The Dodgers picked up their second tie in three days on Tuesday, an 8-8 tie with the Giants thanks to a pair of two-run home runs in the ninth inning off of Kelvin De La Cruz and Gregory Infante. But in the game Alex Castellanos made his presence felt with a three-run home run.
The inside fastball hit off Ramon Ramirez was the first hit in six at-bats this spring for Castellanos, who is battling for a spot on the opening day roster. Manager Don Mattingly has taken notice.
"He fits what we talking about, being a corner outfielder. We're pretty comfortable with him in right, and we'll see what he looks like in center," Mattingly said. "He does give us that right-handed bat against lefties, and is more of a true outfielder. He's on the roster, which is nice when it gets down to those times."
The way the bench is currently constructed the Dodgers' reserve outfielders would be Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr., both more utility men than outfielders. And with left-handed batters Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in need of an occasional day off against left-handed pitching, the bench could use a bat like Castellanos.
"He's swung the bat pretty well, and I know he's still working on stuff," Mattingly said. "He'll get more at-bats this spring, so we'll get a longer look."
It is important to note that the calendar still says February, and that there are 34 days until opening day.
Mattingly had similarly high hopes last spring for Jerry Sands, but constant tinkering with his swing led to inconsistencies both in batting practice and in games, and hitting just .158 (6-for-38) during spring training got Sands an early trip back to the minor leagues. Castellanos has all the faith in the world in his swing, and is confident, too.
"I'm looking to drive the ball every pitch. I'm not trying to get my singles. I'm trying to get extra-base hits, get a lot of RBIs," Castellanos said on Monday. "Home runs will come."
One came on Tuesday, in a game Castellanos played center field, his third spring contest playing the position. Both Mattingly and Castellanos know he's a work in progress in center, but Castellanos is putting in the work.
"I'm trying to get my ready positions, and trying some new stuff, to see which one feels comfortable," Castellanos said. "I'm working on that during batting practice, to get better jumps."
The added versatility could bode well for Castellanos, who hopes to force his way onto the roster.
"I come out here and play hard each and every day. They put me in a position and try to learn as best as possible," Castellanos said. "I try to make myself a great athlete all around, so now it's just up to them."
- Matt Kemp took batting practice on Tuesday against live pitchers, the same thing Carl Crawford did on Monday. "(Kemp) felt fine, and saw a lot of pitches. He took more BP, so that tells us it didn't hurt," Mattingly said.
Ted Lilly was originally scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday when the Dodgers travel to Mesa against the Cubs, but pitching coach wanted to give him one more bullpen session to sharpen things up, so Lilly will now pitch on Thursday at Camelback Ranch against the Angels.
"Rick felt like he needed an extra time off the mound," Mattingly said. "He had the rain out, and we wanted to give him the best chance of being competitive when he goes out there right away."
Jeremy Moore had two hits Tuesday and drove in the Dodgers' first two runs as part of a five-run second inning against Tim Lincecum and Steve Edlefsen. So far in the spring Moore is hitting .600, and all three of his hits are doubles.
Brian Barden singled and walked twice on Tuesday, and so far this spring is hitting .800 (4-for-5) with two walks.
Aaron Harang will start for the Dodgers on Wednesday against the Cubs, and is expected to be followed on the mound by Javy Guerra, Ronald Belisario, Matt Magill, and Mark Lowe. Yasiel Puig, who has played in all four spring training games, is also listed on the travel roster to Mesa.