Don Mattingly Enjoys Instructional Side Of Spring Training

Don Mattingly is enjoying his time in the sun this spring.

Day 10 of spring training at Camelback Ranch has passed much like the previous nine days in Dodgers camp, relatively uneventful. The team is injury free for the most part, and we are nearing the start of Cactus League play, which begins Monday.

From a writer's standpoint, the days are starting to blend together and the games will be a welcome change of pace, but manager Don Mattingly understandably has a different point of view. In his second year at the helm, with his staff relatively intact with another year under their belt, Mattingly has relished the instructional part of camp.

"I haven't really thought much about the games yet," said Mattingly. "There are a lot of things you touch on before you start. Last year it felt like we were here for two days then games started."

Mattingly and his staff have implemented bunt drills, cuts and relay throws, with balks and rundown work coming later this week. In describing the defensive drills he and his staff have run, Mattingly uttered one of my favorite quotes of the spring so far.

"Baseball defensively is almost like an orchestra," Mattingly said, which immediately made me think of Jungleland by Bruce Springsteen ("There's an opera out on the Turnpike / There's a ballet being fought out in the alley"). There is always somewhere for you to be as part of that play. You could be out there all year and never be involved, but you still have to be somewhere just in case."

With Mattingly and his staff in their second season, this spring has involved less classroom-type instruction than last year, giving the team more time to gel and get on the same page on the field.

Mattingly went on to say that the Dodgers ownership situation hasn't been as big a distraction that he thought it would be so far this spring, and that camp has smooth. It also helped that nearly all of the position players showed up early before Monday's reporting date.

Ted Lilly was specifically cited by Mattingly as someone who came to camp prepared, having thrown off a mound 10 times before showing up in Arizona. Mattingly said the club wanted Lilly to get off to a better start this year than last, and that a healthy winter will help Lilly pitch more like he did the final two months of the season (2.09 ERA over his last 11 starts wtih 64 strikeouts in 69 innings).

Notes

  • The Dodgers held their annual open tryout on Thursday, and among the participants was Dodgers' clubhouse attendant Francisco Herrera, known to everyone as "Chico." Ramona Shelburne profiled Herrera for ESPN Los Angeles.
  • Left-handed pitcher Doug Davis was also at the tryout. In his first four starts against the Dodgers, Davis allowed zero earned runs in 30 innings, with seven walks and 22 strikeouts. But in his last nine starts against Los Angeles, Davis has a 6.21 ERA in 42 innings, with 25 walks, 28 strikeouts, and eight home runs allowed.
  • Minnesota Vikings safety Jarrad Page, who played both football and baseball at UCLA, also tried out at Camelback Ranch today.
  • Mattingly again praised the virtues of shortstop Dee Gordon, calling him "the perfect fit" for the leadoff spot. Ken Gurnick profiled Gordon on Wednesday for MLB.com.
  • The Dodgers' planned simulated game for Sunday, March 4 will be more like an intrasquad game in that there won't be batting cages or a cage in front of the mound. Mostly minor leaguers will participate in the game, which will have Clayton Kershaw throw two innings and likely be followed on the mound by Chris Capuano and Stephen Fife.
  • A.J. Ellis is reading to kids at a nearby library in Glendale this afternoon as part of Read Across America.
  • If you want to watch Tommy Lasorda give an impromptu boxing lesson to Josh Lindblom, today is your lucky day.
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