Plenty of news coming in on this first official day of camp, and isn’t that a lovely feeling? Pitchers & catchers have reported, with position players joining them by Monday, and that means we’ll finally have real news & updates to talk about, not just hypotheticals and what-ifs. Don Mattingly held court this morning with a few of our famililar media names, and here’s what we know so far…
* Clayton Kershaw will be your Opening Day starter. (Ken Gurnick) Well, of course. This is news in the sense that “hey, Frank McCourt might not be such a great guy” is news. You know how I feel that the Opening Day assignment is wildly overrated, and so this doesn’t mean a great deal to me. Still, it’s a nice honor for Kershaw, and one that he’ll hopefully be able to carry for at least the next ten years. With three lefties likely to be in the rotation, I imagine that Kershaw will be followed by Chad Billingsley & Ted Lilly, then Aaron Harang & Chris Capuano. That will mean two lefties back-to-back as the rotation turns around, but that’s unavoidable.
* Dee Gordon will lead off and Matt Kemp will hit third. (Eric Stephen) No surprise here, either, especially with how well Kemp finished the year in the #3 spot. I think there’s a good enough argument to be made that Gordon is best served hitting lower in the order, where his inexperience and questionable on-base skills may not be exposed as much, but with his speed there was never any real chance Mattingly would have done that, and to be honest it’s not like there’s an obviously better choice anyway. (No, not even A.J. Ellis.) The official Dodger Twitter notes that Gordon reported early to camp and was in the cage taking BP today, which is a great sign. Dylan Hernandez adds that Mattingly likes the idea of Andre Ethier & Juan Rivera behind Kemp for protection, so while it’s not like we didn’t already know what the batting order was going to be, it seems pretty clear that the regular 8 will work out like so: 1) Gordon 2) Mark Ellis 3) Kemp 4) Ethier 5) Rivera 6) James Loney 7) Juan Uribe 8) A.J. Ellis, with some chance of Loney & Uribe being swapped. You know what’s going to be fun, though? When Gordon is inevitably banged-up, or even just gets a regular day off, and Jerry Hairston or Adam Kennedy gets to lead off instead.
* Blake Hawksworth is not going to be ready for Opening Day. (Dylan Hernandez). This initially came as something of a surprise, because Hawksworth’s January elbow surgery was originally not expected to keep him out so long, but Hernandez reveals that Hawksworth had to have a second procedure to deal with an infection that resulted from the first, so he’s “a few weeks behind schedule.” If there were any justice in the world, this would mean that the final bullpen spot would go to Josh Lindblom, who clearly proved he was big-league ready in his debut last season. Of course, Lindblom has options remaining, and the Dodgers have plenty of washed-up veteran non-roster types in camp. Remember yesterday when I said that I had a feeling that I couldn’t back up that Jamey Wright was going to make this team? Yeah, this is how. Depending on Hawksworth’s timetable, his recovery could force the Dodgers to make some interesting roster choices to make near the end of April when Ronald Belisario is eligible to return from suspension. (I know, it sounds crazy to even suggest it, but Stephen actually saw him in person today.)
* Javy Guerra starts camp as the closer. (Hernandez) Again, no surprise here, because Guerra took hold of the job last year after no one else could and did little to force the team to make a move. If he can be effective again this year, then fantastic, because Kenley Jansen is arguably more valuable as a “fireman” type who can come in and dominate when the situation dictates, rather than tether him to the 9th inning. Still, I see Jansen moving into the 9th inning at some point this year.
* Steve Yeager rejoins the Dodgers. Yeager, who originally joined the organization when he was drafted in 1967 and was a Dodger catcher for all but one of his 15 major league seasons before becoming an occasional Dodger hitting coach for four minor-league affiliates, has been hired to work with the backstops in camp. Yeager hit .228/.298/.355 over his career, which makes him basically the perfect person to work the current group of catchers… or lead an interstellar battleship.
* A spring training primer from Jon Weisman. In a long piece at ESPN/LA, Jon breaks down the players in camp, all the way from Kemp to Lance Zawadzki. Rabid followers over the winter will likely have seen all of these names already, but this is a good resource to keep bookmarked for three weeks from now when you’re trying to remember just who in the hell Matt Chico is.
More to come, no doubt.