Full Preview for Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks Opening Series in Australia
The 2014 MLB season officially kicks off this weekend with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers meeting up for a two-game series at the Sydney Cricket Grounds in Australia.
The series commemorates the 100th anniversary of an exhibition game played between the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants on Jan. 3, 1914 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with the White Sox winning that game 5-4.
Sydney will become the fourth international city to host a season-opening series, following Monterrey, Mexico (1999), San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001) and Tokyo, Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012).
What follows is everything you need to know about how and when to watch the games, the history of baseball in Australia and Australian-born MLB players and a preview of what to expect from the Diamondbacks and Dodgers this weekend and in the season ahead.
Schedule and Viewing Information
When: Saturday, March 22
Time: 4 a.m. ET (7 p.m. local time)
Watch: MLB Network
When: Saturday, March 22
Time: 10 p.m. ET (1 p.m. local time)
Watch: MLB Network
A Closer Look at Sydney Cricket Ground
Home Teams: New South Wales Blues (1878-present) and Sydney Sixers (2011-present)
Baseball Dimensions: 328 feet down the lines, 400 feet to dead center
Temporary Outfield Fence Height: eight feet
- The time-lapse video above takes place over the course of 16 days, as the crew transformed the stadium to accommodate baseball.
- The stadium was also the major rugby stadium in Sydney until 1988, and from 1913-1987 the New South Wales Rugby Football League Grand Final was played at SCG.
- Sydney, Australia is 7,497 miles from Los Angeles, Calif. and 7,792 miles from Phoenix, Ariz.
History of Baseball in Australia
Claxton Shield (1934-1939, 1946-1988, 2003-2010)
- Established in 1934 by Norrie Claxton, a pro cricket and baseball player for South Australia.
- Pitted teams from New South Wales, Perth, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia against one another in a season that lasted roughly two months.
- The Claxton Shield was not only the name of the tournament, but also the trophy awarded to the winning team. The Helms Award was given to the MVP of the tournament.
Original Australian Baseball League (1989-1999)
- Set up as a season as opposed to a tournament, the original Australian Baseball League was made up of eight teams. Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Parramatta, Sydney, Perth and Waverley.
- League Batting Records: Average (.356, Dave Nilsson), hits (521, Andrew Scott), home runs (106, Ronny Johnson), RBI (375, Ronny Johnson), runs (343, Andrew Scott) and stolen bases (122, Peter Hartas).
- League Pitching Records: Wins (65, Phil Dale), ERA (2.34, Graeme Lloyd), K (553, Phil Dale), innings (792.1, Phil Dale) and saves (53, Bob Nilsson).
- With a running cost of $6 million and profits down to $4 million in the final season, the ABL simply was not making money. Milwaukee Brewers catcher and Australia native Dave Nilsson bought the league for $5 million following the 1999 season and replaced it with the International Baseball League of Australia.
International Baseball League of Australia (1999-2002)
- The International Baseball League of Australia lasted for just three years, before Nilsson handed control back over to the Australian Baseball Federation.
Australian Baseball League (2010-Present)
- The Australian Baseball League as it stands today features six teams in the Adelaide Bite, Brisbane Bandits, Canberra Cavalry, Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat and Sydney Blue Sox.
- Last season, the top three teams reached the postseason after a two-month season. The second- and third-place teams played a best-of-three series, and the winner of that took on the first-place team in another best-of-three series for the title.
- The Perth Heat won the 2013-14 championship and have taken two of the first three titles. The Canberra Cavalry won the other title during the 2012-13 season.
International Tournament Results
- Competed in medal event in four different Olympics, taking home a silver medal in Athens in 2004.
- Qualified for each of the first three World Baseball Classic events, finishing 13th, 12th, and 16th, while being eliminated in the first round each time.
- Participated in the World Baseball Cup seven different times, with a top finish of fifth in 2009 and 2011 and four other top-10 finishes.
Notable Australian-Born MLB Players
A grand total of 31 Australians have suited up in the major leagues. Here is a look at some notables:
RHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (2007-Present)
Rowland-Smith has not played in the major leagues since 2010 during his time with the Seattle Mariners, and in his four big league seasons he is 12-17 with a 4.57 ERA in 115 games (47 starts).
He's in camp with the Diamondbacks this spring and is part of their travel roster for the series. He will suit up for Team Australia in an exhibition against the Dodgers on Thursday, then turn around and play against Team Australia for the Diamondbacks on Friday in another exhibition.
2B Joe Quinn (1884-1901)
Quinn made his big league debut on April 26, 1884 at the age of 19, becoming the first Australian-born player to suit up in MLB.
He played 17 seasons, hitting .262/.302/.328 with 1,800 hits, and he also served as a player/manager for the St. Louis Browns in 1895 and Cleveland Spiders in 1899.
C/OF Dave Nilsson (1992-1999)
The top Australian-born player in MLB history, Nilsson spent eight seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, posting a 10.5 rWAR while hitting .284/.356/.461 with 105 home runs and 470 RBI.
His best season in the States was his last, as he hit .309/.400/.554 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team in 1999. He opted to return to Australian after the 1999 season so he could represent the country in the 2000 Olympics, marking the end of his MLB career.
RP Grant Balfour (2001-Present)
Balfour has emerged as one of the better closers in baseball over the past two seasons while pitching for the Oakland Athletics, saving 62 games with a 2.56 ERA and 9.5 K/9 according to FanGraphs. He signed with the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason on a two-year, $12 million deal.
In 463 career appearances, the right-hander is 28-17 with 72 saves, a 3.27 ERA and 514 strikeouts in 473 innings of work.
RP Graeme Lloyd (1993-2003)
An oft-used left-handed reliever, Lloyd made 568 appearances over his 10-year career, going 30-36 with 17 saves and a 4.04 ERA. He finished second in the NL in games pitched in 2001 with 84 while playing for the Montreal Expos.
SP Damian Moss (2001-2004)
Moss broke into the league with a big rookie season in 2002, going 12-6 with a 3.42 ERA for the Atlanta Braves to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
The left-hander was traded to the Giants that offseason for right-hander Russ Ortiz in what turned out to be a great deal for the Braves. Moss went just 10-13 with a 5.70 ERA over the next two seasons, and while he pitched in the minors until 2010, he would not see the majors again after 2004.
RP Peter Moylan (2006-Present)
Moylan started his career off with a bang in Atlanta, appearing in 80 games in 2007 and posting a 1.80 ERA over 90 innings of work for a 1.9 rWAR. He's dealt with injuries the past three seasons, appearing in just 35 total games, but he is back healthy now and looking to win a spot in the Houston Astros' bullpen on a minor league deal.
Arizona Diamondbacks Traveling Roster
The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced a 31-man travel roster for the trip to Australia, according to John Schlegel of MLB.com. From there, they will trim things down to 25 for the two-game series.
Below is a look at the full 31 players who made the trip, and my prediction for what the active roster will look like.
Starting Pitchers (2)
Wade Miley (L)
Relief Pitchers (10)
Oliver Perez (L)
Ryan Rowland-Smith (L)
Joe Thatcher (L)
Miguel Montero (L)
Eric Chavez (L)
Didi Gregorius (L)
Cliff Pennington (S)
Tony Campana (L)
Gerardo Parra (L)
Left off Active Roster (6)
SP Archie Bradley
RP Charles Brewer
SP Randall Delgado
RP Zeke Spruill
C Tuffy Gosewisch
OF Matt Tuiasosopo (claimed off waivers by Blue Jays)
Los Angeles Dodgers Traveling Roster
The Los Angeles Dodgers have announced a 30-man travel roster for the trip to Australia, according to an MLB.com press release. From there, they will trim things down to 25 for the two-game series.
Below is a look at the full 30 players who made the trip, and my prediction for what the active roster will look like.
Starting Pitchers (2)
Clayton Kershaw (L)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (L)
Relief Pitchers (8)
J.P. Howell (L)
Paco Rodriguez (L)
Chone Figgins (S)
Adrian Gonzalez (L)
Dee Gordon (L)
Mike Baxter (L)
Andre Ethier (L)
Joc Pederson (L)
Scott Van Slyke
Left Off Active Roster (5)
SP Zach Lee
SP Paul Maholm (L)
RP Red Patterson
RP Chris Withrow
C Tim Federowicz
Arizona Diamondbacks: Team Overview and Projected Lineup
|D'Backs Projected Lineup|
|1. RF Gerardo Parra|
|2. 2B Aaron Hill|
|3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt|
|4. 3B Martin Prado|
|5. LF Mark Trumbo|
|6. C Miguel Montero|
|7. CF A.J. Pollock|
|8. SS Chris Owings|
|D'Backs Projected Starters|
|Game 1: LHP Wade Miley|
|Game 2: RHP Trevor Cahill|
It was a busy offseason for the Arizona Diamondbacks, as they added a big bat in Mark Trumbo, improved the back of the bullpen by trading for White Sox closer Addison Reed and signed veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo to fill out the staff.
The injury to Corbin opens things up for another left-hander in Wade Miley to take the ball in the season opener. The 27-year-old was 10-10 with a 3.55 ERA last season, and is 3-1 with a 3.59 ERA in eight career games (seven starts) against the Dodgers.
Trevor Cahill gets the ball in Game 2, and he is coming off of an up-and-down second season in Arizona last year that saw him finish 8-10 with a 3.99 ERA. The big right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers.
The only potential change to the above projected lineup is at shortstop, where incumbent Didi Gregorius and rookie Chris Owings have been locked in one of the better position battles of the spring. I gave the nod to Owings, who is having the better spring and brings a right-handed bat against the Dodgers' two southpaws.
Los Angeles Dodgers Team Overview and Projected Lineup
|Dodgers Projected Lineup|
|1. 2B Dee Gordon|
|2. RF Yasiel Puig|
|3. SS Hanley Ramirez|
|4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez|
|5. 3B Juan Uribe|
|6. CF Andre Ethier|
|7. LF Scott Van Slyke|
|8. C A.J. Ellis|
|Dodgers Projected Starters|
|Game 1: LHP Clayton Kershaw|
|Game 2: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu|
The Los Angeles Dodgers will be without some notable players in Australia but still bring a dangerous roster to the two-game series.
Matt Kemp is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, Zack Greinke was bumped from the No. 2 starter slot due to a calf strain and starting left fielder Carl Crawford is skipping the series to attend the birth of his third child.
Andre Ethier will get the start in center field in place of Kemp, Scott Van Slyke has been tabbed as the starting left fielder in place of Crawford and last year's breakout rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will move up to get the Game 2 start.
Ryu went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in his first season in the States after beginning his career in Korea, finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. The 26-year-old made five starts against the Diamondbacks last year, going 1-2 with a 4.65 ERA.
Meanwhile, it will be the game's top arm taking the ball in Game 1 in Clayton Kershaw, who just celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday. The left-hander won his third straight ERA title and second Cy Young in three years last year, but he has struggled this spring.
In 14.2 innings of work, he's allowed 20 hits and 15 earned runs. He'll look to turn that around against a Diamondbacks team that he's gone 7-6 with a 2.22 ERA against over 17 career starts.
As for the projected lineup, there is a question as to who will play second base, as Dee Gordon has battled Cuban defector Alex Guerrero for the job this spring.
Gordon looks to have come out on top and, while Yasiel Puig will likely be the primary leadoff hitter this year, Crawford's absence means the speedy Gordon looks like a good choice to bat first in Australia with Puig sliding down to second.
Advanced statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.