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April Fools joke causes minor stir

LOS ANGELES -- Proving again that it's never a good idea to mix April Fools Day with journalism, a baseball analyst named John Sickels who blogs at minorleagueball.com unintentionally caused a minor stir Friday morning when he posted a news item claiming Zach Lee, the Dodgers' top pick in last summer's draft, had abruptly changed his mind at the end of spring training and decided to play football at Louisiana State University after all.

An email to Sickels seeking clarification yielded a response within minutes, confirming the story was, in fact, an April Fools gag. Sickels later added the following parenthetical addendum to the bottom of the blog post:

"Word has just gotten to me that not everyone knows this is a joke. It's a joke folks!"

Sickels clearly didn't have any malicious intent in posting the story, which cited an anonymous source saying "[Lee] has struggled with this over the last couple of weeks, but he came to a clear decision yesterday. He wants to play football." But at the same time, there was nothing in the original post indicating the story was a joke, nor was the story so farfetched as to make it obvious it was a joke.

The initial story also said LSU football coach Les Miles, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti all declined to comment to the Associated Press. It quoted Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant GM who drafted Lee with the 28th overall pick in June and signed him to a five-year, $5.25 million contract minutes before the Aug. 17 deadline, as saying, "This is news to us," and, "As far as we're concerned, Zach is a Dodger until he tells us he isn't."

Both White, who runs the Dodgers' amateur scouting department, and assistant GM DeJon Watson, who runs the player-development system, said when reached by phone Friday morning they were aware of the story and that it was merely an April Fools gag. Watson said when he answered the phone he was actually with Lee at the time, and that Lee was still very much a part of the organization.

Hitting the high note

Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton's fastball was regularly clocked at 98-99 mph during his tense but ultimately successful ninth-inning performance in Thursday's season opener, this after rarely topping 94-95 during spring training or for much of last season. Broxton cited adrenaline as the reason for the sudden jump.

"You're just more pumped up," Broxton said. "In spring training, you're just trying to get your work in and get your arm in shape. I shouldn't say I wasn't trying to go full-bore [in spring training], because it feels like you are. But when you add that adrenaline, it can give you an extra four or five mph."

The high-90s fastball used to be a hallmark of what Broxton brought to the mound. But what can't be explained away by added adrenaline is why Broxton never seemed to reach that velocity last season. For his part, though, Broxton isn't really concerned about velocity.

"It's all about hitting your spots," he said.

Short hops

Ivan DeJesus Jr. was slated to make his major league debut Friday night. He was in the starting lineup, playing second base. ... Former Dodgers infielder Ramon Martinez was at the ballpark in his new capacity as a player agent. DeJesus is one of Martinez's clients. ... Chad Billingsley, who was scheduled to start against the Giants, has allowed just four earned runs in 40 innings (0.90 ERA) in five career starts against them at Dodger Stadium. Billingsley is 4-1 in those starts.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.