As the days to Opening Day quickly tick down, the Dodgers found themselves with two games on the schedule today. The first game, against division foe Arizona Diamondbacks, was not just a regular exhibition. This game was a fundraiser for the people affected by the shooting in Tucson on January 8th.
In a touching tribute to Christina-Taylor Green, a nine-year old girl who was shot and killed, her brother threw out the first pitch to Don Mattingly. Green’s father, John Green, is a scout for the Dodgers. It was nice to see the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks giving back to the community. Unfortunately the Dodgers were in a very charitable mood, giving the D-backs a 6-3 win.
Tim Redding got the ball to start the game for the boys in blue. Redding is still hoping to make the cut and be the team’s fifth starter until Jon Garland returns from the disabled list. Redding pitched well for three innings but ran into trouble in the fourth. To literally add insult to injury, four batters into the fourth, Redding had to leave the game with pain in his lower back. This is not good news as the Dodgers already will start the season with pitchers Garland and Vincente Padilla among the injured.
Joining them will be catcher Dioner Navarro, who injured his oblique and could be out for a month according to Don Mattingly. Also on the mend is third basemen Casey Blake who will start the year on the DL. Rumor has it that Ivan DeJesus Jr. will start at second base until Blake is healthy. We shall see.
Navarro being on the DL opens the door for A.J. Ellis, who had another good day, going 1 for 2, with an RBI and a run scored, to make the club. He will have to continue to produce if he is going to edge out Hector Gimenez, who also went 1 for 2, and who has had a very good camp.
Redding was relieved by Rubby De La Rosa and De La Rosa got touched up for three earned runs while giving up four hits for the loss. De La Rosa also struck out three batters in his four innings of work. De La Rosa will most likely not win that fifth spot in the rotation.
It is quite possible that the Dodgers will break camp with only four starters as off days will mean the team won’t need a fifth starter for a few weeks, when Garland should be back healthy. If the team decides to bring along a fifth starter, with Redding hurt, the spot will probably go to John Ely. He will start the second game for the Dodgers tonight, going against the Mariners.
Speaking of pitchers making the cut, the team has informed lefty reliever Ron Mahay that he will not make the team. Scott Elbert’s continued progress plus Mahay’s struggle made him expendable. Speaking of guys getting the boot, Jay Gibbons continues to struggle, going 0 for 2 with a sacrifice fly.
He is still hitting under .200 for the Spring. As Kenny said yesterday, Gibbons making the team seems like a long-shot at this point, especially with the numbers Xavier Paul continues to put up. Paul is also a much better defensive player which manager Don Mattingly has said is a priority.
There is now less than one week until Opening Day. I am ready for the real thing to begin. I still have high hopes for this year. The pitching staff is looking good. Matt Kemp is poised for a monster year. His production should help Andre Ethier, James Loney, Rafael Furcal, and Juan Uribe have great years as well.
The team looks to be staying true to Mattingly’s promise that the team would be more aggressive on the base paths. No doubt Davey Lopes has had a positive impact on the team already. If the team can stay healthy, they have a shot to have a good year. In the immortal words of Bart Scott, “Can’t wait!!!”