Joc Pederson’s ‘superstar’ spring is a touchy subject for Dodgers rookie

Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. >> Only one major league player has hit more home runs in spring training than Joc Pederson’s six. His name is Kris Bryant, a rookie third baseman for the Chicago Cubs, who has nine.Under an arcane rule, the Cubs can delay Bryant’s free-agent eligibility by keeping him in the minor leagues 13 days into this season. Many observers believe the Cubs will do exactly that.The Dodgers have given no indication that they will do the same with Pederson. Besides, Pederson spent 28 days with the Dodgers at the end of last season. To delay Pederson’s free agency by a year, the Dodgers would have to keep him in the minor leagues until mid-May.And to do that now seems downright silly. Pederson hasn’t been told that he will be on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, but he is leaving them little choice. In addition to his home runs, the 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .389 and has cut back on the strikeouts (12 in 22 games) that made his at-bats last September seem like a boom-or-bust proposition. • MORE DODGERS: Vin Scully is getting ready to begin 66th season with DodgersDodgers manager Don Mattingly has said that any decision on Pederson would be made late in camp. With only three days remaining in Arizona, all Pederson has done is been one of the most consistent hitters in the league. Mattingly at least acknowledges this; Pederson won’t even go that far. “There’s going to be great days, there’s going to be terrible days, and I just try to stay even keel, come back the next day and stick to the same routine,” he said. “I’m fortunate that Mark (McGwire, the Dodgers hitting coach) and Val (assistant hitting coach John Valentin) are there to help and keep me on track.Asked if he deserves a spot on the Opening Day roster after a 2-for-3, one-homer game Sunday, Pederson sounded like a man afraid of jinxing his chances. “I just show up every day,” he said, “and go about the process that the coaches have laid out for me and do whatever I can to help the team win.”That process was not always there for him last September. Pederson was an everyday player at Triple-A Albuquerque last season, a spot in the batting cage waiting for him when he arrived. He often arrived early.After being called up in September, Pederson’s time in the batting cage was limited. The Dodgers’ regulars had priority. Many of them showed up early, too.Between the mechanical changes Pederson made to his swing in the off-season, and the practice he’s had keeping everything synchronized, the results are not surprising to McGwire.“That’s the body of work that he’s put in to maintain and to work off of to be successful,” McGwire said. “You can’t just show up and play anymore. I don’t think it exists. You have to put in the work, to put in the study, and he’s willing to do that.“The work he’s put in in the offseason, and what he’s doing and sticking with it, you’re seeing the potential” — McGwire paused, as if choosing the words carefully – “of a superstar in the making.” Pederson is choosing his words carefully, too. A visiting writer asked him Sunday about becoming “the Dodgers’ next great center fielder.” Pederson’s expression didn’t change, his poker skills apparently in midseason form. “It’s not about me,” Pederson said. “It’s about the team. I have to do whatever I can to help win the ball game.”AlsoAngels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that his Opening Day roster will feature four starters and eight relievers. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago are expected to be the four starters, with Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and possibly Drew Rucinski heading to the minors to start the season. … Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe was a late lineup scratch because of a minor illness. … Mattingly said that right-hander Joe Wieland will start Tuesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Wieland was optioned to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp March 16. read more

Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell already has Kobe Bryant’s trust

first_imgHONOLULU >> The restlessness overwhelmed D’Angelo Russell, prompting the Lakers rookie point guard to toss and turn before waking up at an ungodly hour before the first day of training camp. Russell could not wait for his workout, so he could break a sweat, build a rhythm and impress an influential and demanding teammate. But Kobe Bryant already beat him to the punch. The Lakers’ star already completed his own before anyone else. “He’s going to push you. So you have to be one of those guys that will compete,” Russell said. “To build a trust with a guy like that, you need to be a winner.” Russell also acknowledged feeling starstruck when he completed a three-man weave drill during his first training camp practice with Bryant. “You try to keep it off your mind that this guy is right beside you,” Russell said of Bryant. “That’s something you have to get past. If you want to be the best, we have to look at him as a mentor and not look at him as a fan.”Russell acknowledged that dynamic could “definitely” make him feel more tentative playing with Bryant, knowing both his star power and thirst to score. “He told me he likes to shoot the ball so if I get it to him, it’s his job to finish it,” Russell said in obvious understatement. “Just knowing where he likes the ball and where he likes to score from, being the point guard, you’ll get a bigger challenge off the bat.” But the Lakers argue Russell will handle that challenge just fine. One, Scott, Bryant and Julius Randle have praised Russell’s on-court poise. So much that Scott likened it to Clippers guard Chris Paul, the eight-time NBA All-Star whom Scott coached in New Orleans from 2004 to 2009. Russell maintained the same stoic demeanor during portions of Wednesday’s full-court scrimmage when he made pinpoint passes as he did when Lakers forward Nick Young talked trash after scoring on him. “Nick always talks,” Scott said. “D’Angelo is a very low-key guy. You don’t see him get too hyped up about things. He’s pretty much on an even keel.”Two, Scott has instructed Russell, Bryant, Randle and Jordan Clarkson to maximize fast-break opportunities by assuming ball-handling duties after rebounding the ball. In a few minutes of Wednesday’s half-four scrimmage that was open to reporters, Bryant played at small forward and neither touched nor shot the ball once. “I don’t think it matters man. You play the flow of the game and see what comes,” Bryant said. “I don’t have to handle the ball at all. That leaves more time to catch and shoot. With D’Angelo and Jordan, these guys can handle the ball, make incredible decisions and make plays. It makes it a lot easier.”Third, Bryant circled back on Russell’s quest for self-improvement. Russell asked for the Lakers to place his locker next to Bryant so he could easily ask him questions. Russell has already asked Bryant for tips to maximize his NBA longevity. And Russell has emulated Bryant’s approach on arriving to the gym early.Does that make Bryant feel more inclined to want to help Russell?“Absolutely,” Bryant said. “When guys have that same passion and desire for it, it makes you more willing to open up. When they’re here early and shooting late, you can tell when that passion is there and you can tell when they think it’s a job.”That explains why Bryant has saddled up to Russell after each practice. They talk. They laugh. They embrace. The makings of a potentially fruitful partnership has just started. The Lakers completed two days of training camp at Stan Sheriff Center, too small of a sample size to offer any conclusions on whether Russell will fit that description for the 2015-16 NBA season. Yet, the Lakers feel convinced their No. 2 pick is a winner after falling in love with his confidence and playmaking. Bryant also already likes what he sees. “He has my trust already because he’s a gym rat,” Bryant said. “He loves playing the game. I trust that whatever challenges are presented to him, he’ll figure them out.”There could be plenty. After averaging only 11.8 points on 37.7 percent, 3.5 turnovers and 3.5 assists in summer league play, Russell has to prove he can translate his outside shooting and playmaking to the NBA. He has admitted a learning curve in Byron Scott’s Princeton-based offense. center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more