Don Mattingly calls Giants team to beat in NL West

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

By virtue of winning two of the last three World Series, the Giants are the team to beat in the division, says Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

The Dodgers will head into 2013 with the highest opening day payroll in baseball history, something north of $230 million, but manager Don Mattingly says the Giants are the team to beat in the National League West.

"These guys won two out of three World Series. We think we're good but it doesn't matter what we think. We have to go do something," Mattingly said. "We know we had a good club. But when somebody wins a World Championship and they've got pretty much all of their guys back, you have to look at them as the target. Those are the guys you're after."

The Dodgers host the Giants on Tuesday at Camelback Ranch in the first of two spring meetings between the two rivals, with Josh Beckett facing off against Tim Lincecum on the mound.

Whether or not Mattingly was simply trying to deflect pressure from his own team remains to be seen. Or perhaps he is taking a different path than Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who said that despite the Dodgers' massive expenditures they can't buy chemistry. Mattingly said on Valentines Day that Belt and the Giants earned the privilege to talk trash.

"They have the right to talk. They have won two out of three, and they can say whatever they want," Mattingly said. "I'm not concerned about our chemistry at all. That's never been the issue. We just didn't play well enough the last 35 days to get in."

Center fielder Matt Kemp wondered why Belt would say such a thing.

"If I was a World Series champ, I wouldn't be saying anything about anybody's team," Kemp said. "I don't have to say anything. I'm a World Series champ."

Despite Mattingly calling the Giants the team to beat, he said his focus is still on the Dodgers.

"It doesn't change the expectations for us. But once we get out of the $200 million payroll and all the noise about everything, the expectations, and the names, there is a game to be played on the field, and a lot of them," Mattingly said. "Those guys we know aren't going to roll over and go, 'Hey they have a big payroll.' That's not going to happen."

Let the rivalry games begin.

Notes

  • Luis Cruz was a late scratch from the lineup with the stomach flu. Juan Uribe, who was originally slated to bat ninth as the designated hitter, will now play third base and bat fifth. Tim Federowicz is the new designated hitter, batting ninth.
  • Also scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers on Tuesday are Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, Gregory Infante, and Kelvin De La Cruz.
  • Scheduled reserves for the Dodgers are Alex Castellanos, Dee Gordon, Nick Evans, Brian Barden, Elian Herrera, Omar Luna, Wilkin Castillo, and Yasiel Puig.
  • In uniform for the Dodgers from the minor league side on Tuesday are infielder Rusty Ryal (No. 83), left-handed pitcher Fabio Castro (No. 81), and right-handed pitchers Angel Castro (No. 95), Angel Sanchez (No. 82), and Mario Santiago (No. 88).
  • Old friend Scott Proctor is scheduled to pitch Tuesday for San Francisco, as are Jeremy Affeldt, Steve Edlefsen, George Kontos, Yusmeiro Petit and Ramon Ramirez.
  • Mattingly praised the extra defensive work put in by Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, who has worked with third base coach Tim Wallach in early morning drills at shortstop for most of the last week.

    "Wally's been totally happy with his effort and what he's looking like. We film it, and look at it every day. He's been working hard and we're happy with where he is going," Mattingly said. "We're looking at footwork, and getting him sped back up. At third base you have a little more time, but short's a little quicker."
  • Before he was scratched on Tuesday, Cruz was slated to make the trip to Mesa on Wednesday to play the Cubs, along with Adrian Gonzalez and Ramirez. Mattingly said that with a pair of games coming up Friday, he will break up the regular lineup, with Andre Ethier, Skip Schumaker, Mark Ellis, and A.J. Ellis not making the trip to Mesa.

    "I have to split those guys up a little bit, because we have the split squad game coming up and I kind of need everybody," Mattingly said.
  • On that split squad Friday, with a pair of games at noon PT, Hyun-jin Ryu will start against the Angels in Tempe, while Zack Greinke starts at Camelback Ranch against the Padres.
  • A poster for the movie '42' is displayed in the Dodgers offices, just outside the entrance to the players and coaches areas.

    42-movie-poster-dodgers-office_medium
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