Dodgers Camp: Kershaw Pitches, Dodgers Tie (Again), and Other Notes

Clayton Kershaw pitched three innings for the Dodgers, allowing three hits and one run to the Colorado Rockies in a game that ultimately ended 2-2 for L.A.’s third tie in the past four games. Kershaw’s one run allowed came on home run by catcher Nick Hundley, who hit a high curveball into the grass beyond the left-field fence to lead off the top of the third inning.

Besides the home run, Kershaw allowed three other baserunners. First baseman Matt McBride led off the second inning with a base hit to left, but he was immediately erased when right fielder Kyle Parker grounded to second base for a double play. The next batter, Jeremy Barfield, drew a walk after working the count full by laying off two very close fastballs near the outside corner. Barfield was stranded when DH Ryan Casteel struck out swinging on a curveball in the dirt. The final baserunner off of Kershaw came with two outs in the third, when Drew Stubbs hit a shallow popup just beyond the reach of shortstop Corey Seager.

After Kershaw departed, Dustin McGowan pitched the fourth inning and allowed one run on two hits. From then on, four Dodger relievers combined to pitch five basically perfect innings (the one baserunner allowed, who reached on a throwing error by third baseman Alex Guerrero, was immediately wiped out by a double play). Joe Wieland pitched two of those perfect innings, and Paco Rodriguez struck out all three batters he faced in the eighth inning.

Andre Ethier drove in the Dodgers’ first run in the bottom of the fourth with an infield single, which scored Justin Turner, who was running from second base on the 3-2 pitch. The score remained 2-1 until the bottom of the eighth, when Scott Schebler hit his first home run of the spring to tie the game. Schebler, who hit 28 home runs at Double-A Chattanooga last season after hitting 27 for High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2013, is batting .429 with four extra-base hits in 14 at-bats this spring.

Notes:

  • Schebler, who wears number 83 and is not really a candidate to make the Major League team out of Spring Training, circled the bases on his home run in a brisk 17.69 seconds. As a point of reference, David Ortiz hit a home run on April 9 last year on which he was just reaching second base at the 17.69-second mark.
  • On the back fields before the game, Guerrero was doing fielding drills and taking ground balls at third base with Juan Uribe and Buck Britton. At one point, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had advice for Guerrero, and I noticed Uribe acting as interpreter. I asked Uribe about that after the game, if it was something he was officially asked to do or if he took it on himself to help the Cuban Guerrero bridge the communication gap. “For me, if I can help a young guy, I feel happy if I can tell some young guy, ‘Hey, maybe you should do this or play here,’ you know. I try to help them to do better, these young guys, and I feel happy to do that.”
  • Uribe has filled a similar role over the past two seasons for outfielder Yasiel Puig. “Puig is my teammate, you know, he’s like my brother,” said Uribe. “I want him to do better, so if I can help him, I’m helping the team. He’s a good player, Puig is, so if he can do better, it’s helping the team even more. That’s what I’m doing right now, helping him meet his potential.”
  • Brandon League led all Major League relievers in 2014 with 15 double-play grounders, a fact he was unaware of before I told him. I talked with him about his approach to pitching and the improvements he made between 2013 and 2014. “It was a mechanical change. When I stayed back from Australia, I worked with Charlie Hough,” said League. “It’s the kind of movement, you know? I mean, I get a lot of movement regardless because of the way I throw, but when it’s flat and not breaking any planes, it doesn’t really matter how much it’s moving or how hard it is. I mean, the bat’s as long as the plate, you know? So it can reach a flat pitch regardless of the break.” Has League been seeing that same good movement on his pitches so far this spring? “Yeah, I’ve been getting ground balls. Yesterday they found some holes, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. As a reliever, an out is an out. Strikeouts look good on paper. The average person sees the strikeouts per nine before they see the ground ball percentages. An out is an out in my book.”
  • Carl Crawford says he is feeling healthy and strong and looking forward to a full season of health and production. “I feel like my goal is to be healthy and try to play a full season. I hope that good things happen. I’m healthy again and I hope that I can play back at that high level.”
  • I talked with Brandon McCarthy about his decision to sign with the Dodgers in the offseason, specifically whether his Southern California ties were a major factor. “It didn’t hurt that I lived in LA until I was about 10 or 11, so when I was a little kid, part of being a baseball fan was the Dodgers,” said McCarthy. “Once Frank Thomas came into the league, I became a White Sox fan just because of Frank. So the Dodgers weren’t ‘my team,’ but that was what I originally grew up on. It was a factor, but you kind of put that away as you’re going through that, and it becomes a business decision. You have to weigh all the important factors before you get down to fulfilling a childhood dream.”
  • McCarthy also talked about his time with the Yankees last year. “If you had asked me about [the Yankee mystique] before I went there, I would have thought that was probably a load of nonsense,” McCarthy said. “But then when I got there, it was just kind of a different thing. A lot of it is that they do a very good job of packaging themselves as a historic team, and they are. If you grow up as a baseball fan, you know Yankee names. They just stick out in your head. People who aren’t even superstars of their era, you just know their names. When I got there, every away game was a Derek Jeter ceremony, but then they’re also doing a Paul O’Neill Day, a Joe Torre Day, and you think, ‘Wow, this is a whole different universe here.’ They’ve got ex-stars coming in, and the stadium gets filled, people are chanting, and you realize, ‘This isn’t the same thing I’ve been a part of before.'”
  • Did McCarthy’s experience make him want to re-sign with the Yankees? “When I pitched there, I felt like it was a good place to be. I fell in love with the way they treated guys, the way they handled themselves. There was nothing I didn’t like. We love the city. Going into the offseason, that was my mindset: I want to stay a Yankee, I want to be a part of that. But as we went through the process, I realized that might not be the case.”
  • One final point of discussion with McCarthy had to do with the muscle he has added to his frame over the past year. He says he doesn’t really feel a big difference from the added bulk, but he hopes to feel the effects in maintained strength in August and September. “I just feel like myself. Last year was such a radical change from what I’d been the year before, and this offseason I felt like now my job was to continue to get bigger and stronger. But it wasn’t like I felt like a whole new person again the way I did last year. So this year is just a continuation of that. I know that I’m stronger, but I’d be shocked if that showed up in me gaining two more miles per hour on my fastball or anything. Now it’s just, can I stay healthy?”

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