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Dodgers Dugout: Things we have learned in spring training

Will there be fans here at the home opener?
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and let’s look at some key updates from spring training.

The problem with writing about spring training, especially for a team like the Dodgers which have a pretty set main part of the roster, is that a lot of what is happening doesn’t mean much.

I’ve had more than one well-meaning reader write me that their favorite fringe player is hitting well, so does this increase his chance of making the roster? No. Or “Julio Urías got lit up, should we be worried?” No. Especially this early in spring. Walker Buehler gave up four runs in three innings. Don’t worry about it. If he has given up 16 runs in 12 innings by March 25, then we can talk.

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Spring training competition is a mix of veterans trying for one last grab at the majors and kids who are still two or three years away. Michael Grove could pitch six scoreless innings and he still isn’t making the team. Michael Busch could go eight for eight and he’s still not making the team. The days of a player starring in spring training and making a team out of nowhere (remember Mike Ramsey in 1987?) are pretty much over.

However, there are things we can learn that aren’t worth a 10-paragraph item by me, but are important. Here’s a random sampling:

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Cody Bellinger played (defense only) in an intrasquad game on Sunday and should play in an exhibition game the middle of the month.

Brusdar Graterol, who is being brought along slowly after not pitching much during the winter, should be ready for opening day.

Joe Kelly has an undisclosed injury (sprained pouty lip?) and will probably start the season on the IL.

Trevor Bauer sometimes pitches with one eye closed. “I figured if they can’t score off of me with one eye open, it will be difficult to score off me with two eyes open.” And judging by his social media history, he sometimes tweets with both eyes closed.

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Brandon Morrow, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since mid-2018, probably won’t pitch in a game this spring as the Dodgers slowly rebuild his arm strength.

David Price should make his exhibition debut sometime this week. He has thrown live batting practice and looked good.

Kenley Jansen felt uncomfortable with his mechanics during a live-BP session last week in which he hit Zach Reks with a pitch on the elbow. “Jansen” and “uncomfortable with his mechanics” are not words an Dodger fan wants to see in the same sentence.

Dave Roberts on if Gavin Lux will play against righties and lefties this season: “I see him getting a good runway, playing regularly. What that means, I think that there’s room for conversations. But him against a lefty, I don’t think we’re too concerned about that.”

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—Roberts said there’s a chance that whoever doesn’t claim a rotation spot out of Urías, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin would begin the season in the bullpen.

There you have it.

Joc Pederson is happy with the Cubs

Many Dodger fans were sad to see Joc Pederson go, but it appears Pederson is happier with the Chicago Cubs.

“I just felt a little bit restricted [by the analytics],” Pederson told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I think before . . . I was more free going off more feel rather than analytics. I understand the analytics, and I understand that they work. It’s [not a negative] comment toward them because they’ve been successful, but I think I just am better off with a little bit more feel and being more athletic out there rather than standing in certain spots where they hit the ball the majority of the time.”

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That’s an interesting comment to make. It’s basically saying “I don’t want to know where the ball is going to be hit, I just want to guess.” Which makes sense if you just want to be an athlete, but not as much sense if you want to win as many games as possible.

Fans at home opener update

Nothing is set in concrete yet, but it’s looking more probable that there will be a limited number of fans in attendance at Dodger games this season, starting with the home opener on April 9.

Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten released a statement: “On behalf of the Dodger organization and its fans, we want to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to Governor [Gavin] Newsom, his staff and the many others who have worked tirelessly on these revised guidelines which provide a blueprint for California outdoor sports venues to re-open to fans. Like the Governor, we’re optimistic that California will continue to make progress in the fight against COVID-19 and that we can safely host fans to start the season. Safety is paramount, and the Dodgers continue to work with local officials and Major League Baseball to finalize protocols to protect players, fans and staff.”

As Bill Shaikin points out: Under the state’s color-coded tier system, teams that play in counties in the purple tier can admit no more than 100 fans, cannot sell concessions and cannot admit fans that live outside the region. Los Angeles County is in the purple tier, indicating the virus is widespread.

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Teams in the counties in the red tier can play to 20% of capacity and can sell concessions. Los Angeles County and Orange County already have satisfied two of the three criteria to enter the red tier, and officials in each county are hopeful of reaching the red tier this month.

If that happens, the Dodgers could sell 11,200 tickets for their April 9 home opener against the Washington Nationals.

And finally

Vin Scully on his first impression of Sandy Koufax. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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