Scenes from Spring Training: A surprisingly good game in Tempe


These early games are supposed to be sloppy, but no one told that to the Dodgers and Angels.  Epic? Nah. Outside of Hiroki Kuroda, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier the Dodgers had a bunch of third and fourth stringers playing today. But no matter who they were, it was surprisingly well-played. The Angels won 4-1.  Random observations:

  • The starters — Kuroda and Trevor Bell — actually looked like they were pitching rather than “workin’ on stuff,” which is what you hear so often this time of year. Kuroda allowed a run and a hit in his two innings. Bell gave up a lone run, but that was a function of Kemp’s hustle more than anyone really getting to him.
  • There was a surprising amount of good defense too. Or maybe it just looked good after watching the Giants and Diamondbacks kicking it all over the yard yesterday.  No errors in this one and no boneheaded plays that got scored hits that I can recall. The game ended on a diving catch in right that was a lot of fun.
  • The running was fun.  it was a split squad game for the Dodgers, with Don Mattingly and half the team playing up in Scottsdale.  Davey Lopes came with the team here to Tempe, however, and he and acting manager Lorenzo Bundy had the Dodgers running a lot, stealing some bases and doing some hit and run. It wasn’t necessarily successful — the Dodgers lost after all — but it made for much better aesthetics than you usually see at these things. The Angels ran a lot too.
  • It was nice seeing Mike Trout play even if he was 0 for 2.
  • It was even nicer seeing Rubby De La Rosa pitch for the Dodgers.  He gave up a home run to Mark Trumbo in his second inning of work but before that he had fairly electric-looking stuff. There was no radar gun on the scoreboard here, but he had to have been rocking the upper 90s. He probably starts the year at Double A, but bookmark the guy.
  • Speaking of those two: in their one-on-one matchup in the third inning, De La Rosa looped a curveball at Trout’s head and made him bail. If it wasn’t for the fact that De La Rosa was  green himself I’d say that it was an example of someone sending a message to the fresh meat.
  • Cool thing: I got to meet longtime reader Loren, who was here with his family to catch the game. Multiple games, actually, as Loren’s wife sprung a surprise Cactus League trip on him. They flew in last night and will be here with their two boys for a few days.  Both Loren and Mrs. Loren are nice folks. And she sprung for some choice seats.  Feel free to copy-and-paste this paragraph and email it to your wife with the comment “hint hint.”

And while we’re on the subject off meeting readers, feel free to shoot me an email, a tweet or a comment if you’re going to be bopping around the Cactus League in the next week, because I’d love to meet you if you’re around.  Tomorrow I’m going to be in Goodyear for some hot hot Reds-Indians action.  On Monday it will be Brewers-Cubs at HoHoKam, on Tuesday it will (probably) be the Brewers-White Sox at Camelback and on Wednesday it will be the Indians-Athletics at Phoenix Municipal. I haven’t decided what Thursday will hold.  I fly home Friday.

Now I’m off to find a food truck selling Sonoran hot dogs because I’m just not into the whole long life expectancy thing.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Update (7:58 PM EST): Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart met with Cueto earlier this month in the Dominican Republic and made a contract offer that the right-hander turned down. The Diamondbacks maintain interest in the free agent.


Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is reportedly trying to trade Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe

Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.

Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.

Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.

Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.