Well, as “real” as any game that will include at least five pitchers who have just about no shot of seeing any actual meaningful time for the big club this year can be. Still, for the first time since last September, we’ll have Dodger baseball against another team in a game that, if not actually meaningful, will at least be played under the normal rules of Major League Baseball. If it’s not quite Game 7 of the World Series out there, at least it’s something.
Of course, the tendency in our current 24/7 Twitter age is to place an overabundance of importance on early spring games just because it’s the first new on-field data we’ve had on players in months, and it’s important to remember how unrealistic it is to expect players to be in mid-season form on March 5. Different players arrive in different states of fitness, and batters & pitchers don’t always get up to gear at the same speed; even if they did, the focus is less on winning games than getting loose and getting your timing down. Hey, maybe Chad Billingsley throws two shutout innings today. Or maybe, as he attempts to tweak his mechanics this spring, he gives up six homers, like Atlanta’s Julio Teheran did yesterday on a windy day in Florida. It’s important to keep in mind that none of that matters right now. (Except for every Juan Uribe oh-fer. That’ll always matter.)
With that in mind, here’s today’s lineup, which isn’t that far off from what we expect to see on Opening Day other than at third base. (Though it is somewhat odd that Uribe is the only starter who isn’t in this lineup…) Since the Dodgers are the road team today against their Camelback Ranch co-tenants Chicago, the designated hitter is in use.
1) Dee Gordon SS
2) Mark Ellis 2B
3) Matt Kemp CF
4) Andre Ethier RF
5) Juan Rivera LF
6) James Loney 1B
7) Adam Kennedy 3B
8) A.J. Ellis C
9) Tony Gwynn DH
Again, spring training, so no complaining that Gwynn (who can’t hit) is DH while Rivera (who can’t field) is in left. Most of these guys will only play the first few innings, and by the end of the game the Dodger lineup will look more like Chattanooga’s JV team. (Update: according to Eric Stephen, the reserves are listed as well. Expect to see appearances from Justin Sellers (SS), Ivan De Jesus (2B), Trent Oeltjen (CF), Scott Van Slyke (RF), Alex Castellanos (LF), Josh Fields (1B), Russ Mitchell (3B), & Tim Federowicz (C). Nathan Eovaldi will follow Billingsley with two more innings, and they’ll be followed by one inning apiece from non-roster guys Fernando Nieve, Wil Ledezma, Angel Guzman, Ryan Tucker & Scott Rice.
Today’s game won’t be televised, but tomorrow’s “home opener” against the Giants will be shown live at 12:05pm PT on Prime Ticket and starting at 1pm PT on MLB Network.
Over at Baseball Prospectus, the continuing division-by-division preview continues, with Jay Jaffe joined by Geoff Young (formerly of Ducksnorts) to join the chorus of voices not nearly convinced that Ned Colletti’s offseason plan was in any way the right one. Two snippets:
3. Beyond Matt Kemp, who is going to provide offense for this team?
JJ: Andre Ethier and nobody else. That infield—James Loney, Mark Ellis, Dee Gordon, and Juan Uribe—is going to be the least productive in baseball, unless you’re counting Gordon’s steals for your fantasy team.
GY: Agreed, assuming Ethier is healthy. It’s incredible to think that a team would miss the bats of Jamey Carroll and Rod Barajas.
JJ: It truly is. What drives me nuts about Colletti isn’t that he bought low on so many guys—there’s a value strategy that can work in there—it’s that he went for the backloaded second year, when the first one might be a disaster.
5. How does left field unfold between Phony Gwynn, Juan Rivera, and Jerry Sands? Is the latter ever going to get another shot?
GY: You’ve got a guy in his prime who will never hit big-league pitching, a guy past his prime who can’t play a position, and young kid who has dominated the minors. Which one do you make sure never sees the light of day? Not that Sands is great, but it seems to me he deserves a chance.
JJ: I agree. And don’t think at my age that I’ll live to see it, at least under this regime.