On Thursday, the Dodgers announced the starting pitchers for the first two games of Cactus League play this weekend, as Tony Gonsolin is scheduled to take the mound against the Giants on Saturday and Alex Wood against the Cubs on Sunday.
The Cactus League schedule consists of 30 games, including a handful of split-squad games when Los Angeles will play two contests at different locations on the same day. At the conclusion of Cactus League play, the Dodgers and Angels will play three more exhibition games in the Freeway Series before the regular season begins on March 26.
While Cactus League games usually do feature their fair share of fireworks, the enthusiasm among the fan base normally dissipates rather quickly. Pitchers head to the mound to work on specific pitches and sequences, while some batters focus on certain aspects of their swing mechanics.
Furthermore, lineups are usually built a little lopsided, as the coaching staff sometimes tries to get certain players more plate appearances than others. Additionally, playing time is often spread evenly on the big league side of camp, at least in the first handful of games. Knowing where some of the top prospects stand in the organization is a priority for team management.
Regardless, here are a few things to watch during Opening Weekend beginning on Saturday.
Rain—According to some forecasts, there’s a 100% chance of rain and flash flooding in Scottsdale, so there is a reasonable possibility we may not see the opener played on Saturday. Umpires and team officials aren’t as critical with delays and postponements during the spring as they are in the regular season, so if there’s a huge pocket of green stuff on the radar, they could make the call early.
Mookie Betts—It’s probably safe to say we’ll see one of the newest additions of the Dodgers—outfielder Mookie Betts—at some point during the weekend. According to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, Will Smith, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy are on the list for Saturday’s game, but the weather may put a wrench in the team’s plans as far as spreading out the playing time goes. As we all expected, skipper Dave Roberts confirmed that Betts will be the primary leadoff hitter for 2020, although he may be shifted to the two-hole on the occasions that Joc Pederson hits first, depending on any potential advantages in pitcher vs. batter matchups.
Brusdar Graterol—Speaking of new additions, 21-year-old righty flamethrower Brusdar Graterol has been drawing a ton of attention already in camp. At 265 pounds, his strength and power are undoubtedly visible, as his fastball often approaches 100 MPH on the radar gun. He suffered from symptoms of the flu during the first several days of camp, but he’s throwing bullpens now, as he appears to be much better with just a few lingering side effects. There’s no guarantee that he throws this weekend, but with the Dodgers believing he may be part of the team’s bullpen plans at some point this year, management will probably give him as many looks as possible.
Kenley Jansen—Having been known for his very slow starts in previous springs, Kenley Jansen appears to be much busier in camp this year. According to Plunkett, Jansen said his extra work with Rick Honeycutt, Orel Hershiser and Joel Peralta on Friday centered on his slider grip. Honeycutt and Hershiser apparently showed him a new grip that started to feel comfortable. With an effective slider, it could give Jansen the diversity he needs to compliment his cutter—something he’s been working towards for years. Plunkett also noted that Jansen is scheduled to pitch against the Cubs at some point on Sunday.
First pitch for Saturday’s opener—weather permitting—is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. PST/1:05 p.m. MST.