Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas nursing hairline pinky fracture

Miguel Vargas sits in the Dodgers dugout during a game.
Miguel Vargas is nursing a pinky injury as the Dodgers begin spring training workouts.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Follow along for the latest news and analysis from Dodgers spring training at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix ahead of the 2023 MLB season.

Miguel Vargas nursing hairline pinky fracture, won’t swing for a few days

Miguel Vargas runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 24.
(Raul Romero Jr. / Associated Press)

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.

While Vargas won’t pick up a bat for now, he will continue to play defense during workouts and isn’t expected to be bothered long term.

While Roberts said pain tolerance will dictate how long it takes Vargas to return to full activities, Vargas said he was confident he’d be back by the time Cactus League games start Saturday.

Roberts also updated Daniel Hudson’s status Monday, saying the reliever is a little behind the rest of the pitching staff because of ankle tendinitis but isn’t “too big of a concern.”


Dave Roberts’ spring training message to Dodgers: Embrace the change

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts talks to the media at Camelback Ranch on Thursday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

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.”

Heyward said his message was simple: The Dodgers should embrace the expectations that come with playing on one of baseball’s most successful — and highly anticipated — teams.

“Expectation is a beautiful thing,” said Heyward, contrasting the Dodgers situation to what he faced playing on losing Chicago Cubs teams the last two seasons.

“I do have a new respect for players that have been on teams that have not won, because it’s hard to go out there and play that way,” Heyward added. “You don’t have as much vision on why we’re here today.”

Heyward also comes to Los Angeles following an offseason in which he wasn’t certain he’d get a chance to extend his career.

“When the Dodgers called, especially coming off a year ending the way it ended ... it’s an opportunity to come to a hungry group and be a part of something special,” he said.

It’s part of the reason why Roberts gave him and other new faces the stage on Monday.

On the first true day of spring training, the manager wanted his team to embrace the change.


J.D. Martinez slated to be the everyday designated hitter for Dodgers

J.D. Martinez bats for the Boston Red Sox against the Kansas City Royals in September.
(Michael Dwyer / Associated Press)

PHOENIX — The Dodgers didn’t go into the offseason seeking to add a true everyday designated hitter. They were content to continue cycling different players through the spot as they did last season after the role was added to the National League.

The December signing of J.D. Martinez, however, changed those plans.

Not only will the 35-year-old slugger primarily be in the DH spot — he’s expected to fill it on an almost everyday basis, according to manager Dave Roberts.

“I don’t expect J.D. to DH 162 [games],” Roberts said. “But he’s gonna be the guy who is gonna be in that position 99.9% of the time.”

Last season, Justin Turner was the closest thing the Dodgers had to a primary DH. His 61 games in the role were the most of the 10 players who rotated through the spot over the course of the year.

Perhaps the most valuable use of the DH spot, however, was in giving catcher Will Smith extra trips at the plate.

In addition to his 107 starts at catcher, Smith served as the DH on 24 occasions — important surplus production from a hitter who ranked fourth on the team in on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

With Martinez now slated to be the everyday DH, Roberts said Smith will likely take more full off days in 2023.

Asked if that trade-off could result in fewer at-bats for Smith in 2023, Roberts was careful to note nothing is set in stone.

“The one thing I don’t want Will to hear right now is he’s gonna get less at bats,” Roberts said. “We’re gonna manage it, monitor it and see how it goes. I can say things and expect things, but they change quite often. And also, depending on how guys are swinging, certain guys might need a day here or there.”

What’s certain for now, though: As long as he’s healthy and productive, Martinez’s name will be penciled in the DH spot almost every night.

“The stuff that we’ve seen, the underlying stuff — bat speed, pitch recognition, all that stuff, the ability to drive in a run, take an at-bat — all the components are still there,” Roberts said of Martinez. “So I expect him to have a good year for us, a productive year.”


Why some MLB players are deemed ‘uninsurable’ for the WBC

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on from the dugout during Game 3 of the NLDS.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on from the dugout during Game 3 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres in October.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw and Miguel Cabrera have résumés few other baseball players have ever matched. Both are former MVPs and future first-ballot Hall of Famers. Kershaw has three Cy Young Awards. Cabrera has won a Triple Crown and surpassed both 500 home runs and 3,000 hits for his career.

This offseason, both players committed to playing in the World Baseball Classic for their respective countries. Kershaw’s commitment to play for Team USA was considered a coup for a tournament still seeking to establish legitimacy. Without Cabrera, arguably the greatest Venezuelan baseball player ever, the tournament would’ve left a baseball-mad nation unsatisfied.

Both encountered an obstacle earlier this month: securing insurance coverage to participate in the event. Kershaw’s and Cabrera’s contracts, which both expire after this season, were deemed uninsurable because of their injury histories.

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Freddie Freeman gives rave review of new Dodgers teammate Jason Heyward

Dodgers outfielder Jason Heyward participates in drills during spring training at Camelback Ranch on Thursday.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

PHOENIX — Freddie Freeman began lobbying the front office before last season even ended.

As the Dodgers were making a push for the playoffs in August, their All-Star first baseman noticed a far different situation unfolding with his former teammate and close friend, Jason Heyward, in Chicago.

After a celebrated seven-year run with the Cubs, Heyward’s time with the organization was winding to an obvious end, after the team announced it would release him in the winter. For the first time since 2016, the 33-year-old outfielder was set to become a free agent.

Though Heyward was years removed from the peak of his career — which started with an All-Star rookie season in Atlanta in 2010 and crescendoed with the Cubs World Series in 2016 — Freeman still believed the five-time Gold Glove winner and former first round pick could contribute to an MLB team.

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Rejuvenated Dave Roberts brimming with positivity amid season of change for Dodgers

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts shakes hands with fans during the first day of spring training.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts shakes hands with fans during the first day of spring training on Thursday at Camelback Ranch.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Something is different about Dave Roberts this spring.

His smile is brighter.

His laughter is more soulful.

“Great to see you!” he hollered at me the other day, the sarcastic greeting he has repeated over the years delivered with so much exuberance that I wondered if he actually meant what he said this time.

Four months removed from a deflating elimination in the divisional round of the playoffs, Roberts looks and sounds more joyful than he’s ever been in his seven-plus years as the manager of the Dodgers.

In the despair that followed his team’s latest October setback, Roberts said he rediscovered what drove him.

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