’s a topic that gets my mind going.
The headline reads: “Tommy John on Baseball Hall of Fame: ‘I’m being held back.’”
I immediately made a mistake. Before even reading the story, I said to myself, “Tommy John is not a Hall of Famer.”
I’ve looked at his numbers before, and have acknowledged how important he is to the game, having come back from receiving a baseball death sentence at 31 years old, then having experimental surgery on his torn elbow ligament — a surgery named after him — by the legendary Dr. Frank Jobe and pitching another 14 seasons.
My memory clouded my judgment. I’m old enough to remember Tommy John’s final unspectacular years, but not old enough to have seen his greatness, particularly when he pitched for the Dodgers from 1972 to 1979. So the lasting memory of him for me is as a soft-tossing, aging left-hander.
But I’ve never fully delved deep into Tommy John’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. (The closest John came to election was his last year of eligibility on the writers’ ballot, 2009, when he received 31.7 percent, well short of the 75 percent needed for election).
Womack’s excellent story and Jon, not Tommy John, encouraged me to go here. So here goes — deep-delving.
By Jon Weisman
It will be 2016 Yearbook cover boy Clayton Kershaw vs. Tyson Ross when the Dodgers open the 2016 National League season April 4 at San Diego.
Kershaw will be making his sixth consecutive Opening Day start, the most in a row since Don Sutton made seven (1972-78). Sutton and Don Drysdale hold the franchise record for Opening Day starts.
As a prelude, Kershaw will be on the mound when the Dodgers open their Cactus League season Thursday at Camelback Ranch agains the White Sox.
Los Angeles has won all five previous Opening Day starts by Kershaw, though he has a no-decision in two of those. For you trivia buffs, the winning pitchers on Opening Day in 2012 and 2015 were Josh Lindblom and Joel Peralta.
By Jon Weisman
Since it was revealed that Sandy Koufax no longer has an official, formal role with the Dodgers, there has been some concern. Koufax released a statement today through the Dodgers to address that:
“I’m 80 years old and I have retired. I have not quit. I’m still part of the Dodgers organization and always will be especially as long as Mark and Kimbra Walter are part of ownership. I will do most of what I have done in the past with no official title. I hope all the players, coaches, manager and everyone else in the clubhouse have successful and healthy seasons with a spectacular ending. See you Opening Day.”
Clayton Kershaw spoke Friday about Koufax to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
“Whether or not he’s officially here, he’s still around,” Kershaw said of Koufax, who has ended his three-year stint in the front office but visited the club on Friday. “I don’t think it will change much for me. Sandy cares about us as a team, and I think he will be around when he can, and he’ll watch our games.”
Pedro Guerrero’s slide that wasn’t into third base still haunts me. And it was 30 years ago.
Guerrero was at his peak — in fact, he was at everyone’s peak. Having hit 15 home runs in June 1985 alone, finishing the year with a National League-leading .999 OPS and 182 OPS+, Guerrero was the rightful NL Most Valuable Player, even if voters didn’t see it that way.
When Guerrero arrived at Spring Training in 1986, he seemed more than a little aware of his stature. But the media played into that. Some of the coverage bears a striking resemblance to that of Yasiel Puig over the past 2 1/2 years, in that things that should have been unremarkable were treated as the opposite.
According to Gordon Edes of the Times, there was a pool among the beat writers, players and even “a certain manager,” betting on when Guerrero would actually show up in Vero Beach. (Bob Hunter of the Daily News won.) But Guerrero wasn’t late to Spring Training. He was more than on time. He just wasn’t as early as others.
Guerrero did admit to Edes that if it were up to him, he would skip Spring Training entirely. “But if I do that and hit .210, you guys (reporters) would be all over my butt,” he said.
So Guerrero arrived. He had one hit in his first 16 at-bats, then suddenly smacked six doubles and a triple as Grapefruit League play heated up. No one worried about Pedro Guerrero, the player who was, as I’ll never tire of quoting Bill James as saying, “the best hitter God had made in a long time.”
By Cary Osborne
Hyun-Jun Ryu won’t be ready for Opening Day. As reported by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, he and Dave Roberts acknowledged that the timetable for his return from 2015 shoulder surgery now shifts.
Ryu said May is the target.
“With a surgery like that, I wouldn’t expect to be ready,” Ryu said. “My main goal is to be ready sometime in May and make 20 starts and around 150 innings. That would be successful.”
Though the news is not a complete surprise, it does present one of the most intriguing Dodger storylines to follow this spring.
The race is now on for the fifth spot in the rotation with numerous contenders in camp.
By Jon Weisman
Just how strong is Yasiel Puig’s arm?
This week at MLB.com, MLB Statcast analyst Mike Petriello wrote about the top outfield arms in baseball. His methodology in brief appears at the end of this post. I followed up by asking Statcast for some numbers specific to the Dodgers, and here’s what I got:
- 96.0 mph — Yasiel Puig
- 90.8 mph — Joc Pederson
- 90.5 mph — Scott Van Slyke
- 88.5 mph — Alex Guerrero
- 88.2 mph — Kiké Hernandez
- 87.7 mph — Andre Ethier
- 79.7 mph — Carl Crawford
Puig was 2.6 mph behind Houston’s Jake Marsinick, the top outfield arm in the Majors. Here’s a 99.4 mph throw that Puig made at Houston in August:
The Retired Number Pin Series (presented by 76) runs through 10 games at Dodger Stadium this year, beginning May 9 with No. 1, Pee Wee Reese.
A 21-game Dodger mini plan guarantees you tickets for all 10 Retired Number dates and 10 bobblehead dates — plus Opening Day. Visit dodgers.com/tickets for more information.
— Jon Weisman