Below are Spring Training notes from the Dodgers:
IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?: Believe it. Opening Night against the San Francisco Giants is just eight days away as Clayton Kershaw is almost ready to square off with two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in an NL West battle. Next Thursday will mark the first time in Los Angeles Dodger history that the club will begin the season against the defending World Champions. In 1996, the Dodgers hosted the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves for the club’s home opener, but they began that season a week earlier in Houston. Since the World Series began in 1903, the only other time the Dodgers faced a defending World Series winner on Opening Day was April 12, 1922 when the Brooklyn Robins started the season at the Polo Grounds, facing the New York Giants.
LATE-INNING HEROICS: The Dodgers returned to the win column yesterday, earning a 2-1 victory over the Cubs when Orlando Mercado’s 10th-inning single plated Kyle Russell. Los Angeles has now lost just once in their last seven contests, going 5-1-1 over that time. Shortstop Rafael Furcal and second baseman Eugenio Velez were the two Dodgers with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 and 2-for-3, respectively. Furcal is now hitting .268 this spring. On the mound, Chad Billingsley fired 6.0 scoreless innings, lowering his spring ERA to 3.43 while Travis Schlichting earned his first victory with a scoreless 10th.
GET WELL SOON: Dodger infielder/outfielder Eugenio Velez turned his right ankle yesterday on the first base bag while beating out a bunt and has a Grade 2 sprain. The 28-year-old native of the Dominican Republic will begin rehabbing the ankle today and will be out of action indefinitely.
- TUCSON TRIBUTE: On Friday afternoon at 1:05 p.m., the Dodgers will travel to Tucson to take on the Diamondbacks in a benefit game for the Tucson Together Fund at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium (formerly known as Tucson Electric Park). The Tucson Together Fund is the only officially sanctioned fund established to assist victims, families, and witnesses of the Jan. 8 tragedy in Tucson. For the Dodgers, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Jamey Carroll are all expected to play in the contest. Individuals interested in making a donation can visit www.tucsontogetheraz.com
CLICK THIS LINK: The Dodgers would like to wish a very happy birthday to 40-man roster right-hander Jon Link, who turns 27 today. Link appeared in four Cactus League games this spring before being optioned to minor league camp March 15. Last year, Link pitched in nine games for the Dodgers, including his big league debut on April 20 at Cincinnati.
UNCLE TED: Dodger left-hander Ted Lilly will make his third Cactus League start this afternoon and is looking for his first victory. The left-hander signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers back in the fall after going 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 12 starts with Los Angeles in 2010. Lilly was acquired at the trade deadline from the Cubs along with Ryan Theriot in exchange for Blake DeWitt, Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach. The California native has turned in 84 quality starts since the start of the 2007 season, which is tied for third in the National League over that time, trailing just Tim Lincecum (90) and Matt Cain (88). Following Lilly to the mound will be a combination of LHP Scott Elbert, RHP Ramon Troncoso, RHP Lance Cormier and RHP Travis Schlichting, who all pitched in yesterday’s game. LHP Ron Mahay may also see action. The White Sox will counter with LHP John Danks, who started and earned the victory against the Dodgers on March 13.
THEFT DOESN’T PAY: Dodger catchers Dioner Navarro and Rod Barajas have frustrated the opposition on the base paths this spring by throwing out half of the 18 runners that have attempted to steal on them in Cactus League play. Navarro has nabbed six of nine, while Barajas has caught three of nine. Overall, Dodger backstops have caught 13 of 33 potential base-stealers (39%) this spring, a noticeable improvement from the 25% the Dodgers posted in the 2010 regular season.