March 2016

In case you missed it: Dodgers option Liberatore, hone in on bullpen

Adam Liberatore has struck out 11 in nine Cactus League innings this year.

Adam Liberatore has struck out 11 in nine Cactus League innings this year.

Dodgers at Padres, 1:10 p.m.
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Chase Utley, 2B
Kiké Hernandez, SS
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Ross Stripling, P

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers are down to two left-handers in their Major League bullpen after optioning Adam Liberatore to the minors following the team’s 5-4 victory Monday over Texas.

The question now is, will they go down to one?

Since we last checked in on the bullpen, it has been whittled in predictable fashion, leaving the following:

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The call of the yard

backyard

By Jon Weisman

Speaking of retirements …

My youngest son hung up his baseball spikes last year, when he was 7. He lasted a year longer than his older brother, and took a bit more pleasure in it, but it’s all relative. Youngest Master Weisman was the classic player who loved when it was his turn to bat, but went on mental walkabout when he was out in the field, so that when the ball finally did come at him, it was usually 20 feet behind him before he realized it.

He likes being with other kids, but he’s got other ways of being with other kids. He was a good sport, but when you’re 7, now 8, life’s too short to stand around bored in the sun.

But as I expect Jamey Wright knows, there’s always the backyard. There’s always the place where you control the game, where you can bat as long as you like and if you never want to stand around waiting for a ball to come to you, you don’t have to.

Several times during this Spring Training month, while his old coach-pitch teammates have moved on with their lives, my youngest and I have gone out to our little yard, with a toy bat and two Fisher Price balls, well beneath his age level, that we probably purchased half his life ago. The bat weighs about an ounce — just enough heft so that it doesn’t break upon contact, but ideal for him to whip around effortlessly. The ball hits the bat with the sound of a folded newspaper whacking a fly.

The photo above makes our yard look deceptively large — this park, to paraphrase “Major League,” is not Yellowstone. Somehow, the dimensions are just right for what we’re up to. I pitch from just in front of the woodsy part, and he has to make solid contact to get it past me. That happens, I’m gonna say, three out of 10 times. (I really have no idea, but that suits the idyllic feel.) There’s a back fence shortly behind the tall trees, hidden. One time, when we said “one more good hit before we go in,” he cleared it. Now, that was a well-earned home run trot.

This weekend when we did it, he was in a sad mood before we began, and cheerful when we finished.

I have lots of aspirations for my kids. Possibly too many. Possibly not enough. But when it comes to sports, I just want them to enjoy it. We’re not looking to turn pro — we’re barely aiming for amateur. We go outside, never planned, never for very long, never really accomplishing anything. And each time we do, each time possibly being the last time, it means more to me than anything in a boxscore ever could.

After 19 MLB seasons, Jamey Wright retires

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Rangers at Dodgers 7:05 p.m.
Kiké Hernandez, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Austin Barnes, C
Joc Pederson, CF
Charlie Culberson, 2B
Alex Wood, P

By Jon Weisman

If it was a longshot for Jamey Wright to make a comeback with the Dodgers at age 41, what a sweet longshot it was.

Wright, who allowed 16 baserunners in 6 2/3 Cactus League innings, announced today that he was retiring from baseball, after 19 Major league seasons and nearly 23 years after signing his first professional contract. He had a chance to say goodbye to the sport with his eyes wide open.

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The Dodgers and ‘The Arm’

Yahoo baseball columnist Jeff Passan’s new book, “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports,” was excerpted at his home site today, and among other things it offers a rare peek into the kinds of steps the Dodgers have taken to grow and target their research and development department in baseball operations. Start reading, and take special note when Dr. James Buffi first appears.

— Jon Weisman

LADF auctioning 10 Opening Day ticket packages

By Erin Edwards

Want to be at Opening Day? Want to get your favorite starting player’s autograph? Now you can do both!

The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation has 10 Opening Day Ticket packages up for bid at dodgers.com/auction. Each auction item includes four Field Level game tickets for the April 12 home opener against Arizona, a preferred parking pass and an autographed baseball from the designated field position indicated. The auction is available now through April 6.

All proceeds benefit the programs and charitable donations of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. To learn more, visit dodgers.com/ladf or follow LADF on social media: Twitter (@DodgersFdn), Instagram (dodgersfoundation) and Facebook (LosAngelesDodgersFoundation).

No, not everyone got hurt: 2016 Spring Training stars

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Diego Padres

By Jon Weisman

One week from Opening Day, it’s safe to say that injuries have dampened Spring Training for the Dodgers this year, like picking the wrong line at Philippe’s 30 minutes before game time. If there’s an upside, it’s that aside from the injuries, there’s been a feast for the baseball senses. Nearly everyone on the field is meeting or exceeding expectations. Here are some of the brightest (and, knock on wood) healthiest lights at Camelback Ranch this month:

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In case you missed it: Ex-Dodger moves forward from tragedy

Reds at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Carl Crawford, LF
Trayce Thompson, CF
Chase Utley, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Rob Segedin, 1B
Austin Barnes, 2B
Charlie Culberson, SS
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

I hope you don’t have to read a tougher story than this today: Former Dodger reliever Javy Guerra spoke to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News about the twin horrors of losing his brother and sister in the past two years.

Here’s what’s happening around the Dodgers …

  • Zach Lee held serve in his challenge with Carlos Frias to start in the first week of the 2016 season. In the Dodgers’ 5-4 victory Saturday over the White Sox, Lee (pitching 4 2/3 innings) got two more outs than Frias, but allowed two more runs. Oddly, Lee had no walks or strikeouts.
  • Wrote Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: “Some will speculate that because Frias faced the Giants recently, Lee will get that first start, rather than have Frias face the same hitters again. San Francisco’s lineup Friday night included Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford.”
  • Under the radar, Kiké Hernandez (hit by a pitch near his oblique Sunday), Alex Guerrero (knee) and Yimi Garcia (knee) have gone days without playing as they try to let various sore spots heal.
  • However, Gurnick indicates that Corey Seager is nearing a return to Major League action after playing defense in a minor-league game Saturday.
  • Scott Kazmir’s abdominal issues weren’t abominable – it turns out, they were cramps.
  • Prospect watchers got a thrill when 20-year-old Cody Bellinger and 21-year-old Willie Calhoun hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning off MLB veteran Dan Jennings. Each player reached base twice in the game.
  • Justin Turner walked, doubled and singled in his three plate appearances, and now has a Cactus League on-base percentage in the .700 club.
  • Play-by-play announcer Joe Davis is not only spending his first season with the Dodgers in 2016, he and his wife Libby are having their first baby this summer. Congrats!
  • It was Dodger Pride night Saturday at Staples Center with the Kings.

Kazmir makes it clear: Don’t add me to the list

White Sox at Dodgers 7:05 p.m.
Carl Crawford, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Austin Barnes, C
Elian Herrera, SS
Rico Noel, RF
Cody Bellinger, DH
Willie Calhoun, 2B
(Zach Lee, P)

By Cary Osborne

Yes, Scott Kazmir did exit his start against the Mariners on Saturday early — after four innings and 70 pitches — due to a minor abdominal issue. But he made assurances that he was fine and would make his next scheduled start March 31.

“It was something just completely minor, that, literally, I was like ‘I’m ready to go out there.’ And it’s like ‘No, let’s not even test it,” Kazmir told Andy McCullough of the Times. McCullough has more here.

The left-hander added: “I just definitely don’t want to be on that list right now.”

The Dodgers already came into Peoria without Yasiel Puig, who was scratched from the lineup as a precaution because of a tight left hamstring. Reliever Yimi Garcia also has been limited because of a sore knee. Then Kazmir, who during the fourth inning winced after a batter and tried to stretch out his abdominal, made an already panic-riddled spring even more alarming.
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Dodgers don’t put a period on question marks

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers at Mariners, 1:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Trayce Thompson, CF
Scott Van Slyke, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Rob Segedin, 1B
Brandon Hicks, 3B
Charlie Culberson, SS
Jacob Scavuzzo, LF
Scott Kazmir, P

By Cary Osborne

Sifting through injury reports across the big leagues, it’s undeniable — the Dodgers are the Major League team that has had the most significant physical setbacks this spring.

To save you the pain, I won’t list the players in pain, although Yasiel Puig (tight left hamstring) was added today to the assortment that’s being held out for precautionary reasons.

But the Dodgers aren’t the only team in baseball who are approaching Opening Day with concerns. In fact, one team in the National League West has different worries.

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Many happy returns for Vin, Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Well, the Dodgers sure treated Vin Scully right tonight in his 2016 exhibition debut, with the exception of giving him some drama.

Before the game was half over, Scully had a “deuces wild,” a “butter and egg man” and “out from me to you” – not to mention a whopping Dodger victory.

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