Dee Gordon's speed was on display in the first inning today at Camelback Ranch.
Chad Billingsley started his third Cactus League game, and pitched well, allowing one run on four hits in 3 2/3 innings, with two walks and a strikeout. Billingsley struggled in the first inning, throwing 27 pitches as the first three batters worked full counts and two walked, but he got out of it with no damage thanks to a double play grounder to shortstop.
"I had some good battles in the first inning, which are good to have. You have to keep attacking," Billingsley said.
Billingsley said he had improved fastball command on both sides of the plate, and used his changeup to induce ground balls. Billingsley induced six groundouts, including two he fielded himself. Manager Don Mattingly agreed, noting that Billingsley threw a lot of quality pitches on Thursday and had a consistent delivery. "That dude was tight," Mattingly said after the game.
Billingsley threw 62 pitches in the game, 39 for strikes, then as has been custom all spring threw another 15 pitches in the bullpen, though not at game speed, to get his arm used to the process of throwing after sitting down for a half inning.
The Dodgers got off to a good start in the bottom of the first inning when Dee Gordon walked, his fourth walk in 23 plate appearances this spring. Then, before a pitch was even thrown to Jerry Hairston Jr., Gordon noticed that shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt had his back turned and was walking away from second base. Gordon took off, and before anyone could react he had stolen his fifth base of the spring. Gordon later scored on a balk from Danny Duffy.
"He definitely knows how to use his speed," Mattingly said. "He's so fast, it just changes the game. It's hard to prepare for that."
In the top of the fifth inning, the speed for infielder Irving Falu of Kansas City was in the mind of Hairston on a softly hit ground ball up the third base line. With no chance to get Falu at first base, Hairston got down on the ground and tried to blow the ball foul, shades of Lenny Randle of the . The ball stayed fair and Falu would end up scoring later in the inning. in 1980
But the most memorable moment came from Todd Coffey. The burly reliever, known for his sprints in from the bullpen to the mound, nearly got to the pitchers mound in relief of Billingsley before Billingsley crossed the foul line. Mattingly was on the mound and saw the 260-ish pound Coffey coming toward him.
"I didn't see the parachute come out and I was a little nervous," joked Mattingly.
Coffey got the last out of the fourth inning, but since today was the first day all spring the Dodgers didn't use a designated hitter Coffey had to bat when the pitch came up in the bottom of the fourth in order to get his work in on the mound.
With runners on second and third with two outs, Coffey grounded a ball through the right side for a hit, which was noteworthy for several reasons.
Coffey, who has pitched in 438 games in his MLB career, has never had a hit in a major league game (0 for 7).
Coffey had two hits in six at-bats in the minor leagues, with both hits coming while in Triple A Louisville in 2007.
Coffey had one hit in three at-bats in high school. "I even got DH'd for in high school," Coffey said after the game.
Coffey had not swung a bat all spring, as the starters have gotten all the hitting reps among pitchers so far. In fact, the last time Coffey swung a bat at all was in May 2010 while with the Milwaukee Brewers, and he got jammed and broke a bone in this thumb that caused him to miss a month.
Now, however, Coffey said he knows how to hold a bat. "There are very slim chances that we get at-bats, we may get one or two per year, but I was determined I wasn't going to break something if I had another at-bat," he said.
On the pitching side, Coffey said he was pleased with his outing today, especially with his sinker and changeups, and he was glad he got to work on his slide step. Coffey said he is reaching the tipping point of spring training where he transitions from working on things to getting prepared for game situations. In fact, he said for his next outing he asked to not be told when he is coming in the game, to make it more like a game situation.
Four For 25
Ivan DeJesus Jr. had three hits on Thursday, trying to make his case for the final bench spot. "Ivan can really hit. The problem is finding where [to play him] and how does that fit in with us," said Mattingly after the game.
The one open spot among position players figures to be between four players: Jerry Sands, Josh Fields, Justin Sellers, and DeJesus. As of now, exactly three weeks before opening day, there doesn't appear to be a clear favorite, as Mattingly called the battle for the position wide open.
Ted Lilly makes his third Cactus League start on Friday at Camelback Ranch as the Dodgers host the Texas Rangers on Friday afternoon. Greg Reynolds will start for the Rangers. James Loney is expected to return to the lineup on Friday for the Dodgers after missing three games with calf tightness.
Home Runs: Lorenzo Cain (1)
WP - Jose Mijares (1-0): 3 up, 3 down
LP - Mike MacDougal (0-1): 1/3 IP, 2 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk
Sv - Greg Holland (2): 3 up, 3 down