As the Dodgers battle the Indians on Sunday at Camelback Ranch, they will bid farewell to four players slated to report to their respective World Baseball Classic teams on Monday. One of the players for Team Mexico, Luis Cruz, came into camp leaner and stronger.
"I feel good. This is one of the best starts I've had at spring training. It comes because of the work we did in the offseason," Cruz said. "Hopefuly we can carry this into the season and keep going."
But Cruz almost got too lean, through no fault of his own. He missed two games on Tuesday and Wednesday after a bout of food poisoning, and said he lost five or six pounds through the ordeal.
Cruz returned with a bang, with a home run in his first at-bat on Thursday against the Angels, and in three games since returning he is 5-for-9 with two doubles, a home run, and four RBI. Cruz, who spent part of the offseason living and working out with Dodgers and Team Mexico teammate Adrian Gonzalez, said his fitness has helped his offense so far this spring.
"We only hit like two days a week, but my swing is still the same and my approach is still the same," Cruz said. "I just feel everything is stronger - my legs, my arms, my shoulders - so I can react quicker to fastballs."
In the book Moneyball, Michael Lewis wrote about Lenny Dykstra, who roomed with Bily Beane on the Mets. Beane was amazed that Dykstra was oblivious when facing four-time Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. "Shit, I'll stick him," Beane recalled Dykstra telling him, and Lewis wrote:
The point about Lenny, at least to Billy, was clear: Lenny didn't let his mind screw him up. The physical gifts required to play pro ball were, in some ways, less extraordinary than the mental ones.
That sounds a lot like how Cruz described his approach at the plate.
"I don't really think a lot when I'm hitting. I just like to see the ball, recognize the pitch and swing. The more you think I have to do this, my hands have to do this, my foot has to do this, it's not easy because you have too many things in your head," Cruz said. "But when you just see the ball and react and hit it, it's much easier."
"Nails" Cruz is happy to play for his country, but sounded even more pumped about the team he'll come back to.
"I'm excited about the WBC, but I'm also excited for the season," he said. "I think we have a really good team and just happy to be a part of this team, one of the best in the league right now."
- Manager Don Mattingly said Matt Kemp, who returns to the lineup as designated hitter on Sunday, will get three at-bats rather than the normal two for regulars at this point of spring.
- Andre Ethier, who tripled Saturday after sitting Friday with a callus on his right hand, is not playing Sunday. He participated in workouts, but Mattingly said he wanted to use Monday's off day to give Ethier in essence two days off in a row.
- Steve Ames won the Dodgers Idol signing contest in the clubhouse on Sunday morning.
- Scheduled to pitch after Josh Beckett for the Dodgers on Sunday are Javy Guerra, Peter Moylan, Josh Wall, Mark Lowe, and Ames.
- Corey Kluber starts for the Indians, and scheduled to follow him on the mound for Cleveland are Vinnie Pestano, Cody Allen, Nick Hagadone, Matt Langwell, Preston Guilmet, and 2012 Dodgers non-roster invitee and Albuquerque Isotope a Fernando Nieve.
- On Monday's off day, Aaron Harang will throw three innings in a simulated game at Camelback Ranch against players from minor league camp.
Time: 12:05 p.m. PT
Radio: 570 Fox Sports LA
TV: None, but webcast at Dodgers.com, with audio from 570 Fox Sports LA broadcast, with Charley Steiner and Rick Monday.