Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, March 31, 2014

Overraction City

So Brian Wilson blew a game.  Whoopty-Do.  You've got fans in a panicked state, ready to dump him already.  "We have another Brandon League situation" they say?  "He's over the hill."  "Maybe he's injured."  The sky is falling.  "He must..." (heaven forbid) "shave off that beard."

Really? We're gonna play that game on the third contest of the season?  Sure it was disappointing that Wilson blew the game and ruined what was an amazing seven frames by Hyun-Jin Ryu.  I've got news for you though.  Nobody feels worse about it than Wilson.  Nobody knows he imploded more than the bearded one.  He also knows that an inch here, another inch there and he strikes out a few batters and retires the side.

(photo by Getty Images)
Baseball veterans know there will be days like that.  Days when nothing goes right.  Days when you just want to dig a hole under the mound and retreat to it.  Brian Wilson will rebound and he'll be a big contributor to the Dodgers championship run.  His stuff is too good.  His veteran savvy will surface.   Fact was, it surfaced last night after he retreated from the game.  Rather than hang his head and throw a tantrum in the clubhouse, he sat on the bench and talked things through with Rick Honeycutt.  He was already working on his next outing.

That's a veteran for you.  That's a player that knows he'll rebound.  That's a guy that will come back because he's the type of pitcher that has done it before and he'll do it again.

And for those that hate the saying "it's still early," I've got knows for you.  It's not only still early, it's more than early.  The season is earlier than the first trimester.  It's "pre-early."  It's ludicrous to think otherwise. In September nobody will remember this Brian Wilson implosion because there will have been about 30 or 40 other ones by various players.  That's what happens over 162.

Oh, yeah...and the offense didn't help out much.  How come nobody is complaining about that?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ryu Steps Up Again, Unfortunately Bullpen Coughs Up Win In Domestic Opener

He's the junkiest of junk ball pitchers in the league.  If he gets ahead of you 0-1, it's a total guessing game for hitters.  Will he come back with that deceptively fast 94 MPH fastball or go with his best secondary pitch, his 84 mph change up? Sometimes that next delivery is a fall of the table slider at about 58 feet leaving the batter lunging for a moving dart dropping out of the zone.  Scouts said that slider wasn't very good before he arrived in the States last year.  I wonder what they are saying now.

(photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

Hyun-Jin Ryu came advertised as a pitcher with mediocre stuff, but that label was clearly inaccurate.  International scouts clearly didn't address his baseball IQ, that is up the charts.  This guy's craftiness gets outs and puts zeros on the scoreboard.  Take tonight's domestic opener for example: With Ryu in trouble at the outset, (with men on second and third with none out), he had 'em right where he wanted them.  Chase Headley was struck out on a fastball, off speed curve and change.  He then walked Gyorko on four pitches by design.  Ryu wanted those bases full as he induced the double play grounder off the bat of Yonder Alonso to end the inning on the next pitch.  The Padres never provided threat off him after that, falling like dominoes.

Sixteen Friars in a row went down to be exact.  Lazy pop ups, harmless ground balls, that occasional K mixed in.  Up they came and back to the dugout they returned shaking their heads in frustration.  All in a high tense atmosphere with the Dodger offense struggling to put runs off of Andrew Cashner before that rare sellout crowd at Petco Park.

Ryu's fastball normally sits between 88-92, but he hits his spots with it.  Pinpoint accuracy is his bread and butter.  Watch him hit his target.  The comparisons to David Wells are quite accurate.  This is a guy with command.  He simply knows how to pitch and that's a rare thing in the game these days for a player in his second year in the league.  It isn't often that a pitcher uses the change-up in order to set up his fastball, but the backward thinking Ryu does just that, and it works for him.

So as Dodger starters like Kershaw and Greinke get the headlines, don't forget the crafty Korean lefty. He just might be the unsung hero of this pitching staff and sneak his way to a twenty-win season.  That is if the bullpen can hold the lead for him.

Brian Wilson allowed a run for the second time in his Dodger career as Seth Smith blasted his 2-0 fastball deep into the San Diego night.  He then simply couldn't get batters out.  A walk, a misplayed sac. bunt, a gaffe by Juan Uribe allowing a stolen base of third, and then a two run single and this game was over.  It remains to be seen if this performance by Wilson was an anomaly or what will be a long season for the Dodger set up man as he starts the year with an ERA of infinity.   

There's little doubt this was a disappointing bullpen debut for the team, something that many consider to be one of the Dodger's greatest strengths.  Los Angeles had the Padres right where they wanted them.  A one-run lead with Wilson and Jansen to follow.  It was the script that the team hopes to repeat many more times this season, though a larger lead than 1-run would be ideal.

(Nice comeback by Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez with the three straight strikeouts following the Wilson debacle).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dodgers Return Home 2-0, That Distraction Wasn't So Bad After All

They whined about the schedules.  They complained about the long flights.  They quietly cried about how their timing and how this 8,000 mile trip would throw everything out of whack.  It might as well have been 8 million miles.  It didn't matter that space lights were installed in their hotel rooms and methods were introduced to reduce jet lag by the team officials.  No cute kangaroos and koalas were going to make these malcontents happy.  This trip was supposed to be a nightmare.  Australia is supposed to be an offseason 2 and a half week vacation, not a two game series to start the season.

Pitchers expressed concern about having to speed up their routines to be ready for the series.  Some actually developed minor injuries that pulled them out of the series, to their great dismay, I am sure. Once the players arrived, they weren't real vocal about it, but some hinted the the venue played too fast and that outfielders would have to play anything hit on the ground to them very carefully.

Game One's 3-1 victory is in the books as Dodgers congratulate themselves. (photo by Rick Rycroft/AP)
Baseball players are slaves to routine.  They need repetition more than any other athletes on the planet.  Add to that the superstitions and crazy beliefs that they develop over the years and these guys can be mental messes.  With 162 games to play in a season, that routine of theirs becomes strict and rudimentary.  Any deviance from it can mess with their mindset and confidence.  Any departure from what is they are comfortable with can distract a player from performing.

Australia was nothing routine.  It was "distraction" from the word "go."  But something happened in the course of that distraction.  they are called victories.  The Dodgers return from "Distraction 101" undefeated and maybe, just maybe, they are thinking, "Hey, this Australian thing wasn't too bad."  Maybe they want to continue on this road trip juggernaut.  Take that charter to India and play a few.  They have cricket grounds out there too.  Swing by the Kalahari Desert on the way back for a couple more.  Kershaw has friends out there.  Maybe fly to South America and play a game in Rio's Maracana Stadium.  I'm sure they can reconfigure that 100,000+ capacity World Cup Final venue and there will be plenty of beaches for Drew Butera to pose with lifeguards too.

Playing games at Sydney Cricket Grounds, a 160 year old venue, had a certain charm and appeal.  The Members boxes in the background gave the place a mystique that few locations could produce. (AP photo)

"Undefeated" has a way of healing ballplayers who are forced to deviate from "routine."  Winning goes a long way in baseball.  As Kevin Costner said in the motion picture Bull Durham, "You don't mess with a winning streak," and this folks is a winning streak.  Australia was a success.  The flight home will be filled with players feeling good about themselves.  First place, mate.  How 'bout that?  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Puig Reminds Us Why He's the Starting Right Fielder

I think it's fair to say that Australia is really a long ways away, but Puig's 8th inning shot against Team Australia may be on its way up here in a circuitous orbit.  It was nice to see the Dodger right fielder have a solid game, as he has definitely had his struggles this spring.  I've read some pieces on Puig this spring that are calling for him to be sent down to the minors.  It's a ludicrous suggestion and made by some that simply don't have the patience to follow the marathon season.

Puig's two run shot (AP Photo)
These are the facts.

1) Spring training games do not count.
2) Puig is adjusting to scouting reports that are going after his weaknesses.  He has adjusted in the past and he'll adjust in the future.  He's too good of a player.
3) No matter how bad Yasiel may be slumping, you can't teach his natural talent.  There is always the possibility that he'll blast one out of the park or he'll throw a seed to the plate to nail a runner, (just as he did today).
4) He did gain weight, and that is a concern, but it is coming off.  Plus, he still runs like a gazelle with the power of a freight train.
5) Puig is a team leader whether you want to believe it or not.  He's charismatic and a charmer.  He's a great teammate and a spark plug.  He puts fans in the seats and that type of player isn't going to Albuquerque unless it's a rehab assignment for an injury recovery.
6) Watch for Puig to mature more and more as a player.  There are signs that he is listening to coaches and the errors of enthusiasm are not happening as often as before.


Cincinnati's ace reliever Aroldis Chapman took a line drive off his face in yesterday's action in Surprise, AZ.  As much as there has been some clamoring for protection of pitchers on the mound, including the protective cap, there are some things that you can't provide protection for unless there are drastic equipment changes made.  Those changes would literally change the face of the game.  The only thing that could have saved Chapman last night would have been a catcher's face mask or plastic face guard.  Something that I'm sure 99.9% of pitchers would refuse to wear.

Reports are that Chapman suffered facial fractures around his left eye and on his nose.  Report and video of the incident LINKED HERE

Back in Australia: Adrian Gonzalez left early from yesterday's action with a lower back ailment.  This doesn't bode well for AGon who insists he'll play the two games on Saturday.  I know last year he had some back issues early in the season.  (Correction: it was neck stiffness after colliding with an umpire).  I only bring this up because of the 15-16 flight home that he'll have to take to return home after the series.  The training staff will probably take precautions for him and set him up in a comfortable bed, but it's still 15 hours on a plane.  Those who have experience with back ailments know that laying down isn't always the best tactic to take when dealing with lower back pain.
I think the Dodgers will be OK with the bench.  The losses of Punto, Hairston, Mark Ellis and Schumacher are replaced with Turner, Figgins, Gordon, and Guerrero.  Ellis' defense will be missed, but Gordon's speed and Guerrero's pop will be an asset.  The chalk lines down the first base line will be preserved too with Nick Punto now making his headfirst dives into 1st in Oakland.  The 4 who departed were veterans and consummate team players.  Their leadership may be missed but this Dodger team has plenty of leaders to pick up the slack.

With two weeks to go before state-side regular season games begin, key 25 man roster decisions still need to be made, and there will probably be a real unhappy relief pitcher or two that dot make the cut.  I think it would be a mistake to send Alex Guerrero to the minors.  He has shown he can hit and his defense hasn't been too shabby.  Additionally, I wish the Dodgers would have let him play a little shortstop during the exhibition season.  With Hanley Ramirez' injury history, you never know what could happen.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

17 Years Old - Mowing Them Down

This is the look of a teenager about to start a game against Major Leaguers.  (photo courtesy of Jon SooHoo at dodgersphotog.mlblogs.com)

Remember this date on your calendar.  March 15, 2014.  It was a day where we saw Julio Urias take out a three major league hitters (and fairly good ones at that) in a 1-2-3 inning.  It was an inning where the kid mixed in what scouts are saying was a 95 MPH fastball followed by darting sliders.  He added to that repertoire some off speed pitches and an occasional curve.

Fourteen pitches total.  Nine were strikes.  Two of those strikes punched out hitters in dazzling style.  One off speed pitch resulted in a weak ground out.  This was reminiscent of Clayton Kershaw knee buckling Sean Casey with that falling of the table Uncle Charlie Curveball in 2007.

Urias is 17 years old if we are to believe his birth certificate.  He’s probably starting the year in High A Rancho Cucamonga.  He has lofty goals to be in the big leagues before the year is over.  The Dodgers in their ever present wisdom are trying to avoid rushing the kid.  We’ve seen careers ruined when teenagers are hurried to the majors.  But if this is what Urias does in the California League, how can you hold him back?

Will Venable, Chris Denorfia and Yonder Alonzo.  1-2-3.   Fans buzzed in the stands and were disappointed that he didn’t come out for the second inning, but maybe it was best to end it this way.  Leave us wanting for more.  Work the kid in slowly.  Build that confidence up.  How many youths are there after all that are pitching in Big League camp at age 17 anyway?  Yeah, that’s right.  Just one.

(photo courtesy of Jon SooHoo at dodgersphotog.mlbblogs.com)

Urias is ranked as the 54th top prospect in the game by Baseball America.  They might need to revisit that list.  Meanwhile, those of you in the southland might want to take a trip out to Rancho Cucamonga every five days, at least early in the season because I have an inkling that Mr. Urias won’t be there too long and the trip to Chattanooga is quite a drive.

Friday, March 14, 2014

OKP to Take Its Show to the East Coast

I apologize to my readers as my posts have been few and far between in the past few weeks.  That promises to continue in the coming weeks as well.  Though I escaped to spring training and was able to take in the Camelback Ranch experience again this year, my mind has been elsewhere as changes in work have been looming and taking up much of my time.  Things are changing for me substantially and as a result, the Opinion of Kingman's Performance blog is something I can't dedicate as much time to as before.  I am hopeful that will change soon, but it probably won't for a few months.  Let me explain.

For 18 years I have got up and gone to work in San Francisco, CA.  I never imagined ever living here before then.  Fact was, I never even gave it any thought.  But in March, 1996 I walked into my San Diego workplace and my immediate Supervisor asked me what I thought of working in San Francisco?  My immediate reaction was about as spontaneous as any Dodger fan would have.  It was automatic:

"I hate the Giants, so it'll never work," I said.

"Well you might want to buy some orange and black my friend because you've been promoted and your next assignment is San Francisco Airport," he replied.
Recent hoodie advertised for sale that now won't apply to me as I depart the Bay Area in a few weeks.

I was shocked.  I had put in for a promotion and checked a number of boxes of locations where I was willing to work.  I don't even remember checking the SF box, but I guess I did so.  The truth was I was hopeful of being selected in Los Angeles, but Frisco came calling first.  I took the position and here I am, 18 years later.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me.  

I came up here in '96 a divorcee with two children in tow, a 1st grader and 4th grader.  Within a year I met my present wife, integrated my children with her thee kids and now, 18 years later, they are all grown up and out of the home.   Productive citizens - all of them.   The Bay Area became home.  I came to love the geography, weather and beauty of the place.  And then came the issue of rooting for the Dodgers in enemy territory. 

My allegiance became stronger.  I thought it was tough living in San Diego Padre country.  That was nothing and merely a stepping stone in preparing me for being thrust into the belly of the beast of Dodger hating fans.    This time frame has had its difficulties for a Dodger fan living during the era of the greatest San Francisco Giants success in their history.  It has been a tough, long road and in that aspect I am happy to say that I am departing this region of the country.

A new adventure awaits me in our nation's capital as I will have follow the Dodgers from the Eastern Time Zone for the first time in my life.
Nationals Park, Washington D,C,

I really don't know how I'll handle this.   Staying up until 2 and 3 in the morning to see the final Dodger results appears to be in my future.  Only getting to see the club once a year as they come to play the Nationals will be a different experience, but then again, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and even New York aren't that far away from me, so I'll probably get to expand my goal of seeing the Dodgers play in more ballparks if time permits.

My new position at work will have me conducting a lot of international travel, so following the ball club will have its challenges.  Writing the blog even mores.  Then again, I'll get to do it from an international persecutive and that might be interesting.  I'll get to travel to such baseball strong regions of the world as Taiwan, Korea, Japan, the Domincan Republic, Panama, and Colombia,  I really look forward to that.  This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I PROMISE to represent the blue as often as I can.

So my trip to DC will begin in April, just as the season begins.  Of course I'll take advantage of my cross country trip there to make a few baseball pit stops on the way if time permits.  It's a new adventure on many different levels.

Thank you to everyone for the years of readership and support.   We're working on five years now and  I am hoping that if the quantity of what I bring won't be as frequent that I can bring greater quality.  Only time will tell.  This promises to be a memorable year, and I'll see it from afar.  But that's okay.  Its a perspective that I haven't witnessed before and I look forward to the experience.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

He's Baaaack, (for a few days that is)

There are few men in the baseball world that can polarize fans on both sides of the spectrum than Barry Bonds.  I’ll admit that the guy raises a lot of emotions in me.  I really never liked the guy.  I hated him as an opponent, probably because he was the greatest hitter that I ever saw, and he was a Giant at that.  Added to those facts were that his exploits robbed the Dodgers of some post season play and there you have the most despised ballplayer that I ever witnessed.

Still, with all that said, I’ll admit that Bonds was a Hall of Fame player before he even started juicing.  The tragic part about the whole story was that Bonds simply didn’t need to juice, but he couldn’t stomach the fact that inferior players like Sosa and McGwire were grabbing headlines and that they were obviously using performance enhancing drugs in the process.  Bonds’ ego couldn’t handle that and in one off season he gained 35 lbs. of muscle and eventually went on a home run hitting tear that no one has ever witnessed in baseball history.

So when ESPN’s Jim Caple wrote a a piece on Bonds, lauding his return to the game as a coach with the Giants, it raised the ire of many baseball fans, and I must say that includes me.  Caple welcomed Bonds back into the game and spoke of how he was happy to see him back on a baseball field.

Based on the comments section of Caple’s piece, it is easy to see how differing the opinions are about Bonds.  Additionally, those commenting fans are quite passionate about their opinions as well.  Their name calling and vitriol is alarming.  This guy really sets some people off.  It makes me wonder how healthy the debate is.

Truth of the matter is we probably shouldn’t get all upset about his return.  It’s not like he’s returning to play again.  He’s coaching during seven days of spring training.  That's it.

When you consider that current Dodger hitting coach is the poster boy for performance enhancing drug use and the baseball era that defined it, shouldn’t we be the last people to throw stones at the glass house?  It’s not as if steroid users have been banished from the game and not welcomed back.  Andy Pettite, Matt Williams and last year’s World Series hero David Ortiz were all implicated in ‘roid use, and they’ve been seemingly forgiven.  Is it fair to blackball Bonds?  To that I say, “probably yes.”

There’s a distint separation between those people and Bonds and it is defined with one word: CONTRITION.  Those guys apologized.  Barry hasn’t and there is no sign he ever will.  In fact, there’s no sign that he’ll ever admit to doing anything wrong.

Who will forget Bonds attitude through the entire circus that followed the revelations that he was a PED user? The all time home run king* has never admitted the obvious, and that is insulting to many.   In the process he broke the most storied records in the history of the game and never apologized for it.  Add to that It was his willingness to let his “friend” Greg Anderson rot in jail while he refused to admit that he supplied the obvious to Bonds.
There’s still a lot of ugliness to the whole Bonds saga.

Here we are, 7 years later and Bonds is back in the conversation of many.  He causes many of us to think.  He forces many of us to contradict ourselves.  I did that by voting for him on my IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, as I figured that not voting for him in his first year of eligibility was punishment enough.  But even after casting my vote, I’ve second guessed that decision more than once and been challenged by others regarding that decision.  I’m second guessing myself again today.

I wish the guy would go away.  Here I am writing about him.  I bet Barry loves that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pederson Showing Off His Wares

The signs are there.  That sweet swing from the left side.  The baseball pedigree, and a Dodger one at that.  The arm and defensive range that are on the plus side.  A patient approach at the plate that works counts and collects walks.  A power bat that supercedes what his slender physique shows.  
Joc Pederson launched a 2 run homer in last night's action (photo capture Sportsnet LA)

Add to that an on base percentage that has consistently been between 80 and 100+ percentage points higher that his batting average throughout his minor league career.  He has the reputation as a team leader and a smart player with a baseball IQ that ranks off the charts.  And there’s also speed, base running prowess and a minor league career that shows a player that consistently steals between 24 and 31 bases a season.  

Joc Pederson is too valuable of a commodity to trade away.  This is a player that needs to remain in the organization.  You don’t find players with speed, pop, defensive prowess, and OPS in the .900s in many organizations.  His maturity is showing through in his first full major league camp in spring training.  Take a look at his performances on Saturday.

With the Dodgers playing two split squad games.  Pederson started in both.  Game one was about as ugly for him as could be as he struck out in all three of his at-bats vs. Texas in the morning.  He arrived back at Camelback Ranch and started the evening game in center field in lackluster fashion as a pop fly fell between Joc and Hanley Ramirez on a miscommunication issue.  He later grounded out in his first at bat.  You’d think that the kid would sulk his way through game two and continue on a downward spiral, but he didn’t.  His next plate appearance resulted in a 410 foot double off the top of the centerfield fence.  In his final at bat on the night Pederson blasted a two run shot to the right field berm. 

Four major league outfielders are vying for three spots with the big club.  Pederson's future looks to be a year or two away.  Perhaps one of those proven vets needs to be dealt to make room for the future.  Yesterday we saw a glimpse of what it could be and it the looks of it is very encouraging.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Instant Replay Reviews - Will Substantial Delays Be the Norm?

It didn’t take long for Major League Baseball to test out their new instant replay system today.  For the Dodgers and Angels, it took a whole half an inning for the system to be challenged when Mike Trout was called out at the plate after he attempted to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer.  If what happened today is any indication of what we are to expect with the replay challenge, we are in for some long games this season.

Joe Torre is MLB's representative that spearheaded the current new replay policy.

A total of a minute and 12 seconds passed while the umpire crew chief communicated with MLB’s official in New York who reviewed the play.  Add to that the original rhubarb that Scioscia had with umpires (a minute and ten seconds), and then the  post-replay review explanation to both managers (another 50 seconds). The whole process delayed the game by about four minutes. 

I’m all for getting calls right, but not at the extent of substantial game delays.  There is a better way to conduct the replay review, and a review from 3,000 miles away seems to be quite troublesome.  There’s the crowd noise and the audio connection issue problem.  Why not have the fifth umpire that does reviews on site at the ballpark and within walking distance to the umpiring crew?  It would speed up the communication process in my opinion.

Four minute delays are lengthy.  That’s longer than between inning warmups even if you add in the 7th inning stretch and two verses of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  The game is already long enough with the late inning double switches and one out specialist pitching changes that are so common now.

As much as Bud Selig wants to increase the popularity of the game, slowing it down with additional delays isn’t the way to do it.  Replays are a step in the right direction in an effort to get calls right but implementing replay review without substantial delays is problematic.  I’ve got a feeling that this change in procedure will have its share of snags this season.  

Review that NFL refs conduct is not an option for MLB umps.  Should they have a say in the review decision?

Hopefully the delays are simply growing pains and they’ll get the process speeded up as the season goes on.  Just like the NFL, right?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Departure From Spring Training

I’m sitting at Pheonix Sky Harbor Airport, about to Depart my annual spring training trip for home, a few observations from all over the place:

* It sucks going back.

* My bag is a lot heavier than when I arrived.  That may have to do with adding 24 baseballs to it’s contents.

* The world continues, though for seven days, I was able to forget about it for a while.

* A trip to the Grand Canyon is still awe inspiring.

* Arizona Diamondback fans have no knowledge about: their owner requesting Dodger players to NOT celebrate on the field and of the incident where Dodger fans were asked to remove Dodger clothing if they wanted to continue sitting behind home plate.  They are quick to mention that the Dodgers peed in their pool though.

* The D-Back/Dodger rivalry appears to be something that won’t go away real soon.

* The Dodgers have a lot of decisions to make that will be tough re: Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon, Clint Robinson, Seth Rosin, Brandon League, Alexander Guerrero, Turner and a few others.

* Eight starting pitchers might not be enough again this season too.

* Yasiel Puig is still incredibly accommodating with fans this year, but it appears that his demands exceed his time.  I feel for the kid, who simply can’t win when it comes to trying to please everybody.

* Meeting up with friends at Spring Training makes the whole experience much more enjoyable.

* The minor league fields continue to be the best kept secret at Camelback Ranch.  Watching the kids out there I find more enjoyable than watching the major leaguers in a game.

* As much as it is nice to eat out at some great restaurants, the whole thing gets old after a while and I long for a simple home cooked meal and my own bed at home.

* Forgetting to apply sunscreen on just one day can make the remainder of your vacation fairly miserable.

* As much as I love baseball, my wife continues to simply tolerate it, but that's OK.  Her tolerance and patience seems to expand as the years go by.

* It’s getting to the point that I loath TSA almost as much as Tony Jackson does.

* Bloggers such as Ron Cervenka and Eric Stephen have the inside scoop on just about everything at CBR.

* If you keep your eyes and ears open, you are bound to run into players at restaurants and hotels in the area.  I ran into at least five players and coaches at such locations during my seven days in AZ.

* Brian Wilson stills looks strange wearing blue.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beckett Returns to the Mound, So Far So Good

It was a morning at Camelback Ranch with a lot of wet fields and puddles that exposed flaws in the Glendale facility drainage system.  It was also D-Day for Josh Beckett, a former pitching ace that is trying to salvage his major league career.  Beckett is about as close to the end of his baseball career as he's ever been.  He’s also in for the fight of his life to land the final rotation spot on a Dodger team stacked with quality starters.

Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Paul Maholm, Stephen Fife and Matt Magill all vie for the number five starting slot in the Dodger rotation.  Add to that mix Zack Lee, Chris Reed and until recently Ross Stripling (who is now sidelined with an elbow injury) and it’s fairly safe to say that Los Angeles has the number 5 slot covered.  At least by somebody.  Beckett is certainly hoping he earns that spot this spring.

In today’s action, he returned to the mound for the first time in ten months following a risky surgical procedure that guaranteed him nothing.  The results on the field were quite promising for the veteran righty.  Two innings pitched, three strikeouts, one hit allowed on a measly infield single.  It was a promising enough start to surely make Beckett feel good about himself and his recovery so far.

For the first time in years Beckett doesn’t have a tingling sensation in the fingers of his pitching hand.  Numbness in that hand became the norm for him, but last year it got to the point that he couldn’t control his pitches.  After being shut down in May, he opted for thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July.  The same surgery that such players as Jarrod Saltalamachia, Jeremy Bonderman, Hank Blalock and Kenny Rogers had.  All with success.  

The surgery involves the removal of the first rib, just below the clavicle, that is compressing on nerves and blood vessels.  It isn’t a 100% recovery for everyone.  Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals was unable to resume his baseball career with success following the surgery. 

After ten months of inactivity from the game, how could Beckett not be second guessing himself?  That’s a long time and an extremely risky procedure to undertake, but so far so good.  Josh already told the world he wouldn’t hold back when he reported for Spring training on February 12th:

“I’m not tentative.  I’m going to throw as hard as I can and see what happens.  Right now I feel great.  I’ll throw the ball until I blow out and I’m hoping that’s not for a few more years.”

Following today's outing, Beckett was quite positive about his performance.  For a complete review with some excellent quotes provided to Eric Stephen from both Beckett and Don Mattingly, take a look at TrueBlueLA.com.
The Dodgers ended the day deadlocked at 3 runs a piece with the Padres.  Again Dee Gordon impressed, this time with an RBI triple.  Chone Figgins collected two hits in the DH role and Alex Guerrero drove in a run with an RBI single.
Paul Maholm pitched two innings of scoreless ball in his debut in a Dodger uniform.
It was reported that Chad Billingsley experienced some soreness today, the day after he threw some breaking pitches during his 30 pitch session the day before.  Billingsley has been very aggressive in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.  Though no one is considering his soreness a setback, it's a reminder of the seriousness of his surgery and the need to exercise patience.
It was announced today that Justin Sellers has been sold to the Cleveland Indians and that he has reported to their camp in Goodyear, AZ.  Sellers was released following the announcement that the Dodgers had signed Erisbel Arruebarrena, the sleek fielding shortstop that started on the Cuban national team in last year's World Baseball Classic.  Arruebarrena has not arrived at Camelback Ranch yet, most likely due to visa issues.