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Facing own lineup a good tuneup, says Wood

@kengurnick
July 11, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers fourth starter Alex Wood pitched into the sixth inning of an intrasquad game on Friday night, demonstrating he’s already built the endurance to pitch deep when the 60-game season begins in less than two weeks. Wood on Saturday detailed how his workload during the pause prepared

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers fourth starter Alex Wood pitched into the sixth inning of an intrasquad game on Friday night, demonstrating he’s already built the endurance to pitch deep when the 60-game season begins in less than two weeks.

Wood on Saturday detailed how his workload during the pause prepared him for this unusual Summer Camp, although there’s one step in the process that can’t be replicated -- the all-in competitiveness of facing opponents.

In a typical Spring Training, starters can face opposing hitters in five or six games. But the Dodgers have only three exhibition games scheduled before Opening Day against the Giants on July 23. So until then, pitchers must train while facing their own.

And it’s just not the same. Catcher Austin Barnes said pitching inside, one of the keys to success, is reined in for fear of injuring one of your key hitters (as has already happened when a pitch damaged Max Muncy’s left ring finger).

Walker Buehler, being slow played and yet to pitch in an intrasquad game, said he’s not concerned with the difference between facing Dodgers hitters now and opposing hitters in two weeks.

“With how talented we are, nothing against any team, but facing some of our guys is about as good as you can get,” said Buehler. “I’m not too worried about that.”

Wood echoed Buehler.

“It’s always another level when you’re facing another team and not your own guys, there’s no doubt about that,” said Wood. “I will say that with the quality of our lineup and the quality of the players that we have, we’re having fun, we’re building up, everybody’s staying healthy -- but there is a little bit extra in here. You know that you have to throw well or these guys will make you look silly. I don’t think it’ll be a huge deal. If anything, it will be a benefit facing other teams.”

Last year with Cincinnati, Wood was limited to 35 2/3 innings with a back injury. Now that the Dodgers will not have David Price for the season, after Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill left as free agents and Kenta Maeda was traded, the Dodgers need Wood to pick up innings. He said the adjustment he’s currently dealing with is getting accustomed to the five-day cycle he will take into the season.

“I stayed in Arizona until the beginning of May,” Wood said. “When I came [to L.A.], we had a good setup here and we were targeting the beginning of July and trained accordingly. Our true MVP, Chico [clubhouse attendant Francisco Herrera], he’s been playing left field [in intrasquad games], but he’s also a pretty good bullpen catcher. We had a semblance of a sim game so I could build up. It was definitely a blessing being here and having these guys and the training staff to get ready for a short camp.”

Notes

• In Saturday’s intrasquad game, young pitchers Dustin May, Josiah Gray and Dennis Santana gave up long balls. May was taken deep by Edwin Ríos, Gray by Mookie Betts and Santana by Luke Raley and Justin Turner. May is a candidate for the fifth starter job.

Blake Treinen, Dylan Floro, Marshall Kasowski and Josh Sborz also pitched. Treinen would be a logical closer candidate with Kenley Jansen and Pedro Báez still out of camp.

• Also in the game, second baseman Gavin Lux and 18-year-old catcher Diego Cartaya were inserted as defensive replacements in the sixth inning for their first game action.

Lux reported to Summer Camp on Friday and Roberts earlier said Lux would start on Sunday. Cartaya, signed out of Venezuela for $2.5 million two years ago, was added to the player pool on Saturday after the continued absence of Keibert Ruiz. Cartaya is ranked No. 9 in the system by MLB Pipeline.

• Roberts said pitchers Tony Gonsolin and AJ Ramos would throw a bullpen session before pitching in an intrasquad game. Gonsolin reported late and Ramos was recently signed as a free agent, adding depth to a bullpen still waiting for Jansen, Báez and Scott Alexander to report.

• Summer Camp sensation Francisco (Don’t Run On Chico) Herrera, the clubhouse attendant pressed into left-field duty, threw out Chris Taylor trying to tag from first base to second on a flyout.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.