Questions get negative answers
Concerns about pitching, defense and Manny all come to light against Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- All those concerns Dodgers fans have been expressing throughout spring training -- the same concerns club officials have been reluctant to admit -- seemed to come bubbling to the surface in Monday's season opener, an 11-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates before a sellout crowd of 39,024 at PNC Park.
There was bad starting pitching that underscored the team's lack of a true ace: Vicente Padilla, apparently the best manager Joe Torre could come up with for an Opening Day starter, was torched for seven earned runs and didn't make it through the fifth inning.
There was bad defense, although the good news there was that it didn't come from inexperienced second baseman Blake DeWitt, who is replacing four-time Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson at the position. The other good news was that none of the Pirates' 11 runs resulted from either of the Dodgers' two errors, a dropped ball by catcher Russell Martin on a sacrifice-bunt attempt and a bobbled grounder by third baseman Casey Blake.
There was Manny Ramirez looking more and more like a guy who belongs in the American League. He got a couple of hits, drove in a couple of runs and looked completely out of his element on a couple of balls hit in his general direction in left field in the third inning. One of them fell unchallenged into the front row of the stands, right in the corner by the foul pole, a place where the wall isn't all that high. It was the second home run of the game by Garrett Jones and the one that put the Pirates ahead to stay.
The other ball hit Ramirez's way was a high pop by Ryan Doumit that fell in shallow left for a double.
Ramirez probably had no chance at either ball -- he had been shading Jones toward left-center and playing Doumit deep. But he also went after Jones' ball with what could best be described as a slow jog, and his first reaction on Doumit's ball appeared to come about the time it was arcing back toward Earth.
There was more bad leadoff hitting by Rafael Furcal, who struggled to a .335 on-base percentage last year. He went 0 for 3 in this one while it was still a contest, then drew a walk and singled in his final two plate appearances after the Pirates had built a six-run lead.
Finally, there was more bad pitching by George Sherrill, whose horrific spring training appears to have carried over into the regular season. With the Dodgers having clawed back to 8-5, Sherrill entered to start the eighth, got two quick outs, gave up a double to Andrew McCutchen and walked Jones on a wild pitch that put McCutchen on third after getting ahead of Jones 1-2. Then, at the end of a long at-bat by Doumit, Sherrill served up a fat one. Doumit blasted it out to left, putting the game on ice.
It was one game, with 161 more coming right behind it. But it was also the last one for more than 48 hours, and it offered little evidence to calm the widespread fears that this team has some serious issues.
Lost in the shuffle
Carlos Monasterios, the Rule 5 draft pick from Philadelphia whose entire professional career to this point had basically taken place at Single A and below, made his major-league debut with a perfect sixth inning against the heart of the Pirates' order, retiring McCutchen and Jones on fly balls and Doumit on a grounder to third. Manager Joe Torre figured that a six-run deficit presented the perfect situation in which to get Monasterios' first appearance out of the way.
Scene and heard
Sherrill watched video of his performance for at least 15 minutes in the clubhouse after the game, with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt standing over his shoulder or sitting next to him the entire time. The two didn't appear to say much to each other, but Sherrill could be observed repeatedly freezing the tape in the middle of his delivery, a sign his mechanics remain a concern.
First of all, they are a lot more intelligent and a lot more patient. They know how to select the pitches they want to hit, as opposed to the hitters I faced in Single A, who are a lot more aggressive.” -- Dodgers pitcher Carlos Monasterios on facing major league hitters
Later, Sherrill told reporters this isn't the first time his career-long history of pitching badly in spring training has actually carried into the season. He admitted that he usually loses his the muscle memory to execute his proper mechanics because of inactivity during the offseason, which is why he always struggles in the spring to find those mechanics.
"It's just a hair off,'' Sherrill said. "It's just a matter of getting it ironed out and getting my consistency back.''
By the numbers
Quote of the day
Monasterios, who until Monday had made a grand total of two appearances at Double A, speaking through an interpreter on the difference between the Single A hitters he faced most of last year and the big-league hitters he faced this spring: "First of all, they are a lot more intelligent and a lot more patient. They know how to select the pitches they want to hit, as opposed to the hitters I faced in Single A, who are a lot more aggressive.''
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will make his season debut on Wednesday night against Pirates righty Ross Ohlendorf. Only two Pirates players, Andy LaRoche and Lastings Milledge, have faced Kershaw in their careers, and they have five combined at-bats against him. Seven Dodgers players have faced Ohlendorf, but none has more than three at-bats. The teams are off on Tuesday, but the Dodgers will hold a mandatory workout at 8 a.m. Pacific time.Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.