04/03/12 2:33 AM ET
Birds of a feather: Mattingly, Magic now united
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
The two never met. And though Johnson was part of the group -- Guggenheim Baseball Partners LLC -- that six days ago purchased the team Mattingly manages, the two have yet to get in touch.
"We've never crossed paths," Mattingly said. "I just watched him play a ton -- killing me."
Interestingly enough, Mattingly grew up an admirer of Johnson's fiercest rival (and also greatest friend): Larry Bird.
"Indiana, man," said Mattingly, referencing the state where he grew up and the state where Bird -- five years his senior -- became a college-basketball god.
"He's kind of an Indiana legend. Growing up, you're all about Larry Bird. How do you ever forget that name? But obviously I'm a basketball fan, so even though you're killing me -- well, not killing me, but it kind of felt like it for a long time -- you have a lot of respect [for Johnson]."
Mattingly likewise has a lot of respect for the impact Johnson can have for the Dodgers, now that the former Michigan State guard is part of the group that purchased the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium from Frank McCourt for a record $2.15 billion.
"It seems like it's brought a ton of just good energy, as far as just the feeling you hear from fans," said Mattingly, speaking from Angel Stadium on Monday before the first of three Freeway Series games. "Even at the ballpark from fans that first day, there's a different energy from the people that came to see you play. For the players, I just feel they're kind of happy to know who's running the show and who's taking us where we want to go. I think that's something that's kind of been missing over the last couple of years. Mr. McCourt, really, had a lot to deal with, and it seemed like the baseball team was second."
Lilly stays the course with simulated game
ANAHEIM -- Dodgers starter Ted Lilly, who will open the season on the disabled list because of recurring neck stiffness, pitched a simulated game prior to his club's Freeway Series game at Angel Stadium on Monday.
With that, the 36-year-old left-hander stayed on track. He'll pitch in a Minor League game on Sunday and, if all goes well, will be activated for the April 14 start against the Padres.
"It was good. He built his pitches up," manager Don Mattingly said of a session that saw Lilly throw close to 70 pitches. "You can tell he got a little gassed at the end, but I think it was good. ... I think we got accomplished what we wanted to do -- build his pitches up, get up five or six times."
Infielder Adam Kennedy still hasn't played the field since suffering a strained right groin on March 25. On Monday, he started as the designated hitter, batting ninth, and finished 1-for-3 with a walk to put his spring batting average at .278.
"It's getting a lot better," Kennedy said of his groin. "I feel good to go. I've started to feel relieved these last couple of days. To be able to get some at-bats these last three days has been pretty big for me."
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt met with the team's employees Monday for the first time since agreeing to sell the club for a record $2.15 billion, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times. McCourt had been in New York overseeing the sale to Guggenheim Baseball Partners LLC, but returned to Los Angeles for a 45-minute meeting in the Stadium Club at Dodger Stadium, the Times added. The sale is awaiting approval by a bankruptcy court and is scheduled to be completed by April 30.
Game 1 of the three-game Freeway Series between the Dodgers and Angels on Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the first time these two clubs met, on April 2, 1962, in Palm Springs, Calif. The Angels beat the Dodgers, 6-5, that day. Since then, the two clubs have met in a Freeway Series game 107 times -- not including Cactus League matchups -- with the Angels leading the series, 59-44-4.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.