February 2006

From the bus…

This post comes to you from the bus on the way back from Jacksonville, where the Dodgers took on the Jacksonville Suns in an intrasquad game today. The players representing the club’s Double-A affiliate were victorious, 8-3. Dodger third baseman Bill Mueller led off the second inning with a solo homer over the right field wall on his first swing in a Los Angeles uniform, while prospects Delwyn Young, Andre Ethier and Joel Guzman each hit two-run homers for Jacksonville. Ethier’s bomb actually cleared the pavilion in right field, landing in the parking lot outside the stadium — and he drew two walks.

On the mound, Justin Orenduff pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory while Jonathan Broxton closed out the win with a scoreless ninth inning, striking out two. Center fielder Matt Kemp went 3-for-4 and catcher Dioner Navarro threw out two of the three runners attempting to steal off him. It was an impressive showing for the Dodger prospects, who you’ve all heard so much about.

Other guys you might be interested in were Nomar Garciaparra (0-for-3), Oscar Robles (2-for-3 with an RBI) and Chad Billingsley (2.0 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER).

Now, February has come to an end and the Dodgers will play their first game of the Grapefruit League season on Thursday against the Braves at Holman Stadium. If you’re reading this from Vero Beach, tickets are still available. Brad Penny will start the opener for the Dodgers, followed by Aaron Sele, Lance Carter, Kelly Wunsch, Tim Hamulack and Danys Baez. Friday’s rematch between the two teams in Orlando will feature Brett Tomko in his first start for the Dodgers.
Plus, there was a little more news today: Tommy Lasorda will be enshrined in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Tommy spent nine years in the International League, where he became the Montreal Royals’ all-time winningest pitcher, earning him a spot in the country’s Hall of Fame. That marks the fifth Hall of Fame into which Lasorda will be inducted, joining the National Baseball Hall of Fame (1997), the National Italian American Hall of Fame (1989), the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame (2002) and the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame (2001). In the meantime, Tommy is heading to Japan tomorrow as part of the World Baseball Classic.

From the Grapefruit League to the Bush League

Borders_and_bushDodgertown got a visit today from Prescott Bush, the uncle of current President George W. Bush and the brother of former president George H.W. Bush. Following a tour of Dodgertown, Bush got a chance to meet some of the Dodger players, including non-roster catcher Pat Borders (pictured), who has enjoyed daily political discussions with the Dodger beat writers (no joke).

As most of you probably know, the current president has baseball ties, having owned the Texas Rangers before becoming Governor of Texas.

The Dodgers have their own long history of presidential ties, as former Commanders In Chief like Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan have thrown out the first pitch at Dodger games in the past.

Prescott Bush picked a gorgeous day to visit Dodgertown, as the skies cleared up for workouts. In fact, it’s so nice that the front office staff is heading out to Holman Stadium for a softball game this afternoon – the L.A. Dodgers vs. the Vero Beach Dodgers.

Tomorrow, the real fun starts. We’ll be boarding a 7 a.m. bus to Jacksonville for an intrasquad game. It will be the first chance to watch players like Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller compete in a Dodger uniform and they’ll be up against top Dodger prospects like Chad Billingsley, Andy LaRoche and the rest of the players that helped the Suns win the Double-A Southern League championship last season. We’ll post some results on this blog tomorrow as soon as they’re available.

Eric Karros joins KCAL team

In case you missed it, Eric Karros has joined KCAL as part of the Dodgers’ pregame show. This is great news for Dodger fans, who will get to hear Eric’s insights throughout the season. For those of you who have heard him on ESPN, you know that he’s very good at analyzing the game and he’s a true professional.

As a player, you could always tell that Eric would be a good broadcaster someday and it didn’t take long for him to wind up back with the team he knows best. We’re glad he’s back in the family and that he’ll be around quite a bit this season.

Dodger golfers get a mulligan…

Penny_indoorsIt was another rainy day here at Dodgertown, forcing the workouts indoors. Several players, including Eric Gagne, Derek Lowe (pictured) and Brad Penny threw bullpen sessions inside the batting cages, while other players took batting practice before departing early.

Eric Gagne had set up a golf tournament for players and staff members as a team-building event, but it got washed away with the workouts. It’s impressive, though, that Eric took it upon himself to try and create the chemistry that is so important on a big league club. His ability on the field speaks for itself, but he’s also great in the community and the clubhouse.

Gagne and some of his teammates will get a mulligan, though, as he, Brett Tomko, Kenny Lofton and Derek Lowe will film "The Big Break All-Star Challenge" for the Golf Channel on Wednesday at Pointe West Golf Course here in Florida. They’ll have a skills competition, interviews and more, which will all be shown as a  half-hour special. We’ll let you know once it airs.

It's pouring in Vero…

For those of us Los Angeles types, this is a little different, as we’re not used to seeing rain like this. I can hear the rain pounding the ground and window of my office here in Dodgertown, but fortunately, all the players got their work in before the downpour began.

Otherwise, it’s been a quiet day out here. The Vero Beach Dodgers picked a tough day to host their free heart screening event, as the skies opened up over their festive atmosphere. There was live music, games for kids and autograph sessions by a few Dodger players (Jonathan Broxton, Kelly Wunsch and Kurt Ainsworth). And then the rains came.

And, in case you’re wondering why this post is in red, we’re going to try and change the font color based on who is doing the writing. For me (PR Director Josh Rawitch), it’ll be in red. For Roy Smith (VP of Player Development and Scouting), it’ll be in black and for Mark Langill (Team Historian and Publications Editor), it’ll be in blue. That way, we don’t have to put our name in the headline every time. For those of you that check back regularly, you’ll get used to the colors (at least I hope you will).

Eric Gagne – Roy Smith

I was able to watch Eric Gagne throw batting practice yesterday and it sure did give me a good feeling. It also made me think of two things that Eric brings to the table that sets him apart.

GagneThe first is Eric’s ability to change speeds as a closer, which is somewhat unique considering how hard he throws. Eric has an outstanding straight change up – which he displayed during his batting practice session – and an above average, old-fashioned, overhand curve ball. Now I know that closers such as Trevor Hoffman with San Diego and Keith Foulke with Boston have great change ups, but they don’t throw as hard as Eric. When Eric throws his curveball, often hitters take the pitch because they just get frozen. It is very hard to hit when having to track three such distinct pitches and speeds.

The other is the presence that Eric brings to the ball club. He has the ability, through his personality, to mingle with all of the various groups — young, old, position players and pitchers. There is a confidence that he provides the club that everything will be alright. The other team also knows that if they are down after seven or eight innings, their chances of coming back are slim. I experienced that feeling first-hand as a player when I was a member of  the 1987 Twins with Jeff Reardon, and I see the same intangibles in Eric.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that Eric will again be healthy for the entire season because we need him not only on the mound but in the clubhouse. So far so good.

Back by Popular Demand – Josh Rawitch

No, it’s not me or this blog that’s back by popular demand, though we hope you’re enjoying it. It’s the names on the backs of the jerseys. In case you missed it, Dodger Owner and Chairman Frank McCourt announced yesterday that he’s going to put the players’ last names back on the jerseys.

Nomar_jersey_backSo picture Nomar with G-A-R-C-I-A-P-A-R-R-A across the back of this photo…or Gagne, or any of the other names of your favorite Dodgers. It won’t be able to happen until 2007, as Major League Baseball has rules on the amount of lead time it needs to make these changes happen, but your opinions really do matter.

Speaking of Gagne, Eric threw a live batting practice session today and looked pretty impressive to most of the people watching. Everyone seems very optimistic that he’s going to be at full strength by the time Opening Day rolls around.

There was some good reading in the L.A. Times today, as Frank McCourt sat down with national writer Tim Brown for a Q & A session that covered a number of topics. And, Tony Jackson wrote an interesting piece in the Daily News about why the Dodger clubhouse might be a little quieter this season.

And while I’m giving some love to some of our writers, take a look at Ken Gurnick’s article on the Dodgers’ history with non-roster pitchers. I can attest to the fact that Ken has managed to predict which non-roster pitcher will have an impact with the big league club in each of the past three years. First he called Wilson Alvarez when no one else thought he would pitch again in the big leagues. Then it was Jose Lima and last year it was Scott Erickson. He hasn’t given us his pick yet this year, but I’m interested to see who Dodger fans think will wind up on the Opening Day roster.

There’s nothing like a little Spring Training competition…

Classic Baseball – Josh Rawitch

For those who haven’t been following the World Baseball Classic news, the Dodgers have eight players expected to participate in the 16-team tournament and this really has a chance to be a great baseball showcase.

Saenz_ledeeMost recently, Olmedo Saenz (in the photo with Ricky Ledee) announced he was going to play, even though he had originally decided not to. The decision was based on the fact that his home country had given him such support during the recent loss of his mother and he wanted to be able to give something back.

For all of us Dodger fans, baseball is never far from our minds, but once the last out of the World Series has been recorded, the idea of games being played doesn’t come back to our thoughts until early March. For so many Latin players, they return home to their native countries, where they get the chance to play with and in front of so many of their childhood friends. If you’ve never had the chance to witness baseball in Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, you should definitely plan a trip. The passion is almost unparalleled.

This year, we’re expecting that Odalis Perez (Dominican Republic), Saenz (Panama), Jose Cruz Jr. and Ricky Ledee (Puerto Rico), Hee-Seop Choi and Jae Seo (Korea), Hong-Chih Kuo (Taiwan) and Oscar Robles (Mexico) will all represent their countries. In fact, Seo and Choi leave tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. for a flight to Fukuoka, Japan, where they’ll start practicing with the rest of the Korean team. Tommy Lasorda is currently in Puerto Rico as the Ambassador to the WBC and we might even have some broadcasters getting involved (be on the lookout for news on that front in the next couple days).

This truly has the chance to expand the game of baseball in ways never imagined years ago. In fact, this Inside the Dodgers blog could very well be read in all of the different countries where baseball is played, so feel free to share your thoughts on the WBC here and with all your friends around the globe.

Frank McCourt chats with fans

In case you missed it, Dodger Owner and Chairman Frank McCourt spent an hour yesterday taking questions from fans on dodgers.com.

Vin Scully contract extension – Mark Langill

Barber_scully_desmond Happy news today with the announcement of Vin Scully signing a two-year contract extension through the 2008 season. Scully is the most popular personality in Los Angeles franchise history, but his career started with the Brooklyn organization after he graduated from Fordham University. Needing a No. 3 announcer after Ernie Harwell joined the New York Giants, Red Barber recommended the New York native to Dodger President Branch Rickey after the 1949 season. During his first Spring Training in Vero Beach in 1950, Scully posed for this picture with Barber and Connie Desmond (center). By the time Barber left the Dodgers after the 1953 season, the baton had been passed from one Hall of Famer to another.