We received a large number of emails from a long time fans when the abbreviated spring training schedule for Vero Beach was released. Our own Ray LeRoux perhaps says it for all of them:
"The Dodgers began to "peter out" the day the O'Malley family sold the franchise. Why would any snowbird invest in a southern trip, lease, etc., for six games and four split squad games, especially when starting players are lifted after two at bats, and when you are charged today's prices? Actually, the Dodgers have already left Vero Beach."
Another First for the Dodgers
The Dodgers became the first team to sign a free agent player who was on the Mitchell Report when catcher Gary Bennett agreed to become Russell Martin's backup.
Bennett got the expected third-degree from the Dodger brass and apparently handled it like the veteran major-league catcher he is.
Yes, said Bennett, he did use human growth hormone while with San Diego in 2003, as alleged in last week's Mitchell Report. At the time, Bennett was battling a knee injury that was slow in healing, and he thought the drug might help.
"I was frustrated with the way I was feeling and the way my knee was feeling," Bennett said. "I was just hoping it would help me heal. There were rumors that it was a wonder drug, that it helped injuries go away a lot quicker.
"Eventually, my knee did start to feel better. It wasn't as achy, and some of the pain subsided, but who is to say it wouldn't have done that anyway? ... I made a mistake. I made a stupid decision. If, in fact, I couldn't get a job because of that, there would have been no one to blame but myself, and I would have had to deal with that."
Bennett called general manager Ned Colletti and assistant GM Kim Ng on Friday to take responsibility for his actions and to assure them that he hadn't used HGH at any time over the past four seasons.
However, Colletti already had said, after the Mitchell Report's release, that the allegation would have no affect on the club's willingness to negotiate with or sign Bennett.
High Praise from Tokyo
Marty Brown, who managed Kuroda the past two seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, gave the Dodgers' new acquisition a ringing endorsement recently. "He's got a good fastball and three or four above-average pitches that he can throw in the zone," he said.
The newest Dodger is best known for his ability to get ground balls, one blogger said it was 2.25 to 1, Brown says what's special is Kuroda's knack for stepping up late in the game. "He's similar to Pedro Martinez in that respect," Brown told Jim Allen who covers baseball for The Daily Yomiuri in Japan. "They are different kinds of pitchers, but they both have that ability.
Kuroda, who has a 3.69 career ERA and 103-89 record, did more than any other pitcher in Japan from 2002 to 2007 to help his team win. The only player who contributed as much to his team's success per season over that period was current Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka. Who, as you remember, cost $50 million to negotiate and also landed a contract of about the same size.
"Kuroda will be in the sixth or seventh inning, sailing along, and he gets into a little trouble. Suddenly he grabs another gear. He has that competitive nature. We've all seen Pedro do that for so many years."
Another source, Kansas City manager Trey Hillman, pointed out, "I think Kuroda will be a No. 3 starter and will get just as many [ground balls] here as he did in Japan. He pitched and was successful in one of the smallest parks in Japan, and I also think he is a workhorse that will continue to eat up innings here in the States."
Kuroda was eligible to file for free agency a year ago, but between elbow surgery in the United States in November 2006 and his father's failing health, the right-hander opted to remain in Hiroshima for another year.
He seems to fit Dodger Stadium because he doesn't give up many home runs or walks. Growing up in a small park where you have to pitch inside, Kuroda locates his fastball well to both sides of the plate. Although he depends on a two-seamer and his breaking pitches to feed his infielders' assist totals, his location allows him to get strikeouts when necessary.
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