2/15/2014 6:10 P.M. ET
Hitters have their day as Mattingly rests pitchers
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Former batting champion Don Mattingly said the idea of giving the pitchers a day off Saturday was spawned by the unusual Spring Training schedule, which had the Dodgers report earlier than most clubs.
But the positive byproduct on Saturday was a day devoted to the hitters. While there was one defensive station set up, most of the fields were devoted to nothing but batting practice.
The greatest benefactors were the catchers, who were able to spend an entire practice working on their offense, a luxury compared to most days when they also are catching two or three bullpen sessions between swings.
"I felt like a regular baseball player today," said starting catcher A.J. Ellis. "It felt good to get out and get some offense in today. Being a catcher, sometimes you're unavailable to get in the quality swings other position players get. That's what days like today are for. But in the back of our minds we all know that tomorrow we'll be back to our main jobs, handling the pitching staff and being a strong defensive player."
The day started with an indoor base-running chalk talk from coach Davey Lopes, which Mattingly said was one of the better such clinics he can remember.
Healthy Crawford springs right into action
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In keeping with a reputation that he'll work until his hands bleed, Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford took enough batting practice Saturday to develop a blister on his hand.
Aside from that, Crawford said he's in the best physical shape for the start of a Spring Training since 2011. He spent the winter strengthening his core and back muscles, which are suspected of leading to the hamstring problems that put him on the disabled list and diminished his base-stealing confidence.
Manager Don Mattingly said he will give Crawford enough days off this season to keep him healthy, while Crawford said he intends on revving back up the burners the way he did while winning four base-stealing titles with Tampa Bay.
"I can tell a difference in the way I feel," he said. "There's not as much strain on my back and hamstrings."
Crawford said the leg injuries took away his base-stealing aggressiveness. He said he will try more head-first slides on steals and avoid sliding on his back leg.
"I went head-first all the time when I was younger," Crawford said. "Generally, that's not the safest way. But either I do that or I stand still at first base all year. I'll try something different and get that doubt out of my head."
Crawford had a decent steal success rate (15-of-19), but he had more than 50 stolen base attempts in seven of eight full seasons with Tampa Bay.
"That's what's frustrating," Crawford said. "I got my triples, went from first to third, why am I not stealing more? It's all mental and I just have to get over the hump."
Guerrero looks to make adjustment to second base
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig's wild success emboldened the Dodgers to sign more Cuban players, most notably Alex Guerrero, who will be the starting second baseman on Opening Day if he's ready.
But if they underestimated Puig's arrival, they might have overestimated Guerrero's, especially considering his additional challenge of moving from shortstop to second base, which has not come easily.
Guerrero is showing some improvement, according to manager Don Mattingly, but games haven't even started yet.
Concern led to the late signings of Chone Figgins and Justin Turner, to go with returnees Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers, along with non-roster invitees Brendan Harris, who has nearly five years of Major League experience, and slick gloveman Miguel Rojas, who has none.
Mattingly said Saturday that Guerrero will be focused on second base, but Gordon has shown in winter ball that he can handle both middle positions. If the switch-hitting Figgins can regain any of his Angels form, he also could be an answer at second base, and at least provide support at third base and even center field.
Somebody on the bench needs to be the backup middle infielder, somebody needs to be capable of playing behind Juan Uribe at third base and somebody needs to fill in for Adrian Gonzalez at first base. The latter will likely be Scott Van Slyke, who is primarily an outfielder. Gordon, Sellers and Rojas can play both middle infield spots. Harris is comfortable at second, short and third.
"We've found out that versatility, in this league, you can't have enough of it," said Mattingly.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.