Toles tags homer in Dodgers' roster battle
Outfielder returning to form after major knee surgery last year
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Alvin Toles' comeback from major right knee surgery is right on schedule.
Toles slugged a two-run homer in the Dodgers' 10-5 loss to the Padres on Wednesday, making his first hit of the spring count as he battles for an outfield spot with Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo and Trayce Thompson.
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"My swing is getting better," said Toles, who cashed in the first of two Chris Taylor doubles. "I've been working with the hitting coaches, getting better every day, getting a hitting lesson every, single day."
And the leg?
"It feels pretty good," said Toles, 25. "I'm sore just from playing, but everybody is. It's not the knee. When I slow down, sometimes I feel a little. The training staff said to trust it, so that's what I'm doing."
Toles blew out his anterior cruciate ligament chasing a ball into the left-field corner on May 9, cutting short a season that started with five homers, 15 RBIs and a .271 average after 31 games.
Speed-wise, Toles said he really hasn't tested the knee yet.
"I'm being smart with my movements, but I'm going to play hard," he said. "I don't know about stealing a base or diving for a ball. We'll see when it happens. I practiced sliding on the bases, running full speed. I'm going to be ready for Opening Day. Don't know if I'll make the team, but we'll see."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Toles has been moving well defensively, but a better test will come when the workload increases and he's asked to steal bases.
And Toles said he has the secret to avoiding the clubhouse viral outbreak.
"Got to live alone," he said. "Can't be bunking with other dudes."
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Hill on the backfield
While dozens of teammates were home sick, starting pitcher Rich Hill bravely rode a golf cart to the Minor League fields and stretched it out in a three-inning simulated game.
"Good to get the third inning," Hill said. "The quality of pitches diminished in the third inning, but overall I felt like the ball came out well and look forward to getting in some games."
Hill said the 42-pitch workout sets him up for his first Cactus League game next week. Although most starters choose exhibition games to more closely replicate regular-season action against hitters, Hill sees a benefit in the backfields.
"It's efficient, where you can kind of experiment a little more," Hill said. "I feel like, in games, you can't really experiment with pitches while you're competing and trying to get guys out."
Hill said, for him, the controlled setting of a simulated game is more conducive to preparation. He struggled last spring with the Dodgers, posting a 6.19 ERA in six starts.
Hill said he wants to throw three or four innings in his first start.
In Wednesday's game, Wilmer Font inherited the start from an ailing Hyun-Jin Ryu and allowed a homer in two innings.
With 25 players sent home because of illness, no injury update was available.
In the left-field competition, Toles was 1-fo-2 with the homer and a strikeout; Pederson was 0-for-3 with a strikeout; Verdugo was 1-for-2 with a diving catch on a sinking liner in center field.
Play it again
Country superstars Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt, along with special guests Jon Pardi and Morgan Wallen, will perform at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, July 28. Tickets go on sale March 9 at 10 a.m. PT at www.LiveNation.com.
Depending on the health status in the clubhouse, Thomas Stripling will start for the Dodgers on Thursday at 12:05 p.m. PT against former Dodgers right-hander Stephen Fife and the Indians at Camelback Ranch.