Miguel Rojas exits game with cramp but says he’s OK
Miguel Rojas left the Dodgers spring game Sunday with a right foot and calf cramp after limping into first base on a third-inning single.
Rojas appeared to tighten up just as he was running out of the batter’s box. Upon reaching first base, he bent over to try and stretch his leg out.
The Dodgers ultimately decided to remove Rojas from the game as a precautionary, but he told reporters later that he believes he’ll be fine by Monday.
“This has happened to me in the past,” Rojas said. “First game, trying to go through it, trying to be careful. But this is something that always kind of gets me.”
Dodgers beat Cubs 9-4 behind Hunter Feduccia’s five RBIs
The Dodgers catching depth will be tested this spring, when Will Smith and Austin Barnes both leave next month for the World Baseball Classic.
On Sunday, Hunter Feduccia offered a reminder of the other options they have behind the plate.
Feduccia, a 25-year-old minor league backstop the Dodgers drafted in the 12th round in 2018, hit a home run and collected five RBIs in the Dodgers 9-4 win over the Chicago Cubs at Camelback Ranch.
“Hunter is obviously an organizational guy,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He controls the strike zone really well. And we asked him to really try to impact the baseball a little bit more. He’s done that. Gotten stronger. Good physically. And today had a really nice day.”
Among the Dodgers regular big league players, Miguel Rojas singled but had to leave the game with a cramp (he said he should be fine for Monday’s camp activities).
Freddie Freeman and David Peralta both went hitless playing in back-to-back games as they prepare for the WBC.
And Chris Taylor singled, but also struck out after violating the pitch clock at the start of an at-bat.
Because it was the first pitch of his plate appearance, Taylor had only 30 seconds to go from the on-deck circle to being ready at the plate.
“I think you definitely have to kind of anticipate when you’re on deck,” he said. “You gotta be ready to get in the box immediately. I got caught watching the game, and then before I knew it I was out of time.”
Reliever Shelby Miller was also assessed a pitch clock violation during his outing, in which he gave up three runs and three hits in his Dodgers spring debut.
“Shelby wasn’t as sharp,” Roberts said. “But I thought the stuff was coming out fine.”
Fellow relievers Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol were better. Each struck out a pair of batters during scoreless frames.
The Dodgers return to action on Monday when they face the San Diego Padres in Peoria Stadium at 12:10 p.m.
Will Smith impresses with long home runs during live BP
Will Smith was the star of Sunday’s live batting practice, hitting two towering home runs off Evan Phillips and Jimmy Nelson.
Smith’s drives were so impressive that, when he only flied out to deep center in his third at-bat against Caleb Ferguson, assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness laughed and put a fist in the air.
“We got you out!” he joked.
Nelson’s live BP outing was nonetheless a positive step for a pitcher who has missed most of the last three years with injuires.
Here is some video of session:
Miguel Rojas likely to play all over diamond this season
PHOENIX — Miguel Rojas is getting his first start of the spring with the Dodgers today, the beginning of what will likely be a transient year in the Dodgers lineup for the veteran infielder.
Manager Dave Roberts reiterated Sunday that Rojas will see time this season at potentially all four infield positions, as well as left field, if needed.
“The challenge for myself is to make sure I keep him relevant,” Roberts said of Rojas, whom the team acquired in an offseason trade from the Miami Marlins. “He’s already got an openness just to be on the baseball field and help in any way. So now it’s up to me to figure out how I can give guys a day off to keep Miguel involved. Because I do think he’s very additive.”
Cody Bellinger won’t play against the Dodgers on Sunday, but Edwin Ríos and Zach McKinstry will
PHOENIX — Edwin Ríos and Zach McKinstry will face their old team today, when the former Dodgers come to Camelback Ranch for a spring game with the Chicago Cubs.
The most notable former Dodger now in Chicago, however, won’t make the cross-town trip, as Cody Bellinger was left out of the Cubs lineup a day after playing in their Cactus League opener.
Ríos and McKinstry both started last season with the Dodgers, but failed to secure depth roles on their bench.
McKinstry was traded to the Cubs at the deadline in exchange for reliever Chris Martin. Ríos was non-tendered after the season and signed a one-year, $1-million contract with the Cubs this spring.
Bellinger was also non-tendered by the Dodgers, an expected but nonetheless stark end to a six-year run with the team that included two All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year award and 2019 National League MVP honors.
He signed with the Cubs for $17.5 million this winter, but will get Sunday off after going 0 for 2 in Saturday’s spring training opener.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, will also cycle their lineup from Saturday’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. Only Freddie Freeman and David Peralta remained in the lineup to play back-to-back games, an intentional decision manager Dave Roberts made to get them ready for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Freddie Freeman homers but Dodgers lose to Brewers 7-4 in Cactus League opener
PHOENIX — While most of the focus was on the new pitch clock and other rules being implemented for the first time, there were other takeaways from the Dodgers 7-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday in their Cactus League opener.
Starting pitcher Michael Grove gave up a home run in his lone inning of work, but also flashed increased fastball velocities up to 96 mph after averaging just 94.4 mph in the big leagues last season.
Freddie Freeman provided most of the offense with a two-run home run to right field in the top of the third.
Miguel Vargas also drew a walk in his first plate appearance even though he wasn’t allowed to take any swings as he nurses a hairline fracture in his right pinky.
Saturday was the first of what’s expected to be many games Vargas and Gavin Lux play together this spring at second base and shortstop, respectively, an intentional effort by manager Dave Roberts to get the two young infielders comfortable together at their new positions.
The Dodgers next game is Sunday at their Camelback Ranch spring training home against the Chicago Cubs at 12:05 p.m. Pacific.
Dodgers starting pitchers throw at camp before first spring game
None of the pitchers scheduled to take the mound in Saturday’s Cactus League opener is likely to make the opening day roster.
But back at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch spring training complex, the majority of the team’s starting rotation had a busy day.
During morning bullpen sessions, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías and Noah Syndergaard all threw off the mound. Kershaw seemed particularly pleased with his session, cracking a smile with catcher Austin Barnes while assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness exclaimed, “That was awesome.”
Later in the afternoon, Tony Gonsolin threw a couple innings in live batting practice, facing Mookie Betts, Jason Heyward and Miguel Rojas, among other hitters, on one of the team’s back fields.
Several regulars to play in Dodgers Cactus League opener against Brewers
PHOENIX — The Dodgers open Cactus League play on Saturday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers, and several regulars are in the starting lineup, including Gavin Lux, Freddie Freeman, J.D. Martinez, David Peralta and Will Smith.
Michael Grove will start on the mound, while Justin Bruihl, Bryan Hudson, Matt Andriese and Jordan Yamamoto are also scheduled to pitch.
Saturday’s game will be the first for the Dodgers using MLB’s new rules, most notably a pitch clock timer and ban on infield shifts.
First pitch is at 1:10 p.m. at American Family Field of Phoenix and will be televised on SportsNet LA.
Dustin May throws live BP; Miguel Vargas still not swinging
In the last day of Dodgers camp before the start of Cactus League games, Dustin May took the mound for a couple innings of live batting practice.
Elsewhere around camp Friday, Miguel Vargas remained limited to defensive drills as he nurses his hairline pinky fracture.
Manager Dave Roberts said Vargas will take the field in Saturday’s Cactus League opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, but won’t take any swings in his at-bats.
“You can let the Brewers know he’ll be taking,” Roberts joked.
Why the Dodgers might consider moving Mookie Betts from leadoff spot, even if it is unlikely
PHOENIX — In all likelihood, Mookie Betts will be the Dodgers leadoff hitter when they begin their season in 34 days.
However, manager Dave Roberts said Friday the team could be open to dropping Betts a spot or two in the order — but only if another capable leadoff hitter emerges on their roster.
“I’m thinking about it,” Roberts said. “I think having that discussion is thoughtful, makes sense, given the fact that you don’t expect him to steal bases like he has in the past. He’s shown more power, which potentially could have been more production as far as runs batted in. So I think having that discussion is responsible. I don’t know how that manifests itself. But, yeah, I’m thinking about that.”
Indeed, for all of Betts’ power last season — his 35 home runs led the team and ranked eighth in the majors — Betts drove in just 82 runs.
Trea Turner perhaps benefited the most Betts’ ability to set the table, racking up a career-high 100 RBIs. But now that he’s gone, the Dodgers will be looking for another run producer in the heart of the order, a role Betts has the skill set to fit.
Earlier in his career, Betts indicated his preference was to hit in the No. 1 spot, but said Friday he no longer feels that way.
“At the time I did care,” he said. “Now, I don’t.”
Betts said he’s open to whatever Roberts and the coaching staff think is best, and agreed that moving into more of a run-producing position in the order theoretically “makes sense.”
“But,” he added, “who knows if I’m gonna hit 35 homers again. That’s why I don’t care about it. It is what it is.”
Of course, it all might be a moot point unless someone else can serve as the Dodgers leadoff hitter.
Gavin Lux has the characteristics to do so, but the team doesn’t want to overload his plate as he switches from second base to shortstop.
Chris Taylor filled in occasionally in 2021, but he’s coming off an injury and strikeout-plagued 2022 season in which he posted his lowest on-base percentage as a Dodger.
Asked who some other potential candidates could be Friday, Roberts struggled to come up with any names.
“I don’t know yet, I really don’t,” Roberts said. “It’s hard to come off Mookie not being the best option.”
Which probably means the Dodgers won’t be making a switch any time soon. For now, though, they at least remain open to the possibility.
Why Austin Barnes and Julio Urías will be teammates at the WBC
Julio Urías couldn’t believe it.
Austin Barnes? Mexican?
“I don’t want to draw conclusions based on appearance,” Urías said in Spanish, “but if you look at him or his last name, you don’t assume he’s Mexican.”
Benji Gil was surprised, too, when Mike Gallego informed him last summer.
“I said, ‘You know Barnes is Mexican, right?’ ” Gallego remembered. “He said, ‘Barnes? I never heard of a Mexican named Barnes.’ I told him he’s my nephew, and he goes, ‘You’re kidding.’ ”
Gallego and Gil work in the Angels’ organization together. Gallego knew Gil was in line to serve as Mexico’s manager in the World Baseball Classic in March, and that Gil was part of the contingent responsible for assembling the roster for the tournament. He thought his nephew, a veteran catcher for one of Major League Baseball’s perennial powers, would be a good fit.
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.
Mookie Betts expected to play some second base in WBC
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 occasional chances this season to moonlight at his original position of second base.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts revealed 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.
New Dodger Noah Syndergaard seeks balance this spring to bring his heat back
PHOENIX — Noah Syndergaard glanced down, touched the tips of his index fingers together, then sighed as he recalled his frustrations with last season.
“It just kind of felt like a Chinese handcuff,” the newest Dodgers pitcher said, referring to woven bamboo finger traps that tighten as you try to pull away.
“The more I struggled,” he continued, “the harder it was to get out of it.”
There was a time Syndergaard made pitching look easy, when the flame-throwing All-Star dominated on the mound with a steely disposition and seemingly infinite well of ability.
In 2015, he helped the Mets reach the World Series as a Rookie of the Year contender. The following season, he earned votes for the Cy Young and MVP awards.