Are Kershaw and Trout the faces of baseball?

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
1:52
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TEMPE, Ariz. --The best pitcher and the best player on the planet spent an afternoon orbiting each other while filming a few TV commercials for Subway the other day in Arizona.

Mike Trout got there by 10:30 a.m. and left around 10 p.m., spending some of his down time in a trailer with his agent, Craig Landis, and visitors.

Clayton Kershaw, who finished a morning workout across town in Los Angeles Dodgers camp, arrived at about 1:45 p.m. and was on site for about five hours, then went to meet his wife Ellen and newborn daughter, Cali Ann, who flew in that evening from Dallas.

Over a long afternoon, Trout and Kershaw patiently took turns doing their voice-overs, still shots and social media obligations for the company, then were driven on golf carts to nearby Tempe Diablo Stadium for their on-field shoots.

Inside the Los Angeles Angels' minor-league weight room, baseball’s most transcendent talents greeted one another.

“I’m going to crash your photo shoot,” Kershaw said as he walked into the room.

Trout, gripping a bat, extended his hand to offer Kershaw congratulations on winning the National League MVP award. Kershaw seemed genuinely touched.

“Thanks dude,” he said.

They chatted for a few minutes, joking about the long, sometimes boring process of shooting advertisements. Trout joked that Kershaw could look forward to eating about 15 sandwiches over multiple takes. “You’re gonna eat,” Trout said. There was none of the tension one might expect from two of the game’s fiercest competitors, paid lavishly to make the other look bad. Then again, Opening Day was still months away, the earliest they could possibly face one another in a game that counts still five months out.

So, on a crystal clear, cool Arizona afternoon, they could let down their competitive guards.

“We both play baseball, so it’s not too awkward territory for us,” Kershaw said.

One of baseball’s narratives this spring is to wonder who becomes the face of baseball now that Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees’ iconic shortstop, has retired. Baseball is thriving at the local and regional levels while struggling to keep up with other leagues on the national stage, so it’s a fairly pressing issue for the game. World Series ratings have been in decline since the early 1990s. Last year’s series had the third-worst ratings on record, just beating 2012 and 2008. Yet some teams, including the Dodgers and Angels, are living large on 10-figure local media revenues.

MLB.com crowd-sourced the “Face of Baseball” question on Twitter and the winner was San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. One could just as easily make an argument for Trout or Kershaw. The Subway commercials in and of themselves are proof of that since national TV advertising campaigns are rare for major-league players. Trout grew up watching the sandwich commercials of Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

Baseball’s star power hasn’t exactly migrated westward since Jeter’s retirement. It has taken a jet. According to the largest online retailer of officially licensed gear, Fanatics.com, the five best-selling names in baseball so far this year are all from California. In order, they are World Series hero Madison Bumgarner, Trout, Posey, Kershaw and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.

In 2013, the Dodgers finished with the highest road attendance in baseball. The Giants were second. Last year, the Dodgers were second to the New York Yankees. The influx of star power is benefiting West Coast teams.

“There’s a benefit when our players are popular,” Dodgers vice president for marketing Lon Rosen said. “Rivalries help baseball, high quality baseball helps. All of the things, you sort of put in a pot, you stir it around, it helps us and it’s good for baseball in general when the players become more high-profile.”

It could be that way for a while. Posey, 27, is signed through 2021. Kershaw, 26, is signed through 2020, as is Trout, 23. Kershaw and Trout are the reigning MVPs of their leagues. Posey won the award in 2012. Of course, there’s no saying that the nexus of star power doesn’t shift east again, perhaps to Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton if his team contends or to Jon Lester if the Chicago Cubs make their long-anticipated big move.

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A Q&A with Sandy Koufax

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
12:28
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Sandy Koufax's arrival at Camelback Ranch always sends ripples of excitement through camp, with fans chanting, "Sandy! Sandy!" when he moves between stations.


The most dominant left-handed pitcher of the 1960s visited Los Angeles Dodgers camp Thursday and spent time watching bullpens and chatting with Dodgers pitchers, particularly Zack Greinke. Afterward, Koufax -- a special advisor to the club -- spoke with reporters on a variety of topics.

Q. How do you like the offseason changes this team has made, particularly the switch to a more analytical front office?

A. It seems to me from everything everyone has said, they’re analytic, but they’re listening to the players and the manager and coaches. You talk about the analytical thing and it all started in Oakland, but nobody makes mention of the fact that [Billy Beane] was a player, so he could see talent. The analytics are one thing, but if he didn’t like what he saw, you don’t sign him. So, I think it’s a combination of both that’s important.

Q. Do the juices still flow for you when you get out here around the players?

A. The juices have gotten very thick. They don’t flow very well. It’s fun to be around the players. This is a nice time of year. Nobody’s lost their job, nobody’s got a job coming. It’s nice to be around the young players.

Q. You watched the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, left-hander Julio Urias, throw a bullpen session. What were your thoughts?

A. He’s impressive, he’s very impressive. That’s the first time I’ve seen him throw. It’s a long way from the driving range to the golf course, it’s a long way from side sessions to the game, and he has all the requisites, we just have to see what happens. Physically, he’s very impressive.

Q. What were your thoughts watching Clayton Kershaw struggling in those tough seventh innings in the playoffs?

A. If somebody had told me that anybody would beat Clayton twice in one series, I would have said, "No way." I probably would have cursed and said, "No way," but, you know, it happens. I have to say, I don’t know if you heard his acceptance speech in New York. That last line was as classy as it gets. On a night when you’re being honored to bring up what didn’t go right is pretty special.

Q. Do you think the fire will burn brighter in him because of what happened against the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs?

A. I don’t know if he has any extra fire burning, because I think he always has fire burning. He’s a great competitor. Would it be any extra? I hope not. You can just go so far. One hundred percent physical effort will kill you, because there’s no room for thinking. You can go to 99, but you’ve got to leave some room for the brain.

Q. Do you think he has something to prove about pitching in the playoffs?

A. I don’t think so, because I think he’ll be in a lot more postseasons and I think it’ll be totally turned around. The best pitcher in baseball is not going to have that happen to him, probably not ever again.

Q. Do you think pace of play is a problem for the game?

A. Possibly. I’m not sure what it is about pace of play is that’s bad, but it’s slower than it used to be. But you get three more pitching changes than you used to get, so that takes time. I think the strike zone has changed shape. It’s gotten narrower and taller and lower. I think a wider strike zone, not necessarily higher and lower, would speed up the game. That’s just my by no means humble opinion.

It’s not so much the time of game. I find it hard to watch a pitcher go to no balls and two strikes and end up 3-2. That happens much more than it should.

Q. Were there any teams you struggled against, much as Clayton has struggled in the playoffs against St. Louis?

A. Early on, there were a lot of them. It got better. I was really glad in the middle of the season, he shut them out. I was like, "OK, he’s proven to them that he can beat them." It just didn’t happen. It’s just bad timing. The games were turned around. The first one, he got enough runs to win. The second one he didn’t. If it had been turned around, it might have been a different story.

Q. What do you think will be different about this team from last year?

A. There is, I would hope, more fundamental baseball being played, moving people over. People poo-poo the clubhouse thing, but I think the clubhouse is important. I think it’s important players like each other. Did that happen in the past? I don’t know. I’m not in the clubhouse. I only know what I read.

Q. What would you like to see Yasiel Puig improve upon?

A. I’d like to see his natural talent and maybe his personality get out of the way. It’s not his personality. He enjoys himself. I think for me, probably he’s never played against talent that’s been his equal, so he thought, "OK, they’ll make a mistake. I can keep running and they’ll screw it up," and it doesn’t happen here. I think he’s learned that. He struggled at the end of the year hitting, but I don’t think he made the same mistakes, throws crazy out of nowhere, running the bases badly. I think there was a lot of progress, but when you’re struggling at the plate, everything looks bad.

Q. Were you disappointed when the veterans committee failed to elect Maury Wills or Gil Hodges to the Hall of Fame?

A. I think Maury changed the game. He revolutionized the game. He was the most dominant offensive force in baseball. Even though [Hank] Aaron might have been the best hitter, every time Maury got on it was a double or a triple. If you looked up he was on second and third. Gil’s contribution is not only as a player, but as a manager. A lot of people have been elected because they did both.

Q. If modern surgeries, particularly Tommy John surgery, were around in your day, do you think you would have pitched longer?

A. I didn’t have to have Tommy John. I could still throw. They just wouldn’t operate on an arthritic elbow in those days. It would have been a simple surgery. I had arthritic hooks that were scratching. My elbow would blow up and fill with fluid. They’d drain it and send you back out there. Surgery would have been easy. They would have done it when the season was over, you’d have been fine in spring training. They wouldn’t have cut anything.

Hyun-Jin Ryu held out of workouts

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
9:16
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was held out of workouts with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second straight day Thursday because of stiffness in the middle of his back.

Ryu said he doesn't anticipate this setback delaying the start of his season.

"I'm not worried at all," he said Thursday.

An MRI taken Wednesday showed no structural damage, manager Don Mattingly said. He said he is hopeful Ryu won't miss enough time in camp to delay the start of his season.

"I've had enough back stuff to know it can feel bad today, you wake up tomorrow and, all of a sudden, you're back," Mattingly said.

"At this point, I don't think any of us are worried about the timetable. If it were to linger and go on and on, then obviously it would start to mess with his schedule."

Ryu, who is 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA in two major league seasons, is being counted on as the Dodgers' No. 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. He threw a bullpen session Tuesday, but he reported discomfort afterward. On Wednesday, he told Korean reporters that he thought he would resume workouts the following day.

The Dodgers have had reason to be worried about the health of their rotation this spring. Greinke had a precautionary injection of lubricant into his elbow last week and has resumed throwing off a mound. No. 5 starter Brett Anderson is coming off back surgery and is getting extra rest between bullpen sessions.


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Yasmani Grandal and the art of stealing strikes

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
12:47
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Yasmani GrandalRick Scuteri/USA TODAY SportsYasmani Grandal knows the importance of having a relationship not only with pitchers, but with umps.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Before every nuance of baseball came to be dissected, isolated and quantified, hitters used to assume that the best, most experienced catchers got the most calls from umpires.

“When you had Carlton Fisk or Bob Boone back there, you knew those guys were good at getting pitches,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Now that the Information Age has pulled baseball into its orbit, a catcher’s ability to frame pitches so that they appear to be strikes has become one of the hottest areas of study. New Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has long been a proponent of the skill, which is why he lived with sub-par hitting from guys like Jose Molina in Tampa Bay.

[+] EnlargeGrandal
AP Photo/John LocherYasmani Grandal is one of the best in the game at framing pitches.
And it’s also one of the reasons Matt Kemp is getting ready for the season five miles from here, with the San Diego Padres, instead of alongside longtime teammates Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier in Dodgers camp.

The Dodgers traded Kemp, a former MVP runner-up who led the majors in slugging after the All-Star break last year, for Yasmani Grandal, a catcher with a lifetime .245 batting average who is just a year-and-a-half removed from major knee surgery. On paper, it doesn’t jump out as one-sided in the Dodgers’ favor.

But there were motives for the trade beyond the players’ production in the batter’s box. The Dodgers were able to shed $75 million of Kemp’s $107 remaining salary and they got a catcher who, if things work out, could make the Dodgers' pitching even better.

Grandal, who is not otherwise known as a premium defensive catcher, is by all accounts one of the best pitch framers in baseball. The Dodgers’ incumbent starting catcher, A.J. Ellis, doesn’t rate highly and has vowed to work on the skill this spring.

“With Andrew and [GM] Farhan [Zaidi], you do hear a lot of it,” Mattingly said. “Now that’s part of the analytics, how he’s catching the ball and getting pitches. We do know Yasmani scores high on all of that.”

According to Baseball Prospectus, Grandal got 120 “extra” strikes called last season, an extraordinary number considering he caught just 76 games. Among other things, Grandal’s pitch framing in San Diego helped revive the career of former Dodgers left-hander Eric Stults, a finesse pitcher who makes a living at the fringes of the strike zone.

Pitch framing might be a valuable skill, but it’s not necessarily one that people like talking about at length. After all, it commodifies the fallibility of umpires. In a perfect world, how a catcher receives the baseball shouldn’t impact balls and strikes, but it has become an area where the most analytical minds in the game seek to exploit its most human element.

Grandal said he used to play a game with himself when he was behind the plate, counting how many pitches he considered balls he could get called strikes. He would be happy if he could get a half-dozen a game to go his pitchers’ way. On some days, getting that many borderline calls could be the difference between a win and a loss.

Then, a couple of years ago, people finally started noticing.

“Once somebody brought to my attention that it was a stat, it was kind of funny, because I was like, ‘I’ve kind of been playing this game for a while,’ “ Grandal said.

Grandal paused for a moment and added, “I never liked the idea of stealing strikes, because that’s making the umpire look bad. That’s the one thing I don’t want to do is make them look bad.”

Grandal said he learned his receiving skills from University of Miami assistant coach Joe Mercadante and then refined them over the years in pro ball working with veterans such as Ramon Hernandez, Pat Kelly, Brad Ausmus and A.J. Hinch. He doesn’t view pitch framing as fooling the umpire, but as making it easier for him to see the ball.

“I’m trying to make the umpire’s job easier. The better lane I give them to see the ball, the better relationship I’m going to have with them, the more they’re going to trust me,” Grandal said. “I’m always talking to them, trying to see, ‘Hey, do you have a good lane to see? Am I cutting you off? Are you seeing this pitch?’ The relationship between the catcher and pitcher is pretty important, but you also have to have a relationship with the umpire.”

The Dodgers should have a better catching situation in 2015 than last season, in part because Grandal and Ellis have skill sets that complement each another. Grandal’s best hitting typically comes from the left side. Ellis is a right-handed hitter. Grandal excels at pitch framing. Ellis is a master of game planning and calling pitches. If they put in the work and share information this spring, there’s no telling what kind of impact they could have on a Dodgers staff that finished fourth in the National League in ERA.

They also could have acquired Grandal, 26, at the right time in his career. A torn knee ligament cost him half of the 2013 season and limited him much of last year, he said.

“It kind of affected everything,” Grandal said. “Now, it’s good.”

Dodgers add Chad Gaudin

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
9:35
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers signed journeyman right-hander Chad Gaudin to a minor-league deal, adding another high-upside pitcher coming off an injury.

Gaudin, 31, hasn’t pitched since 2013, when he was an effective reliever and spot starter for the San Francisco Giants, going 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 12 starts and 18 relief appearances.

Gaudin missed last season with a neck injury. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies last spring but failed a physical. Just since spring training began one week ago, the Dodgers have signed Brandon Beachy -- coming off Tommy John surgery -- and Dustin McGowan, who has a lengthy injury history.

The likelihood is the Dodgers will stockpile Gaudin as starting pitching depth at Triple-A Oklahoma City when the season begins.

"You have a chance to catch lightning in a bottle," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We'll get him in here and see how he's throwing."

Court rejects Jamie McCourt's appeal

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
7:36
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LOS ANGELES -- A California appellate court has rejected a bid by the ex-wife of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to toss out a divorce agreement because the team sold for more than $2 billion.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Tuesday rejected Jamie McCourt's contentions that the agreement that paid her $131 million should be set aside because her ex-husband didn't provide accurate estimates of the team's value.

The unanimous opinion found no basis to overturn the agreement or a lower court's ruling that Jamie McCourt wasn't credible when she testified that her ex-husband misled her about the Dodgers' value.

Jamie McCourt filed for divorce in October 2009, and the pair reached a financial agreement in late 2011.


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Reliever Chris Hatcher ended 70-year drought

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
10:45
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In 1935, Art “Moose” Doll caught three games for the Boston Braves. He went 1-for-10 in his appearances at the plate and never again caught a major league game. The following season, on Sept. 25, Doll pitched eight strong innings in a 3-2 loss to the New York Giants, easily the highlight of a fleeting major-league career.

More than 70 years would pass before another player would make the conversion from catcher to pitcher after reaching the major leagues as a catcher. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen made the switch in the minor leagues. Chris Hatcher, one of the Dodgers’ newest relievers, broke Doll’s record -- or perhaps anomaly is a better word -- three seasons ago.

Hatcher appeared in five games as a catcher for the Florida Marlins in 2010, going 0-for-8. The following spring, coaches talked him into becoming a pitcher. He made his major league debut from the mound the following June 17. Obviously, he had some aptitude for it if it only took him four months. Hatcher had pitched in high school and a handful of innings at North Carolina.

“They didn’t so much say it, but I got the sense the only way I could stay on the roster is if I converted,” Hatcher said. “I took it in stride and it turned out to be the best move probably.”

The Dodgers could be the beneficiary of Hatcher’s late career move, because though he is 29, there are fewer than 90 major league innings on his powerful right arm. He also won’t be arbitration eligible until 2017, meaning he’s under club control for the long haul. His average fastball velocity was 95.1 mph last year, according to Fangraphs. Hatcher will have a chance to break camp as the Dodgers’ primary right-handed setup man, if not the closer while Jansen is out.

He was more than a throw-in in the trade that sent Dee Gordon, Miguel Rojas and Dan Haren to Miami.

“He was a guy we targeted,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said. “To start off the season, he may be even more important than we anticipated.”

Hatcher also came with baggage beyond those carrying his cleats and gloves. He reportedly broke teammate Sam Dyson’s jaw during a bar fight in Nashville, when both players were in the minor leagues early last season, and was handed a five-game suspension by the team. Hatcher declined to discuss the matter this week and Zaidi said the team looked into it.

“We have no concerns about that,” Zaidi said.

Andre Ethier wants starting job

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
9:15
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video

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers were hoping they were done with the drama that comes with having an excess of well-paid outfielders after they traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres over the winter, but the storyline could linger.

Andre Ethier, who was the odd man out for most of the second half of 2014, said he would prefer to play elsewhere if there isn't an everyday job open for him on the Dodgers.

Ethier is the longest-tenured Dodgers player, having broken in with the team in 2006. The Dodgers' tentative Opening Day plans are for Carl Crawford to start in left field, rookie Joc Pederson in center and Yasiel Puig in right, with Ethier the fourth outfielder.

"You're not wishing for it ever to end, but sometimes that opportunity takes you somewhere else," Ethier said. "I'm not going to do anything to sit here and force it. Hopefully it works itself out."


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Out on Moncada, Dodgers eye other Cuban talent

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
3:24
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There was a time when some baseball executives considered the Los Angeles Dodgers the likeliest landing place for Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, but Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi indicated Monday that perhaps such a scenario was never all that likely.

Moncada signed a reported $31.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox Monday. Because Boston had already exceeded its international spending limit before landing Moncada, it would have been precluded from signing any international player over the next two signing periods for more than $300,000 anyway.

Thus, the penalty was less of a disincentive for Boston than it would have been for the Dodgers, particularly with more and more players expected to emerge from Cuba in the coming months. The next signing period begins July 2.

“It gives us the opportunity to continue pursuing guys this period and, more importantly, the next signing period,” Zaidi said. “There’s a lot of talent that’s coming on line July 2. It’s not surprising at the end of the day that the couple teams in it at the end had already gone past the cap.”

Zaidi said the Dodgers never made a formal offer for Moncada.

The name to keep an eye on now is infielder Hector Olivera, a 29-year-old infielder who has enough professional experience that he wouldn’t be constrained by international spending limits. Olivera has yet to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball.

“I have no sense of the timetable,” Zaidi said. “We have had some discussions with them being at the workout and whatnot, but until he’s declared eligible to sing we can’t have any more concrete discussions.”

New Dodger pitchers not shy about social media

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
12:09
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Brett AndersonAP Photo/John LocherNewcomer Brett Anderson may see some Dodgers fans join his 45,000 Twitter followers.


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Shortly after Brandon McCarthy reported to spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, he admitted to his 152,000 Twitter followers that he had a few first-day-of-school jitters.

“The first day at a new job is always scary, but thankfully I had a shower with my co-workers to look forward to and that took the edge off,” McCarthy tweeted.

The next day, the other capable, but injury-prone pitcher the Dodgers are relying on to solidify the back of their rotation, Brett Anderson, gave fans a little insight into the life of a major league baseball pitcher during the early, breezy days of spring training.

Anderson informed his 45,000 Twitter followers that he and McCarthy spent part of Sunday afternoon googling whether fish sleep.

“So, there’s your inside look at what happens during spring training,” Anderson wrote.

Dodgers fans, particularly the younger, social-media-obsessed demographic, figure to have two new entertaining follows this season after the Dodgers signed McCarthy and Anderson, who have reputations as two of the more clever, snarky and -- occasionally -- outrageous users of social media in baseball.

After Anderson’s fish tweet (and, by the way, fish don’t usually sleep, they just drift around a bit to rest), he spent the evening ranting about the Oscars. He tweeted that “Channing Tatum looks more fascinated by Legos than most children,” wondered if comedian Kevin Hart was shrinking, conjectured that Jared Leto had body odor and noted, “John Travolta is creeping Wes Anderson out.”

Some of that satire, Anderson realizes, could blow back on him. He’s not in Oakland or Arizona any more. Actually, he is in Arizona at the moment, but after the Dodgers break camp, he’ll be playing home games in the world’s culture capital.

“Being in L.A., there are so many famous people who throw out first pitches and stuff, there’s eventually going to be someone I’ve made fun of or had a sarcastic tweet about,” Anderson said. “I’ll be like, ‘Hey, nice to meet you, but please don’t look at my timeline.’"

It already happened once. Anderson had bashed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winson on Twitter relentlessly, then he showed up at a Super Bowl party at his agent’s offices. The first person he saw was Winston.

“I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m going to make a hard right,’" Anderson said.

Major league teams don’t always love when their players are active on social media, particularly when those players jump the gun on announcements, use foul language or criticize the organization. For McCarthy and Anderson, it’s about the art of being provocative without provoking the wrong people. McCarthy rarely tweets about baseball and said he has a rule. If he would feel comfortable defending his tweet on TV, he’ll hit send. Otherwise, he deletes it.

“Social media allows athletes to build their brands, tell and control their story and it gives fans a lens into an athletes’ life that didn’t exist before,” said Josh Tucker, social media manager at the IMG agency. “It enables an even more powerful and meaningful connection between athlete and fan.”

Tucker, who used to be the social media director for the Dodgers, gave an example of the tangible benefits for athletes.

“If A.J. Ellis wants to get into broadcasting when he retires, he already has a built-in audience of 75,000 fans to tune in,” Tucker said.

There is, of course, the dark side of the social media question. Seattle Mariners outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison has been embroiled in Twitter controversies throughout his career. His tweets got him in trouble with the Miami Marlins front office on several occasions. When he was sent to the minor leagues in 2011, many people believe it was because he was too active and too outspoken on Twitter.

With the Cleveland Indians organization in 2010, pitcher David Huff tweeted that he was about to be called up from Triple-A to make a spot start. When the Indians found out about it, they decided to use another pitcher. Huff, who is now in Dodgers camp vying for a spot in the bullpen, has said he never sent that tweet, that someone else got control of his account.

“I don’t know what happened. All I know is it cost me an opportunity,” Huff said.

It wasn’t just that one incident that sent Huff off social media.

“I’m done with Twitter. I don’t like giving fans an opportunity to just bash me. I don’t need it,” Huff said. “I like to live a positive life. If I had a bad outing, I would just get blown up.”

McCarthy finds the interaction with fans more fulfilling. He got on Twitter in 2011 at the behest of his wife Amanda, whose tweets are more outlandish than her husband’s. Often, the McCarthies, kept apart by major-league travel, banter back and forth via Twitter. On Friday, Amanda McCarthy tweeted to her husband, “Just because you are at work doesn’t mean you get to stop answering my text. NOW, SHOULD I WEAR A HAT TODAY OR NOT?!”

Twitter also gives athletes a direct conduit to fans, cutting out the middle men of print reporters and broadcast outlets. McCarthy was able to reassure his followers that he was OK and recovering after he had a seizure in 2013, the direct result of being hit in the head by a line drive the previous season.

“In that situation, it was a direct conduit to my own brain. It was finding out, ‘Does my brain still work?’ That was something I realized when I was regaining consciousness, my brain just kept filling up with sarcastic, stupid thoughts,” McCarthy said. “I was like, ‘All right, eventually one of these has to go out.’ I used that as a way to see if this was still me. It also updated people that I’m alive and I’m not drooling on myself.”

Dodgers sign Dustin McGowan

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
8:24
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[+] EnlargeDustin McGowan
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsDustin McGowan was 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA for the Toronto Blue Jays last year.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to stockpile pitchers with long injury histories but considerable upside, signing free-agent reliever Dustin McGowan to a one-year contract Monday.

The deal will pay McGowan $507,500, the major league minimum, with a $1 million bonus if he makes the 25-man roster out of spring training. It includes an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

McGowan, 32, was 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA for the Toronto Blue Jays last year, pitching 82 innings in 53 appearances (eight starts). His list of career injuries include Tommy John elbow reconstruction, three shoulder operations, knee surgery, plantar fasciitis and an oblique strain. He also has Type 1 diabetes.

"He's another guy who has high upside as a reliever, still has power stuff and is a competitive guy," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He creates more competition in our camp and just gives us another option."

The Dodgers will be without Kenley Jansen for at least a month to start the season after their closer had surgery to remove a growth from his left foot last week.


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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have made a lot of noise so far this spring about wanting to break up Clayton Kershaw's reliance on A.J. Ellis so it doesn’t become a personal-catcher scenario, but most people view that as mostly lip service -- even the man who stands to lose playing time because of it.

“I’m expecting [Ellis] to catch him. Yeah, I am,” Yasmani Grandal said. “But at the same time, I need to be ready.”

After all, Grandal reasoned, “When you’ve seen a guy have success for a while, you don’t want to change that.”

Grandal caught Kershaw’s second bullpen session of the spring on Sunday. He didn’t need to squat 60 feet away to realize how special Kershaw’s ability is. He had seen that plenty of times with a bat in his hands.

“I think a guy like that, you appreciate even if you’re not catching,” Grandal said.

Plenty of catchers have made a pretty good living as a personal catcher and Kershaw’s preference might be Ellis’ clearest path to playing time, considering the Dodgers like Grandal’s bat and pitch-framing ability enough that they traded slugger Matt Kemp for him. Brian McCann and Mike Scioscia, among others, broke into the major leagues as personal catchers -- McCann for John Smoltz and Scioscia for Fernando Valenzuela.

Even if Grandal doesn’t catch Kershaw much, he said he hopes to help him succeed by watching video during games and making suggestions about game planning. Grandal said the Padres had a “real good game plan,” against Kershaw though that’s not necessarily reflected in Kershaw’s 2.25 ERA vs. San Diego. Grandal is 5-for-14 with a double and five strikeouts against Kershaw.

So, what is San Diego’s game plan against the Dodgers’ ace?

“If I tell you that, then the whole league would know, right?” Grandal said. “I won’t give you the exact thing, but our game plan was basically, ‘Stay on the heater.’ “

Chris Heisey joins a crowded outfield

February, 22, 2015
Feb 22
9:53
AM PT
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chris Heisey wasn’t thinking about getting traded. He certainly wasn’t thinking about getting traded to the Dodgers, who -- at the time -- had five outfielders with claims on three starting spots.

But, in perhaps the most out-of-left field move of the winter, the Dodgers’ new front office sent pitcher Matt Magill to the Cincinnati Reds on Dec. 2 to add Heisey to its most crowded position group.

“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think, ‘This is interesting,’ “ Heisey said. “I looked at the roster, I saw all the guys there and I’m thinking, ‘They’ve got a lot of guys.’ But I’ve got to believe they don’t make moves for no reason and they have a plan. It’s one of those things we have to deal with, kind of being a pawn.”

The Dodgers eased the logjam somewhat a few weeks later when they traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres.

Heisey could prove a useful piece for the Dodgers this year. He’s an excellent corner outfielder, a solid center fielder and, with a .422 career slugging percentage, he injects some power off the bench. The problem is, his profile is similar to Scott Van Slyke's, which could mean one of them is destined for Triple-A Oklahoma City to start the season, especially if the Dodgers aren’t able to trade Andre Ethier between now and Opening Day.

After the trade, Heisey had a conversation with Dodgers’ executive Josh Byrnes, who told him, “It might not look like it, but we have a plan.”

“We’ll have a chance to look at him all through camp. The combination of guys and who ends up being here, that’s all up in the air,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s definitely an interesting guy from the way he swings the bat and we have great reports about his makeup and everything else.”

Dodgers sign RHP Brandon Beachy

February, 21, 2015
Feb 21
10:19
AM PT
[+] EnlargeBrandon Beachy
AP Photo/Michael PerezBrandon Beachy, who is recovering from a second Tommy John surgery, is expected to be available to pitch again in the middle of the 2015 season.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers have signed free agent pitcher Brandon Beachy to a one-year deal with a club option for 2016, the team announced Saturday.

Beachy didn't pitch in 2014 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery to his right elbow, but he is expected to be ready to pitch by around midseason. In 46 major league starts with the Atlanta Braves, Beachy is 14-11 with a 3.23 ERA, holding opposing hitters to a .220 batting average.

Beachy, 28, will make $2.75 guaranteed. The 2016 option will be worth between $3 million and $6 million, depending on how much he pitches in 2015.

Beachy said he has "no doubt" he can return to pitch at his former level, but said he will take as much time as he needs to recover from surgery, the second Tommy John procedure in his career.

"It's definitely taken patience and perseverance. Going through it the second time was harder mentally, definitely, but it feels worth it at this point," Beachy said. "It's going to feel even more worth it a few months from now."

Under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have shown a willingness to gamble on pitchers with considerable health risk.


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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
21 1.77 239 198
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239