The Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to the A’s on Sunday was an eventful game, and not just because Gavin Stone had the best Cactus League outing by any pitcher on the team this spring.
Dustin May ran into his first extended adversity this spring, walking three batters and running a three-ball count full to three others, ending his day after four innings instead of five, after throwing 72 pitches.
A’s catcher Shea Langeliers deposited over the left field fence in the first inning for a two-run home run. Though those were the only runs allowed by May.
Oakland also ran wild on May. Ryan Noda stole second base in the first inning, and Conner Capel stole second in the third. Tyler Wade had second base stolen easily in the second, only it came on ball four to Zack Gelof. Stolen bases generally haven’t been too big of a problem for May, who has given up 12 steals in 143⅔ major league innings. He allowed no steals in his first three starts this spring.
Part of May’s maturation as a pitcher has been learning to harness his energy and fire on the mound, which Fabian Ardaya detailed at The Athletic.
“It used to kind of be a thing that it would challenge him to make sure he didn’t go off the rails or anything like that,” assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness told Ardaya. “He’s now controlling the emotions to kind of use them for his own will, per see.”
Jimmy Nelson is really fighting it this spring training, unable to find any traction on the mound after missing a year and a half. Sunday might have been his worst outing, walking three batters and hitting his other batter faced. He threw only one strike Sunday — the 13th of his 14 pitches — and after he did got a sarcastic cheer from the crowd at Camelback Ranch.
Nelson in his last two outings has faced nine batters, walked seven, and hit another. This spring, in five Cactus League appearances, the veteran right-hander walked 11 and walked none, allowing five runs (four earned) in 2⅓ innings.
After the game, Dave Roberts talked with Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA about the conversation he had with Nelson in the dugout after the right-hander’s outing.
“Myself, and all of us, really got to appreciate what he’s been through. Coming back from Tommy John, the execution and command, that’s gonna come,” Roberts told Watson. “For him, feeling like you’re letting guys down, that’s not the case. We completely believe in him. He’s going to figure it out, but it’s going to take some time, and he’ll be fine.”
Dave Roberts with his takeaways from today's game against Oakland. pic.twitter.com/6ez8cA5QJQ— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) March 20, 2023
The swing of things
Miguel Vargas walked and scored in the third inning on Sunday, and did the same in the eighth inning. After that second walk, Vargas was driven home by Dalton Rushing, making his professional spring training debut.
Vargas has reached base in all seven games since he’s been allowed to swing the bat. During his first six games this spring, while Vargas was still managing a hairline fracture in his right pinkie, the Dodgers let him play to get work at second base, a relatively new position to him, but he was not permitted to swing. He still walked four times in his 12 trips to the plate.
Since that restriction was lifted on March 9, also against the A’s, Vargas has seven hits in 17 at-bats with three doubles, a home run, four walks, and a hit by pitch, hitting .412/.545/.765 in 22 plate appearances.
A minor matter
Noda, who was drafted by the A’s in the Rule 5 Draft in December, continues his Gallo-ean path this spring. Noda reached on an infield single and struck out against May on Sunday. He was also hit by a Nelson pitch, and struck out twice against Stone. Of Noda’s 48 spring plate appearances, 62.5 percent have ended in either a home run (one), walk (eight), or strikeout (21), hitting .184/.333/.342.
As a Rule 5 pick, Noda has to stay on the A’s active roster all year or be offered back to the Dodgers for $50,000. But considering that Oakland won’t be contending any time soon, the A’s have time to wait for Noda to pan out. In his opening day roster projection on Thursday, Martin Gallegos at MLB.com had Noda making the team, and splitting time at first base with Jesús Aguilar.
The Dodgers make their lone visit this spring to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale this on Monday night, facing the Rockies (6:40 p.m., SportsNet LA).