If there was any idea that Don Mattingly was going to be a manager in the mold of Joe Torre, Donnie has managed to put that nation to rest right at the beginning of his Dodger tenure. He has named Clayton Kershaw opening day starter, said that Thames and Gibbons are probably the LF platoon and that Barajas and Navarro are likely the Catchers. Agree or not, he is showing decisiveness in his actions, something I think was lacking in 2010.
He did it again yesterday, when according to Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com , he stepped into the batter’s box with a fungo bat and watched Dodger pitchers throw from the best possible vantage point:
“That’s where I can tell how the ball comes out, and I can tell that that pitch can get a guy out or somebody can hit it,” said Mattingly. “You get in and can actually see if it’s moving late. You watch and say to yourself, ‘Why is a guy swinging at that?’ You get in there and can see why.”
I think the players are impressed by this. In fact, Gurnick also wrote this:
Jon Garland said the most surprising part of Mattingly’s decision was to do it in the dimly lit cage.
“I had trouble seeing the ball come back from the catcher,” he said. “It would be hard to pick up the ball and get out of the way if you had to. But it shows he wants to be in there with us. You want to play for somebody like that.”
That speaks volumes. Wanting to play is a start -just a start, but that’s more than last season. This is a very good start for Donnie Ballgame in gaining the player’s respect… and confidence.
Mattingly is also utilizing Davey Lopes in special instruction sessions for players who are the speedy base-stealing type. I understand it is an ongoing thing. Tony Jackson of ESPN/LosAngeles has more about the base-running program under Lopes’ instruction. In part, Tony reports this:
The fact much of that time was dedicated to one-on-one work with center fielder Matt Kemp was by design.
“I see a lot of things that he is doing,” Lopes said. “Some of the stuff he does, or has been doing, takes away from his quickness a little bit. So we’re trying to eliminate some body movement and iron out some things and just make him a little smoother.”
Lopes has been giving these tutorials every morning this spring, and after a few minutes on Saturday, Kemp was joined by outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., shortstop Rafael Furcal, highly touted prospects Dee Gordon and Trayvon Robinson and non-roster outfielder Trent Oeltjen. Not one of those players is required to be in camp until Monday, but several of the team’s position players chose to report early.
Lopes’ group spent the entire session taking leads off first, crouching and breaking toward second base, though they weren’t running at anything close to full speed and they stopped about halfway there.
“Right now, I’m just trying to get an idea of what they do and what they attempt to do and see if there is something we can try to adjust to make it a little better fit for them,” Lopes said. “Basically, we’re just breaking down their movements.”
Normally, I don’t put much stock into TJ Simers of The LA Times. He’s really is a nice guy who happens to make his living disrespecting the ones he writes about because Fans love that. So he is just providing a service. I have no fault with that. He did say something that I thought was very interesting (if it is really true). Here’s what he wrote:
By the way, in high school Broxton played football, as you might expect. But he was a punter, quitting the team when they tried to push him into being a lineman. So the Dodgers have a punter as their closer, and it makes sense.
If that is true, and I’m not saying it is, it could be very telling as to what type of makeup J-Brox has. Was he afraid to be hit? Or was he afraid he might kill someone if he hit them? I’m not saying he’s a bad guy. Football is not for everyone. Neither is closing… I hope he makes me eat a ton of crow! I’ll be rooting for just that.