With the first full week of spring training in the books, the Dodgers finished with three wins, two losses and two ties. But as most of us know, it’s less about the record and more about the performances of individual players.
The veterans in Mookie Betts and Corey Seager have picked up right where they left off in October as both are hitting the ball well and hard. First baseman Matt Beaty currently leads the team with six hits in 12 at-bats (AB) with second baseman Gavin Lux right behind him with five hits in 11 AB.
Bauer or Popeye?
Pitching-wise, newcomer Trevor Bauer has performed well in his new uniform, starting in two games against the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. Against the Rockies, Bauer pitched two innings, gave up one hit and struck out two.
His performance against the Padres on March 6 had the entire league (and social media world) talking about whether or not Bauer was up to some new antics.
In the top of the second inning, the Dodgers broadcast camera caught a close-up of Bauer prior to his 31st pitch of the game in what appeared to be Bauer closing his right eye. At first, it seemed as though maybe Bauer had something fly into his eye to cause discomfort but instead of stepping off the rubber to adjust, he went on and pitched.
Bauer went to strike out Padres shortstop Ha-Seong Kim to end the inning with his right eye still closed. As he left the mound, Bauer was caught on camera pointing to his closed right eye which led to several speculations that Bauer was actually making a racist gesture toward the Padres’ Kim. This was far from the truth.
After the game, Bauer explained to the media what was actually going on.
“I figured if they can’t score off me with one eye open, it’s going to be difficult to score off me with two eyes open,” Bauer said. “Just having a little bit of fun.”
When the media asked for his reasoning Bauer responded simply at first before elaborating more on the subject.
“There’s definitely a reason behind it,” Bauer said. “If I wanted to share, I definitely would have already. I will say I like making myself uncomfortable and throwing different stuff my way and trying to find a solution for it. That’s how you improve. Find a way to make yourself uncomfortable, then comfortable with it and do it again.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he had no problem with Bauer trying unique ways to improve his game.
“I think there might have been one curve that he threw with both eyes closed,” Roberts said. “There is a method to his madness, and he worked through it, so apparently that was the key.”
Future Stars, Today
While the Dodgers roster will more or less look similar to last season come Opening Day, there have been a few names that have shined early on in this spring training and with how much depth the Dodgers have in their farm system, it’s no surprise whatsoever. Here are a few names to continue to keep an eye on as the regular season gets closer with each day that passes by:
Zach McKinstry, 2B
A possible replacement for Kiké Hernandez, the utility-man in McKinstry has started off hot, offensively with four hits in 12 plate appearances with one RBI and a stolen base. While he isn’t (technically) one of the top prospects in the Dodgers’ farm system, you could make the case that nobody has impressed more over the last few years than McKinstry.
In his last full season of play in 2019 (minor league season canceled in 2020 due to Covid-19), McKinstry appeared in a combined 121 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers in Triple-A and Tulsa Drillers in Double-A. In that season, he promptly hit 19 home runs, had a .300 batting average and an OPS of .882. McKinstry’s versatility makes him one of the leading candidates to play the most games out of any other prospects in the system.
DJ Peters, OF
The local Glendora, CA native is off to an impressive start after this first week of play and in 12 plate appearances has four hits, two home runs and three RBIs while slashing .444/.583/1.111 (AVG/OBP/SLG). In addition to his offensive prowess, Peters has shown off his defensive talent in centerfield with some impressive diving catches and speed, even with his large stature (6’6” 225 lbs).
In what has been a crowded outfield season after season, Peters is looking for some way to be a part of the big-league club at some point this season. His hot start is a great first impression and will definitely make the front office and manager Dave Roberts consider his name above the others.
Garrett Cleavinger, LHP
Cleavinger was acquired in December from the Philadelphia Phillies in a three-team trade that sent Dodgers’ minor league infielder Dillon Paulson to Tampa Bay and Rays’ left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarado to the Phillies.
In three games so far this spring, Cleavinger has pitched three innings, given up one hit and has four strikeouts (just second to Bauer’s team-leading five strikeouts). While he has only made one major league appearance for the Phillies last season, Cleavinger has shown his talent early on and the Southpaw would definitely bolster a Dodgers bullpen that has shown inconsistency at times.
It’s Good to See You Again
Covid-19 reports have shown some decreases in California and specifically in Los Angeles County as vaccinations continue to be administered. As positive news continues to trend, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on March 5 that some coronavirus restrictions would be lifted for outdoor sports and entertainment venues.
The rules will take effect on April 1 and only apply to people living in California. The announcement meant great news for some Dodgers fans who will now have an opportunity to see their team celebrate a world series victory a season ago.
While this is all dependent on continued progression to fight against Covid-19, outdoor sports will be limited to 100 people that fall in the purple tier. The limits increase to 20% capacity in the red tier, 33% in the orange tier, and 67% in the yellow tier. The chances of ever selling out Dodger Stadium in the near future is very unlikely, but for manager Dave Roberts the news is fantastic.
“I knew there had been some rumblings about that possibility,” Roberts said. “To get a little more clarity is great and obviously, any amount of fans is great for all of us and for our players. As we look at our home opener where we’ll get our World Series rings to have any fans in the stands will make it that much more exciting.”
Featured image: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Oakland Athletics Sunday, February 28, 2021, at Hohokam Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Dodgers beat the A’s 2-1Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2021