Palo Alto High grad Joc Pederson doesn't bother wondering if he's going to open the Major League Baseball season as the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting center fielder. He's just trying to get better.
"It's about the team," Pederson said after collecting two hits, including his sixth home run of the spring, against San Francisco Giants starter Matt Cain on Sunday. "I want to do what I can to help win ball games."
Pederson, who swung at Cain's first pitch in both at-bats, took the team lead in home runs, snapping a tie with Yasiel Puig. Only Cubs' phenom Kris Bryant has hit more during spring training. Pederson is batting .389, among the National League's top five, and is also among the NL leaders with 21 hits, 13 runs and 43 total bases.
Yeah, he can help.
"He's talented," Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez said of Pederson earlier in the spring. "He doesn't have any physical limitations -- he hits the ball hard and has a great eye at the plate."
If Pederson breaks camp with the Dodgers, he will be able to celebrate his 23rd birthday in San Francisco. L.A. opens a series with the Giants at AT&T Park on April 21.
Pederson isn't thinking that far in advance, though. He's thinking about what he can do on a daily basis to become a better, more consistent player. He has two hitting instructors in Mark McGwire and John Valentin who stress putting a good swing on a good pitch.
"You don't get many pitches to hit and I don't want to give up one just for the sake of giving one up," said Pederson, who batted leadoff against the Giants. "These pitchers don't make many mistakes. I'm just looking for a good pitch, maybe something up, that I can put a good swing on."
Pederson took plenty of good swings through five years in the minor leagues. He accumulated 84 homers, 271 RBI, and 113 stolen bases in 441 games. He owns a .302 batting average in the minors.
He became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 (33 total) home runs and steal 30 bases, which he accomplished last season with the Albuquerque Isotopes.
He spent 27 days in the majors last September and would probably like to be a little more productive than hitting .143, with no extra base hits or RBI. He did manage nine walks to put up a pretty good on-base percentage of .351.
"I show up every day and go through the process," Pederson said. "McGwire and Valentin are helping me become as consistent as possible. There are going to be great days and bad days. What's important is to come back with the same routine."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, a quality left-handed hitter in his days with the New York Yankees, told MLB Network what he likes about Pederson.
"He's got that swing that stays in the strike zone; he's going to have to keep it under control," Mattingly said. "He swings hard and swings hard all the time, He's got power to all fields. To me, this guy is a baseball player and that's what I think I like about Joc as much as anything."
Perhaps there's more than one celebration in store for Pederson.
Former Stanford standout Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, March 23, through Sunday, March 29.
Lopez led the Nets to a 3-1 week behind a conference-best 28.8 points, 8.5 rebounds (10th in the conference) and 2.25 blocks (tied-third in the conference).
Lopez shot 57.8 percent from the field overall and converted better than 60.0 percent twice. He recorded two point-rebound double-doubles, including a 34-point, 10-rebound effort during which he also contributed three blocks and two steals in a 91-88 win over the Charlotte Hornets on March 25.
Meanwhile, Palo Alto High grad Jeremy Lin of the Los Angeles Lakers is currently sidelined by an upper respiratory infection.
Atherton's Catherine Bellis, who earned a wild card into the Miami Open, ran up against top-seeded Serena Williams on Sunday and dropped a 6-1, 6-1 decision in the third round.
Bellis reportedly visited Stanford recently and has expressed interest in playing for the Cardinal. The home-schooled 15-year old currently is not accepting prize money while playing on the WTA Tour.
In Allentown, Pa., Menlo School grad Laura Gradiska won in singles and doubles but her Gettysburg College team still dropped a 6-3 decision to host Muhlenberg College on Saturday.
Gettysburg (2-3, 1-1 CC) took the second and third doubles matches with Gradiska, a sophomore, teaming with junior Lindsay Morris for an 8-4 win. Each of the six singles matches were decided in straight sets. Gradiska was the lone Gettysburg winner, improving to 6-1 this season with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Jennifer Goldberg at No. 2.
Palo Alto High grad Nicky Hu helped No. 33-ranked Harvard topple Buffalo, 6-1, and Amherst, 7-0, on Saturday in Cambridge, Mass.
Hu, a junior, posted a 6-4, 7-6 win over No. 3 singles against Buffalo. Hu is 15-6 in singles this season for Harvard (14-5). Sophomore Andrew Ball from Menlo School is 13-5.
Prep track and field
Gunn junior Maya Miklos tried a new event, the 800 meters, on Saturday at the Firebird Relays at Fremont High in Sunnyvale. Miklos made her debut a very successful one by setting a meet record with a winning and personal-best time of 2:17.58.
That time ranks among the top five in the Central Coast Section this season and No. 5 on Gunn's all-time list.
Miklos also took second in the 200 in 25.33, a personal best that also ranks among the top five CCS times as well as No. 3 on Gunn's all-time list.
Teammate Jessica Luo won the 300 hurdles in 49.21 with Andy Maltz finishing second in the boys' shot put at 45-7.