It’s really hard to take a step backward and return to Spring Training after you already have two regular season game wins in the book. The Dodgers will have to do just that as they face their cross-town rivals in the historic Freeway Series. The Dodgers will use this extra time off to regroup and heal their wounds after returning from Sydney. Yasiel Puig will be on the field Wednesday after a MRI showed no structural damage to his back. Hyun-jin Ryu is unable to pitch right now due to a torn toenail, but Matt Kemp may be able to be activated as early as Sunday in San Diego.
Zack Greinke says that his right calf strain is 100% healed, and he will be making the first start of the Freeway Series versus the Angels on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. The 7:10 p.m. PT game can be viewed on Fox Sports West. Greinke, who did not make the Sydney trip, made 72 pitches during his last start Sunday. Greinke’s pitch count is not quite up to par just yet, but Greinke could be stretched out to 90 pitches on Sunday.
The former Angel only appeared in 2 games for the Dodgers this Spring before bowing out with a calf injury. He allowed 3 runs on 6 hits in 2 1/3 innings. Zack is 1-4 with a 4.10 ERA against the Angels over 9 career games. Pitching in this first Freeway Series game will be a perfect opportunity for Greinke to test out his push off leg which was strained while also building endurance for the upcoming regular season. Greinke missed the beginning of last season with a broken collarbone, yet he came back to pitch brilliantly in his first season with the Dodgers. A healthy Greinke will be vital for the Dodgers’ rotation this year.
Hector Santiago will get the start for Game 1 of the Freeway Series. The 27-year old left-hander was dealt to the Angels as part of the three-team trade between the Angels, White Sox, and the D-backs. Trumbo went to Arizona, and the Angels received Tyler Skaggs from the D-backs and Santiago from the White Sox in return. Santiago has only pitched in one game against the Dodgers before. He walked one and struck out two over 1 1/3 innings. Adrian Gonzalez has a hit and 2 RBIs against Santiago, but none of the other Dodgers have faced him much if at all.
Joe Blanton may be starting Game 2 on Friday at Dodger Stadium. The 7:10 p.m.PT game will air on Fox Sports West. Blanton was routinely booed during his horrendous yet thankfully brief stint as a Dodger in 2012. He went 2-4 with the Dodgers and managed a 4.99 ERA in 10 fateful starts. I apologize to have to rehash Blanton’s badness, but we have to learn from our mistakes, correct? Blanton has had a routine Spring complete with a 7.08 ERA and 22 hits in 20 1/3 innings of so-called work. I’m being sarcastic of course, but Blanton is arguably one of the worst starters in the league. Last season he went 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA in 28 games. Blanton hasn’t had a winning season since his days with Philadelphia in 2010 when he went 9-6. The Angels are even discussing whether to cut Blanton before the season starts, but nevertheless we will likely see him during the Freeway Series.
*Update* The Angels have released Joe Blanton as of Wednesday, March 26th. We will not see Blanton pitch in the Freeway Series. The Angels have chosen to eat the $8.5 million owed to him according to Bill Shaikin.
#Angels release Joe Blanton, swallow $8.5 million.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) March 26, 2014
Alden Gonzalez wrote about Blanton’s uncertain future with the Angels after his disastrous 2013 season. The Angels have bolstered their rotation now that they have Tyler Skaggs, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago, and Garrett Richards. The Angels may trade Blanton, stash him in the bullpen, or they may just release him.
Spring Training will finally officially be complete after the third game of the Freeway Series on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. PT which will air on KCOP. Dan Haren, who last pitched Monday in Arizona, would line up to start Saturday’s game in Anaheim. Haren stayed behind and did not travel to Australia. Haren made 3 Cactus League starts for the Dodgers during Spring Training, and he compiled a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings. Haren has continued to pitch and prepare while in Arizona, and he looks to be ready to start for the Dodgers. His last tune up would be on Saturday, but Ryu’s toenail condition will determine when he would make his first regular season start as a Dodger.
Ryu’s nail now effects the whole planned rotation, and if he is unable to pitch on Friday at Dodger Stadium, Don Mattingly will need to slot
The Angels are looking to improve after playing with an injured Albert Pujols and a getting a disappointing season from Josh Hamilton. The Angels acquired David Freese from the Cardinals during the offseason, but Freese has had somewhat of a cold Spring. They also picked up veteran Raul Ibanez. Even with Mike Trout, the Angels could only muster a record of 78-84 last year with the seventh largest payroll in the Majors. The Angels may have a better rotation than they did last year, but the Dodgers once again have the superior pitching staff. Ernesto Frieri, Dane de la Rosa, Kevin Jepsen, Joe Smith, Rule V draftee Brian Moran, Kohn, and Burnett are some of the arms they have at their disposal.
The Angels, like the Dodgers, will need to stay healthy in order to avoid another bad year. With the loss of Mark Trumbo‘s power, the Angels will have to turn to players like 41-year old Ibanez.
Alex Guerrero, who was optioned to AAA-Albuquerque on Tuesday, will remain with the team through Saturday and be available to play in the Freeway Series. Guerrero had only one at-bat in the Opening Series and struck out. Other Dodger minor leaguers who will be on hand to play in the Freeway Series are: Tim Federowicz, Zach Lee, Miguel Rojas, Joc Pederson, Red Patterson, J.C. Boscan, Darnell Sweeney, and Trayvon Robinson. The Dodgers will then have to set their regular season roster by 12 P.M. PT on Sunday. They will need to make moves in order to add Zack Greinke, Brandon League, and Dan Haren, the exempt players, back on to the 25-man roster.
The Freeway Series is here, and it is a pleasant sign that baseball is back in So Cal. The Dodgers have outspent and outshined the Angels the past couple of seasons, and this year won’t be any different. The Dodgers and Angels will face each other in the regular season for a four-game series in August. Mike Scioscia is trying to bounce back after finishing third in the division, while the Dodgers are trying to take the West for the second season in a row. There is only one true team in Los Angeles, and during the Freeway Series we root for the true Blue. They may have a Trout, but the Dodgers have a Wild Horse.
Baseball returns to Dodger Stadium on Thursday!