Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Dodgers depth allows for multiple roster moves

The Los Angeles Dodgers have got themselves on a bit of a roll recently, climbing to within a game and a half of Colorado in the National League West after winning eight of their last 10 games.

I have been quick to criticize the Dodgers for not settling on a regular batting order and their constant platooning of players, but it was only a matter of time before the Dodgers found their groove and they are starting to play like one of the top teams in baseball, which they are.

And it might even be time to praise the Dodgers front office — led by team President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman — for the job it has done in building the roster.

It helps that the Dodgers have more money to spend than any other team in baseball. But Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi have used that money to build a solid 40-man roster that provides necessary depth for the Dodgers to withstand injuries.

All Major League teams have a 25-man roster that provides the players that play on an active day-to-day basis. The 40-man roster includes minor league personnel that are available for call up if a member of the 25-man roster goes down with an injury or goes into a prolonged slump.

Most teams use the 40-man roster for some minor league depth, but add their top prospects to that roster as soon as possible.

Not the Dodgers. When Cody Bellinger was recalled from the minors two weeks ago, he had to be added to the 40-man roster as well as the 25-man roster.

The top prospect in the Dodgers system was not on the 40-man roster. That allowed the Dodgers to stash another former major leaguer at Oklahoma City, the team’s top minor league affiliate, who would be a phone call away the big leagues.

Last year the Dodgers won the National League West and advanced to within two wins of playing in the World Series despite using the disabled list 28 times and having more than 50 different players appear in games.

That’s because of the organizational depth the Dodgers have developed. It allows them to have a backup infielder like Charlie Culberson, who hit a walk-off home run to win a game last September against the Giants, in Oklahoma City waiting for another call from the big leagues.

Two of the outfielders at Oklahoma City have played key roles for the Dodgers in the past, Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson. Both are an injury away from being back.

One of the Dodgers big offseason acquisitions was second baseman Logan Forsythe. He played well at the start of the season until he fouled a pitch off his big toe three weeks ago.

He went on the disabled list and Chris Taylor was summoned from Oklahoma City. Taylor had a great spring training for the Dodgers, but was a victim of numbers when the season started and he was sent to the minors. Since being recalled from the minors, all he has done is hit .372 with a grand slam home run that helped win a game May 8.

Bellinger replaced an injured Joc Pederson when he called up from Oklahoma City. With Pederson now healthy, an ineffective Adrian Gonzalez went on the disabled list for the first time in his career last week ti give Bellinger more opportunities in the major leagues.

He capitalized by hitting three home runs over two games May 5 and 6, including a grand slam. The Dodgers have six starting pitchers in the rotation right now, and will add another — Rich Hill — when he comes off the disabled list.

No one is going to use a seven-man rotation, especially when one of those seven is Clayton Kershaw, but the depth the Dodgers have everywhere is one of the reasons they are expected to make another deep run in the playoffs come October.

That’s the way the team has been built.

It could be a battle of former Lakers head coaches in the NBA Western Conference Finals if the Houston Rockets, coached by Mike D’Antoni, above, advance to face the Golden State Warriors, whose interim coach is Mike Brown. (Courtesy photos)

COACHING BATTLE: As the NBA playoffs continue, I am intrigued by a possible conference final matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.

Not to see what James Harden can do against Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the rest of the Golden State Warriors.

No, I want to see the two coaches match wits, but only if Golden State coach Steve Kerr is still on the shelf. Yes, I want to see Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni against Warriors interim coach Mike Brown.

That would give Lakers fans something to think about. Maybe those two guys can coach if you give them some players to coach.

D’Antoni was the last coach to have a .500 record in a season after he took over from Brown early in the 2012-13 season and went 40-32 the rest of the way. He never could get the Lakers to play his preferred style of quick tempo with lots of three-point shots.

Brown coached the Lakers to 40 wins in the strike-shortened 2011-12 season only to be fired when the team lost its first four games the next season.

But D’Antoni had four consecutive seasons with more than 50 wins for the Phoenix Suns 10 years ago and Brown took a younger LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to two 60-win seasons at around the same time.

As Lakers’ fans now know, Brown and D’Antoni weren’t the only problems with the Lakers when they were coaching here. And both have landed on their feet. Brown will surely find another head coaching job after filling in for Kerr during the playoffs

The only thing standing in the way is the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets will have to win two in a row against the Spurs to get to the Warriors.

Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA’s most valuable player last season, is back to lead the Los Angeles Sparks, who are defending WNBA champions. Ogwumike led the Sparks in points with 19.7 per game and rebounds with 9.7 per game. Both totals were third in the league. (Photo by Nick Koza)

NEW SEASON: The Los Angeles Sparks begins defense of their WNBA championship May 13 at 2 p.m. at Staples Center against the Seattle.

The Sparks defeated the Minnesota Lynx, 77-76 in Game 5 of the WNBA finals last fall to win their third championship.

They begin play this season again being led by Candace Parker, the most valuable player in the finals last season, and Nneka Ogwumike, who was the league MVP last season.

Kristi Tolliver, possibly the team’s third beast player last season, left to Washington in free agency, but most preseason forecasts have the Sparks winning their second title in a row.

We will begin seeing how those forecasts play out this weekend.