The Dodgers begin a home-and-home of sorts today with the Rangers. Today they play in Surprise, while tomorrow Texas comes to Camelback Ranch. Old friend Adrian Beltre will make his Cactus League debut for the Rangers today after missing 15 games with a strained right calf.
Hector Gimenez starts at first base today for the Dodgers, his fourth straight day with a start at first (two were on split squad days) and fifth overall start at the position this spring. Are the Dodgers trying to talk themselves into Gimenez making the team as the 25th man? With the fifth starter not needed until April 12, the Dodgers can use that extra roster spot for the first 10 games of the season on a sixth bench player. I had assumed that could mean a reprieve of sorts for Xavier Paul, who is out of options, and would have to clear waivers if he doesn't make the team.
But Gimenez is out of options, too. He hit .305/.384/.533 last year, but that was as a 27-year old in Double A. I don't know his full minor league splits last year, but he did hit .331 right-handed and .289 left-handed last season. His 16 home runs were two more than he had hit in the previous two years combined. He did miss all of 2007 after shoulder surgery, so maybe it took him that long to recover; who knows? Back in 2004 and 2005, Baseball America dubbed Gimenez as the best defensive catcher in the Astros' system. I don't know if that defensive prowess is still there, but in 18 innings behind the plate this spring, opposing baserunners have stolen seven bases off Gimenez without getting caught. Maybe the Dodgers see him as a pinch hitter who could catch in a pinch if needed, an asset off the bench.
Then again, perhaps Paul and Gimenez aren't fighting for that same, temporary spot. Jay Gibbons, the presumed opening day starter and left-handed half of the Dodgers' left field platoon, will miss the next few days to undergo what the Dodgers call "extensive eye testing." Paul is starting in the outfield for the third straight day himself and, if Gibbons is out for any extended period of time, there is an opportunity for Paul to possibly seize.
John Ely gets to test his unblemished spring ledger (six innings, two hits, no walks, seven strikeouts) against the Rangers' regular lineup today. Ely will be followed on the mound by Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Lance Cormier.
Casey Blake, who injured his ribcage on Saturday trying to beat out a bunt in the first inning, will undergo a precautionary MRI on his back today to see if the problem isn't something more serious, per Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles:
"Just from talking to [trainer] Stan [Conte], they still think it's a couple-to-three-days type of thing," Mattingly said. "They just want to make sure it's temporary."
The Dodgers optioned Carlos Monasterios and reassigned Wilkin De La Rosa to minor league camp today, bringing the total number in big league camp to 54 players (24 pitchers, 30 position players). For those wondering about the terminology, Monasterios is on the 40-man roster, which is why he was "optioned," while De La Rosa is on a minor league deal and not on the 40-man roster, so he simply gets "reassigned."
Once Monasterios is in the minors on optional assignment for 20 days, which would be April 3 in this case, that is considered an optional year used. This is the first option used on Monasterios. Players can be optioned to the minors an unlimited number of times in the same year and it just counts as one option used. Jon Link, for instance, was optioned to Triple A on six different occasions last season.
Vin Scully opined on baseball on television, and Dodgers VP of Communications Josh Rawitch shared the article on Inside the Dodgers:
One of the temptations we have today is like the song of the Lorelei, wrecking you on the rocks. So much is provided to you with statistics and information that you run the risk of looking down when a play is taking place. So you really have to be careful about that. Every game has somewhat of a story, an individual or maybe both of the pitchers. Someone is doing something that adds to the story. And then, of course, you can't go overly dramatic in fourth game of the season with 158 games to go. But everything seems to fall into place in terms of the schedule, the game, where you are, the history of the teams. And they can get dull. Let's face it - there are some games when nothing happens. And then it's up to you to come up with a story or a historical aticidote to add a little spice to the telecast.
Game Time: 1:05 p.m. PST
TV: none; no radio either; game is available on MLB.tv though