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Alternate site games provided a different feel this season

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2020 Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Minor league seasons start on Tuesday for Double-A and both Class-A levels, with Triple-A teams beginning things on Thursday. The days of competitive alternate training site games are over, though the first month of the season provided a welcome change from 2020.

The Dodgers had their alternate training site this year at their spring training facility at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. They were one of four teams to remain in Arizona for April, along with the Padres in Peoria, the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, and the Angels in Tempe, which allowed for games to be played against opposing teams.

This followed a season of teams stuck with their teammates at alternate training sites, unable due to COVID-19 restrictions to travel to play other teams. The competition was lacking.

“Last year at the alt site at USC, we made the most of our opportunities, but the big thing is being able to play against somebody else on a different team,” said outfielder DJ Peters, who debuted for the Dodgers in April. “Different organization, different-colored jerseys, and kind of have that compete factor in there.”

“You play your own team, you see those guys so much,” said infielder Sheldon Neuse, who spent his entire 2020 campaign at the A’s alternate site. “To be able to play somebody else and just get a different feel, it helps.”

With no minor league season last year, the alternate site was the only alternative for a number of players and prospects to get reps at an advanced level, even if they didn’t get to play games against other teams.

“The alternate site was the best option we had, but it wasn’t a season. We didn’t get to play as much, and missed out on a lot of at-bats, a lot of other things that you get throughout the season, you know the wear and tear on your body, how to take care of it, things like that” said Luke Raley, one of three Dodgers to make his major league debut in 2021. “It definitely stung not being able to play last year.”

The benefits of playing other teams at the alternate sites were still limited, which makes the upcoming full minor league schedules even more welcome. Matt Beaty, for instance, was optioned for a week and said he played in three games against the Padres and got 14 at-bats. The rest of the time was spent working with hitting coaches, trying to get back to the form he showed as a rookie in 2019.

Since returning to the Dodgers, Beaty is 5-for-11 with a .647 on-base percentage in seven games, including four starts.

“Last year at the alt site it was a little different. I remember I was able to hit every inning,” Beaty said. “That’s nice to get your at-bats, but at the same time it’s not as realistic as a game, where you sit around and wait your turn in the order. It’s nice to be able to play against some other teams.”

These players are professionals after all, and made the most of their environment, no matter who they played against, with the same goal in mind.

“You still go about your business daily,” said pitcher Garrett Cleavinger, who was with the Phillies last year. “You get out during the day, get your work in. You’re playing a couple games a week, and just trying to be ready for the next level.”

Links

With minor league seasons starting next week, Dodgers VP and assistant general manager Brandon Gomes talked to Juan Toribio of MLB.com about the challenge of placing prospects after a year of no minor league games: “You’re projecting some and trying to figure out a balance where the need is, the reps that they’re going to be able to get and make sure guys are getting the game reps that are necessary.”

Sports-Reference sites have made the switch to use given names instead of nicknames for several players.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín got a new honor this week: