- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN Insider
LOS ANGELES -- Bits and pieces from the Red Sox-Dodgers series over the weekend:
Andre Ethier recalls that he had always wanted to play center field as an amateur ballplayer, but when he got into professional baseball, he was moved to corner outfielder and that was that.
But with Matt Kemp sidelined and the Dodgers in need of a center fielder, Don Mattingly asked Ethier to move there and he has loved it -- and believes it’s been good to be challenged in a different way at this stage of his career.
"It’s been great," he said, before the Dodgers' 8-1 loss to the Red Sox on "Sunday Night Baseball."
Ethier, like all the Dodgers’ fielders, has been on the lookout for that freight train otherwise known as Yasiel Puig, and with a smile, Ethier explained how he’ll call off the right fielder loudly, and demonstratively. They are all a little concerned that Puig might run them over, in his single-minded pursuit of the ball.
In the midst of Sunday’s game, there was a pop-up behind second base, and Nick Punto turned to chase after the ball -- and then stopped on his own and veered away, rather than waiting to be called off, gauging that Puig would come galloping in to make the play.
• Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and his staff are trying not to overwhelm Puig with a bunch of instructions on how to clean up the mistakes in his game, and he says that Puig is trying to adjust. The coaches and his teammates will remind him to hit the cutoff man and for a time, he’ll do that ... but then something else will pop up, like his baserunning.
"If he gets on base four times," Mattingly said, with a wistful smile, "something will happen on two of them."
So there are smaller frustrations along the way, and then some surprises. Because Puig’s longer experience is rooted in his time in Cuba, Mattingly makes a point of trying to explain everything to Puig -- like when he dropped him in the lineup, because of a specific matchup. Mattingly wanted to make sure that Puig understood that moving into the middle of the order from the leadoff spot was not a demotion. Puig looked at him and said, "I don’t care. I just want to play."
Along with his power and his throwing arm and his speed, Puig’s energy is the best thing about him. And the worst thing about him also seems to be his energy, unrelenting, uncurbed.
• Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen has one of the longest strides toward home plate of all pitchers, about a foot longer than the average pitcher, which is why opposing hitters feel like the ball is right on top of them when he releases it. Some of his teammates believe the cutter he throws is a lot like that of Mariano Rivera, with the late, sharp horizontal movement.
• Xander Bogaerts has played in four games since being called up, with nine at-bats, and already he looks like he belongs; there is an incredible calmness to his at-bats, patience, and all of his hits have been to the opposite field, a sign of his comfort. Bogaerts could’ve had three hits on Sunday night if not for a diving catch made by Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
• Jonny Gomes says the Red Sox beard thing really isn’t meant to be a thing, and that it’s not like some of the Boston players are lobbying others to grow long beards. "It just ... happened," said Gomes, who was at the heart of the Mohawks in Tampa Bay when he played for that franchise.
As Gomes remembers, when he arrived in spring training, he had a good shock of beard going, and Mike Napoli saw it and thought it looked cool. So he grew a beard, and so did Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross and Dustin Pedroia and others.
John Farrell does not have a beard, and he won’t. "I’ve never had a beard in my life," he said.
• As the bottom of the eighth inning ended, Farrell started to make his way toward Jake Peavy, to see if he might need to come out before the ninth -- and after getting a look from Peavy, Farrell immediately turned around. Peavy talked about that after his complete-game win over the Dodgers.
• A year after the blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox, Ned Colletti sat down to detail those days and hours leading up to the deal in this interview.
From around the game:
• I got to know Mark Parent when he played with the Orioles in 1996, and he is one of the nicest folks in the game. But he also has an acerbic wit, and I wonder if that helped him get ejected before the first pitch Sunday. From Fred Mitchell’s story:
White Sox bench coach Mark Parent was ejected by crew chief Jerry Layne while lineups were being exchanged before Sunday's game.
"It was something from (Saturday) night. So it's over ... play," said manager Robin Ventura, who recalled Ozzie Guillen being tossed once in a similar manner.
The White Sox had some problems with the umpires in the previous two games.
It was the third time Parent has been ejected as a Sox coach, including twice this season. Sox catcher Josh Phegley was surprised to see Parent tossed before the game.
"I went out there and there was a lady out there helping him take the lineup card out," Phegley said. "She was kind of standing back from the group. That was interesting. So I started talking to her and I asked Alan Porter, the home plate umpire: 'Did (Parent) get ran right there?' And (Porter) was like, 'Yeah, he did.'
"So I said, 'Well, we're getting along already.' "
• From Elias: Roy Halladay returned from the disabled list Sunday and allowed two runs in six innings to beat the Diamondbacks. The Phillies gave Halladay a three-run cushion by scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning as he improved his record to 36-0 over his last 40 starts in which he pitched with a lead of two or more runs. Halladay last lost under those circumstances on June 30, 2010.
Halladay said afterward that the future of the Phillies is bright, and Sam Donnellon writes that for Philadelphia’s sake, you hope he is right.
• More Miggy: On Sunday, Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 with his 42nd home run of the season to bring his season Triple Crown totals to a .360 average, 42 homers and 128 RBIs.
The only players to reach the .360 BA, 42 HR and 128 RBI threshold through 130 games in MLB history are Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, who each did it twice.
Cabrera is two homers shy of tying his career high of 44 set last season. He now has 12 homers in the first inning this season, the most in MLB.
• It’s worth saying again and again: Watch the Indians in the wild-card race. Their remaining schedule is filled with a lot of games against struggling teams and they’ll take advantage of it -- as they did Sunday, against the Twins. Cleveland is just 1½ games behind Tampa Bay and Oakland in the wild-card race.
Dings and dents
5. Matt Kemp could begin a rehab assignment next week.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Shaky defense took down the Nationals.
3. The Orioles put on a laser show against Oakland.
• The Braves have a big lead in the NL East, but still, Sunday’s win over the Cardinals -- to salvage the final game of a series -- felt like an important win for them, to stop the bleeding. Craig Kimbrel was asked to get a rare four-out save. Atlanta’s magic number is down to 20.
• A Marlins pitcher moonlights in the wrestling ring.
• A Cardinals rookie has an important start tonight.
• The Reds are a roller coaster, as Paul Daugherty writes.
• The Cubs suffered a terrible loss, at the outset of what could be a very long week for them.
• A fan took Tony Sanchez’s first home run ball, writes Travis Sawchik.
• Kirk Gibson is still sorting through the ramifications of the Diamondbacks’ marathon the other day.
• The D-backs’ owner is frustrated, but not discouraged.
• Andrew Cashner’s best start turned out to be a footnote for the Padres, writes old pal Bill Center.
• A stolen base really hurt the Rays, writes Marc Topkin.
• Mariano Rivera picked up his 38th save this season.
• Alfonso Soriano’s steal demonstrated that it’s go time for the Yankees.
• The Royals’ losing streak is finally over, as Tod Palmer writes.
• The Astros couldn’t finish off a sweep of Toronto.
• Eric Wedge won’t give up on one of his pitchers.
• Mike Scioscia denies he has a rift with GM Jerry Dipoto.
It was because of Ryan Braun that Major League Baseball got angry and got even, writes Patrick Maloney.
A lot of players feel that way.
• Our man John Kruk is said to be feeling better.
And today will be better than yesterday.