Monthly archives: March 2007
Kemp, Valdez On - Bigbie, Loney Off
In a surprising turn of events, one that could among other things have a real impact on Andre Ethier's role with the Dodgers, Matt Kemp's power surge over the final week of Spring Training put him on the Dodger Opening Day roster ahead of Larry Bigbie, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News. (Soon, of course, everyone will have the story, but Jackson has been quick to get things on his blog all spring long.)
This is head-spinning on many levels, especially when combined with the fact that James Loney is starting the season with Las Vegas.
The Dodgers' fourth outfielder was always going to get a little playing time to give Luis Gonzalez a rest in left field, but the choice of Kemp over the left-handed Loney or Larry Bigbie makes me think that Ethier will not get as many starts as he would have expected. One presumes the Dodgers aren't keeping Kemp on the roster just to have him play in the field once a week (no more likely to happen than Hong-Chih Kuo becoming a lefty middle reliever at this point), and that they chose Kemp over Loney because Loney was green in outfield, because Kemp has serious home-run power, or both. It all adds up to Kemp getting a long look in right field in April. The high-ceiling guy getting a chance against the guy who settled in earlier.
Newly acquired outfielder Brady Clark, therefore, ends up mainly as a second-choice right-handed pinch hitter behind Olmedo Saenz. Sure, the Dodgers could be doing straight platooning in the outfield - Clark and Kemp against lefties, Gonzalez and Ethier against righties, but I don't suspect it will be that cut and dry.
The Dodgers are clearly betting at this point that Bigbie, whose opt-out window ends tomorrow night, will choose to stick in the organization, unless they're so committed to Kemp that they finally see Bigbie as superfluous.
The Dodger outfield shapes up like this:
L: Gonzalez, Pierre, Ethier, Anderson
Rafael Furcal is starting the season on the disabled list but will be eligible to play Saturday. For the short-term, the Dodgers chose Wilson Valdez over Tony Abreu, surely thinking that it will be much easier for Valdez to clear waivers after the season begins. Ramon Martinez will probably start Opening Day to save Valdez the jitters, and then switch places with Valdez for the second game.
Here's the infield and catchers:
L: Anderson (Yes, I know I'm counting him twice)
Rudy Seanez made the team in the bullpen - I think he will end up disappointing, given his age, inconstency and tendency to get hurt. But I guess there's no harm in trying him out.
The pitching staff for Opening Week:
Starters: Schmidt, Penny, Lowe, Wolf
So here we are, after weeks of speculation, with Loney hammering the ball and not making the team. There's a lot of different thoughts running through my head, but the one I can't escape is this.
There is currently one spot in the lineup for Ethier, Kemp, Bigbie and Loney to fight over, and fight they will. Ethier will probably start at first, but he's going to have to hit to keep playing. But I actually think Gonzalez has to watch his back, too. The promotion of Kemp makes me think that neither Ned Colletti nor Grady Little think they can keep the big kids down for much longer. I think we're looking at a best-man-win situation in left field as well as right by summertime.
Or, there's a trade looming...
Update: From The Associated Press:
Manager Grady Little acknowledged that Loney didn't take the news of his demotion well.
"This kid had a great spring for us and he played well for us last season," Little said. "In most cases, when you option a guy down to Triple-A, you have some things you want him to work on and get better at. In his case, we're going to be looking for the opportunity to get him back up here."
Update 2: Sunday night, Tony Jackson wrote that "Ned and Grady made it clear that Kemp is going to be on the bench, which is why I'm fairly sure he'll go back to the minors as soon as Furcal comes back."
This is completely perplexing. It's one thing to keep Valdez on the team while Furcal is out - it's another thing entirely to give Rafael Furcal two backups at shortstop when he returns. And if Kemp weren't going to start any games, why keep him as a pinch-hitter when you just acquired Clark. I honestly can't believe this is for real. Given the pace with which news changes with the Dodgers, I'm going to try to have faith that it isn't.
Exhibition Finale Open Chat
Dodgers at Angels, 6:05 p.m.
For those of you who were worried this would conflict with the UCLA game, don't fret. The women's water polo team's battle with Loyola Marymount was at 1 p.m.
I, Not Robot
I'm a little worried.
Despite any number of sentimental words that I write, there are people who think I'm just a robot - a smug robot, in fact - who draws broad conclusions from baseball statistics and nothing else. This morning, Bill Shaikin of the Times quoted me in his article on evaluating leadoff hitters, in a way that might only perpetuate that perception.
I stand by the quote, which came from this November 20 piece reacting to the signing of Juan Pierre, and I understand it was a very small part of a very long article, but it presents a reason for me to make some other opinions clear.
Here, in truth, are the things I believe - all of which I have said in the past.
Time and time again, I have seen fans of ballplayers with "intangibles" abandon support for those players when they stop producing.
(Just in passing: The chart accompanying Shaikin's article compares Pierre favorably against Hall of Famer Lou Brock, but fails to adjust for the lower-offense era of the 1960s that would tilt the scales back in Brock's favor.)
I am not at war with Juan Pierre. I am not at war with anyone in the baseball world. I love the game of baseball, and as a fan of the Dodgers, the only thing that matters to me is whether they win or not. And if Juan Pierre is the one who leads them to victory, I will be happy.
I happen to think that Dodger general manager Ned Colletti has overvalued Pierre's ability, but I accept that other people feel differently.
When I started this blog, I had a point of view about the Dodgers that I thought was under-served, that I wanted to voice. I felt like I had worthwhile things to say. But I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me. I just wanted the point of view out there for consideration.
A reader recently suggested that I post some Frequently Asked Questions repsonses on the Dodger Thoughts sidebar, and it might be good advice. The values debate in baseball tends to go in circles, and that leads to frustration, and then anger. And nobody wants that.
In any case, as time has passed, there are some who have come to believe that all this blog stands for is an attack on the human elements of baseball. And I would just like to plead to those people that that is simply not true.
I'm looking forward to Opening Day, man. Opening Day! Just about the best day of the year. Let's talk about that.
Dodger Thoughts readers know how concerned I am with how player injuries are treated - under cover of SI.com, I got to explore the issue:
When he jogs onto the field, the ballpark comes to a hush. His performance can make or break a season.
You'll Never Watch Alone
When you walk through a storm,
Perhaps a little insecure about baseball's fading prestige among major sports, the Dodgers have apparently guaranteed that their games will be on at least 25 television sets in Southern California.
I tease ... you read.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have established a network of 25 local bars and restaurants where fans can gather to watch Dodger games all season long. To kick off the Home Base Network, five of the locations will host viewing parties with special Dodger guests when the team opens the 2007 season in Milwaukee April 2 at 11:05 a.m. PT.
"With so many Dodger fans getting excited about Opening Day, there is no better way to kick off the season than to create gathering spots across the city of Los Angeles," said Dodger Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office Marty Greenspun. "We're excited to be able to partner with so many local restaurants and bars in taking Dodger Baseball out into the community."
Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood, Yankee Doodles in Santa Monica, Yankee Doodles in Woodland Hills, Hooters in Burbank and Hooters in Pasadena are inviting fans out to watch the season opener with the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with several former Dodgers as well. Here is a complete listing of the Opening Day festivities:
Barney's Beanery, West Hollywood -- Jamie and Frank McCourt, Tommy Lasorda
Yankee Doodles, Santa Monica -- Kenny Landreaux, Wes Parker
Yankee Doodles, Woodland Hills -- Ron Cey
Hooters, Burbank -- Steve Garvey
Hooters, Pasadena -- Fernando Valenzuela
Representatives from the Los Angeles Dodgers will be on hand at each location to give away tickets and other promotional items.
For the uninitiated, the difference between Barney's Beanery and Hooters is, like, zilch. Really. Update: No, not really.
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Tonight, powered by the Freeway Series opener and five reruns of The Office plus Andy Barker P.I., I will attempt my long-overdue update of the sidebar. This includes the blogroll: If there are any blogs you think belong, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
Blogs must have been in operation for at least 30 days to qualify. Offer not valid in Vanuatu.
Dodgertown, Multimedia Style
By Eric Neel of ESPN.com.
Previously on Dodger Thoughts: "Dodgertown, 1993"
Looking Back on 2007 (Fill in the Blanks)
The Dodgers' xx-xx record in 2007 rested mostly on the shoulders of ... ________________.
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Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Looking Back on 2006 (Fill in the Blanks)
(Note: last year, this was done a month earlier, in February.)
I am trying to be optimistic with the Dodgers in my pre-season predictions.
Robert Roderick, 89
Kevin Roderick, who in my opinion owns blogging in Los Angeles, will be taking some time to mourn his father, Robert.
Robert Roderick lived to 89 and will be missed by many, among them the ethnic restaurateurs he helped keep in business around the San Fernando Valley. Those selected bloggers, columnists and political aides who would find his unsolicited email tips in their in-boxes are on their own now.
Kevin, please know you have my most sincere condolences.
The Ultimate Spring Training Job-Winner
It was about 20 years ago today that The Most Obscure but Memorable Dodger, The Second Mike Ramsey, for a brief moment in the sun, became the Dodgers' starting center fielder.After spending most of 1986 in AA with a cup of coffee in AAA, Ramsey hit .310 in Spring Training 1987, and the Dodgers, who had alternated Reggie Williams, Ken Landreaux, Jose Gonzalez and yes, for 23 games, Franklin Stubbs in center field in 1986, gave Ramsey the job.
When the regular season began, he stroked 10 hits in his first 28 at-bats. Then it started to come apart. He tried to hang in there with a batting average in the low .200s, but by late May, the Dodgers gave up and traded for John Shelby.On May 22, the Dodgers acquired struggling, 29-year-old centerfielder named John Shelby (along with Brad Havens) from Baltimore in exchange for Tom Niedenfuer. Shelby went on to hit a career-high 22 home runs that season, and the sun set on Mike Ramsey's Dodger life. But not my memories of him.
Update: Early nominee for quote of the year: Andy What's His Name. From Steve Henson in the Times:
Upon further contemplation, Andy LaRoche wants to close the gap between the lower case 'a' and upper case 'R' in his surname. In other words, clubhouse manager can discard the jersey that reads La Roche.
LaRoche requested that his name be spelled with the space about a month ago, a departure from the way his brother Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Adam and father former big league pitcher Dave spelled it.
"I ought to go with it the way everybody else does," Andy said. "I'm not sure what I was thinking."
Last year's early nominee was, poignantly, Joel Guzman:
As reported by Jerry Crowe in the Times ... Joel Guzman, on his move to left field:
Dessens Traded for Brewers OF Clark
The Dodgers dipped into their bullpen surplus for something a bit more useful, trading Elmer Dessens today for Milwaukee outfielder Brady Clark and cash considerations.
The right-handed Clark will be 34 on April 18 and the question is whether he has any bounce left in him to recover from the noticeable downturn he took in 2006. After posting EQAs of .275 in 2004 and 2005, Clark tumbled to .247 last season.
Clark would stand to take Jason Repko's spot on the roster, thus renewing the competition between Larry Bigbie and James Loney for the final spot. Though the Dodgers were light on righty outfielders, there is the risk that Clark, like Dessens, will just take up space without being as productive as one of the guys he replaces on the team.
Trivial note: Clark had as many caught stealings as home runs in 2006 (four) and 2005 (13). He has been hit by 32 pitches in the past two seasons combined.
I didn't quite make it out of the morning without posting again, did I?
Update: Here's the case for Clark. Career platoon splits (OPS, not adjusted):
Clark vs. RHP: .742
Clark vs. LHP: .758
However, Loney could well be better than both of them.
Clark in 2006 vs. RHP: .669
Clark will cost the Dodgers $3.8 million minus the cash they receive for the Brewers.
Update 2: Andrew Grant has finished his National League West predictions at True Blue L.A. He gives the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres "nearly equal shots at taking the division" but leans slightly Arizona-way.
Grant also notes in the comments below that Clark "was horribly unlucky on balls in play last year; if he hit his natural BABIP, he would have hit .299/.374/.371."
Update 3: Tony Jackson reports that the Dodgers will get $2.1 million from the Brewers, evening out the difference between Clark's salary and Dessens' (keep in mind that Dessens' salary was all wrapped up in the Odalis Perez trade).
After getting caught up in the micro-analyzation of the roster against my better judgment, knowing full well how the makeup of the roster fluctuates, I'm going to let this morning breathe.
In the meantime, did you remember to buy your Dodger Thoughts T-shirt?
(And by the way, Geoff Young of Padres blog Ducksnorts has a new book on sale - if you keep up on the team down south, check it out.
Tomko Awarded Rotation Spot
Dodger manager Grady Little placed Brett Tomko in the starting rotation, multiple sources reported this afternoon.
Could the Dodgers Opt Out on Hendrickson?
It seems counter to the philosophy of Dodger general manager Ned Colletti, but Tony Jackson writes at his Daily News blog that it wouldn't be out of the question for the Dodgers to release Mark Hendrickson this week:
Keep in mind that players on one-year contracts can be released by Wednesday with teams only on the hook for one-quarter of their salaries. It's not likely this would happen, but lefty Mark Hendrickson hasn't had a great spring, doesn't want to pitch out of the pen and has a $2.925 million salary. He still might be the fifth starter. But if he isn't, the Dodgers conceivably could release him and own him just $731,250.
I wasn't even aware of this rule: I would have thought Hendrickson's salary was guaranteed.
Also on Jackson's blog: Kuo is now saying he did tell the Dodgers about his shoulder discomfort after the rainout of the Boston game. Jackson adds that "Grady declined to discuss the Kuo matter, saying trainer Stan Conte will address the media tomorrow about all the injuries. I still believe Grady's original story over Kuo's current one."
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Update: The beat writers are saying that Little has put Tomko in the starting rotation.
Five days until Dodger Stadium is open for business.
Drunks and Disorderlies
No matter how great you were in the past ...
I'm a forgiving person, which is why I don't boo anyone. But you want to know something? I'd actually rather have someone fail on the baseball field than fail to realize they are putting other people's lives in jeopardy. Maybe you have to get slammed at a traffic light by a drunken fool going 80 miles per hour on a city street to feel that way, but it's the truth.
If baseball fans think what Joe Beimel did last October is worse than what Tony La Russa did in March, baseball fans are dead wrong.
So you know what? You want to support La Russa? Fine. You want to forgive him? Fine. But make him work a little for it, man. Make him earn it.
A standing ovation??? You don't have to hang the guy if you don't want to, but a standing ovation???
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Update: Ex-Dodger Edwin Jackson actually has been in contention to be in the 2007 Tampa Bay starting rotation, writes Marc Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune, battling lefthander J.P. Howell.
They sport identical 1.80 ERAs, each having allowed two runs in 10 innings of work. Jackson was thought by many to have at least a slight lead, but that was called into question when he walked five Detroit batters in three innings his last time out.
Maddon resisted placing too much emphasis on the pitchers' performance in the next two games - both to keep the pressure off the contenders and ensure he and his staff don't read too much into any one outing.
"When you go through a spring training like this, where there are so many competitive situations going on, it's so easy to flip-flop, it really is, based on the day and which way the wind's blowing," said Maddon. "I'm really trying to not do that.
"For me, I would really prefer just seeing it all the way through, and then you make up your mind. As you continue to talk I think you come to the right conclusion, so we're talking all the time about this stuff."
In other words, the ultimate decision will come down to body of work rather than who's hot at the end of spring training.
"I'd rather it be that way," Maddon said, "and I think that's when you make the better decision."
Jackson, 23, had a 5.45 ERA in 22 relief appearances and one start with Tampa Bay last season, striking out 27 batters in 36 1/3 innings against 25 walks and two home runs. His statistics at AAA Durham in 2006 were similar over 73 innings, but with better control.
Howell, 23, had a 5.10 ERA in eight starts with Tampa Bay last season, striking out 33 batters in 42 1/3 innings against 14 walks and four home runs. His performance was also similar at AAA, though he had a 2.62 ERA in 10 AA starts.
Meanwhile, Hee Seop Choi failed to make the Devil Ray roster, which could signal his farewell to the U.S. baseball world. The Hee is dead, long live the Hee.
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Matt Kemp has ditched his new colored contact lenses after hitting .209 in Spring Training (.533 OPS), writes Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise.
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Statistical guru and friend of Dodger Thoughts Tangotiger is gathering individual statistical predictions from fans for the coming year in order to form a consensus:
I've seen the results of six forecasting systems this year. (I'm sure some of you have seen more than that.) And all were based on some algorithm with little leeway for human interaction. Why is that? Because we can't trust any single person's opinion. But, what if we can get a consensus, a Wisdom of Crowds? Who knows more about whether Papelbon will be a starter or reliever this year: an algorithm or a Redsox fan? Who knows more about the number of games a 2006-injured Hideki Matsui will play in 2007: an algorithm or a Yankees fan? There are certain human observation elements that are critical for forecasting. That's where you can come in, and why you are here.
Go to the page of your favorite team, and put in the OPS (OBP+SLG) and ERA you expect from as many players as you feel comfortable. As well, if you can, note the number of games for the non-pitchers and the role for the pitchers. The players listed are on the 40-man roster.
Once the season starts, I'll report the Crowds' expectation, as well as those from the professional forecasting systems. Let's see who has more insight.
The Dodger page can be found here.
Update 2: The Culture of Silence claims another victim. From Tony Jackson's blog:
Dodgers lefty Hong-Chih Kuo has found himself in Grady Little's dog house -- and probably off Grady Little's team, at least to start the season -- by failing to tell Little or anyone else that his shoulder was bothering him after that rain-shortened disaster against the Bosox last Friday. Instead, apparently due to not wanting to lose his place in the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation, Kuo kept his mouth shut and went out and pitched another game two nights ago against the New York Mets, when he walked four batters and threw four wild pitches in three innings. It was after that game that Kuo finally told the training staff that his shoulder was bothering. Asked if this takes Kuo out of the running for the fifth spot, Little said, "We don't have a time frame on (his return) yet. But the days are getting a little bit short to think he fits into that right now."
Update 3: Steve Henson in the Times writes that Kuo's MRI revealed shoulder inflammation and that he probably be shelved for the remainder of Spring Training.
Henson also reports that Tony Abreu will be in the lineup at shortstop Saturday:
Abreu is considered a better all-around player than any of the other players who could fill in at shortstop: veteran utility infielder Ramon Martinez, journeyman Wilson Valdez and prospect Chin-Lung Hu.
Hu is projected as the triple-A shortstop, with Abreu playing second base. But scouts say Abreu will one day be an everyday major league player while Hu must prove he can hit consistently.
"We like everything Abreu has done this spring, on and off the field," Little said. ...
The swelling on Furcal's left ankle had subsided significantly by Friday morning. He will have an MRI in the next day or so to determine whether there is any ligament damage.
Furcal Injured - Repko Too - And Kuo!
Arguably the team MVP, with no legitimate backup in the organization outside of a major position shift, Rafael Furcal now has Dodger fans holding their breath.
One batter into the game, Baltimore's Corey Patterson hit a high pop to shallow center. Furcal went out, Repko came in. Repko made a diving catch, and Furcal jumped over him to avoid a collision. It was when Furcal came down from that short jump that he landed on his left ankle and remained on the ground for several minutes before trainer Stan Conte finally drove him off the field on a cart, with assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk holding Furcal's ankle motionless in the flat bed of the cart. This looks bad right now. Really bad. More when I know more.
- Tony Jackson of the Daily News
Updates: Thoughts and news as they come ...
1) This is like the softball game on Seinfeld with Jason Repko in the part of George and Wilson Valdez in the part of Bette Midler's understudy.
2) Roch Kubatko of the Baltimore Sun - I assume tongue-in-cheek:
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal had to be carted off the field after colliding with center fielder Jason Repko while running down Corey Patterson's pop up. It doesn't look good.
So let's start those Miguel Tejada for Brett Tomko rumors.
3) Ken Gurnick's description at MLB.com:
Furcal was racing into shallow center field and Repko was charging for Corey Patterson's blooper when Repko slid and appeared to pin Furcal's left foot on the ground as they made contact. Furcal grabbed his left leg and rolled in pain until teammates and trainers attended to him.
4) Tony Jackson update:
The preliminary diagnosis on Furcal is a left ankle sprain, but he has been taken to a local hospital for X-rays, so we probably won't know anything definitive for a couple of hours. Stay tuned. Orioles lead 2-0 after 2, Tomko gave up a home run to Nick Markakis and an RBI double to Brandon Fahey. Doesn't ANYBODY want this fifth starter spot?
5) Jason Repko, just returned to the lineup, had to leave the game. Steve Henson of the Times reports that Repko "left the game after injuring his left hand diving for a ground-rule double by Ramon Hernandez." Others are saying groin or hamstring.
6) Note this at the bottom of Henson's story: "Tony Abreu, who should be the second baseman at triple-A Las Vegas, has made a quick recovery from a bruised left shoulder and is ready to play."
7) Diamond Leung at the Press-Enterprise:
Jason Repko, who was involved in the play with Furcal, has now left the game after diving for a ball on the warning track. He suffered what looked like a gash on his left forearm. ...
UPDATE: Repko has more than just a gash. Even worse for him, he pulled his left hamstring and was on crutches afterward. He will have an MRI on it tomorrow.
8) Meanwhile, Brett Tomko has gotten hammered: six runs in four innings. Joe Mays is trying to pull a George Mason, starting with a shutout fifth inning.
9) Mays gives up two in the sixth - so much for that.
10) As of 12 noon today on the West Coast, the Dodgers have been outscored 41-3 this week.
11) Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn home from 1947 to 1950, at 5224 Tilden Avenue, has been recommended for landmark status by the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, writes Helen Klein of Courier-Life Publications.
12) On KFWB, A Martinez said the Dodgers expect Furcal back within a week, but are proceeding on the notion that Repko will be out past Opening Day. If that were true, crisis averted - in fact, maybe the roster would include both Larry Bigbie and James Loney.
13) Jackson interpreted the postgame chit-chat more pessimistically:
It doesn't appear Rafael Furcal (moderate left ankle sprain) or Jason Repko (high left hamstring strain) will be ready for opening day, although trainer Stan Conte stopped short of saying that when it came to Furcal. "It will be longer than a week," Conte said. "Right now, this is 100-percent medical. With respect to figuring out when he'll be able to play, that is kind of the least of our concerns at this point." The Dodgers break camp in a week. Do the math, and it doesn't look good for Furcal leading off at Milwaukee on April 2. As for Repko, Conte said, "It will probably be measured in weeks."
Henson updated that Furcal "was taken to a hospital for X-rays, which showed no break or ligament damage. He will be re-evaluated in a day or two after the swelling has subsided."
After speaking with trainer Stan Conte, the news is not particularly good for Repko, who has a high hamstring strain that is expected to keep him out for weeks. He'll open the season on the DL and give way to either James Loney or Larry Bigbie.
Furcal, meanwhile, has a moderate ankle sprain that Conte said will still keep him out for at least a week. If he can't make it for opening day, Wilson Valdez is probably the odd man in.
14) The Associated Press (Thanks, new or newish commenter Don Tordilla)
"I was relieved with the results. I had a similar injury in 2002 with the Braves in spring training," Furcal said. "I may be out four or five days. I could play if it's 80 percent. You don't always play at 100 percent -- sometimes you play hurt."
As long as you don't aggravate it, Rafael.
Repko: "I was on a dead sprint. My right foot planted in the grass and left foot hit the soft dirt," he said. "I didn't really dive, it just gave out."
15) Fun interview with Boston pitcher/blogger Curt Schilling from Alex Belth at SI.com.
16) Oh, for crying out loud ...
Hong-Chih Kuo not only pitched Wednesday night like he's hurt, he is hurt.
Kuo said he had "a little soreness in the back of the shoulder" and was scheduled to have an examination that would likely include an MRI.
"I just wasn't comfortable," Kuo said about his time on the mound Wednesday night, when he took over for scheduled starter Brad Penny, who reported stiffness in the front of his throwing shoulder.
Kuo said he also didn't feel right in his previous start five days earlier against Boston, when he allowed three home runs in a game that was rained out after 2 1/3 innings. ... He did not participate in Thursday morning stretching and did not play catch with the other pitchers, instead spending the pregame taking treatment.
17) It's not just the Dodgers. Chone Figgins of the Angels fractured a finger.
Hardball Times Dodger Preview
What's in store for the Dodgers in 2007? It's a question that leads to more questions in this piece I wrote for the The Hardball Times:
Thrill of victory? Agony of defeat? The Los Angeles Dodgers had it all in the wide, wide world of 2006. They produced this decade's nominee for Game of the Century with September's 4+1 game: four consecutive solo home runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie San Diego, followed by a two-run shot in the 10th to win. And they quickly turned around to offer the year's Vinko Bogataj, when Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew were tagged out at home on the same play in the National League Division Series.* * *
Vote for Dodger Thoughts - or one of your other favorites.
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Vote From the Convenience of Your Own Home
I'm just hearing about this myself, but you can vote at SI.com/dodgersvote for your favorite Dodger blog among these four choices: Dodger Thoughts, Dodger Dugout, Sons of Steve Garvey and True Blue L.A..
Other Baseball Toaster sites are nominated at SI.com/rockiesvote, SI.com/cubsvote, SI.com/athleticsvote and SI.com/yankeesvote. Many other friends of Dodger Thoughts are also nominated, most notably Rob McMillin's 6-4-2 at SI.com/angelsvote.
(The ballot comes in a pop-up window, so you may need to make your browser allow pop-ups in this instance.)
Penny Rests; Kuo Starts
Tony Jackson says not to panic, so I'll just grit my teeth and console myself that precautions were taken:
Brad Penny won't start against the Mets tonight because of irritation in the front of his right shoulder, but he underwent an MRI on Monday that showed no structural damage. Penny said if it were a regular season game, he would start. But manager Grady Little doesn't want to take any chances with this being spring training. It also isn't expected to set Penny back at all in his preparations for the season. Little said he should be ready to go seven or eight innings in his first start, which is expected to come on April 6 at San Francisco. So, no reason to panic for now.
Eight innings in his first start? Talk about optimistic ...
Hong-Chih Kuo is now dressed to impress.
Dodger Stadium Parking Plan Unveiled
Details are at Dodgers.com/parking. On first glance the most noteworthy part of the plan is that it requires you to enter and exit from the gate closest to your parking spot (season parking passes excepted). This may seem intuitive, but it is true that many cars tend to drive around the stadium before they find their parking space. Though it takes some effort, you can reach every freeway from any of the four gates: Golden State, Academy, Downtown and Sunset. (Here's how.)
By far my biggest frustration was being forced by revised traffic patterns over the past two seasons to exit the stadium from the Sunset gate when the Downtown gate was closer to where I parked. It was as if stadium personnel never met a barricade they didn't like. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction.
In my memory, the Dodgers have never staffed the parking lots during exit time. Their intention to do so this year could help. (Or, it could just be a nuisance.)
I'm also curious about the fact that "new pedestrian walkways have been designated for the safety of fans as they traverse the parking lots and enter the Stadium." Increased pedestrian safety is obviously worthwhile, but I wonder if it will be the thing that undermines the attempt to mitigate the traffic.
Unfortunately, the cost of parking has been increased to $15. That will encourage more people to park outside the stadium and walk. However, every time I post something about parking, someone writes in the comments below how they don't care about this because they don't park in the stadium. That's all fine and dandy, but thousands of cars do park in the stadium, so let's just assume for the sake of argument that the parking changes do matter to some people.
Oh, and the Dodgers picked up manager Grady Little's 2008 option and added a 2009 option to his contract. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes that Little's "annual salary has been estimated at $600,000, which would be in the bottom third of all managers."
Update: Steve Henson in the Times:
About 20,000 cars park at the stadium for most games, so the 50% price increase works out to $100,000 a game in additional revenue, or $8.2 million for the season. About 15% of that will go toward paying about 100 additional parking attendants double the current number who will direct fans into specific parking spaces. ...
The Dodgers have increased their player payroll this season from about $99 million to $114 million. Much of that hike will be recouped when cars stream into the lot.
In case you were wondering, though, you can't release a Dodger outfielder to knock the parking prices back down.
Bigbie: Just Another Guy With an Opt-Out Clause
I'm not saying his situation is the same as J.D. Drew's okay? I'm not. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not.
But when the Dodgers signed Larry Bigbie this offseason, they gave him an opt-out clause. That's right. Cue devilish music: an opt-out clause. At the end of this month, Bigbie can choose to stay in the organization, or if he thinks he can find a better situation elsewhere, he can tell the Dodgers to let him go.
It was not in the Dodgers' best interests to offer Bigbie the opt-out in and of itself. They had nothing to gain from offering it except Larry Bigbie. It was part of the overall negotiation, not a sign of weakness. A dispassionate part of do-ing business.
As Spring Training enters its final dozen days, no one expects Bigbie to do anything except what's best for himself. No one will mind if Bigbie does what's best for himself. Bigbie is an underdog, fighting to keep his career alive. He has earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million in salary before his 30th birthday - $900,000 as recently as last season with St. Louis - but that's a pittance in major-league baseball. If he decides to leave the Dodgers, like everyone else, I would wish him nothing but the best as he pursues a dream that can be snatched away at any moment.
Now, Bigbie could decide not to use the opt-out. One doesn't have to look hard at the health-challenged Dodgers to know that the last man cut from Spring Training, whether it's Bigbie or James Loney, still stands to see plenty of action at the major-league level. The end of the month could come, and Bigbie could decide to stick it out.
But certainly, no one expects him to. No one will hold a grudge if Bigbie, a man who is poor only by the standards of professional big-sport athletes, CEOs and Hollywood stars, leaves to try to grab a better job. Even if Bigbie stays with the Dodgers, one assumes that it will be because he believes he will ultimately have a good situation for himself personally. He is not going to sacrifice his livelihood on behalf of a team he has spent only a fraction of his career with, a team that would cut him if his performance weren't up to snuff.
Baseball players act out of self-interest. When Randy Wolf took less money to sign with the Dodgers, he did it out of the self-interest of wanting to be in the city he grew up in, close to his family. In the process, he turned his back on the Philadelphia Phillies team that took care of him while he underwent and recovered from Tommy John surgery. And that's fine. It's nice to be able to write about someone valuing something besides money, but the alternatives are all different shades of self-interest.
If you multiplied Bigbie's 2007 salary by 10, either with the Dodgers or some other team, if you emphatically gave him all the money he would ever need for the rest of his life, he would still probably make the same decision at the end of this month if the Dodgers tried to send him to the minor leagues that he stands to make in this reality.
The conventional wisdom, the one that had Dodger manager Grady Little hinting to the team's beat writers Monday that Loney might start the season with the team after all, is that no one can expect Bigbie to accept a minor-league assignment. The fact is, Bigbie could look at Loney, who has seniority on him with the team and whom many believe would deserve a spot on the roster if Bigbie didn't have the opt-out, and agree that Loney should have dibs. Or Bigbie could believe that even if he (Bigbie) goes to Las Vegas, he won't be there very long. As a Dodger fan, that's exactly what I'd like to see happen. I'd like the player who deserves the job to get the job, without consequences.
But whatever Bigbie decides, it doesn't change the fact baseball players look out for themselves. They have to, because no one else will. And I don't believe they should be taken to the woodshed for doing so.
Update: Tom Verducci of SI.com has predicted, somewhat cautiously, a Freeway World Series in 2007:
The Angels are loaded with everyday talent in the sweet spot of their careers, from ages 23 through 32. Once Juan Rivera recovers from his broken leg to return Garret Anderson to DH duty, the Angels will not put a player on the field older than shortstop Orlando Cabrera and center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., both of whom are 32. Howie Kendrick, 23, is a multiple-time batting champion ready to break loose. Vladimir Guerrero, 31, is an MVP player in his prime. And Los Angeles is loaded with young players in reserve to plug any holes, including Erik Aybar, 23, and Brandon Wood, 21.
The Angels are fortified with a large enough inventory of pitching to allow starters Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver to slowly work themselves back into shape. The bullpen, led by the nearly unhittable Rodriguez, is among the game's most reliable.
The Dodgers may be pushing their luck with Nomar Garciaparra, 33, Jeff Kent, 39, and Luis Gonzalez, 39, in the same lineup, but I'm betting those players will need to be replaced for health reasons at various times during the season and Los Angeles will be the better for it. It won't be a bad situation to get more at-bats for Matt Kemp, 22, James Loney, 22, and Andy LaRoche, 23. The Dodgers, too, have pitching depth to withstand the usual attrition that forces every team to fill about 25-30 starts beyond their original starting five.
Will I be right? Who knows any more? Last year I had the White Sox and the Cardinals in the World Series. If you're looking for sleeper teams, the Indians and Diamondbacks could get there if their young players pop at the same time. The Tigers might be even better than they were last year, though I worry about fatigue hitting their pitchers, coming off a seven-month season, just as it seemed to hit the 2006 White Sox. The Mets, like St. Louis in recent years, are dangerous because they put three or four MVP-quality players in the lineup every day, mitigating the shortcomings on the rest of the roster.
Fact is, it's never been harder to pick the teams to beat and, as the Yankees should understand by now, never harder for the best team to win.
The Dodger Thoughts T-Shirt Store - Grand Opening
I am pleased to announced that you can now purchase a Dodger Thoughts T-shirt.
Unlike The Best of Dodger Thoughts, there's no big sales pitch coming. If you like the designs, just feel free to head over to The Dodger Thoughts T-Shirt Store. You can get a white shirt with blue design or blue shirt with white design in men's, ladies or youth, short-sleeve, 100-percent cotton. There is also a long-sleeve version of the white shirt.
The main design is on the front; the site URL is on the back. You can click on the images to see them in larger size.
Deadline to order is April 17, 2007. No refunds or exchanges. This is a limited run, though if demand arises later in the season, we might stage a second run. Delivery should come in approximately mid-May.
There are many people I have to thank for making this shirt possible, all of whom volunteered their time and energy without compensation. I was a pretty tough person to design for because of how particular I was about what I wanted - while being inarticulate at describing it. I am very grateful to everyone who participated or counseled me at any stage of the process.
Speaking of the design - it's final. I don't know how many people will like it, but just know that I'm not looking for constructive criticism at this point. If you have a better idea, you're welcome to save it for the next shirt. :)
Otherwise, enjoy ...
Quick summary of how to purchase:
1) Follow the above link.
I'll try to answer any questions as they come. This is a nonprofit endeavor, so thanks in advance for your understanding.
Highlights from the Dodgers' 2007 ad campaign:
The first of the 30-second spots, called "Foam Finger," captures a Dodger fanatic on game day with a foam finger on his hand going through his daily routines including: turning off the alarm clock, putting in a contact lens and shaving using the foam finger. "Miracle Toast" depicts a husband reverently focused on his piece of toast that carries a likeness of Jeff Kent. His wife stands unconvinced as the Kent image winks at her husband. The last ad "Nomar Van" uses a black-tie event as the backdrop. A van with a huge Nomar Garciaparra mural painted on it pulls up to the elegant setting as the parking valet stands mesmerized by his hero.
The first two strike me as mildly amusing (at least until the wink comes - I would have preferred my miracle toast dry), and maybe the third one is elegiac for all I know, though I'm still not convinced that fanatacism is the way to sell the team. The Dodgers (or their broadcasters) often go this route with their ads, and I'm still not sure why.
Not that I have any market research to stand on, but other people's passion for something I'm not passionate about doesn't move me. You could come up with a really clever commercial about an opera fanatic, but I'm still not rushing to the Operadome.
My instinct remains to show people who aren't going to the games what they're missing. People avoid baseball games because they think they're boring and/or not worth the effort or investment. Show them that they are.
The Dodgers 2007 ad campaign wrote itself on September 18, 2006. And if you need more ads, there were plenty of other great moments to choose from. The Dodgers play an exciting game. They don't need to overthink this.
Update: In the comments below, Daniel Zappala has the simple yet perfect button for the campaign:
Showing highlights of the games people may have missed is a great way to get them there. If I saw the 4+1 highlights, I would kick myself every time and vow to buy tickets for more games. If I had seen the game, it would solidify my resolve to keep going.
Slogan for the campaign: "Dodger baseball. Don't miss out."
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Steve Henson of the Times sees signs tonight that Brett Tomko will start the season as the No. 5 starter and that Jason Repko will be healthy enough to be on the active roster when the team vacates Vero Beach.
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Site that fantasy baseball players (not miracle toast kind of fantasies, but the more conventional kind) might want to check out: Rotohog.
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Update 2: From the Monday morning press notes: "The Dodgers reassigned IF Tony Abreu, OF Choo Freeman, P Jonathan Meloan and P Matt White. The following players were optioned: P D.J. Houlton, P Eric Stults and OF Delwyn Young."
Abreu had a great spring, and hopes are he will pick up where he left off when he recovers from the bone bruise in his shoulder. Meloan, Houlton and White also did well - I'm pulling for Houlton to reestablish himself as a valuable major leaguer.
Ken Gurnick and MLB.com have a couple of news updates worth reading:
First, Tony Abreu injured his shoulder, perhaps severely, putting a damper on a day that Wilson Betemit doubled right-handed.
Abreu remained prone and in pain for several minutes, then was carted off the field. He had his arm placed in a sling and was taken to a local hospital for X-rays to determine if the injury was worse than a sprain.
Abreu said his shoulder jammed when he hit the ground with arms fully extended in front of him. He was in noticeable pain on the field and said it was even worse as he was dressing to leave for the hospital. He said he had no history of shoulder injuries.
The 22-year-old Abreu, the No. 5-ranked prospect in the organization according to Baseball America, was having one of the most impressive camps on the club. He had just singled in the bottom of the seventh inning, raising his Spring Training batting average to .394. His 10 RBIs are tied for the club lead. He played last year at Double-A Jacksonville.
Second, Frank McCourt gave Arizona and Chavez Ravine facilities updates.
McCourt said the ongoing renovation this offseason included infrastructure work in preparation for next offseason's expansion of the concourses and an overhaul of traffic flow into and out of the Dodger Stadium parking lot that will go into effect this year.
He said the number of lot attendants will be doubled and the traffic patterns that have existed relatively unchanged since the stadium opened 45 years ago will be changed, with new signs and lights and the renaming or renumbering of lots.
McCourt said parking was one of three major projects his new ownership undertook based on fan input. The other two are stadium seats, which have all been replaced, and long concession lines, which he said will be resolved next year with the expansion of the concourses and doubling of concession stands and restroom facilities.
The Birth of Flight
How the Dodgers conquered the sky is the subject of a pull-up-a-chair feature by Brent Shyer at Walteromalley.com. Here's an excerpt from early in the piece.
... That same year, the Dodgers decided to find a larger airplane and this time a DC-3 was selected. How they acquired that plane may be part legend or the truth, as Holman explains.
"They were looking for something that Branch Rickey could have a bed in," said Holman. "About that time, the airlines were beginning to get rid of their DC-3s and move up to a bigger airplane. Eastern (Air Lines) had 60 DC-3s. My Dad (who was Eastern's representative at Vero Beach) said, 'Let's not buy one. I think I can probably just win one in a crap game.' Down in Miami, he was with (Eastern President) Eddie Rickenbacker. A lot of stuff went on in Miami that I wasn't party to. The word was that they rolled the dice, double or nothing, for a DC-3 down there and my Dad won it. ...
Dodger DL Holding a Spot Open for Repko
To add to the speculation that the Dodgers might take March performances too seriously, today on his blog, Tony Jackson predicts that Jason Repko will open the season on the disabled list, thus opening a spot on the roster for ... Spring Training surprise Wilson Valdez.
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I have become convinced that Jason Repko will begin the season on the DL, even though his right groin gets better every day. Grady said last night that "it's going to be a while" before Jason returns. Well, camp breaks in less than two weeks. Jason still has to work his running program up to making "fast-twitch" movements, like sprinting from a dead stop to chase a fly ball. And -- this is the biggest thing -- Wilson Valdez continues to have an outstanding spring with the bat, and he is out of minor-league options. DL'ing Repko would buy the club time where Valdez is concerned and would allow Valdez to at least be on the club for the first couple of weeks of the season. Repko might need a minor-league rehab when he is ready to return, which would buy the club more time. But then, I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.
Meanwhile, over at MLB.com, Ken Gurnick has a companion article on Andy LaRoche, who no one doubts has a higher ceiling than Valdez but who, for the second consecutive spring, has not impressed.
I don't think LaRoche's 2006 performance warrants guaranteeing him a spot on the Opening Day roster, but the Valdez talk strikes me as the kind of mischief that leaves you with guys like Jason Romano taking up space. Be forewarned - I have never seen Valdez play. But I can't see how someone who will turn 29 in May without having ever broken .760 in OPS in his minor-league career can be a meaningful contributor.
Two weeks of Valdez won't kill anybody, but Larry Bigbie (among others) stepping for Repko would seem to make more sense.
Other quick hits for the morning:
Repko, who spent 10 weeks on the disabled list because of a severe sprained ankle last summer, hurt himself making a running catch in a split-squad game against the Florida Marlins last Saturday. He has resumed batting practice and is stretching but said he isn't ready to start running yet.
"I want to play, but I want to be healthy," he said. "So I'll do whatever [the trainers] tell me."
We'll go off the "obvious" board with this one, as Young heads back to Las Vegas to roam the outfield for a second season. Sure, Loney, Kemp and/or LaRoche could be the ones to put up Player of the Year numbers with a full season at Vegas, but any or all of them could and probably will spend significant time in the Majors. Young, on the other hand, puts up better than legit numbers every year, but there seems to be no spot for him in L.A. yet.
Update: Kuo struck out Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis in a 1-2-3 first inning.
Rafael Furcal had a leadoff double off Matsuzaka. Juan Pierre sacrificed Furcal to third base (maybe he was bunting for a hit?) and Marlon Anderson singled him home. After Olmedo Saenz singled, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin struck out.
Second inning: Kuo gives up home runs to Willy Mo Pena and Jason Varitek before retiring the side.
Third inning: Kuo, rather incredibly, issues a leadoff walk to Matsuzaka, then hits Ellsbury with a pitch. Kuo strikes out Youkilis a second time, but then Eric Hinske hits a three-run home run. And then, a rain brings the hook for Kuo - and the game. (Boxscore)
Update 2: Mark Hendrickson's basketball connection is fairly well known, but Baxter reports that AA Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker has one of his own, "leading Miami of Ohio to one of the most shocking upsets in tourney history in 1978."
Miami faced a double-digit deficit with less than four minutes to play when Shoemaker, relying partly on his acting ability, drew a flagrant foul from Marquette's Jerome Whitehead. That led to Whitehead's ejection, and when Marquette's bench protested, it was given a technical too.
"We got some momentum," said Shoemaker, a two-sport star who was inducted in Miami's Hall of Fame in 1991. "The fans got behind us."
Miami's 84-81 overtime victory over the country's third-ranked team only delayed the evitable, however, since Kentucky routed the Redskins, 91-69, in the second round en route to the national title.
Update 3: I know better than to microreport these things, but with the opportunity to do so, here's some more detail on Matsuzaka's at-bat vs. Kuo from The Associated Press:
He took the first two pitches from Hong-Chih Kuo for strikes. The third pitch was close to the plate and Matsuzaka started to walk away, but umpire Ed Hickox called it a ball. Matsuzaka did the same on the next three pitches and found himself on first base with a walk.
Ken Gurnick reports at MLB.com that the Dodgers told Kuo "he could pitch out of the stretch (which he did) if that felt more comfortable, after trying this spring to have him pitch out of a windup."
"He just got a couple of balls up to the wrong guys and they hit it pretty good," (Dodger manager Grady) Little said of the home runs by Eric Hinske, Jason Varitek and Wily Mo Pena. "He struggled with his command. From the first day, he hasn't had any difficulty. I think he was due."
Gurnick also quoted Little as saying that Greg Miller would be a starting pitcher in the minors when the season begins, not a reliever.
He has a gifted arm and he'll learn more by starting and pitching more innings," Little said of Miller, who became a reliever after his surgery to protect his shoulder. "We feel he's not that far away."
Prediction Time Is Upon Us
Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts previews the National League West with another of the world's greatest baseball writers, Joe Posnanski, at The Soul of Baseball:
Who do you think is the best everyday player in the division?
Rafael Furcal. Can that be? Wow, this division really is weak.
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Update: Did Mark Hendrickson just banish Hong-Chih Kuo to the minors?
I've been feeling pretty adamant that Kuo would start the season in the Dodger starting rotation once it expanded to five pitchers, but like it or not, Hendrickson might have made the job his own to lose with five innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals today. Or did he merely increase his trade value?
Of course, it would be just like the Cardinals, who have treated the Dodgers so roughly in recent times, to sabotage Los Angeles by encouraging the Dodgers to pick Hendrickson. Remember, I sugested Hendrickson might have made the job his own to lose.
Kuo is next scheduled to follow Brad Penny on the mound Friday against Boston and Daisuke Matsuzaka. And Brett Tomko lurks.
For now, I'm standing by my Kuo prediction.
3-2 ... Blastoff
Here's an opportunity to take a break from all the roster speculation and taste the nitty-gritty of the game: Tim Brown's Yahoo! Sports article on the rise of a new pickoff move, the 3-2.
Supposedly, it works better than the hoary fake-to-third, throw-to-first move that never works - except for the one time it did.
The pickoff play begins with the bases loaded or runners at second and third. The pitcher fakes the throw to third, then allows that momentum to carry him 270 degrees counter-clockwise into a throw to second base. It works best with the bases loaded, when it comes disguised as the more familiar third-to-first pickoff.
Matt Wilhite, a 25-year-old reliever who has spent the past three full seasons in the Los Angeles Angels' farm system and now has a chance to win a big-league job, in that time has picked off roughly 35 runners from second base with "The 3-2."
Friday night in Surprise, pitching against the Kansas City Royals, Wilhite had it work again. And then he was called for a balk by a minor-league umpire. And then Angels manager Mike Scioscia was ejected for arguing the call. And then umpiring supervisor Steve Palermo, who was in a suite at the ballpark, went sleuthing. And now everybody will know "The 3-2" is coming. ...
March Madness Eve
Last year, Dodger Thoughts hosted an NCAA March Madness pool. This year, it's The Griddle. Enjoy!
Billingsley on the Roster, Out of the Rotation
Dodger manager Grady Little announced that Chad Billingsley will start the season in the Dodger bullpen, according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Little said the decision on Billingsley was the result of the Dodgers' depth of starters and timing. It was made now, in part, to free up innings for the numerous starting pitchers preparing for the season, in part so Billingsley can focus on his new role.
"Like we told him, a lot of positives will come from this. This will be good for him and good for the club to start the season," said Little. "It won't do anything but help him going through a season like that. We still feel he will be a dominant starter in the Major Leagues for a long time, but he's still got things to learn.
"With the situation we have right now, we have the luxury to do this. We're not only doing it for him, but for us. A lot of times you have to bring a young prospect and put him right in there, when all things being equal, you'd like him to get a year in under his belt."
There's really nothing wrong with the Dodgers making this decision now - and there's certainly no reason to think that he couldn't enter the rotation later this year if the situation called for it. You just get the feeling that all along, based on last season's performance, the Dodgers were more comfortable using Billingsley out of the bullpen than Hong-Chih Kuo.
The move all but guarantees that Kuo won't make the Dodgers out of Spring Training unless one of these 10 - Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson, Joe Beimel, Elmer Dessens - ends up traded or disabled. But as discussed earlier, it does not preclude Kuo from joining the Dodger starting rotation when it expands to five, after the season begins.
Forget the Cold Medicine - What About Kuo's Arm?
The more worrisome kernel of news in the Hong-Chih Kuo saga is that his Chinese Taipei Baseball Association manager said he held Kuo out of the Asian Games final because Kuo had a sore arm (according to the Times and the Press-Enterprise).
Kevin Baxter of the Times writes that U.S. Olympians Derrick Turnbow and Termel Sledge were not penalized for failing banned-substance tests in 2003, and indicates that Kuo's test at the Asian Games shouldn't cause him any trouble unless it leads to him taking and failing a "probable-cause" MLB test.
However, even as Kuo emerges as a slight favorite in the fifth-starter race for the Dodgers (if only because the Dodgers still fear using him as a reliever, according to Tony Jackson of the Daily News), we are reminded of Kuo's physical vulnerability.
When it comes to the competition for the open spot in the starting rotation, the Dodgers do seem to be giving the kids (Kuo and Chad Billingsley) every due consideration against the veterans (Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson and Joe Mays). They seem to understand that the kids' potential to be above-average is real.
With more than one pitcher sporting low ERAs as they face March's combination of major and minor leaguers, the choice could come down to efficiency. And so when Tomko zipped through three innings in 37 pitches Monday, leaving the game with so much strength that he threw another inning on the side, according to Al Balderas of the Register, that's the kind of thing that could tip the scales.
Keep in mind, however, that the battle right now is just to make the roster, since Opening Week won't see the Dodgers use a fifth starter. That virtually eliminates Joe Mays from the competition, since his making the team would require the Dodgers not only to cut loose Hendrickson but also knock two pitchers or a pitcher and a position player into the minors. Short of injuries or trades, that just won't happen.
Where Tomko and Hendrickson have an advantage is that the Dodgers can't sent either to the minors. Three of the remaining four leading candidates should make it to Milwaukee for Opening Day: Hendrickson (though he has been the least impressive of the pitchers we're discussing here) and Tomko would be on that list for sure.
That leaves Kuo and Billingsley battling to make the 25-man roster if there are no further transactions, and these two scenarios:
1) Among the three that make the roster - Hendrickson, Tomko and Billingsley/Kuo, the one who pitches best out of the bullpen once the regular season begins becomes the fifth starter.
2) Kuo is designated the fifth starter by the end of Spring Training, is sent down to Las Vegas to stay on a starting pitcher's schedule during the first week, then is called up by the Dodgers just in time to make the No. 5 starter's first start.
Whatever the outcome, let's just hope Kuo stays healthy.
Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports checks in on Eric Gagne's Spring Training debut:
He threw 11 pitches to the bottom of the Brewers' numerical roster and then said, "It's the best I've felt in the last two years." It's the kind of thing he's said for a while now, usually in the hours before something really terrible happens.
Knees, elbows and backs generally weren't built for Gagne's chosen pursuit or high-exertion delivery, and Gagne got big and good at a time when a lot of ballplayers were getting unusually big and good. He has denied those sorts of insinuations and worked diligently to push through all of his various aches and scars, often citing his responsibility to teammates and organization as sources of deep frustration.
Indeed, Gagne's terminal flaw in L.A. was his unwillingness to divulge even the minor irritations before they became major and Jobe actually began sharpening his scalpel. ...
He would start over as a Ranger with a fastball that brought no one to his feet. Gagne threw it with some effort, a muffled "grrch" carrying through the first rows of the ballpark. Gillespie took it for a strike.
Through three Brewers batters the third one announced by Rangers manager Ron Washington as the "last hitter," no matter how it turned out Gagne topped out at 90. He threw a couple changeups, three curveballs and none of the sliders he's been toying with early in camp.
Gagne walked the third batter, received the ball back and stood on the mound as his teammates headed to the dugout.
"That's it?" he asked.
When Washington nodded, Gagne joined them, flexing his fingers as if recreating the curveballs that had missed the strike zone.
In the stands, a scout also nodded.
"You can tell he's healthy," he said. "How much is going to come out of his arm, I don't know." ...
Update 2: Will Carroll writes at Baseball Prospectus:
(Gagne's) command and control were both notably absent, he threw more balls than strikes, and according to one observer, "he didn't really know where the ball was going." The same source said that despite this, the difference between the fastball and changeup was very good, so there's your positive.
Kuo, Weisman Caught Using Stimulants
With the media circling around Dodger pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo upon the revelation that he tested positive for an MLB-banned stimulant before December's Asian Games, my 2 1/2-year-old son had no choice but to reveal his use of a corticosteroid.
According to some sources, Kuo's use of cold or pain medication led to his positive test for ephedra. My son, as part of his in-house treatment for pneumonia, has been inhaling Pulmicort Respules twice daily through a nebulizer with fish-face decals on the mask.
Sunday, my son made a basket on a short basketball hoop from four feet away, but he was clearly under the influence. Even once he comes off the medication, his chances of being on the Dodger roster Opening Day continue to be anybody's guess.
Handicapping the 25
Is it possible that with three weeks remaining in Spring Training, only one Dodger roster spot is up for grabs? Barring injuries or trades, that seems to be the case.
Starting Pitchers (4): Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf
Bullpen (6): Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Tomko, Mark Hendrickson, Joe Beimel, Elmer Dessens
Catchers (2): Russell Martin, Mike Lieberthal
Infielders (7): Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Wilson Betemit, Olmedo Saenz, James Loney, Ramon Martinez
Outfielders (5): Luis Gonzalez, Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Marlon Anderson, Jason Repko
With no need for a fifth starter at the season's outset, I continue to believe the Dodgers will go with an 11-man staff - especially with so many pitchers retaining minor-league options.
Dodger general manager Ned Colletti values depth. Therefore, Mark Hendrickson could pitch worse than everyone else in competition to make the team, but still be on the roster at the start of the season if Colletti can't find a trade partner immediately. The guys who have options are the guys on the April bubble: most notably, Chad Billingsley and Hong-Chih Kuo.
I do tend to think that at least one of the 10 locks on the pitching staff will start the season on the disabled list or in another uniform, and both Billingsley and Kuo will make the Opening Day roster. Any number of others, such as Greg Miller and Jonathan Meloan, will be candidates for callups later in the season. But if the status quo continues, Hendrickson will have to really raise a stink with his starter-or-bust stance to get lopped off the roster with nothing in return.
The wild card is Rudy Seanez. He's the type of guy Dodger management could fall in love with, and keep on the team until his health goes. If Seanez ends Spring Training with a 0.00 ERA, the Dodgers could keep him and send a Billingsley or Kuo down. But I don't think that will happen. Seanez has said he'll retire if he doesn't stay with the Dodgers out of Spring Training.
On the position player side, I think things are full. James Loney has shown he won't be denied. Wilson Betemit is out of options (not to mention one of the top power threats on this particular team), and Andy La Roche hasn't taken the job away from him. Plus, don't you think that if the Dodgers were serious about trying Nomar Garciaparra at third base, he'd have seen game action there by now? Betemit is in, La Roche is tabled.
Though Wilson Valdez has turned enough heads to perhaps make the Dodgers think twice about Ramon Martinez, their respective resumes and Martinez' versatility and veteranocity (and guaranteed contract) should preserve Martinez's spot on the team, even at the expense of handing off Valdez to another organization.
Assuming (as we ultimately do in the premise of these discussions) that Rafael Furcal, Jason Repko and Marlon Anderson will be healed by the end of the month, no room on the roster remains. If Furcal takes a turn for the worse, Valdez could sneak on. In the outfield, if Repko and Anderson start out disabled, Larry Bigbie brings a hot spring and some past major-league success, so he seems like a logical enough choice to hang on while La Roche and Matt Kemp try to copy the 2006 paths of Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier.
In a few cases, the Dodgers will probably leave Vero Beach having chosen older players over better players. But the roster should stay in flux all season long, so don't despair that you won't see those hot young players you've waited for.
In fact, here's a casual stab at a May 15 Dodger roster:
Starting Pitchers (5): Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, Randy Wolf, Hong-Chih Kuo
Bullpen (7): Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Brett Tomko, Greg Miller, Jonathan Meloan, Chin-hui Tsao, Matt White
Catchers (2): Russell Martin, Mike Lieberthal
Infielders (6): Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Wilson Betemit, Olmedo Saenz, James Loney, Ramon Martinez
Outfielders (5): Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Marlon Anderson, Jason Repko
Disabled List (6): Jason Schmidt, Joe Beimel, Elmer Dessens, Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez, Larry Bigbie
Update: To clarify, I don't have any inside information that any of the above are nursing specific injuries that will disable them nine weeks from now. I'm just figuring some people will be hurt, and these are the names I picked.
Previously: The Dodger Thoughts 2007 Spring Training Primer
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Las Vegas 51s announcer Russ Langer will do the play-by-play alongside Rick Monday for today's KFWB Dodger broadcast. Langer is also scheduled to work Tuesday and Thursday as well as March 19 and March 23. I wrote about Langer last year for SI.com.
Meet ... Ebbet?
Or maybe it's "Ebbett." Either way, the Trolley Dodgers aren't forgetting their roots. No sir.
(The happy trolley says "Ebbet" on the license plate, by the way. And on the side reads "Dodgers 1890.")
My first reaction is that I should somehow feel insulted that Brooklyn is getting play over Los Angeles, but upon reflection, we're all Dodgers. So if we're going to make the Boys of Summer our own, the least we can do is take that ride with Ebbet. The Scooterish artwork aside, I find myself willing to get on board.
Still, given the origins of the Dodger name, isn't this the first mascot we should be actively trying to avoid, that is to say, dodge?
Could relief pitchers ride Ebbet in from the bullpen, while left fielders and shortstops dive out of harm's way?
Or will a series of Ebbet family members transform the Dodger-going experience by trolleying us en masse from parts all across Los Angeles to Dodger Stadium?
They Did Not Make the Top 25
America voted. And Eric Hull, Zach Hammes, Mike Megrew, Scott Elbert, A.J. Ellis, Chin-lung Hu, Ken Huckaby, Travis Smith, Fernando Tatis, Dario Veras and Damian Jackson, your journey ends here.
(As announced by the Dodgers this morning.)
107-Year-Old Fan Roots, Roots, Roots for the Home Team
And why shouldn't she? She was eight years old when "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was written.
Anyway, nice story from Ben Platt of MLB.com on 107-year-old Ruth Smith, apparently the Dodgers' oldest living fan.
There was probably a moment or two in the past 18 years when Dodger fans stopped being born, as if Children of Men took place at Chavez Ravine. In any case, Smith sits supreme - even though there are people who have been fans of the Dodgers longer than she has.
Mrs. Smith has been around so long, she not only predates the freeways in Los Angeles, she predates paved roads.
"There were just dirt roads all around," said Ruth. "I liked it better years ago, than it is now."
Smith, who has spent most of her life in Burbank, Calif., has always enjoyed baseball. She followed the old Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, but didn't become a Dodger fan until the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
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In news involving people 80 years younger, Dodger outfielder Jason Repko has pulled a groin muscle, Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise writes at his blog.
Two things ...
More than two years after the first attempts were made, the Dodger Thoughts T-shirt design is virtually finished. I hope to unveil the shirt within the next week.
Also, though it's still tentative, in my mind I'm thinking of having a Dodger Thoughts day at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, July 21 - the fifth anniversary of the site. The Dodgers play the Mets in an afternoon game. Just something to think about ...
Larry King Is Wrong
The problem with doing sports on Larry King Live at 9 o'clock eastern is six out of seven nights there's a sporting event on opposite us. So if we have Sandy Koufax on and it's April and baseball has started and you're in Los Angeles and you're a Dodger fan and the Dodgers are playing the Mets and it's 7:30 (when the) game starts and I've got Sandy Koufax on in the 4th inning, talking to him for an hour, you're liable to watch the Dodger-Met game. So the theory is sports wouldn't play much there.
No, we're watching Koufax. Oh, and by the way - you could always do the interview in the winter.
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Meanwhile, Joel Guzman lives, reports Eduardo Encina of the St. Petersburg Times:
Considered a superstar and then a superdud by the Dodgers in the space of a few months, Guzman is showing that maybe, just maybe, his career isn't over at 22. He can even have that same spring in his Spring Training step that everyone else has.
Even though most of the attention was on Guzman's bat, he is now showing he has the range to play third after dropping 15 pounds in the offseason while honing his discipline at the plate.
Starting at third base Wednesday in the Rays' 10-2 loss to Cleveland, Guzman hit his first spring home run. He battled back from an 0-and-2 hole to run the count to 2 and 2, then fought off another pitch. He ended the six-pitch at-bat by taking starter Jeremy Sowers' up-and-in cutter over the left-centerfield fence.
"I fell behind, so I stayed in my at-bat and waited for the pitcher to make a mistake," he said. "I just tried to protect the zone and use my hands."
"I'm on board with this guy," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's capable of a killer year. If he goes killer in the minor leagues, heads up, because with him it's going to be all about confidence. If his confidence soars, he could be very special."
Guzman, 22, concentrated on his fielding while playing in the Dominican Winter League, especially his agility at third. His weight dropped to 230 pounds, some 20 less than his playing weight last spring.
"I liked that they gave me another opportunity to stay in the infield," he said. "That's what I kept thinking about in the winter, keeping my body in shape and emphasizing that - fielding, fielding, fielding. I'm still learning. At third base, it's all about reaction, so that's why I need to keep my body in shape so I can go either way quickly."
If that isn't enough of a blast from the past for you, here's another mythbuster to quake the overnights: Paul DePodesta values defense, reports Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union Tribune.
Defensive performance isn't easily measured, and certainly offense and pitching are far more important. Still, the Padres clearly were a solid team defensively last season, and the benefits were real.
"The fact that we led the majors in defensive efficiency certainly had something to do with us winning the division," said DePodesta, a former Dodgers general manager who in July joined the Padres as a special assistant for baseball operations.
Having judged defenders both as a major league scout and a statistical analyst, DePodesta brings a broad set of evaluation skills, and he also has access to extensive scouting reports and proprietary data. He considers it significant that in 2006 the Padres were ranked first in team defense by Baseball Information Solutions, which uses a plus-minus system and has scouts review video of every play in the majors.
"It may be like the turnover ratio in the NFL," DePodesta said. "If you can limit the minus plays, you should be in good shape. You'd love to have spectacular plays by your defense, but if you can limit the minus plays, you should be in good shape."
DePodesta considers scouting integral to the evaluation of defense, partly because scouts can see where the fielder was positioned before the ball was hit. He also looks at how one fielder can affect another. For example, does a rangy center fielder such as the Padres' Mike Cameron allow the corner outfielders to shade toward the foul lines? He also considers the relationship between the pitchers and the fielders.
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Updates aplenty: Remember the guy who was able to use an appearance at Dodger Stadium on Curb Your Enthusiasm as an alibi? He just got a $320,000 settlement for his troubles, reports The Associated Press:
The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to settle the police misconduct lawsuit filed by Juan Catalan, who spent nearly five months in jail before footage from the show cemented his alibi.
Catalan, 28, was arrested for the May 2003 slaying of Martha Puebla, 16, outside her Sun Valley home. He told detectives he was innocent and was at a Dodgers game when the crime occurred.
His defense lawyer, Todd Melnik, went through footage of crowd shots from the televised game between the Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves, but did not find his client. Then he learned that the HBO comedy starring former "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David had been shooting at the ballpark that day.
"There he was in the outtakes," said Gary S. Casselman, the attorney handling Catalan's lawsuit. "He's glad it's over." ...
Someone else is now being prosecuted for the slaying, Casselman said.
Here's more of the backstory:
Remember that miserable Dodger game a year ago, when Eric Gagne got torched for four runs in the 10th inning and the Dodgers lost, 11-4, to Atlanta?* * *
At Baseball Analysts, Jeff Albert analyzes former Dodger Adrian Beltre's swing - with video. Here's an excerpt:
More bat speed does not always equal more power. The small matter of making consistent, hard contact comes into play. Looking at the stride foot of each swing, 2004 Beltre looks to begin his swing slightly later, which may mean that he is getting a better, longer look at the ball. This would allow him to process more information about the oncoming pitch, and the stats say he was producing enough bat speed to put up great power numbers.
I know the popular explanations for Beltre's fluke year are either psychological or pharmaceutical, but in the absence of proof of either of those, it's nice to see other avenues pursued.
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For a different kind of video, check out this interpretation of the classic Danny Kaye-sung Dodger song, passed along by Josh Rawitch at Inside the Dodgers.
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Finally (?), happy birthday to us! I've never had a toaster that lasted this long or was so great to use.
Talk Ain't Cheap
If you have ever wanted to feel like a major leaguer, here's a quick and easy path.
Get yourself involved in a scandal - surely, that's easy enough to do - and then, when someone asks you about it, say something that doesn't quite fly.
It could be a quote you regret a moment later, or that you didn't believe even as you were saying it. Or, like Michael Scott on The Office, you could be completely oblivious as your foot goes deeper into your mouth. However it goes, you are qualified to be a tempest in an MLB teapot. Because, let's face it, these people have agents, managers, publicists, wives - they can get some of the best advice there is to get - and still boot the moment.
While most fans and reporters know that the court of public opinion is not the same as a court of law, few can resist the urge to glean deep truths from the statements of the scandal-stricken. As a result, anything short of an unqualified declaration of innocence leaves the media target trapped in speculation and innuendo.
Every week, it seems, we do the dance. Last week, America tangoed with Angels outfielder Gary Matthews, Jr. and Rangers utilityman Jerry Hairston, Jr., alleged to have received human growth hormone from a mail-order pharmacy in 2004, as well as Dodger spiritual leader Tommy Lasorda, alleged to have had hormone issues of another kind entirely.
Of the three, Hairston was the only one to douse the media fire without having to call 911.
"I have never taken steroids ever," Hairston told reporters. "I have never taken anything illegal. Period. I want to squash that right now."
Hairston's response exuded innocence. Moreover, it warded off the nagging follow-up questions that can lock a player uncomfortably in the spotlight. While his statement is not proof that his conduct has been aboveboard, unless any firm incriminating evidence emerges, Hairston's words stand as the last word.
Earlier in the week, in response to allegations in a new book by convicted madam Jody "Babydol" Gibson that he paid for sex, Lasorda began down a similar path to Hairston's.
"I have never heard of this woman and don't know why she would accuse me of something like this," said Lasorda, the former Dodger manager and current special advisor to team owner/chairman Frank McCourt, in an initial statement.
Again, though Lasorda's words only lined up his he-said next to Gibson's she-said, Lasorda benefited from being clear. Considering that Lasorda's sex life is probably something that the U.S. Congress will feel grateful to ignore, this probably the only response he needed to render the conversation moot.
Sure, some people will exploit the salaciousness no matter what, but no worse than anything Lasorda would have experienced in six decades of locker-room talk.
However, Lasorda went a step further in his response, adding that if Gibson "prints these lies, I intend to sue." Lasorda is not the first person to threaten a retaliatory lawsuit, and in fact, many media consumers expect as much. Unfortunately, even though a lawsuit might be a reasonable response, it is not always a sensible one in the face of legal costs and/or expected outcomes.
So a couple of days later, when Lasorda told the Times that he probably would not sue, he reopened the door for speculation against him. In essence, Lasorda changed his story, and that didn't serve him well. It didn't change the reality of whether he is guilty or not, or how much his guilt matters, but it did allow fans and reporters who saw the subsequent report to believe that he is backpedaling.
There's no law that says you have to care about public opinion. But if you do, then every statement you make needs to be clear and to the point - precise without being overstated. Otherwise, you're going to let the public write its own truth.
This brings us to Matthews, who can only hope that the law will save him, because in the news cycle, he was sinking.
Confronted with accusations that, from a legal standpoint, might not be much more foreboding than Lasorda's - investigators alleged Matthews received an HGH shipment the year before MLB banned the substance, a scenario that may allow him to earn immunity from prosecutors in exchange for testimony against bigger-fish suppliers - Matthews still faced a baseball world wondering whether he transgressed on his way to a career-best year in 2006, a performance that keyed his five-year, $50 million contract from the Angels.
Matthews' initial response, presumably the best he could offer under the circumstances, was not reassuring. He said he was not "in a position to answer any questions" without saying why, leaving it for others to fill in the blanks.
Statements in the ensuing days only seemed muddle matters further.
"When I get more information from my people I can say more," Matthews added. "If I don't have all the information, it puts me in a bad position."
Some people no doubt are thinking that Matthews' people should be getting information from him.
Before the week was over, Angels manager Mike Scioscia and owner Arte Moreno were notably impatient with Matthews' response, expressing that the longer it took for Matthews to issue a definitive response, the worse it looked. By the weekend, after Hairston's on-point quotes made Matthews look even worse by comparison, Matthews retained crisis management firm Sitrick and Co., Los Angeles' most famous public-relations mop-up unit. (Sitrick's motto: "If you don't tell your story, someone else will tell it for you.")
To think, even if he couldn't offer a straight denial, Matthews could have avoided most of these verbal gymnastics by just saying, "It's a legal matter, and I wish I could comment but I'm not allowed to." He could have taken himself all but out of the public dialogue - unless someone like his general manager, Bill Stoneman, picked at the scab.
Oh wait - that's exactly what happened in today's editions of the Times.
"We've made it clear to (Matthews) that we want him to make a statement," Stoneman said. "We've encouraged him to get the facts out, get his side of the story out, whatever that story is. I understand that when lawyers get involved they generally tell you to be quiet about things. That doesn't address the public side of it."
The subtext of Stoneman's statement is fury, because surely, Stoneman realizes that at this point, Matthews would have declared his innocence if his legal situation wasn't, at a minimum, nuanced. Matthews falling on his sword is all well and good, but with a government investigation underway and his fate still negotiable, it should be understood that there is a limit to what it's prudent for Matthews to say. As the Times points out today, a still-avoidable conviction against Matthews could add jail time and extend his MLB suspension from 50 to 80 games.
When Hollywood celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Michael Richards of Seinfeld or Isaiah Washington of Grey's Anatomy make a mess with offensive behavior, the path to public rehabilitation - 1) contrition, 2) seclusion, 3) Barbara Walters - is so well-traveled, it might as well be called a freeway. For baseball players, the roadmap is less clear, which makes the first turn all the more important.
Ultimately, we could learn that Hairston is more guilty of crimes against baseball or the law than Matthews is. It simply can't be emphasized enough that the truth of what these players did is more important than the truth of what they said.
But that won't ease the upcoming days and weeks for Matthews. And it's a lesson for celebrities of any ilk: Be innocent or be ready. Don't wing it. If you've done anything wrong, anything that might in a faraway galaxy be construed as wrong, start preparing your public defense now. Because if you don't find it convincing, few will.
Don't leave it for the public to fill in the blanks, because the public will take its No. 2 pencil and blacken the wrong bubbles.
You might think that you don't care what the average citizen thinks. Maybe you shouldn't have to care. But you probably do.
Nomar to Third After All?
Dodger manager Grady Little has not ruled out moving Nomar Garciaparra to third base, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Though it's possible that this is a typical overreaction to one week of Spring Training, it's also not exactly an idea out of the blue (pun not intended but graciously accepted).
So the question basically is, would you rather see James Loney, Wilson Betemit or Andy La Roche in your starting infield?
Personally, I'm most excited about Loney, though not because of anything that has happened this month. I do worry about the Betemit bandwagon (decended from the Willy Aybar bandwagon) being abandoned too abruptly.
As problems go, this isn't a bad one to have. Better to have these options than to have to turn to Oscar Robles or this year's equivalent, Wilson Valdez.
And certainly, by June, it could be Loney at first, Betemit at second, La Roche at third, and Garciaparra and Jeff Kent on the disabled list.
Jennifer Hudson's Follow-Up: Rachel Robinson?
Dreamgirls Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson is hoping to land a role in Robert Redford's upcoming Jackie Robinson film, according to Access Hollywood:
It is not known what part Hudson would want to take on, but she said the story of the man who broke baseball's color barrier affected her deeply.
"It tells of greatness and our history," she said. "That means something to me."
Redford will play Branch Rickey. Thomas "James Hayward" Carter will direct.
In 1950, Ruby Dee played Rachel Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story, opposite Jackie himself.
The Ay-Yi-Yides of March
Well, Spring Training games have been going for under a week, and already three Dodgers will be right back after these massages.
Battling ailments that will no doubt take longer to recover from than we are initially being told are Marlon Anderson, Rafael Furcal and now Joe Beimel, according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com. Just serves as the annual reminder that the 25-man roster you lay out in February doesn't hold up for long come March.
This is as good a time as any to remember that the first week of Spring Training is like Vegas: Whatever happens there, stays there - or it should if anyone has any sense. That means, wake me when Larry Bigbie is banging out three hits a game in April; sedate me when Wilson Betemit has more errors than hits in May. Past heroes of 21st-century Dodger Spring Training include Jason Romano and Terry Shumpert - need more be said?
Additionally, don't take the positioning of the Dodger starting rotation in April as an actual ranking of the starters. Given that the Dodgers have explicitly stated that they are arranging their pitchers to gain or avoid certain matchups with opponents, it's obvious that we shouldn't try reading between the lines. Basically, the Dodgers are lining up for their opening plays from scrimmage, like Bill Walsh in his heyday with the 49ers. First down, Derek Lowe right. Second down, Randy Wolf left. And depending on performance and offdays, they'll audible. The pitchers seem to understand this, so it's a non-story.
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Many find it hard to understand how pitchers can walk batters in exhibition play, when they have nothing to lose by throwing it over the plate. But Spring Training is a time to get your groove back, Stella - and if you're in that groove, a time to experiment with your pitches without fear of the walks really meaning everything. Further, don't forget that walks come on a two-way street - batters actually can draw them, too. As I've stated in the past, during Spring Training, eyeballing performance can be more valuable than stats ...
How To Make Spring Training Stats Meaningful
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Chavez Ravine Idol: The Dodgers and 93.9 FM are staging a contest to choose the National Anthem singer for Opening Night (Opening Night at Dodger Stadium being the first home evening game after Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, which is the first home afternoon game after Opening Day in Milwaukee. In other words, April 10.)
Emceeing the competition and playing Celeste Talbert to Ryan Seacrest's Lori Craven is longtime Los Angeles disc jockey Rick Dees. Fans in attendance on April 10 will also have the privilege of seeing Dees throw out the first pitch.
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Finally, some of you might know Molly Knight from her participation in the Dodger Thoughts comments. Knight, a writer for ESPN the Magazine, has been dispatched to Florida to cover Spring Training and is also contributing to Blue Notes.
Best Wishes, Dioner
From Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:
It would seem Dioner Navarro has been through enough.
There was the medically miraculous saga involving wife Sherley's recovery from a 2003 brain aneurysm. The frightening hit-and-run auto accident he and his family were involved in shortly after being acquired by the Devil Rays during the summer. The surgery his infant son had in September to remove his left kidney, forcing the Devil Rays catcher to miss the last week of the season.
Now as Navarro, 23, prepares for what he hopes will be the season he establishes himself as a full-time and frontline major-leaguer, he faces another family medical concern.
Dioner Jr., now 19 months old, needs another operation to correct problems with his urethra and remaining kidney. The surgery was supposed to be performed last month but had to be delayed when he developed severe ear and respiratory infections. The family is hoping he is well enough to have it done this month so Navarro doesn't miss any regular-season games.
"It's been kind of tough," Navarro said. "This is my No. 1 priority: When I get here to the field I know it's my job and I have to put that in the back. But he is my son. I know he'll be fine. His mama is taking care of him. I just think positively the whole time. I just stay focused on being positive, and everything is going to be fine."
A Rose by Any Other Name Is a Weed
From Tony Jackson in the Daily News:
But La Roche's finest moment came in the ninth inning. The Dodgers trailed 2-1 with runners on second and third with none out after a double by Fernando Tatis. For a young player pining to make a season-opening roster, this would have been the perfect situation to try to impress, to swing hard at everything in hopes of getting the big hit that would turn that one-run deficit into a one-run lead.
But instead of getting overeager and chasing pitches out of his zone, La Roche patiently worked Adkins for a walk to load the bases, and ultimately he came around to score what would have been an important run if this were an important game. And that is the sort of thing general managers and managers tend to notice.
Change the protagonist, and the story goes from coward to hero.
Dodgers Walk Eight, Win
And How Did He Get Them To Play Zone?
In that insurance commercial where the youth basketball coach's SUV is robbed and his team's uniforms are stolen, how come the insurance agent couldn't stay with the car while the coach went with his team to the game?
Not a 49er
Via Rich Lederer at Baseball Analysts, Retrosheet creator Dave Smith sets the record straight on the claim that Clem Labine retired Stan Musial 49 times in a row. In his career, Musial was 10 for 42 with six walks against Labine. Not bad for Labine, but not the unbelievable figure set forth Friday.
The Dodgers' open tryout Thursday yielded a winner, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Charlie Mirabal.
Farewell, Clem Labine
"Clem Labine was one of the main reasons the Dodgers won it all in 1955. He had the heart of a lion and the intelligence of a wily fox and he was a nice guy, too. He will be truly missed by all who knew him."
- Vin Scully
The Dodgers public relations department passed along the news that Labine died this morning. Labine had been hospitalized since Feb. 13 and had brain surgery earlier this week, according to Steve Henson of the Times.
Labine had a 2.20 ERA in his rookie season - that wild 1951 ride for the Dodgers. All but 38 of his 513 career games were in relief, and he finished his career with a 111 ERA+. In World Series play for the Dodgers, Labine had a 1.65 ERA in 27 1/3 innings over 10 games, including 12 shutout innings in 1956 (keyed by his 10-inning, 1-0 win in Game 6, the day after Don Larsen's perfect game).
On back-to-back days during the Dodgers' first World Series triumph in 1955, October 1 and 2, Labine pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief to get the Game 4 victory, retiring 11 of the final 12 batters (that game tied the series, 2-2), then came back to get a three-inning save in which he allowed a Yogi Berra solo homer but induced two double-plays to preserve a 4-3 Dodger win.
Update: According to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com, Labine once retired future Hall of Famer Stan Musial 49 consecutive times. Henson also has more.
Update 2; When Labine shut out the Yankees in Game 6 of the 1956 World Series, he batted for himself leading off the bottom of the 10th inning. He popped out, but later in the inning Jackie Robinson drove in the game-winning run - the Dodgers' first run in 19 innings.
Loney's Magic 8-Ball
Baseball America asks what James Loney's future looks like: John Olerud or Travis Lee?
I will be ... optimistic!
The question comes out of the publication's 2007 Top 100 Prospects List, which places Dodgers Andy La Roche at 19, Clayton Kershaw at 24, Scott Elbert at 31 and Loney at 44.
The Rockies led all of baseball with eight players on the list. Arizona has six. Of course, the Dodgers get hurt because of how many players graduated from prospect status last year, such as Jonathan Broxton, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley.
Grapefruit League Opening Day Chat
Oh, the weather outside's delightful ...
Dodgers-Braves, 10:05 a.m., KFWB
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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