While most of the country continued to be pummeled by frigid temperatures, it was a beautiful sunny day at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. I got the opportunity to attend media day during the 7th annual Winter Development Program. The program, which runs through Thursday, is a multi-faceted program for up and coming Dodgers prospects. The players participate in workouts at Dodger Stadium, attend special seminars and conferences, tours of Dodger Stadium and Los Angeles, and they are exposed to charity work which the Dodgers are involved in around the L.A. area. It is a program which helps to acclimate these young players to the Major League level.
Ned Colletti joked about Jody Reed getting lost on his first day with the Red Sox and not being able to find the front door to the stadium. The Winter Development Program ensures that these prospects have an understanding of the stadium, and most of them sure seemed to find the Dodgers Clubhouse quite comfortable as they sat and watched the Hall of Fame voting results on television after the scheduled workout Wednesday morning.
Ned Colletti spoke to the media during the workout, and he answered a variety of questions including those on Don Mattingly‘s contract extension, the status of Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez‘s contract talks, Masahiro Tanaka, Yasiel Puig‘s arrest, offseason goals and the second base conundrum, and he was the one to bring up the Hall of Fame voting at the conclusion of the conference.
Colletti began by addressing the Dodgers recent contract extension to Don Mattingly. He said that the contract was essentially done three weeks ago, and they were just putting the finishing touches on it. There was no rush to announce the new contract. Ned said that it has always been in their plans organizationally to extend Mattingly. He went on to talk about Mattingly’s strengths and how he stayed the course even after the injuries.
Yasiel Puig’s arrest came up for discussion as well. Colletti stressed that we are all responsible for our own actions, and “there’s boundaries you have to stay in.” He spoke with Yasiel the day he was arrested, and Colletti was glad that no one was hurt.
The conversation then turned to Colletti’s goals for the offseason, and he said that he would “like to get another infielder in here. There’s
still some interesting guys in the market.” He addressed the second base situation, and he said that Alexander Guerrero is still “leading the pack,” but he has been sidelined for a month with a hamstring strain and he has yet to obtain his Visa in order to come to the U.S. Miguel Rojas will get a good look, and he said that Rojas is a good defensive player. Dee Gordon will also be considered, and both Gordon and Rojas will work out at Camelback Ranch. Colletti also said that whatever infielder he picks up won’t necessarily need to play shortstop. He feels he has enough depth at the position with Hanley Ramirez, Justin Sellers, Miguel Rojas, and Dee Gordon.
When asked about Clayton Kershaw’s contract negotiations, Colletti shied away from answering anything concrete. He did say that “It’s our desire to sign him (Kershaw) here for a long time.” He has also spoken to Hanley’s agent a couple of times.
As far as Masahiro Tanaka, he has been in contact with his agent, but the process is still in the “feeling out” stage. Tanaka’s representatives are still scouting the team markets, but from the sounds of it the Dodgers still have interest in the Japanese pitcher.
I asked Colletti if the Dodgers were going to take a look at Todd Coffey later this month during his so-called showcase. He said no, and he said my question was “interesting.” It seemed like he was a bit surprised I even asked.
Colletti concluded by bringing up the subject of the Hall of Fame Voting, and he said that Greg Maddux is one of his favorite players. Just moments later we all learned that Maddux was one of three players to be inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame class.
I then made my way down to the field where I got a chance to watch a few of the players participating in the Winter Development Program work out casually in front of the media. Both catchers, Chris O’Brien and Pratt Maynard were working on blocking balls, and Joc Pederson and Scott Schebler were out in left field shagging liners. Schebler, the 23-year old outfielder, hit 27 homeruns for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes last season.
Ross Stripling was also in the dugout speaking with Charley Steiner and media, and Don Newcombe was on the field meeting and speaking with some of the young players. You can see the thrill and awe these young prospects had during this experience. After all, playing in the Majors and especially at Dodger Stadium must be a dream most of them have had for many years.
I then went into the Dodger Clubhouse, and this was my first time inside the newly renovated area. It is quite nice, and much more expansive then the original clubhouse. Javy Guerra was spotted in the clubhouse which was a bit of a surprise to me. All the prospects had temporary lockers, and some of them sat by their locker enjoying their moment at Dodger Stadium most likely daydreaming about their future.
I also checked out some of the Dodger Stadium renovations that are being worked on this offseason. There was noticeable construction
going on around both bullpen areas presumably involving those bullpen overlook areas which are scheduled to be finished by Opening Day at Dodger Stadium in April.
Overall it was a wonderful day, and I got to see some of my colleagues as well. Ron Cervanka of Think Blue LA, Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, and others were there too.
There is only 35 days until Spring Training begins, and my day at Dodger Stadium makes me miss Dodger baseball even more than I already do.