Freddie Freeman leaves WBC game with hamstring injury
PHOENIX — The Dodgers had a rare day off from their Cactus League schedule Tuesday. They got an on-field scare anyway.
First baseman Freddie Freeman, playing for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, left Tuesday’s 5-0 win over Colombia with a hamstring injury.
Freeman ran gingerly out of the batter’s box after popping out to the third baseman in foul territory in the top of the third inning. He was replaced at first base in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Canada manager Ernie Whitt described Freeman’s ailment as “tightness” in the hamstring. He said the 2020 NL MVP sustained the injury on one of his swings during the at-bat in the third inning.
The injury isn’t believed to be serious, but Freeman will be further evaluated Wednesday. He is not expected to play in Canada’s Pool C finale against Mexico on Wednesday. Canada would advance to the quarterfinals in Miami with a win.
“I don’t foresee Freddie being in [the lineup] for tomorrow,” Whitt said. “We’re waiting from the doctors to see what they say and also the Dodgers. Again, that’s the most important thing — is his health.”
The risk for injury has been the biggest obstacle for the WBC’s growth. Parent clubs are reluctant, if not downright against, letting important players leave spring training to compete in the tournament.
Teams can prevent players from participating if they meet certain established injured list parameters, but players are free to play if they avoid the restrictions. Some players, however, still decline to participate, preferring instead to avoid jumping into a high-stakes environment so early in the calendar or to focus on the upcoming season with their teams.
Stars from across Major League Baseball, plus some top prospects, have played in this WBC. The Dodgers had eight players from their 40-man roster report to play for five different countries.
Just one, Julio Urías, is a pitcher. He logged five innings for Mexico on Saturday and avoided injury. Left-hander Clayton Kershaw sought to play for Team USA, but couldn’t secure the required insurance to participate.
Both catchers on the Dodgers’ expected opening day roster, Will Smith (USA) and Austin Barnes (Mexico), are playing in the tournament. Mookie Betts (USA), David Peralta (Venezuela), Trayce Thompson (Great Britain), and Freeman are the other participants on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.
Freeman, 33, chose to play for Canada to honor his late mother, Rosemary, who died of skin cancer when he was 10. He was born and raised in Orange County, but both of his parents are from Canada. He also played for Canada in the 2017 WBC. He went on to hit .317 with 28 home runs and a .989 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 117 games for the Atlanta Braves that season.
He missed nearly two months of that season with a fractured left wrist after he was hit by a pitch — a freak injury not related to his participation in the WBC.
Freeman has missed just 10 regular-season games since the start of 2018. He appeared in 159 games in 2022, his first season with the Dodgers after signing a six-year, $162-million contract. He batted .325 with 21 home runs and a .918 OPS, fueling an offense that won a franchise-record 111 games. His 117 runs and .407 on-base percentage led the National League. His 199 hits were tops in the majors.
The Dodgers are depending on him to fuel an offense that lost Trea Turner to free agency over the offseason and Gavin Lux to a season-ending knee injury last month. With two weeks until opening day, his status for the start of the season is now unclear.
Dustin May’s mound maturity is improving, even if his cursing is a work in progress
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — There is the way Dustin May feels when he’s on the mound, and there is the way the fiery Dodgers right-hander outwardly expresses it.
On the inside, May has been quietly pleased with his progress this spring, continuing to regain strength and stamina he didn’t realize he was missing last year in his initial return from Tommy John surgery — as well as a newfound level of mental fortitude to go along with it.
“I would say right now is probably the closest I’ve been to pre-surgery, feel-wise,” May said. “I’m in a pretty good spot.”
It’s just that, based on May’s often-emotional in-game demeanor, it sometimes can be hard to tell.
During four scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, for example, May snapped at himself on several occasions: after dropping a ball while covering first base; after misfiring on a pitch that tailed wide of the strike zone; after a second-inning walk that forced him to escape a jam.
In the final instance, the frustration crescendoed with a scream — and four-letter curse word — that echoed around the intimate setting at Goodyear Ballpark, reverberating from the mound to the stands to the press box loud and clear.
“I mean, it’s always there,” May said afterward. “I’m always irritated with myself in some small situations. But that’s just how I pitch. I’m very animated and I’m very energized when I’m on the mound.”
Then, he added with a sly grin: “Just sometimes, the crowd is a little louder, so you don’t hear it.”
Michael Busch gets three hits in Dodgers win, but is among second round of spring cuts
PHOENIX — There was good news and bad news for Dodgers prospect Michael Busch on Monday.
The good: Busch went three for three with an RBI in the Dodgers 11-4 exhibition win over the Cleveland Guardians, his second-straight impressive display following a slow start to the spring.
The bad: Busch was among nine players included in the Dodgers second round of camp cuts after the game, joining several other top prospects in being transferred to minor-league camp.
Rounding out Monday’s group of cuts was catcher Diego Cartaya; infielders Jorbit Vivias, Eddys Leonard and Jahmai Jones; outfielders Andy Pages and Jonny DeLuca; and pitchers Matt Andriese and Bobby Miller.
Elsewhere in Monday’s game, Gavin Stone returned to the mound for the first time in seven games after having strep throat last week. He pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
Michael Grove got the start as he continues to jockey for a potential opening day rotation spot in Tony Gonsolin’s place. However, he gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Daniel Hudson’s arm feels good, but lower half soreness threatens to delay his season
PHOENIX — Daniel Hudson isn’t giving up on opening day yet.
But, in order for the Dodgers reliever to be ready for the start of the season, his recovery from last June’s ACL tear and an offseason ankle tendinitis injury that developed during his rehab will have to markedly improve before the March 30 curtain-raiser.
For the second time this spring, Hudson faced hitters during live batting practice on Monday, an important step in what he admitted has been a frustratingly slow build up this spring.
“Just the whole body, [there has been] general soreness,” Hudson said. “ I don’t think it’s anything to be overly concerned about. It’s just trying to get the reps again, get the body moving like a baseball player again. It’s been eight months since I faced hitters so I’m just trying to lock all that stuff in.”
The next question will be how soon Hudson can get off a mound again, with body soreness having limited the frequency of his activity in camp.
“Daniel is such a hard worker and competitor,” manager Dave Roberts said. “So for his body not to be responding the way he’d hoped, he’s just frustrated. But he’s gonna be fine.”
Indeed, Hudson said his arm feels good — “It’s probably the only part of my body that’s not feeling like crap right now,” he joked — and that he is holding out hope of being ready for opening day.
“I’m still pushing for it,” he said. “But we’ll see where we’re at in a couple weeks and go from there.”
But even the start of his season is delayed, the Dodgers are still confident they’ll get major contributions from the veteran over the course of the year.
“It is what it is,” Hudson said. “I’m 36. I’m not 26 anymore. That’s just part of getting a little older and the rehab process taking a little longer and bouncing back and stuff like that. It’s definitely been frustrating. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my eyes on the bigger prize of being available towards the end of the season rather than potentially April 1.”
Dodgers minor-leaguer Jordan Yamamoto announces his retirement from baseball
A week after being reassigned from Dodgers big league camp to the minor leagues, right-handed pitcher Jordan Yamamoto announced his retirement from baseball on Monday.
A former 12th round pick who spent parts of three seasons in the major leagues from 2019-2021 with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, Yamamoto signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers this offseason in hopes of getting his career back on track.
Instead, the 26-year-old was among the first round of cuts announced by the club last week.
On Monday, he announced his decision to retire on Twitter, writing: “There are so many emotions I’m feeling, but none is regret.”
Dodgers not yet concerned with slow springs from Chris Taylor and J.D. Martinez
PHOENIX — Three weeks into the Dodgers Cactus League schedule, Chris Taylor and J.D. Martinez still aren’t hitting.
So is manager Dave Roberts concerned?
No, he said Monday morning, at least not yet.
“With CT, with JD, there’s a lot to the swing,” Roberts explained. “You still gotta face live pitching. And there’s an adjustment period. That’s what spring training is for.”
Still, while spring numbers can indeed be deceiving — hitters lack the game-planning and preparation of regular season at-bats, and often take the camp to regain timing or rework their their swing — Taylor and Martinez have done little to put early worries at ease.
Entering Monday, Taylor had just three hits in 26 at-bats, having struck out 10 times despite drawing five walks.
Martinez hasn’t performed much better, going five for 29 with two walks and nine punch outs — the latest coming in Monday’s game on an automatic strike for not being ready to hit with eight seconds on the pitch clock.
Both have offered reasons for their slow starts.
Taylor has been trying to fix bad habits in his swing he developed last season, when injuries and inconsistency contributed to his worst offensive showing in six full seasons with the Dodgers.
So far, he hasn’t appeared to turn a corner, with his continued struggles to make contact looming as an issue once again.
“He knows how much we value contact, and I’m going to continue to monitor things,” Roberts said. “But right now, I’m gonna let the process with Chris and the hitting coaches play out. I have no problem betting on the player, the person.”
Martinez, in his first camp with the Dodgers after signing a one-year deal this offseason, has traditionally been a poor spring performer.
He believes it might be a byproduct of his heavy preseason workload in the batting cage, especially this year as he tries to rectify his own bad habits from an up-and-down 2022 season.
“It’s just one of those things where it takes time to do it,” Martinez said. “Time in the cage, at-bats, stuff like that, just to grind it out.”
Come the start of the season, the Dodgers will rely on both to help navigate the roster makeover they endured this offseason.
Martinez is likely to be the everyday DH and could fill in around the outfield if needed.
Taylor could be even more critical entering the second season of his four-year, $60-million contract with the team, needed in both the outfield and as a backup shortstop in the wake of Gavin Lux’s season-ending knee injury.
“We showed as an organization the investment in the player, the person, with his contract,” Roberts said. “Now, with what happened to Gavin, part of the value of Chris is his versatility and his willingness to do whatever to help the ball club. With that comes performance and dependability.
“So I expect him to catch the baseball wherever he’s at. And we expect him to be productive at the plate. I think he expects the same of himself.”
‘Trying to make her proud’: Freddie Freeman honors mom by playing for Canada in WBC
PHOENIX — Freddie Freeman isn’t sure of the exact moment the transformation happened, when baseball went from being an escape from his biggest childhood trauma to a way he could honor the memory of his late mother.
There were points early in his career that he felt it, when the future MVP and World Series champion began establishing himself in the major leagues.
It was reinforced during any number of road trips in the 13 seasons since, when he and his father, Fred, would reminisce and wonder what she would make of their baseball-centric lives.
As Freeman matured and started a family, the need to honor her legacy only strengthened within him.
After years of keeping private mementos to remember her — like wearing a cross around his neck, or getting the initials RJF stitched inside his mitt — he started thinking of more prominent ways his mom could be memorialized.
Young hitters James Outman, Michael Busch continue to impress in Dodgers win over Reds
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Dodgers got a glimpse of their potential future in back-to-back at-bats on Sunday in an 8-1 exhibition win over the Cincinnati Reds.
With one out in the top of the fifth, rookie outfielder James Outman doubled home two runs with a drive off the center field wall. Then, highly-touted infield prospect Micahel Busch followed with a two-run home run in the next at-bat.
Both hitters are vying for the final position player spot on the Dodgers opening day roster. And while both could very well start the season in triple A, they aren’t making the decision easy on the club barely three weeks out from the end of spring.
“We’ve got a lot of good options at this point,” manager Dave Roberts said.
After Sunday’s performance, Outman is batting .391 this spring with four extra-base hits and eight RBIs.