Spring Training Notes: Seager progressing, Kazmir is … not, JT talks hitting fly balls

By the far the biggest concern for the Dodgers in Spring Training has to be Corey Seager being healthy on Opening Day, and it seemed like he finally took a major step towards that goal.

Of course, there’s still no timetable, but it’s progress.

Speaking of progress, Scott Kazmir said he’s now healthy, and he threw five simulated innings against minor leaguers yesterday. However, his velocity is a shocking 82-84 mph.

“He’s got to continue to build that arm strength,” Roberts said. “From everything I hear, he’s healthy.” As of now, Kazmir is not yet scheduled to pitch in a Cactus League game. And he likely won’t until he gets his velocity up. Roberts said Kazmir was only throwing 82-84 mph on Thursday. “We’ve still got to see improvement in velocity at some point,” Roberts said. “His arm feels good and he feels strong, but it’s still not coming out the way we want.

Yeah, that sounds absolutely terrible.

Speaking of terrible, Brock Stewart is having some shoulder issues.

“He just got a little fatigued and there was some soreness in his shoulder,” Roberts said.

Stewart will likely resume his throwing program this week, but when he does, he is basically back at square one, Roberts said.

It doesn’t sound serious, but any time the shoulder is mentioned it gets my attention. Hopefully the timetable goes as planned and he’s ready to go at least in AAA.

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Justin Turner talked about the changes that made him a star, primarily about the strategy of getting the ball in the air.

“Today, with the way defenses shift, if you hit a ground ball, you’re out. Especially if you don’t run that good. There’s so much information out there that tells them where to play you. So, it is a conscious effort to get more balls in the air.”

Turner then talks about how he tries to go about doing that.

“If you hit down on the ball and hit the top of the ball, you’re still hitting a ground ball,” said Turner. “If you hit the center of the ball, the margin of error is so tiny to create backspin, you have to be really, really good to do that. That’s where this new swing plane comes in. This loftier swing plane makes it a lot easier to hit the bottom of the ball. It’s definitely a mindset. You’re in the box and telling yourself to hit something in the air, this helps you swing at better pitches because you have to look for certain pitches you’re capable of lifting. And secondly, you’re consciously trying to get balls in the air, and if you miss a ball and it does go on the ground, now it’s a harder hit ground ball than trying to hit the middle of it and hit the top of it, instead of trying to hit the middle of it and you hit the top of it and it’s just a ground ball.”

And JT is apparently from the Ted Williams school of how to deal with the shift.

“When you see these lefties getting shifted all the time, and they try to figure out how to beat the shift, those guys that try to beat the shift by slapping balls the other way, the other team is winning,” he said. “You don’t beat the shift by hitting around it or through it, you beat the shift by hitting over it. I had several games last year when my only goal was to hit four balls in the air. I just didn’t want to hit a ground ball. If I fly out four times, I had a great night, because I didn’t hit a ground ball.”

JT is one of the best examples of success for the fly ball revolution going on with hitters, and understandably he has bought all the way in on it.

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Andrew Toles is a nerd now because the front office basically told him to become one.

This time a year ago, Andrew Toles had never heard of batting average on balls in play. The Dodgers’ outfielder still hesitated to spell out the acronym B-A-B-I-P on Friday as he scrolled through the statistics on his FanGraphs page. Isolated power. Strikeout percentage. Walk percentage. Weighted runs created plus. “I think that’s it,” Toles said. “You don’t look at batting average, home runs, all that.” These are the statistics the Dodgers’ front office would be paying attention to, Toles learned last spring. For a player beginning his first year with a new organization, it was a revelation. “It’s crazy,” he said, “but I was just on that website every day, looking: ‘OK I’m going to get called up soon.’ That’s when I got here.”

“They know what they’re doing over there, (director of player development Gabe) Kapler and all those guys,” he said. “They break down what they’re looking for to get you to the major leagues. If you just do that, there’s no reason why they can’t just call you up. I just pretty much did what they told me to do. I listened.”

Interesting to me that so many players are resistant to this kind of stuff, and Toles obviously wasn’t a player who was already familiar with it, but he kept an open mind, adapted, and found success.

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In terrible news, Dave Roberts‘ father has passed away.

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama

I get paid millions by the Dodgers.

MILLIONS!