Missing at Dodgers' first full-squad workout are fans — and the late Tommy Lasorda

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Jorge Castillo
·4 min read
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Los Angeles Dodgers players walk back to the infield after running sprints during a spring training baseball practice Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Dodgers players walk back to the infield after running sprints during a spring training practice on Tuesday in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

The Dodgers held their first full-squad workout as the defending World Series champions in relative silence at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday.

Music played from speakers above Field 1. Bats cracked and mitts popped. Players and coaches went through stretches and batting practice while officials milled around, but the throngs of spectators were missing. It was a different vibe from usual, another change resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The day began with a socially distanced team meeting. Manager Dave Roberts congratulated the players — most of them were together for the first time since they beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series — on winning the championship.

He talked about getting back to work to accomplish the goal again before his address eventually ventured into another notable absence this spring: Tommy Lasorda, who died of a heart attack Jan. 7 at age 93. He had spent 71 seasons with the Dodgers, dating back to the organization’s time in Brooklyn, as a player, scout, coach, manager, interim general manager and advisor.

“It's going to be different,” Roberts said. “It's going to be strange. I always enjoyed our interactions and seeing him once you start playing games. Seeing him make his way to the dugout, talking to coaches, talking to players, and just seeing that No. 2 Dodger jersey around.”

The Dodgers will wear two black patches on their jerseys this season — one to commemorate Lasorda and one for Don Sutton, the Hall of Fame pitcher who died Jan. 19. The team has also dedicated a locker for Lasorda in its clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, which he visited every spring since they moved their spring training headquarters from Vero Beach, Fla., in 2009.

Dodgers hitting coach Brant Brown talks with Mookie Betts and A.J. Pollock.
Dodgers hitting coach Brant Brown, left, talks with Mookie Betts, middle, and A.J. Pollock during a spring training practice on Tuesday in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Trophy whereabouts

Lasorda was the manager the last time the Dodgers reported to camp as champions in 1989. This spring, the 2020 trophy is sitting inside the team’s offices at Camelback Ranch. Former Dodger Andre Ethier, a Phoenix native, is scheduled to take it to Glendale (Ariz.) City Hall for an event March 2. Current players aren’t allowed to attend such events because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We really never did get that full chance to celebrate last year; it was kind of just the season ended and that was it,” Dodgers infielder Max Muncy said. “So, to me, I'm hungrier than ever to go out there and win a championship again just because I feel like we haven't had that full chance to celebrate and hopefully once we do it again, we get that chance.”

Dead balls liven discussion

Major League Baseball’s decision to deaden the baseballs this season was roundly welcomed, as expected, by pitchers. Hitters, however, aren’t as enthused.

“Does them deadening it mean that pitchers don't throw 100 miles an hour also?” Muncy asked. “That's my only question. I feel like the whole game is kind of triggered against the offense and now they're taking the one, sole advantage that we have was, maybe or maybe not, the ball was a little bit juiced.

“They have obviously never confirmed that, but them saying they're going to deaden the ball is kind of heartbreaking. But you got to go out there and you got to get around it somehow.”

Trade completed

The Dodgers received minor league outfielder Ryan Noda from the Toronto Blue Jays as the second player to be named in the trade that sent right-hander Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays last August.

Noda, 24, reached high A in 2019 when he batted .238 with 13 home runs and a .790 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 117 games. He is expected to join the Dodgers in spring training as a nonroster invite. Right-hander Kendall Williams, the first player the Dodgers acquired in the trade, is already in camp with the club.

Short hops

Roberts said Cody Bellinger, who underwent right shoulder surgery in October, is expected to be ready for opening day. . . . The Dodgers haven’t decided on their opening day starter, according to Roberts, but he expects the announcement to be made “sooner than later.” . . . Catcher Keibert Ruiz and right-hander Jose Martinez are the only players not yet to report to camp. Both are dealing with visa issues. Ruiz, one of the organization’s top prospects, is on the 40-man roster. Martinez, 21, is a nonroster invite.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.