By Jon Weisman
Dallas is a pretty convenient stop on the way from Los Angeles to Nashville, and Clayton Kershaw’s house is a pretty nice place for a layover.
So on his way to baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, new Dodger manager Dave Roberts spent several hours meeting with Kershaw, to discuss next year’s team in general and the departure of Zack Greinke in particular.
“For me to have an opportunity to spend four hours with (Kershaw) was great for me, was great for him, kind of talking about my vision for the group with the staff and his,” Roberts told reporters today. “You look at the players that have meant so much to the organization and obviously perform at Clayton’s level, that’s kind of an obligation for me and something that I recognize. (I) kind of wanted to build that trust with him.”
Roberts said that Kershaw “understands the economic side of things” and was optimistic about the organization’s direction, but acknowledged the disappointment over Greinke’s exit to Arizona.
“You look at Zack and what he’s done, and any team’s better for him, having him on the club,” Roberts said.
“Obviously, he’s gone now physically and going to be pitching for the Diamondbacks, but I think that what he did for the group and preparation and things like that will continue to resonate with the group.”
Kershaw is far from the only Dodger whom Roberts has spoken with since taking over as skipper. He said he has already reached out to about 20 players, with more to come.
“I think that once you get to Spring Training and the season, things happen pretty quickly,” Roberts said. “So I think it’s imperative for me to kind of reach out and take a moment of their time and get to know them a little bit better.
As he said at his introductory press conference December 1, Roberts has also been part of the discussions with president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, general manager Farhan Zaidi and senior vice president of baseball operations Josh Byrnes regarding Dodger transactions.
“I think it’s more of just my thoughts on potential acquisitions and players,” Roberts said, “and these guys, Andrew, Farhan and Josh, they’re very inclusive. So I think that I understand my role in the organization. It’s not to get the final right — last right of refusal, but then they’ve been kind of inclusive on things.
“There’s a lot of things going, a lot of balls in the air. It’s just nice as a manager to know that we’re trying to do the best we can to fill the best ball club possible.”
In an interesting aside, Roberts discussed how, during the hiring process, he managed some simulated games, including some focus on Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
“We went through some things (that happened) during the season and also through the Division Series,” Roberts said. “So we talked through that, just some of my thoughts. … It was a very thorough process for sure.
“I did manage a nine-inning game, but fortunately, we had the fast forward. We didn’t have commercials and kind of things like that. So we kind of got through that, and it was a little bit more condensed. … It was a good process for me and for them to see me in that seat and have the scouting report going into it, which I was given, and kind of talk through things. So it was good.”
When the conversation veered back to Kershaw, it landed on the Dodger ace’s love of ping pong. Clearly, one of Roberts’ biggest challenges before Spring Training is going to be stepping up his table game.
“I’ll take him in a game of horse, but (in) ping pong, my kind of backhand is a little short,” Roberts said. “I’ll work on it. I’ve heard about his skills. … Went to his house, I see a ping pong table. Every time I saw a ping pong table, especially at his house, I changed the subject. I got to prepare. I like to be prepared.”