Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Infield

Injury wave has spared Dodger infield (knock on wood)

BOSTON RED SOX VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

By Jon Weisman

In addition to completing their 110th game Sunday, the Dodgers also played their 1,000th inning.

With 49 players appearing in a game this season and 26 spending time on the disabled list, there’s been quite a diverse distribution of those 9,000 defensive frames.

But there has also been an interesting pocket of stability — in the infield.

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In case you missed it: Adrian Gonzalez’s nicked neck

Los Angeles Dodgers workout

By Jon Weisman

Adrian Gonzalez missed today’s on-field workout after irritating a bulging disc in his neck during Saturday baserunning drills.

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MLB rule revisions tweak slides, neighborhood play

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

The neighborhood play at second base is now subject to review, as part of a series of rules tweaks jointly announced today by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association today and blessed by the World Umpires Association.

The most significant involves plays at second base, and new guidelines have been posted for both baserunners and infielders.

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Howie Kendrick and the long Dodger lineup

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers’ lineup might be defined less by the absence of a traditional leadoff hitter than by the absence of a traditional No. 8 hitter.

Of their eight most likely 2016 position-player starters — and we’ll count newly resigned second baseman Howie Kendrick among them — none has a projected on-base percentage below .311, nor a weighted on-base average below .319.

In 2016, according to Fangraphs, the average No. 8 hitter in the National League had a .302 OBP and .283 wOBA.

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Dodgers regain Howie Kendrick on two-year deal

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Pittsburgh Pirates

By Jon Weisman

If the Dodgers were prepared to move into the 2016 season without Howie Kendrick, it’s also clear how happy they should be that he’s coming back.

The 32-year-old second baseman has signed a two-year contract to reunite with the Dodgers, whom he provided a .336 on-base percentage and 109 weighted runs created last season.

2015 NLDS-Game One-Los Angeles Dodgers vs New York Mets

The immediate impression is that Kendrick is the player who solidifies the Dodger infield. His return frees Chase Utley to spend more time supporting Justin Turner at third base and Kiké Hernandez to roam around the field as he did in 2015. Kendrick himself might dabble in the hot corner.

Though Opening Day is nearly nine weeks away, and Spring Training and injuries will certainly shuffle the deck, here’s how the Dodger roster of position players currently shapes up:

  • Catchers: A.J. Ellis, Yasmani Grandal
  • Infielders: Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chase Utley
  • Infielder-outfielders: Alex Guerrero, Kiké Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke
  • Outfielders: Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig
  • In the wings: Austin Barnes, Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson, plus the non-roster invitees

Kendrick x 2

An above-average player for each of the past five years, Kendrick is a nice one to say hello to again.

Passing on Todd Frazier, Dodgers show commitment to Justin Turner

NLDS GAME FOUR-LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS NEW YORK METS

By Jon Weisman

From the Dodgers’ perspective, today’s three-team trade with the Reds and White Sox was about picking up three 24-and-under players who have already had a taste of the Major Leagues.

But in an unmistakable way, it was also about a player who wasn’t part of the trade at all — Justin Turner.

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Uribe, Turner could again form nice duo at third

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers workoutBy Jon Weisman

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Much has been speculated about the upcoming timeshare arrangement for the Dodgers in 2015 at catcher, but third base might not be much different.

After batting .311 with a .337 on-base percentage and sterling defensive work, Juan Uribe is the clear starter at third. Justin Turner is the team’s No. 1 infield utility player, becoming the first Dodger since Jose Hernandez in 2004 and sixth since 1924 to play more than one game at first, second, third and short.

But injuries limited Uribe, who turns 36 in March, to 103 games (98 starts) last year, opening the door for Turner to approach the 59 games (45 starts) he had at third in 2014.

“I think we do give (Uribe) breathers,” Mattingly said. “Definitely, we watch Juan. … and he’s pretty honest with us. Sometimes we get a bad matchup, and J.T. makes it easy to give him some days off.”

While Mattingly is wary of overplaying Uribe, he also finds that Turner wears down if he plays too often. That being said, he raved about Turner’s physical condition heading into camp this year.

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In case you missed it: Upside down, boy you turn me

By Jon Weisman

One week until it’s time for Dodger (Spring Training) baseball …

  • Injury updates on several Dodgers are provided by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. It could be a couple of weeks before we know more about Matt Kemp.

    … Kemp has had monthly MRI exams since having surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left ankle in October. Mattingly said the last exam was roughly two weeks ago, so we could have another two weeks or so before hearing anything new. …

  • More encouraging news — and a great quote — are coming from Josh Beckett and Dan Haren, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN LosAngeles.

    … “I said, ‘Did you ever dream you’d be watching a guy with a beard like Brian Wilson pitch with Sandy Koufax standing 10 feet from you?’” Beckett said. “Dan Haren’s like, ‘Yeah, it seems like there should be a unicorn somewhere.’” …

  • Since before the beginning of Spring Training, it’s been apparent that there might not be a full-time starter at second base come March 22. As Saxon and Stephen report, nothing has changed on that count.
  • Proclamation time:
  • “There’s no reason not to be confident” in Paco Rodriguez, despite the fact that he ran out of steam last fall, Don Mattingly told Ken Gurnick of MLB.comalong with Stephen.
  • In this Gurnick news feature about Don Mattingly, managers and long-term contracts comes this tidbit: “Jamey Wright has played for 29 managers in his 21 professional seasons.”
  • Yasiel Puig’s signing could have an impact for the Dodgers’ future international efforts, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.

    … “The way it works down there, [amateur] players come to tryouts at your camp, and we had a hard time getting players to come to the academy [in the Dominican Republic] until we signed Puig,” (Ned) Colletti said. “I was down there about three weeks ago or so, and it was probably the best group of players that I’ve seen. A lot of it has to do with our ability to spend, and we’ve increased our scouting internationally three-fold from where it was. We have the finances to be competitive with players from Cuba and amateurs in other countries. Puig was a very key sign for us in more ways than just his talent.”

  • Tommy Davis is the latest to be featured in Ernest Reyes’ 1961 Union Oil Family Booklet series at Blue Heaven.
  • Joe Morgan talked with Bill James? It’s more than 80 minutes (via Baseball Think Factory), but this I gotta hear. “A lot of you may not know him as well as I do,” Morgan said, “but he is the father of sabermetrics, so to speak, and a guy that I really have a lot of admiration for. I don’t agree with a lot of sabermetrics people, but I’ve rarely disagreed with Bill.”

In case you missed it: Saturday night jive

[mlbvideo id=”31365675″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]
By Jon Weisman

Notes from a Saturday in the park …

  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com have pieces on Carl Crawford’s physical status. From Hernandez:

    … Living in Arizona over the winter, Crawford addressed his health problems by spending a significant part of his off-season at the Dodgers’ spring-training complex. Under the supervision of Dodgers trainers, he worked to strengthen his core and back.

    Crawford, who was a four-time American League stolen-base champion with the Tampa Bay Rays, intends to become a threat on the basepaths again.

    “I really want to run,” he said. “I got gun shy last season because any time I stole a base, I had pain. I know I can steal 25 bases. It’s frustrating when I’m stealing 10 or 11. I do everything else fast. I still run down balls in the outfield, I still get triples, I still go first to third, so it’s frustrating I don’t steal more bases.” …

  • Because the Dodger pitchers got their one off day from Spring Training today, Dodger catchers had a precious day to focus on hitting, notes Gurnick. “Being a catcher, sometimes you’re unavailable to get in the quality swings other position players get,” A.J. Ellis said.
  • Miguel Rojas discussed the challenges of transitioning from shortstop to second base — keeping Alex Guerrero in mind — with J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News.
  • Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles writes about the comfort zone for Cuban Dodgers Yasiel Puig, Alex Guerrero and Onelki Garcia, who locker side-by-side-by-side.
  • Aaron Harang, one of the Spring Training starting pitchers with the Dodgers a year ago, has just signed a minor-league deal with Cleveland and will compete for a spot in the Indians’ rotation, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
  • Another 1961 Dodger artifact comes from Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven, featuring Walter Alston. Definitely worth the click.
  • Mark Mulder, whose Paco Rodriguez-inspired comeback after more than five years away from the majors looked like it might be the story of the year in baseball, saw that hope end when he ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon in an agility drill before his first bullpen session for the Angels, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Times.

Mattingly compares Miguel Rojas’ defense to Omar Vizquel

Los Angeles Dodgers workout at Camelback Ranch-GlendaleBy Jon Weisman

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Don Mattingly is keeping an open mind about the various contenders to be reserve infielders for the Dodgers this year.

“We’ve got some guys who can fill that role,” he said, even if “nobody’s really perfect.”

But an attention-grabbing quote came from Mattingly regarding Miguel Rojas, the non-roster invitee whose credentials at the plate won’t knock you out, but who has already dazzled the Dodger organization with his glove.

“You watch him take groundballs,” Mattingly said today of Rojas, “it’s like watching (Omar) Vizquel and some guys like that take ’em. It’s just another level.”

Vizquel, you probably don’t need to be reminded, is second all-time in Gold Gloves at shortstop with 11, trailing only Ozzie Smith.

It’s a little fascinating because if Rojas was compared with the second-greatest offensive infielder of all-time, we’d all be salivating, and so even if he were weak defensively, you’d think the Dodgers would find a spot on the roster for him. Whether the reverse will be true is too soon to know, though we do know Ned Colletti values defense.

Rojas, who turns 25 this month, is a natural shortstop but will be in the mix with a group including Alex Guerrero, Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon, Brendan Harris and Justin Turner for time at second base during Spring Training.

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