Mookie Betts to play some second base for Team USA , and maybe the Dodgers too if needed
PHOENIX — Mookie Betts’ immediate future remains in right field.
“I’ve got to win some more hardware out there,” the six-time Gold Glove winner said earlier this camp.
It doesn’t mean, however, he won’t get occassional chances this season to moonlight at his original position of second base.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts revealed on Thursday that Betts is expected to see some playing time at the spot with Team USA in next month’s World Baseball Classic.
“I think he’s gonna play a couple games [at second base],” Roberts said, adding that he’ll try giving Betts a couple Cactus League starts there before he leaves camp to join the U.S. team.
Roberts also hinted at the possibility of Betts playing second base when needed for the Dodgers this season, with the 30-year-old likely to be part of their infield contingency plans in case of injuries.
“He’s done that before for us,” Roberts said.
Indeed, Betts has made five starts at second base in each of the past two seasons, usually as a way to give him a little extra rest at a less physically demanding position.
This season, however, the Dodgers are likely to have just one traditional backup infielder, Miguel Rojas, on their MLB roster to start the season, putting Betts and fellow outfielder Chris Taylor in line to potentially move to the dirt if the Dodgers have a roster need.
The team does has other alternatives already on the 40-man roster, including prospect Michael Busch and offseason trade acquisition Yonny Hernandez.
And Roberts maintained confidence in the club’s array of options when asked about their infield depth Thursday.
“I don’t think ... there’s much of a concern,” Roberts said.
While it means Betts — who has taken infield drills several days already this spring — might only be needed at second base in emergency situations this year, Roberts said he could envision the former MVP one day switching to the position full-time later in his career.
“I think that’s way down the road,” Roberts said. “But, as Father Time kind of takes it toll, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Mookie play the last four years of his career at second base. I wouldn’t be suprised with that at all.”
New rules take center stage in Dodgers first spring scrimmage game
PHOENIX — During the Dodgers first camp scrimmage game of the spring Thursday, most of the attention was focused on new rules Major League Baseball will enact this season.
Throughout the two-inning exhibition, third base coach Dino Ebel directed infielders on where to stand, reminding them the new shift ban requires they start each pitch inside the outfield grass line and with two infielders to either side of second base.
Manager Dave Roberts said the team would be taking note of delivery times, as well, with a pitch clock now going into effect.
At one point, the altered regulations even impacted the game, when Max Muncy rolled a single through the right side of the infield that might have been fielded by a shifted defender last season.
“Yeah!” Muncy exclaimed as he pulled into second base. “No shift.”
During the game, Julio Urías and Noah Syndergaard each tossed a couple frames.
Miguel Vargas (who was limited to defense-only as he continues to nurse a hairline pinky fracture) made the best defensive play when he came up with a diving stop and accurate, spinning throw from the ground at second base.
Dodgers lineups for first scrimmage of spring training
The Dodgers are playing their first scrimmage game of the spring today. Manager Dave Roberts said it will last two innings.
Here are the lineups:
What a more relaxed Freddie Freeman could mean to Dodgers in 2023
PHOENIX — He sneaked up behind Mookie Betts and lifted him into the air. He bear hugged Gavin Lux. He exchanged smiles with Max Muncy.
Instead of nervously taking in a strange new environment, Freddie Freeman was catching up with friends.
“It’s nice knowing everybody now,” Freeman said of reporting to spring training this year compared to last year.
Freeman values comfort, which is why the All-Star first baseman is taking additional measures to feel more at home in his second season with the Dodgers.
He’s looking for a home closer to Dodger Stadium to reduce his 90-minute commute from Orange County.
And last week, he spent close to an hour on a golf cart parked by the Dodgers’ administrative offices at Camelback Ranch explaining how he thinks and how he works.
Now out of WBC, Clayton Kershaw taking “little step back” in season prep
Dave Roberts said Clayton Kershaw is taking “a little step back” in his ramp up for the season now that he won’t be participating in the World Baseball Classic.
“Obviously, with the initial expectation to pitch for Team USA, there was an earlier ramp up and he came into camp feeling good,” Roberts said. “So to not have that and take a little step back, I think that’s sort of where we’re at right now.”
While Kershaw has thrown a couple bullpen sessions this spring, he’s yet to face hitters. Roberts said he wasn’t sure when that would be.
However, the manager reiterated that Kershaw has looked good early in camp after having a fully healthy offseason.
“He’s in a really good spot,” Roberts said. “Looks great physically, mentally and definitely different from last year,” when Kershaw was coming off a serious elbow injury.
High winds not stopping Dodgers workouts
Despite a rare brisk, windy day in the desert, the Dodgers are proceeding with their normal workouts Wednesday.
“You’ve got to be able to read and react, adjust and still go out there and perform,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So we’re gonna go out there. Guys got to get their work in and we’re not going to change that.”
Andrew Friedman arrives at Dodgers camp after Japan scouting trip
PHOENIX — Andrew Friedman took in Dodgers workouts for the first time this spring Tuesday, after returning from a recent trip to Japan to scout the country’s World Baseball Classic team.
With Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations, away the past week, general manager Brandon Gomes had been overseeing camp as the highest-ranking front office official.
Miguel Vargas focusing on defense while pinky heals
PHOENIX — Miguel Vargas isn’t actually on the injured list. It just feels that way to the Dodgers rookie infielder baseman.
After suffering a hairline fracture in his pinky this weekend, Vargas still wasn’t swinging a bat at Dodgers camp on Tuesday — marking one of the rare times in his young career he hasn’t been at the plate for several days.
“First time I’m on the, I don’t know, DL or anything,” he joked. “So it was weird for me.”
While Vargas is expected to resume swinging later this week, the 23-year-old is focusing on his defense in the meantime, taking infield drills again Tuesday as he continues to prepare for a likely starting spot at second base.
“He’s gonna get every opportunity to win that job at second base,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I think for Miguel, just to continue to get comfortable at second base — our goal is for him to start the season at second base and bear down on the defense and get off on the ball. We trust the bat. Just be a baseball player, be himself.”
With Jason Heyward pushing for roster spot, Dodgers outfield already coming into focus
PHOENIX — The Dodgers are still four days away from their first spring training game, but already their likely opening day outfield is becoming clear.
On Tuesday, manager Dave Roberts spoke glowingly of veteran Jason Heyward, complimenting the left-handed hitter’s offseason swing changes a day after Heyward hit a home run off Tony Gonsolin in live batting practice.
“The swing mechanically is a lot more clean,” Roberts said. “I was impressed with the live pitching, how he was on time and the rhythm of it. He’s worked really hard this winter and it looks a lot better than it has in the past.”
Asked if Heyward, who signed this winter on a minor league deal, has a leg up on other non-roster invitees for the likely last roster spot in the outfield, Roberts replied, “Absolutely.”
If Heyward can indeed cement his place on the roster, it would give the Dodgers five outfielders going into the season, along with Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, David Peralta and Trayce Thompson.
Betts will obviously be the everyday right fielder.
At the other two spots, platoons could be created with Taylor and Thompson on the right side of the plate and Peralta and Heyward on the left.
Taylor would likely see the most playing time of those four, though Roberts stopped short on Tuesday of guaranteeing him everyday playing time coming off an inconsistent and injury-plagued 2022 season.
Roberts also reiterated his expectation of getting a bounce-back campaign out of Taylor now that the elbow and neck issues that bothered him last year are healed.
“I would expect him to be back to the Chris Taylor we know,” Roberts said. “He’s gonna take a lot of at-bats. I don’t know about everyday. But he’s gonna play a lot. But we also have some other good ballplayers that I feel it’s important to keep involved too.”
Why Dodgers hitters are becoming Driveline Baseball regulars
It took just one day for Max Muncy’s routine to change this offseason.
Three months removed from the Dodgers’ postseason elimination, and more than 1,000 miles away from the team’s home facilities, the veteran third baseman found himself just south of Seattle in January, spending an afternoon at Driveline Baseball.
The trip to the renowned data-driven training center hadn’t originally been his idea. It came as a suggestion from Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc shortly after the 2022 season.
Muncy wasn’t certain what to expect, having believed Driveline was a place pitchers went to improve with the help of cutting-edge technology — not their counterparts at the plate.
A Red Sox employee was suspended for sign-stealing role. He now works for the Dodgers
PHOENIX — As spring training opened, there were rumblings in some corners of the industry about a relatively unpublicized addition the Dodgers made over the winter.
How could they have hired the engine of a sign-stealing operation that might have contributed to them losing the 2018 World Series?
How could they have hired former Boston Red Sox video replay coordinator J.T. Watkins?
The most important voice on the Dodgers didn’t raise any such questions Sunday when asked about Watkins.
Clayton Kershaw said he didn’t have any problem with them bringing on the 33-year-old former minor league catcher who will assist Dodgers players with a hitting game plan.
Dave Roberts’ spring training message to Dodgers: Embrace the change
PHOENIX — Dave Roberts didn’t avoid the elephant in the room during the Dodgers’ first full team meeting of the spring on Monday.
Instead, the manager addressed the club’s significant offseason roster changes, inviting new arrivals such as outfielders Jason Heyward and David Peralta, and reliever Tyler Cyr, to speak to the team.
“I think that a lot of guys that have been here are anxious to see the dynamic with some new faces, and I think that the guys that are newer here are excited to kind of see what we as the Dodgers are all about,” Roberts said. “So that in itself, that kind of the unknown is exciting.”
Edwin Ríos looking to capitalize with Cubs after frustrating final year with Dodgers
Edwin Ríos isn’t great with names. It’s a problem that surfaced over the last few days, since joining the Chicago Cubs on a one-year contract.
“I’m meeting a lot of people,” Ríos said, “and kind of meeting them twice because I introduce myself and forget their name.”
Ríos didn’t expect to have to learn so many names when he reported for spring training in 2023. He had envisioned another spring with the Dodgers, the only major league organization he had known, to prepare to help them compete for another World Series title. That assumption was torpedoed in November when the Dodgers non-tendered him to close an odd and frustrating year.
On Friday, Ríos finally signed with a club, agreeing to a $1-million deal with Chicago two months after Cody Bellinger, another player non-tendered by the Dodgers in November, joined the Cubs. Ríos is expected to log playing time primarily as the designated hitter, with first base and third base as options.
Miguel Vargas nursing hairline pinky fracture, won’t swing for a few days
As his team began its first full-squad workout of the spring on Monday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said rookie infielder Miguel Vargas has a hairline fracture in his right pinky that will prevent him from swinging for a few days.
Vargas sustained the injury after taking a ball to his hand during infield drills over the weekend, Roberts said.
Roberts initially said Vargas didn’t need an MRI exam, but later clarified that the 23-year-old did get a scan that revealed the full extent of the injury.