The roster cuts continue on the countdown to 25, with the Dodgers dropping seven more players to now stand at 46.
A couple days ago, the Dodgers reassigned non-roster invitee pitchers Patrick Schuster and Madison Younginer to minor-league camp. If you’ve been watching the games this spring, you should recognize Schuster since he’s appeared late in many contests, totaling 7.2 innings pitched and allowing only a single run. The same applies to Younginer, who threw nine innings and allowed five runs this spring. Neither were expected to come close to making the team, but it’s clear the Dodgers wanted to get a better look at both as potential depth for the team.
The more noteworthy cuts came yesterday when outfielders Alex Verdugo and Brett Eibner, along with infielders Willie Calhoun, Jose Miguel Fernandez, and Darnell Sweeney, were all sent to minor-league camp. Eibner was optioned, while the other four NRIs were reassigned.
Eibner definitely made a play at future considerations, going 11-for-36 with a 1.044 OPS. His ability to play center field and bat right-handed definitely makes him a potential call-up at some point should injuries hit. Calhoun also acquitted himself well, going 9-for-25 with a .945 OPS. I’m not surprised that he hit, but the commitment to defensive work is what’s going to make-or-break his career, and he seemed dedicated to at least trying to make it work. Sweeney was a bit of an afterthought after he came back to the organization with the prospect sheen completely gone, but he went 11-for-37 with a .820 OPS, and a utility profile still likely exists for him. Technically, Verdugo only went 3-for-13 with a .769 OPS this spring, but he did go 5-for-14 in the World Baseball Classic. Nothing special, but I was impressed because he looked like he could handle center, which could prove valuable. On the flip side, Fernandez looked rather lost, going 4-for-24 with a .484 OPS. I understand there’s a transitional period and all that, but the dude is 28. Then again, his contact ability was as advertised as he struck out just once, and it would be wise to wait until after the 2017 season to re-evaluate.
None of the cuts was all that surprising in terms of the 25-man roster, but I did think that maybe the Dodgers would take a longer look at Eibner considering he might be the backup plan in center. Despite his struggles (or because of them), I also thought they’d want to see as much of Fernandez as possible.
Hey, um, so Hyun-Jin Ryu. Dude’s shoulder was wrecked and everybody kinda wrote off his comeback as one of those “yes yes, you’re rehabbing, we know” deals like Jason Schmidt, but all Ryu did yesterday is lower his spring ERA to 1.00 after four shutout innings of one-hit ball in which he struck out two.
Doesn’t sound like the Dodgers are ready to believe it yet either, but Dave Roberts and friends appear to be getting there.
The velocity and maintaining it later into games was a problem before, but it might be better now.
“The velocity was good from the eyes,” said Roberts. “Like he said, he was in midseason form. He was efficient, had everything working. He’s shown us a lot. When we look back a year, where he’s come from, he’s done nothing but allow us to be very optimistic. Every time he’s gotten better and we’re building him up to be a starter and break camp with us. That’s the plan on our end. He worked hard to put himself in a position where he’s at right now. We’re a better team if he’s in the starting rotation.”
And Ryu thinks that he can pitch with a lower velocity as long as it’s reasonable.
“I was never a guy who got batters out with velocity,” Ryu said. “If I get back to my 2013 velocity, I’ll be effective. I feel like I’m actually very close to 2013 form. I feel I’m on a similar pace. If I can get up to six innings, I feel I’ll be ready. I’m not sure if I proved I belong. But I’ve pitched three games and I think I’ve done relatively well so I think I’m on a good pace.”
Dodgers are going to have an interesting choice to make between him and Alex Wood.
Why those two? Because it seems to be assumed that Brandon McCarthy will get a spot even if he acknowledges it’s not like that is the goal for him.
“If I felt that was a significant achievement, I’m aiming too low,” said McCarthy. “Twelve years in, winning a spot is not where my focus is. It’s making 33 starts and the postseason. It’s doing everything I need to do as a solid Major League starter. Winning a rotation spot is step one. I came to spring this year with the attitude of doing everything every day to be ready for the start of the season, wherever it is.”
I understand it, but I really think Wood has the highest upside of all of them and is probably even the safer bet at this point.
Most importantly, Corey Seager played in a minor-league game, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, and feeling nothing in his oblique. Seager said he needed to get over the mental hurdle in game action, and was glad that there was no pain, “It was nice to go full-go and have nothing today.“