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World Series notes: Dave Roberts declines first-pitch honor at Fenway

World Series notes: Dave Roberts declines first-pitch honor at Fenway
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts smiles after a workout at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Dave Roberts could have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

Not alone. The Boston Red Sox are honoring their 2004 championship team, and the Dodgers’ manager was invited to join his former Boston teammates in the collective first pitch.

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He declined.

“I’m going to be getting ready for a game,” Roberts said. “So I’ll have fun with those guys, but I won’t be a part of it.”

Roberts stole the base that triggered the Boston comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit in that year’s American League Championship Series, with the Red Sox advancing and winning their first World Series in 86 years.

The base that Roberts stole is on display at Fenway Park, adjacent to an endless loop replaying the steal. Roberts is safe every time.

Dodgertown blues

The last great player to come through Dodgertown starts against the Dodgers on Wednesday.

In 2008, David Price made the first six starts of his professional career for the Vero Beach (Fla.) Devil Rays.

The Dodgers already had completed the last of their 61 springs in Vero Beach, and they had transferred their Class-A team from the Florida State League to the California League. The Rays temporarily put their FSL team at Dodgertown, and that 2008 team was the last affiliated minor league team to play there.

By the end of the 2008 season, Price was in the World Series, pitching in relief for the Rays. He had made 11 postseason starts without winning any — for the Rays, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays and Red Sox — before he won Game 5 of this year’s ALCS.

“Just because I failed in October for about nine straight years, it didn't take away my passion from baseball,” Price said Tuesday. “This is something I fell in love with since I was 2 years old. So the ups and the downs, I knew they were going to happen. I've definitely had many more downs than ups in October, but I've got a lot of baseball left.”

The Dodgers had drafted Price out of high school, in 2004, even though he and his family had made it clear he would attend Vanderbilt. They took a flier on him in the 19th round, just in case he changed his mind.

"I didn't even know I got drafted," Price told The Times during the 2008 World Series.

Why Alexander made the World Series roster

Caleb Ferguson posted a 2.35 ERA in 26 relief appearances in the regular season, and he has not given up a hit in six appearances this postseason. The Dodgers commended Ferguson, a 22-year-old left-handed rookie, for his poise in late-game situations.

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Yet Ferguson did not make the World Series roster. The Dodgers opted for another left-handed reliever, Scott Alexander, to take his place. Roberts insisted Ferguson was not dealing with any physical issues, despite his fastball velocity dropping during the National League Championship Series.

“He’s healthy,” Roberts said.

But the Dodgers do not feel Ferguson can handle the strain of pitching on back-to-back days, Roberts said. Ferguson did so only twice this season. He was groomed as a starting pitcher, but converted to relief this summer. He could return as a starter in 2019.

Alexander was not on the roster against the Milwaukee Brewers. He was used almost exclusively for abbreviated appearances in September. He finished the season with a 3.68 ERA.

“To now have a guy who you feel can hit and run and get a lefty out each night, we just didn’t think Caleb could do that,” Roberts said.

How Barnes took over for Grandal – again

Yasmani Grandal entered this October as the Dodgers’ undisputed starting catcher, but a slump at the plate and a dreadful spell of fielding cost him his gig for the second postseason in a row. Austin Barnes started Tuesday for Game 1 of the World Series, and Roberts indicated the position was Barnes’ to lose.

Roberts said it was possible that Grandal might get a start against the Red Sox.

“Obviously,” he continued, “it’s going to be predicated on how Austin is playing.”

Barnes won the job from Grandal in 2017. It would be more accurate to say Grandal lost the job this season. Barnes posted a .619 on-base-plus-slugging percentage during the regular season, and appeared timid at the plate.

But Grandal hit .125 in the first two series. He made a series of mistakes behind the plate, including three passed balls. Barnes started the final four games against the Brewers.

“Austin still has to play well, on both sides of the ball,” Roberts said. “He still has to have good at-bats. And he’s still got to receive well back there, and do what he does. Right now, I think he has played better [than Grandal]. We’ll see. You don’t want to close doors. We’ll evaluate each night.”

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