California Notes: Ramirez, Billingsley, Puig, Athletics

Here's the latest MLB news from the west coast:

  • The Dodgers averted a potentially devastating injury last night when x-rays revealed that star shortstop Hanley Ramirez did not suffer a break in his hand on a hit-by-pitch, Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA reported on Twitter. The club's middle infield decisionmaking — in particular, declining Mark Ellis's reasonable option — drew some questions in the offseason, though Dee Gordon has been a revelation thus far and Alex Guerrero is off to a fast start in Triple-A. The Dodgers also got good news recently on rehabbing starter Chad Billingsley, who underwent an MRI that showed no damage to his elbow after experiencing discomfort in a throwing session, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick reports.
  • As we noted a few days ago, the emerging story of Yasiel Puig's defection from Cuba has led to increased focus to the travails of players seeking to reach the bigs from the neighboring island. In another piece on the incredible tale, ESPN The Magazine's Scott Eden describes the underground system that brought Puig (and others) to the majors. 
  • The Athletics have compiled what Fangraphs' Tony Blengino calls a "low-risk, reasonably high-reward" staff. Oakland's rotation — in particular, Dan Straily, Scott Kazmir, and the surprising Jesse Chavez — has both generated a promising batted-ball mix (low line-drive, high ground-ball, and high pop-up rates) and logged strong K:BB ratios early on in 2014. When you add youngster Sonny Gray to that mix, and consider the reasonable pay rates of all the arms, Blengino says that the A's have done an excellent job of constructing their rotation. Indeed, despite injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, Oakland's starters lead the league in fWAR and are second in ERA.
  • Of course, much of the offseason focus on Oakland revolved around the team's surprising buying spree of expensive relievers, as MLBTR's Steve Adams recently documented. Though the pen has had some hiccups at the back end to start the year, it still ranks 6th in ERA as a unit. With Jim Johnson already having been removed from the classic closer role, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wonders whether the team could stick with a closer-by-committee approach — more out of opportunity than need. 

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