After a double-header that saw the Dodgers compete in split squad games versus the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox the team is off for the long trip to Australia for next weekend’s season opening two-game series versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the early opener just a week away, here are some Dodgers notes.
Urias impresses: In the opening game of their doubleheader on Saturday the Dodgers started seventeen-year-old Mexican pitcher Julio Urias. The young phenom, whose drawn comparisons to Fernando Valenzuela, struck out two of the three batters he faced with his fastball reaching 97 miles per hour. The signing of Urias points to the impressive finds by the Dodgers scouting department. Los Angeles signed Urias on the same trip that yielded them Yasiel Puig. Urias will start the season in high A Rancho Cucamonga, but may be on the fast track to the major leagues.
Final Tune-up for Kershaw: Clayton Kershaw started versus the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, giving up five earned runs in just over five innings, throwing 86 pitches. The Dodgers ace had a rough spring training by his standards with a 9.20 ERA, but should be ready to start the Dodgers season opener next weekend at the Sydney Cricket Grounds. The Dodgers will arrive in Australia five games prior to the opening series to get acclimated to the time difference.
Australian Opener: Due to the time difference between Australia and Los Angeles both games between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers will technically be played next Saturday. The opener, a night game in Australia, will be air at 1:00 AM Saturday in Los Angeles. The second and final game, an afternoon game in Sydney, will take place at 7:00 PM in Los Angeles. Clayton Kershaw will face Patrick Corbin in the opener, while Hyun Jin-Ryu will face Trevor Cahill of the Diamondbacks in the second game. After returning home the Dodgers will have a full eight games before they travel to San Diego to face the Padres in the US opener.
Puig’s Slump Continues: Unlike last spring where he hit over .500 and impressed everyone, it’s been a difficult spring for second year Cuban star Yasiel Puig. With just over thirty at bats Puig is hitting just .152 with a lone home run. Many stars have tough springs and it doesn’t mean they’ll have a slow start to the regular season, but Puig’s struggles are making many speculate whether or not the tough end to the season he had in 2013 will translate into this season. Opposing teams seemingly found a way to pitch the young star towards the end of last year, busting him inside with fastballs while throwing breaking balls away. How Puig looks at the plate will be an interesting storyline as the Dodgers make the trip to Australia.
Rotation Question Marks: When the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm from the Pirates it looked like they had more than enough starting pitchers to kick off the season. With Chad Billingsley still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Josh Beckett getting hit hard in his latest spring start, while battling a thumb injury, the Dodgers may be looking to Maholm to occupy the fifth starter position when the season begins. Maholm, who looked solid in his first couple of spring outings was hit hard by the Reds on Thursday, giving up six runs on six hits in just over two innings. At this point Maholm is likely the Dodgers fifth starter, especially with Stephen Fife being sent to the minor league camp. If he struggles out of the gate the Dodgers may quickly turn to Fife.
This is one of the most anticipated seasons for Dodgers fans in a while. After the miricle run in the 2013 season fans are hoping and expecting the Dodgers to make it further in the playoffs this year. Does spring training predict the season we shall see as Opening Day is just a week away for the Dodgers.
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