Monthly archives: May 2008
May 31 Game Chat
Planning to take this weekend off from posting, though you never know when there might be exceptions. But enjoy yourselves ...
Kershaw II: The Kershawing
In his second career start, does Clayton Kershaw become the Dodgers' stopper or their continuer?
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Elsewhere on the Internet, Dodger Thoughts fave Molly Knight gave us a peek into the team for ESPN the Magazine. (Knight just passed along word that Blake DeWitt is taking pregame groundballs at second base for the first time this year.)
And at Blue Notes, the Kamenetsky brothers are asking what faces you would carve on your Dodger Blue Mt. Rushmore. I'll go with Jackie Robinson, Vin Scully, Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela, with the Pedros and R.J. lurking nearby, of course.
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Top Dodger Tools (And I Mean That in the Good Way)
This is tangentially inspired by Joe Posnanski's latest post. What do you think are the best tools in the Dodger organization? Clayton Kershaw's curveball, or Matt Kemp's speed, or Takashi Saito's smile, or what? Let's get a list.
Overnight Non-Lost Open Chat
The Lost thread is below - everything else can go here.
Lost Season Finale Chat
No spoilers! You may chat about something as soon as it has aired on the West Coast.
Update: Some blog posts:
James Poniewozik at Time
Alan Sepinwall at the New Jersey Star-Ledger
Jeff Jensen at EW.com
Maureen Ryan at the Chicago Tribune
Cynthia Littleton at Variety
I've mentioned it before, but Ernest Reyes' Blue Heaven is becoming one of my favorite Dodger blogs. If you haven't checked it out yet, give it a look today.
I don't know if anyone's willing to tolerate a bright side, but the team ERA in this series against the National League's highest-scoring team was 1.98. And Dodger starters have been cruising into the seventh inning or later every game for more than a week now. My May 18 suggestion that the Dodger pitching wasn't the team's biggest worry isn't looking so bad.
After pulling a third baseman out of thin air in April, Los Angeles is needing to reinvent at second base, shortstop and center field on the fly, temporarily if not permanently. It's a challenging task and perhaps it will be one they can't accomplish in 2008. But even if the offense remains below average, it can bounce back from this, and take advantage of a pitching staff that is rounding into form. Andy LaRoche isn't a savior, but he can help this team. (Blake DeWitt told Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise he has no issue with moving to second base). Every little bit of improvement helps. Arizona hasn't been able to put the Dodgers away. I wouldn't give up just yet.
After All This, Won't You Give Me a Smile?
The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
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Last week, hours before the American Idol finale nearby in downtown Los Angeles, I met mine.
Since my childhood, I don't think there has ever been a popular figure I revered more than Vin Scully, but despite years of attending games and occasionally hovering around with the press, despite my all-too-occasional paeans to him, I had never so much as come within shouting distance of the man. But finally, I had an assignment to interview him.
I don't want to come across like a schoolgirl (or schoolboy), because it wasn't that I was nervous about meeting him. Talking to famous people is something that happens from time to time in my line of work, and though it can excite me, it doesn't really unnerve me. What I felt was simply an ongoing disbelief, despite the fact that thousands upon thousands had already had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, that this one was finally happening for me. It was a big deal. This wasn't just a celebrity. This was Vinny.
And if that's all that were going on that day, that would have been surreal enough. But during the time this interview was coming together, I was contacted by folks at Bombo Films, the producers of an upcoming independent documentary about the Dodgers. Long story short, a brief conversation turned into them accompanying me, camera in tow, so that they could interview and film me before, after and during my meeting Scully. The day would be truly otherworldly.
From my office at Variety, I drove down to Dodger Stadium, the cameraman in the passenger seat filming me and the director/interviewer where my eldest son's car seat normally rests. We arrived at the ballpark and moved on to the Top Deck, where I rambled on about the Dodgers and caught a rare midweek dose of the sun while mentally counting down the minutes to meeting Scully. And they stayed with me as I made my way to the press level and met Dodger public relations vice president Josh Rawitch, who told me that Vin had read Dodger Thoughts (though I still didn't quite believe it) and expressed amazement that I had never met him.
We went into the press box, and I awaited for 3:15 to arrive.
Vin's voice is larger than life, truly. I expected a muted version of his unforgettably dulcet tones, but even off the air, he resonates from you to me. I shook his hand, and he led me first to his broadcast booth for a quick glimpse, before we settled in the press dining area for the interview (at which point the camera was turned off). At first I was told the interview would be 10 minutes, which forced me to ration my questions on the spot - questions more specifically for Dodger Thoughts or my upcoming book would have to be pushed aside - but I was able to earn an extra 10 minutes or so on the back end.
The interview didn't generate any earthshattering news, though I did get some answers to questions I've had over the years. You'll see some of this when the article comes out in June. I also got to see Vin in moments that confirmed to me both his lucid sense of the world and his romantic one.
Resisting the urge to entrap him for the next several hours, I thanked him and bid him farewell, and off he strode back toward his principality above and behind home plate. I sat back down at the table, and the Bombo guys came over for the postscript. In footage that should only be destined for the cutting room floor, I beamed. I didn't really try to find profound perspective in the moment. I just savored it at a level of minimal coherence that you just have to believe meant well. I was asked what I would want to tell my kids about this moment, and I replied something to the effect of, "I met the person that I always wanted to meet. Except you, of course. And your mom." Once a reviser, always a reviser.
I'm more than a bit embarrassed thinking how I must have come off, but what are you gonna do? You take the tradeoff.
When the whole festival was over, I went down to the field to hang out with the working press during batting practice. I talked to Ken Levine, Josh Suchon, Bill Shaikin, Dylan Hernandez and Tony Jackson, and the ones who asked why I had come, I told I was interviewing Vinny. I mostly expected these Dodger Stadium regulars to think it was nothing special, but instead, they all nodded and smiled knowingly. There's only one person who would tell you that meeting Vinny is nothing special, and that's the man himself. For the rest of us, he remains nothing less than greatness.
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So now I've met both giants of Los Angeles, albeit under very different circumstances. I met John Wooden for a minute each of three consecutive picture days at John Wooden Basketball Camp back when I was Lisa Simpson's age or thereabouts.
I'm intending to see them again on June 13, and maybe some of you will too. Tickets for Scully & Wooden: For the Kids are still available, though I don't know how many. No doubt in jaunty fashion, T.J. Simers of the Times will interview the pair on stage about their lives and thoughts. Proceeds from the event will go to the Pediatric Cancer Program at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and pediatric cancer research at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and City of Hope through ThinkCure, the official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Dodgers Itch, Kent Scratched - Plus LaRoche and Furcal News
It's cold in Chicago, and it's back spasms for Jeff Kent.
Update: Andy LaRoche is expected to put in some time at second base, Joe Torre told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com today.
Torre said he's likely to give second base a shot to give the club a backup to Jeff Kent.
"We'll do this thing from within to give ourselves as much flexibility as possible," said Torre.
Earlier in the same article, we learn that there is no encouraging news regarding Rafael Furcal. He is not expected to be ready for the opening of the next homestand Monday.
Update 2: Diamond Leung's piece in the Press-Enterprise further indicates that momentum is growing for experimenting with LaRoche or Blake DeWitt at second base. Left field too, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
Same Ol', Same Ol'
Every year, the Dodgers run into a slump hitting with runners in scoring position, and every year, it's attributed to some character deficiency on the team's part - this year, Joe Torre is telling the press it's all about inexperience - rather than one of those things that's part of baseball and always passes.
Don't get caught up in it. It's true that the Dodgers need to hit with runners in scoring position to be successful, especially because of their lack of power, but it's not some skill that they have failed to master. It's baseball.
Bad, Bad OPS
In May 2006, I wrote somewhat optimistically about Jeff Kent in the wake of the second-worst month of his career - a .554 OPS.
In the past, Kent has usually recovered from bad months. Only in June-July 1994 has he had consecutive months with an OPS below .750.Kent did recover in 2006 - twice in fact. Here are his OPS marks by month that season:
Kent rebounds like Dennis Rodman (and isn't it about time those two were in the same sentence).
But with a week left in this particular May, Kent is poised to set a new standard for inefficiency. His OPS this month is .425. In 69 plate appearances, he has seven singles, a triple, a homer and five walks.
If there is any reason to think at age 40 he'll make yet another comeback, it would be that he has only struck out eight times this month and his batting average on balls in play is a gruesome .145. So maybe he's had bad luck. It was only last July that Kent OPSed 1.237 (.500 on-base percentage, .737 slugging percentage). My suspicion is that it isn't just a matter of luck anymore - it's that his athleticism and his ability to make solid, impressive, profound contact with a baseball has declined too far. But maybe, somehow, his muscles have one more warm month left in them.
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Here's a list of the worst adjusted OPS seasons in Los Angeles Dodger history (minimum 150 plate appearances). Kent's in the top 50 for now, while Andruw Jones is nestled between Gene Michael and Alfredo Griffin in the top 10. Some other very familiar names dot the list.
No. 1? My goodness, did Maury Wills have a horrific farewell season: 17 for 132 with 10 walks, .129 batting average, .190 on-base percentage, .167 slugging percentage, .357 on-base percentage, OPS+ of 3.
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A daytime start after traversing two time zones for the Dodgers:
All my best to everyone on this Memorial Day, to those who have lost loved ones and to the memories of those lost. It's more than I'll ever be able to grasp.
Cardinals React to Kershaw
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the St. Louis Cardinals' review of Clayton Kershaw's debut:
"I thought he had good stuff. He came at you pretty much. I think it's fair to say he can have success at this level," first baseman Albert Pujols said. ...
The Cardinals had no video of Kershaw (ed. note: not even one pitch?), working solely off written reports. One hitter described it as "flying blind."
Said hitting coach Hal McRae, "We heard he had some issues with command. I thought he would have trouble getting the breaking ball over. But for the most part, it was there. He threw strikes. He made quite an impression." ...
"Impressive," said right fielder Ryan Ludwick, whose four-strikeout game began with two against Kershaw. Ludwick described Kershaw's curveball as "kind of like (former American League Cy Young Award winner Barry) Zito's. It's big."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "We had a report on him. Some of our guys had seen him. Like I said, he's legitimate." ...
"Some guys just poke around in there without being serious," McRae said. "This kid is serious."
Strauss' game story mentions that the 16 strikeouts today (in 10 innings) by Dodger pitching were the most by a Cardinal opponent since 2001. "Cardinals outfielders struck out 10 times."
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And finally, here's what the Dodger side had to say, courtesy of Kevin Baxter and the Times.
And Away We Go ...
He's just a man, like any man you might find in Greek mythology.
- Diane Chambers
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Family permitting, I'll be live-blogging the opening moments of Clayton Kershaw's major-league career.
1:01 p.m.: "It's time for Dodger baseball." Fans on the field for Photo Day frame Vin Scully in a pretaped segment. Scully tamps the hype, focusing on the Dodgers' need to avoid being swept by the Cardinals before mentioning Kershaw's debut.
1:05 p.m.: In another pretaped interview, for "Torre's Stories," Joe Torre is making a rather emotional appeal to renew interest in baseball among black players. Kershaw fever remains on hold at Fox Sports Net.
1:08 p.m.: "We know where his mom is sitting. She's directly below us in the second row, so we can watch her expressions and emotions as her son begins to crank it up." Vin then runs down Kershaw's vitals and names some other pitchers who have debuted at Kershaw's age or younger, some examples more encouraging than others (David Clyde!), all the way to Joe Nuxhall.
First inning pitch count: a whopper - 32 pitches, 12 balls, 20 strikes.
Bottom of the first: Luis Maza hits his first major league home run and only the second by a Dodger second baseman since April 15. Cardinals 1, Dodgers 1.
Second inning pitch count: 12 pitches, 4 balls, eight strikes
Bottom of the second: Dodgers go down in order.
Third inning pitch count: 10 pitches, four balls, six strikes
Bottom of the third: Kershaw bats with one out. He twirls the bat in a fashion that calls to mind David Letterman twirling a pen on his fingers. He grounds to short. Dodgers go down in order. Cardinals 1, Dodgers 1.
Fourth inning pitch count: 11 pitches, two balls, nine strikes
Bottom of the fourth: With one out, Either singles and Martin doubles off the top of the center-field wall (less than four inches) to drive him in. A Loney groundout moves Martin to third, but a Kemp groundout strands him. Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1. Wellemeyer has thrown 67 pitches.
Fifth inning pitch count: 10 pitches, one ball, nine strikes
Bottom of the fifth: Dodgers go down in order. Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1.
Kershaw at 96 pitches.
Sixth inning pitch count: 27 pitches, nine balls, 18 strikes
Two hits came off curveballs; two hits came off fastballs.
Five strikeouts came on fastballs (four swinging); two strikeouts on curveballs (one swinging).
Bottom of the sixth: Pierre singles, and Maza sacrifices him to second base. Ethier flies to left field, but Martin goes down and drives an RBI single to left. Kershaw gives Pierre an intense high five in the dugout. Dodgers 3, Cardinals 2.
And the young lefty is done for the day.
Kershaw to Martin: "This could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
Top of the seventh: A walk, a stolen base, a throwing error and a sacrifice fly against the Dodger bullpen takes Kershaw out of the decision. Cardinals 3, Dodgers 3.
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I stopped live-blogging this game after Kershaw left, and it went into the 10th inning. Relievers Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito combined for eight strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings, and Joe Beimel struck out the only batter he faced, giving the Dodgers 16 strikeouts in 10 innings.
Ethier drives in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th, and the day ends happily for the Dodgers and their fans.
Jones to DL
Andruw Jones is having knee surgery after all, and the Dodgers have recalled Terry Tiffee to take his roster spot. And that's the way the ball bounces ...
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Keith Thursby of the Times shows us the sports section from 50 years ago, when the threat of the Dodgers moving away from Los Angeles was used to encourage city voters to approve the plan to develop a baseball stadium at Chavez Ravine.
By Frank Finch
President Warren Giles of the National League, who warned the city of Los Angeles yesterday that he will recommend that the league take steps to move the Dodgers to another city unless the June 3 referendum is passed, said today that there would be no difficulty in finding another home for the team.
Giles did not mention any city specifically but it is common knowledge that such cities as Minneapolis, Toronto and Houston definitely are interested in becoming big league - just like Los Angeles did when the City Council, by a 10-4 vote last October, approved the Chavez Ravine contract with the Dodgers. ...
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By Paul Zimmerman
So you think President Warren Giles of the National League is bluffing when he says he will consider reallocation of the Dodgers if the Chavez Ravine vote fails?
Well, have a look at the Minneapolis-St. Paul picture for a minute. ... This is an area comparable to Milwaukee where the Braves have been such a huge success. There are no competing events like horse racing. The metropolitan population is sufficient. The pull from outlying communities is similar to that in Wisconsin. ...
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Everyone's worried about Clayton Kershaw being rushed to the bigs and then having setbacks like Edwin Jackson. But you know, there's another example of a Dodger pitcher that forced himself onto the fast track, by the name of Fernando Valenzuela. Neither example guarantees what Kershaw's fate will be.
Update: Kershaw has officially been recalled for Sunday, and the Dodgers have optioned Yhency Brazoban to Las Vegas and designated the ill-fated Esteban Loaiza experiment for assignment.
Rain Delay Theater
Bottom of the ninth, one out, 2-1 Cardinals, 3-2 to Matt Kemp ... and the old man is snoring.
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Clayton Kershaw's promotion hadn't been inked as of Friday night, but the world's eyes remained peeled. Saturday was ruled out for a debut, but Sunday emerged as a strong possibility, according to Kevin Baxter of the Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
With Derek Lowe rebounding to a seven-inning, two-run performance tonight, a Kershaw promotion for Sunday would reflect an eagerness to get the 20-year-old lefty to Los Angeles regardless of need, because that's Chad Billinglsey's scheduled day (he would be given an extra day of rest). Further, there is almost no way the Dodgers would run through their bullpen Saturday, even if Brad Penny has another tough outing. And so, if Eli's coming to break opponents' hearts, it makes sense to uncoil him in front of a home crowd.
By the way, if Kershaw were pitching Sunday, wouldn't you want him already on a plane today? (So, is he?)
Meanwhile, Gurnick notes that two other pitchers are making progress:
In other pitching news, Jason Schmidt is scheduled for his third Minor League rehab start Monday night for Inland Empire. And disabled pitcher Esteban Loaiza said he felt fine after a Friday bullpen session and is scheduled to pitch for Las Vegas on Monday in a Minor League rehab start.
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Rafael Furcal had a setback after a strenuous workout in the cold Wednesday, and doesn't have a return date set. While the idea of a workout in the cold seems to make no sense, I guess you need to find out what your body can do, right? Right?
Anyway, I don't think I'm overstating the case to say Furcal's going to have injury questions following him the rest of his career.
There's news about Andruw Jones as well, though it perplexes me. From Gurnick:
Torre indicated that if Jones' knee flares up again, immediate surgery is likely. The concern is that the knee will be like a time bomb that could go off with the slightest wrong movement.
"We've had players in the past ... who have had a problem like this and done OK throughout the whole season," said Conte. "Hopefully, he's going to fall into that category, but there's no doubt he has a small tear in the cartilage, and that can be problematic at any time."
I mean, come on. Isn't this silly? The best case scenario for Jones not having his inevitable surgery now is that he might not have his knee go thermite on him? I've got news for you: Sometimes things don't have to get worse before they get better.
Gurnick also has a Nomar Garciaparra update. Sometimes things do have to get worse before they get better.
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Tough one (so far) for the Dodgers tonight, but Adam Wainwright of St. Louis earned it with some great pitching. At least Lowe was back to form.
Not Quite So Unbeatable
The Dodgers split six games with St. Louis last season, after losing 16 of 20 in the previous three years, including 10 in a row from July 30, 2005 through May 14, 2007.
Kershaw Watch Gets Wacky
Thursday's game with Jacksonville wasn't the first time prospect Clayton Kershaw had a one-inning outing. It's public knowledge that the Dodgers want to limit his workload during the first part of the season.
Nevertheless, the shortened stint helped encourage Ken Gurnick of MLB.com to speculate that Kershaw could be coming up to the Dodgers on Tuesday (the next time the team needs a fifth starter). Some have even wondered if he will come up Saturday, to give Brad Penny more rest.
Maybe this will happen, but I think it's worth emphasizing that a) neither Chan Ho Park nor Hong-Chih Kuo have pitched since they combined to allow one earned run over eight innings way back on Saturday last, and b) the only unusual thing that happened Thursday was not that Kershaw pitched a single inning, but that he wasn't told beforehand he would only pitch a single inning. From Ben Badler of Baseball America:
"We had received a phone call from our office in L.A. that they wanted to limit him to just one inning," Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker said. "The organization this year has been very cautious about the number of innings that he's pitched and the amount of innings that he's going to pitch each month. So we just follow the orders and we'll probably hear more from them either tomorrow or later on this weekend."
Kershaw said he was unaware beforehand that he would only throw one inning.
"I had no idea," Kershaw said. "I thought it was just a regular start tonight. When I got two outs, I saw the bullpen warming up, and I thought he was just throwing to get ready for later in the game. But they took me out. It wasn't (the Jacksonville coaching staff's) choice, it wasn't my choice, it's just what you've got to do sometimes. I don't know anything about it, I don't know why yethopefully it's good, but we'll see how it goes."
This event led to a fire being lit on the Internet and people apologetically waking other people and all sorts of speculation. I understand the excitement - if Kershaw were to pitch Saturday in Dodger Stadium, for example, I might try to change all my (non)plans for that night.
But again, nothing really happened Thursday, other than the Dodgers (somewhat annoyingly?) leaving their top prospect in the dark like the rest of us. As far as learning Kershaw's fate, we just need to get in line behind the man himself.
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All the beat writers thought alike for today and turned in features on Blake DeWitt - not surprisingly given what's been happening. Here they are:
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Arizona swept three games from the Dodgers in April, the Dodgers swept three games from Florida over April and May, and now Florida has just swept three from Arizona, contributing to the current logjam atop the National League:
The Dodgers' next six games are against St. Louis and Chicago. Good time to batten down the hatches.
I have a story to tell, but I just need the time to tell it ...
May 21 Game Chat
Give Piazza His Day
Los Angeles owes Mike Piazza a big thank you. The Dodgers need to be proactive in making sure it happens. The sooner he is honored at Dodger Stadium, the better.
A propos of this, here's Bill Shaikin in the Times:
Piazza loved L.A. -- the fans, the night life, the perennial promise of October -- and L.A. loved him back. But free agency loomed after the 1998 season, initial negotiations did not go well, and all of a sudden L.A. knew he wanted a record-setting contract.
Fred Claire, the general manager, figured he had all season to make a deal. The new Fox ownership wanted to rid itself of Piazza and buddy up to the Florida Marlins for television rights purposes, so the corporate suits traded Piazza to the Marlins in May, then told Claire what they had done. ...
In his statement (today), Piazza thanked all the teams, managers and fans for which he played, but he singled out the Mets' fans as "the greatest fans in the world."
(Tommy) Lasorda, the Dodgers' chief salesman, said he was not offended. He said Piazza was stung by boos at Dodger Stadium, before and after the trade. He would try, he said, to persuade Piazza to wear a Dodgers cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Persuasion should not have been necessary. The late, great Times columnist Jim Murray called it, two days after the trade:
"The Dodgers always have adhered to the Branch Rickey theory of roster cutting that it's better to deal a player a year early than a year late. But in Piazza's case, 10 years early?"
Jay Jaffe runs Piazza's Hall of Fame credentials up the Baseball Prospectus flagpole, so we can all salute.
Hopefully, the next time Piazza visits Dodger Stadium, he won't get those tasteless boos from the thoughtless.
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Check out Tuesday's In the Bleachers from Steve Moore. Too close for comfort?
From Diamond Leung at the Press-Enterprise:
"Whether the bad habit sort of caused (the cartilage tear) or the injury caused him to (collapse his back leg), it's the chicken or the egg with that one," Manager Joe Torre said. "I'm guessing there has to be a connection." Trainer Stan Conte said it is more likely that the cartilage tear, usually the result of twisting and turning motions, came because of gradual wear and tear and said the Dodgers had previously done examinations that didn't reveal anything at that time. ...
* * *
The Greatest Hitting Catcher I Ever Saw Retires
Update: A couple years ago, Andrew Grant rounded up a bunch of media coverage after the Dodgers traded Piazza.
Bennett to the DL, Ardoin Up
A Dodger has in fact gone to the disabled list today, but it's Gary Bennett, according to Inside the Dodgers. Danny Ardoin, whose throw freakily injured Andy LaRoche in Spring Training, will replace Bennett. In what amounts to a procedural move, Jason Schmidt shifts over to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Ardoin.
No reason was immediately specified for disablizing Bennett.
Update: "Left foot plantar fasciitis," according to the Dodgers.
In recent years, Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson of the Angels have had this condition. Here's something from The Hardball Times two years ago:
This ailment, which affects the connective tissue in the bottom of the foot, is rarely day-to-day.
Some in the Angels camp are comparing this to Tim Salmon's issue with a similar malady in 1998. He spent two weeks on the DL and needed to DH the rest of the season to protect his injury. Salmon underwent surgery at the end of the 1998 campaign to repair the damage. Two reasons Anderson's situation might be different. First, we don't know the extent of his ailment just yet. Second, as we learned with Albert Pujols last spring, successful treatment of this stubborn ailment is improving. Last spring, Pujols underwent two low frequency treatments with limited results.
The third treatment did the trick and he didn't miss a beat last year. What low frequency treatments do is treat the inflammation near the surface of the issue much more effectively than high frequency types of treatments. Other modes of treatments are also making headway with this ailment. ...
Andruw Jones Gets Kneedled
To paraphrase a respected commenter in these parts, it's bad karma to root for an injury, and you'll never catch me doing it. But when baseball gives you lemons, you start thinking about fruity drinks.
Andruw Jones will be out for either days or weeks with torn cartilage in his right knee. Here's one of many media reports, courtesy of Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
"I'm going to give it two days, and if it doesn't get better ... we'll go ahead and scope it," said Jones, using the word "scope" as a common euphemism for arthroscopic surgery. Jones went on to say team medical personnel had told him that such a procedure would carry a four- to five-week rehabilitation, meaning it probably would sideline Jones through the end of June. ...
"Hopefully, the swelling will go down, and I'll get more flexibility in my knee, and I can just go out there and play," Jones said. "Hopefully, I can just get treatment on it, and then probably get (the surgery) done during the offseason."
Jones said he initially felt discomfort three days ago, but that it wasn't severe enough to give it much thought.
"But when I woke up (Monday) morning, there was serious pain," Jones said.
Club officials are holding out hope that Jones can avoid the disabled list, and as such are willing to play this entire three-game series with the Reds a player short. Jones said if he does decide to undergo surgery, he will do it as soon as possible - "maybe as early as Monday," he said - to minimize the amount of time he misses. A five-week rehab after a Monday surgery would put him on track to return around July 1.
Outside of this ostensibly true opinion from club officials, there aren't too many people who don't think the idea of a five-week break for/from Jones would be a good thing. The only downside I see is that it delays the firsh-or-cut-bait decision on keeping a slumping Jones in the starting lineup, a decision that some have speculated would have come next month. But the idea of the Edward Hermann-sized Jones' trudging out there on a crumbly knee might be more than anyone can bear.
Personally, I would like to see the Dodgers take the quick action they took with Esteban Loaiza. I'd rather risk a healthy Jones on the disabled list for a few days than carry the achy one on the active roster.
I think everyone could also use some relief from the daily angst over who will start in the outfield. I know it would never be this simple, but locking in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Pierre with Delwyn Young starting once a week would be rather relaxing for a while, like a weekend on the Lido Deck (See how happy they are on the right).
As for who would replace Jones on the active roster ... the first thought goes to Andy LaRoche, who has a 1.066 OPS in Las Vegas with four homers, 24 walks and a .506 on-base percentage in nearly 80 plate appearances, against five strikeouts. But such a callup would be predicated on a) LaRoche strictly being a contributor off the bench or b) a position switch by someone.
Blake DeWitt (131 OPS+) owns a spot in the starting lineup right now. He has looked great to the naked eye (as well as the scantily clad eye), and his numbers have too. A .904 OPS is likely not his baseline, but it's getting harder to believe that his baseline won't be higher than we would have thought seven weeks ago. Eventually, he'll slump, but now he deserves the consideration that he'll be able to snap out of that slump and find some equilibrium.
Furthermore, a platoon doesn't even make sense at this point. I can't remember anyone taking about this, but the lefthanded DeWitt is performing better against lefties (1.184 OPS) than against righties (.787 OPS+). In fact, when DeWitt's regression to the mean comes, this is probably where you'll see it; his batting average on balls in play against lefties is a stratospheric .440. It's nothing personal against DeWitt to say that no one can sustain that. But again, it wouldn't be quite fair to him to assume that he'll go from the stratosphere to the, um, strata? (Earth sciences are not my specialty.) I honestly feel it's safe to say that if Nomar Garciaparra were coming off the disabled list today, he would be DeWitt's backup and not the reverse.
But that doesn't eliminate the possibility of someone experimenting at another position. One of the good things about all the position switching manager Joe Torre has done this year is that it's removed the stigma from it. If Russell Martin can play third base or Mark Sweeney can play left field, players should have an open mind about their positions. I don't want to get into whether DeWitt or LaRoche should be practicing at second base (or left field) - both should be, so the Dodgers can see who shows some comfort. Yes, Jeff Kent is the starter at second base, but even in the present he needs rest, and his future is uncertain. Everyone with the Dodgers should be working to get ahead of the inevitable decision.
The Dodgers need to always be pushing their organizational depth upward. In the absence of a single gamechanging player, that's their meal ticket. And perhaps Jones' injury will provide another opening.
* * *
Update: Gary Wolber plans to walk to the June 2 Dodger game from his Granada Hills home to raise money for Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, writes Dennis McCarthy of the Daily News. (Link via L.A. Observed)
The Padres are ready to give up on 2008, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports.
Don't wake him. Just don't wake him ...
Dodger General Manager Idol
Every time the Dodgers lose, the wolves come out for general manager Ned Colletti. I've got no interest in discussing him today, but I do want to pass along a couple of things I mentioned in the comments Sunday.
There is only one position in the Dodger lineup in which an underperforming vet is blocking a younger player who clearly deserves to start. And when Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp both play, as they will tonight against Cincinnati, there is no such position. Colletti is not upending the Dodger youth movement. He might make some odd choices and rationalizations, he might promote some players more slowly than some would like, but on the whole it's hard to argue that the grownups are blocking the kids.
Quite hypothetically, if the 2008 Dodgers were to go down the tubes and Frank McCourt were to decide to fire Colletti, it could easily imply a repudiation of the youth movement, and the mission of the next GM could be to empty the farm for the next Santana that comes along.
I'm not saying it will. I'm not saying anything about McCourt's current attitude toward Colletti. But the better part of Ned's 2007-08 offseason agenda was a commitment to the kids. Andruw Jones is pretty much the only exception. Hiroki Kuroda arguably was replacing such older pitchers as Jason Schmidt, Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko.
The kids are held to a higher standard than the vets in the mainstream world. It's strange but it's true - I guess it's because they aren't believed to have leadership value (except for Russell Martin). If the team were to fail, if Colletti in turn were to be fired, the kids could very well end up with the blame in much of the mainstream press, like last year. And the next general manager could then be someone who gets hired to take the team in a different direction, to make sure the 2012 renovated Dodger Stadium has an attractive team residing inside it.
Just a scenario you might want to consider. Of course, it's also possible that the collective disappointment in Colletti's signings of Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt and Nomar Garciaparra could be the cause of Colletti's if-and-when demise. But understand that for all the complaining from folks, including me, about underused younger players, mostly they are being used.
* * *
Now, the main reason I posted the above today was so I could link to this. From Peter Yoon's Morning Briefing in the Times:
TV personality Drew Carey is a minority owner of Seattle's Major League Soccer expansion team that will begin play in 2009, and he made it clear that it will be a team of the fans.
Carey announced the formation of the Sounders FC Members Assn., a fan group that will have the power to fire or retain the team's general manager every four years.
A minimum of 10,000 votes will be required for a valid vote, but it will be binding, Carey said.
"I never wanted to be a part of MLS unless I could bring this membership aspect," he said. "This is going to work, and it's going to be exciting. Other franchises are going to see what it means, giving the fans a voice."
So, what do you all think? Dodger General Manager Idol will Ryan Seacrest host? What would Simon Cowell say about Ned Colletti ...?
* * *
This will be the most soccer-heavy post in Dodger Thoughts history. Even a non-fan like myself enjoyed this first-person piece from one of the first and best sportswriters I've ever known, Chuck Culpepper. It appeared in Sunday's Times.
LONDON Here's a brazen breach of sportswriting etiquette: We won.
I mean, to Hades with objectivity: We won.
Yeah, we beat Cardiff City, 1-0, in the final of the venerable FA Cup in chilly Saturday drizzle at Wembley Stadium, meaning the world's oldest soccer tournament has gone for the first time since 1939 to Portsmouth, a club from England's south coast or, you know, "we."
Not everybody can use the "we," but I received judicious permission in April 2007, after a match, in a pub, from a blue bear.
* * *
Last week, I was pretty busy combing through the details of the primetime series pickups for the 2008-09 television season, in order to prepare the L.A. Screenings special section for Variety. Immediately after the pickups are announced, buyers from around the world come to Los Angeles to begin deciding what they'd like to purchase for their networks. It doesn't get much play in the mainstream press, but it's a big deal for the companies behind these shows.
For an overview, read Stuart Levine's lead story. For a capsule look at all the new shows for the broadcast networks, go here (this list is organized by international distributor, not broadcast network). For a feature on how the American version of "The Office" plays in Britain, Steve Clarke's your man. And so on.
Finally, I've written an appreciation for the just-canceled Aliens in America for Season Pass.
* * *
Coming in 2009: 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, by Jon Weisman
I'm still overwhelmed, still not getting enough sleep. But it's not the baby's fault. Almost miraculously, he started sleeping six- and seven-hour stretches a week or so ago, and he only turns two months old on Tuesday. It took his older brother more than six months to get a good night's sleep.
Even when the little one wakes up at 4 or 5 in the morning, he goes right back to sleep after he's been fed, rather than kicking a fuss for another hour. We are beside ourselves with glee, all the time knocking on wood (even as I write this).
No, I'm up in the wee hours and dragging myself out of bed in the mornings for another reason entirely.
Shortly before we headed to the hospital for the birth of Nipper 3, I got an offer from Triumph Books, a sports division of Random House, to write the Dodger version of this book: 100 Things Mets Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. I wanted to wait until the deal was done and I had made some headway in the writing before mentioning it here, but I'm pleased to be able to tell you today that it's happening: 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, by me. And I have you in part to thank for it. If it weren't for your support of my writing and the way you have helped developed this site's reputation for thoughtful and fun conversation about the Dodgers, I don't know that this dream of mine to write a Dodger book - for reals - would ever have come true. So thanks - I mean it.
Of course, your work isn't done. You should be able to purchase 100 Things Dodger Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (a title that's a little morbid for my taste, but think positive) next spring, so start saving money for it now: I'm counting on you. It's going to be 100 percent new writing that you haven't seen online - or, 99 percent anyway - so there's all the more reason to shell out for it.
If you have any suggestions for the book, feel free to offer them in the thread below. As you can tell from the title, it's not all about events like Kirk Gibson's homer; it may also have chapters or sidebars on getting a bag of peanuts from Roger Owens or that game-winning pinch hit by Tim Leary years ago. The book will be tilted more toward the Los Angeles era, because there's general agreement that about 10 times as many Brooklyn-era books have been written, though it will go back all the way to the 19th century for ideas. I've already got more than 150 items on my list, so it's been hard for me to imagine I'm missing anything, but I've had two friends come up with good ideas I hadn't thought of, so I figured it would be good to check in with you all.
The pace is exhausting if you consider my other obligations - with an October 1 deadline, I have to average almost a chapter a day to get the first draft done in time for me to have the revising time I want, but let me tell you, it's been fun. I think you'll enjoy reading it.
There's hyperbole, and then there's just being fascinatingly wrong.
I just read Mark Whicker's column in the Register from Saturday, which someone previously mentioned in the comments. But I don't think they mentioned this quote from general manager Ned Colletti:
"We could have eight Furcals out there and it wouldn't help us, with the (starting) pitching the way it's been," he said.
Putting aside what it would mean to have eight Rafael Furcals, I really think the complaining about the starting pitching has become overwrought. There are disappointments and there are concerns, but when your worst starting pitcher of late has been Brad Penny (whose next start will come at least a day later than scheduled), when your team ERA is fifth in the National League, when your team fielding independent ERA is second in the NL, when your 12th pitcher has hardly needed to be used, when you have the luxury of bringing Hong-Chih Kuo out of the bullpen, doesn't that start to overshadow the fact that your starting pitchers average 5 1/3 innings instead of six?
I'd rather the Dodgers carried 11 pitchers instead of 12, but either way, the 25th man on the roster doesn't make or break a team's fortunes. And there's nothing wrong with using pitching depth as an asset.
In seven weeks this season, Takashi Saito has thrown 17 1/3 innings, Jonathan Broxton 17, Joe Beimel 13 2/3 and Scott Proctor 20 1/3. None is averaging more than three innings per week, nor are they having an overload of pitches wasted in the bullpen - when they warm up, they usually have to come in. This does not meet the definition of being overworked.
Sucking up innings are Hong-Chih Kuo (who has not pitched with fewer than two days rest), Chan Ho Park (never used on consecutive days) and Cory Wade (used on consecutive days once, in April). Should any of these falter, there are plenty of candidates in the system to replace them.
The Dodgers' starting pitching has been mediocre overall, but the bullpen has mitigated that.
Meanwhile, the Dodger starting left fielder has an equivalent average of .269 and falling (.271 on-base percentage and .228 slugging percentage since leaving Denver), the center fielder has an EQA of .201 and the starting second baseman is at .228. I'm sure Colletti didn't mean for his "eight Furcals" comment to be taken literally or even seriously, but the fact that he could even say it as a throwaway line is kind of strange.
The Dodgers have had incredible performances from some players, good performances from others, inconsistent performances from others and downright dreck from a few. The starting pitching should be better than it is, but it's not killing the team - not by itself, anyway.
* * *
Juan Pierre went 0 for 4 with a hit-by-pitch Saturday. Still, he was worthy of sidebar praise in the eyes of Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
After using his speed to reach base on a momentary bobble by Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis ...
He's fast, but he still reached first base only because of an error ...
Pierre stole second by sliding headfirst into the back of the bag, even though the throw from catcher Jeff Mathis had beaten him badly. ...
He should have been out a second time, but he wasn't. Seriously, credit him with a good slide ...
He then tagged and took third on Andre Ethier's fly ball to deep center, after which the Angels intentionally walked Russell Martin.
Then on a 3-1 pitch to James Loney, Martin broke for second, only to have Mathis' throw beat him by some 45 feet. At that point, Martin engaged the Angels in a rundown, and Pierre waited for his moment.
When it took a second throw to get Martin - shortstop Erick Aybar to first baseman Casey Kotchman to Izturis - Pierre scampered home uncontested ...
The key to Pierre scoring was that the Angels blew a rundown play, as manager Mike Scioscia would acknowledge in his postgame comments ...
... scoring what turned out to be a crucial run in the Dodgers' 6-3 victory.
The crucial run? The team led by two already ...
At that point, the Dodgers clung to a 4-2 lead they had seemed destined to blow just a couple of innings earlier. But Pierre's run - his second in a game in which he had no hits in five plate appearances - made it 5-2 and seemed to erase any doubt for the Dodgers.
Yes, Pierre's speed helped the Dodgers get a run. Still, I don't see how that can be more impressive than Andre Ethier, who after his two-run homer Friday, singled in the Dodgers' third run off Ervin Santana, helping to hasten the departure of a pitcher whose ERA entering the game was 2.63.
I'm looking at Ethier's 2008 gamelog and still trying to figure out where the slump is.
* * *
On the Chin
Part of the reason we keep seeing players like Gary Bennett and Luis Maza in the Dodger starting lineup and Russell Martin at third base has been Joe Torre's loss of faith in Chin-Lung Hu.
From Kevin Pearson of the Press Enterprise:
Torre said that infielder Chin-Lung Hu, who was hitting .200 and in a 2-for-17 slump heading into Friday's game, was clearly fighting himself mechanically and that it appeared the game was speeding up for the rookie. Torre said that Hu needed to be playing every day and that moving him back to the minors was something the club may be forced to look at in the coming weeks.
Hu might be heading to Las Vegas soon, but at least for today, he is getting a start in place of Jeff Kent.
Juan Pierre, LF
Something I Did Not Realize
Career EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus:
.286 Matt Kemp (624 plate appearances)
I've been holding out hope for Jones to draw closer to his career norms, though without necessarily expecting him to reach them. What I didn't realize is that even his career norms on offense are below those of Kemp and Ethier. And Kemp and Ethier are players on the rise.
That doesn't in and of itself mean that Jones should lose at-bats (once the Dodgers go back to not having the designated hitter), but it's another reason that Ethier and Kemp should be etched into the everyday lineup without question.
I will acknowledge that Ethier has not been a solid hitter against left-handed pitching in his career - .719 OPS before tonight's home run. Ethier's not going to the Hall of Fame. But he simply should not be fighting for playing time. Against righthanders, Ethier is the second-best outfielder on the team. Against lefties, he's third-best.
* * *
Did Gary Bennett earn baseball blooper immortality with his parabola over James Loney's head tonight, allowing Erick Aybar to advance from home plate to third base on a strikeout? All signs point to yes. Not that this was our first indelible memory of Bennett from a Dodger game ...
It's Friday Evening, And I Hate To Leave The Office
Read my fond farewell to Season 4 of The Office at the Season Pass blog on Variety:
Is there anything in television quite so bittersweet as a richly executed season finale? The satisfying pleasure ... your aching for more ... it's just too much!
* * *
John Sickels reviews his ongoing thoughts about the career of former Dodger Edwin Jackson at Minor League Ball.
In his first three at-bats tonight against Toronto, ex-Dodger Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer, a grand slam and a solo homer for Philadelphia. Werth is OPSing .940 on the season as of this writing.
* * *
Bellhorn Joins Jacksonville
Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness passes along the news that Mark Bellhorn is now playing for the Dodgers' AA team in Jacksonville. Or, as Suns director of sales and promotions Casey Nichols somewhat quirkily puts it, "2004 World Series Champion Mark Bellhorn was promoted to Jacksonville from extended spring on May 15, 2008."
I just can't quite get behind the idea of calling an individual a champion in a team sport. I'll stick with "Mark Bellhorn of the 2004 World Series champions ..."
Since 2004, by the way, the 33-year-old infielder's major-league hit totals have gone down to 63, 48 and 1.
Recent Southern League pitcher of the week James McDonald is the Suns' scheduled starter tonight, with Clayton Kershaw on tap for Saturday, around the time that we learn the ultimate outcome of Chan Ho Park's start for the Dodgers.
* * *
The Dodgers have been buried at Anaheim in recent years, but they are 10-3 against left-handed starters this season. How will they fare against Angel lefty Joe Saunders (2.48 ERA)? Rob McMillin previews the interleague series at length at 6-4-2. Some of his conclusions might surprise you, such as which team has the better right fielder.
Pitching a Fit
With the support of most of his staff, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman placed his faith in young pitchers Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes instead of packaging them in a Johan Santana deal. As Jon Heyman writes at SI.com, Cashman's now taking heat for his decision from new Yankee emperor Hank Steinbrenner. Anyone can see that it's too soon to judge the merits of the decision.
I know some people are frustrated with the Dodger starting pitching, but I hope there continues to be a climate where faith - more or less - continues to be placed in the younger hurlers whom the team also chose to keep rather than trade.
Thursday Night TV Chat
No spoilers ...
Choose Your Mirage
Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent and Gary Bennett all homered off Ben Sheets in the seventh inning. Who's for real?
Six runs scored in support of Chad Billingsley's seven innings of shutout ball. Billingsley ends up allowing a run in the eighth inning of a 7-2 victory.
* * *
A fun story about baseball in France comes from Geraldine Baum of the Times:
It's still not a game children play in the garden or during a barbecue. As is regularly noted, if you hand a French child a baseball, he'll immediately drop and try to kick it. (Of course, that's how the 1962 Mets played, and they won a World Series a few years later.)
On a typical spring weekend when the Cougars are on the field, there are only a few dozen spectators in the stands, and often the strapping players mix with the desultory crowd, wandering over to the snack bar for a square of vanilla flan or a waffle delicately sprinkled with sugar. ...
Even when the championships for the top-level teams (equivalent to Class-A baseball in the U.S.) were played in Montigny, they drew only 100 people to the 230-seat stands.
It's puzzling if only because baseball seems in so many ways like a sport the French might like:
It's leisurely and permeated with romance, much like French cinema, and leaves plenty of time for analysis and hearty eating in the bleachers. And in the American imagination, baseball is so tied to what feels like the very French notion of terroir, which can be translated as territory but refers to a cultural attachment to the land. Baseball is rooted in a pastoral culture of summertime in the country with people cheering as much for a team as for the spirit of their land. ...
The Wall Hits Kent
While Blake DeWitt defies all expectations and only hits the ball harder and farther and more consistently when he was supposed to wilt, another Dodger infielder is conforming to expectations quite inconveniently.
Jeff Kent, who in previous seasons lost most of his fielding range, has stopped hitting at age 40. For the season, the Dodgers' nominal cleanup hitter has an on-base percentage of .287 (with the same number of walks as the never-walking Matt Kemp) and a slugging percentage of .383. He has 10 extra-base hits in 120 at-bats. His Value Over Replacement Player, which doesn't factor in his fielding, is a meager 0.9; one could interpret that to mean he is almost the equivalent of Luis Maza.
Kent's equivalent average, which rounds all his offensive abilities into a single number (with .260 being average), is .246 - its lowest total since he was establishing himself in 1992 and down more than 50 points from his pre-2008 average as a Dodger. In the past four weeks, Kent has a .263 on-base percentage and .271 slugging percentage.
Kent has slumped before - that's nothing new, and in and of itself would not be an issue. In April 2006, Kent slugged .244 on his way to a .554 OPS. The following month, he slugged .622 on his way to a 1.066 OPS. Great players have bad stretches, and I've always advocated patience and keeping the faith. That's why I've done so with Andruw Jones, as difficult as it's been to endure and as unguaranteed as the outcome might be. That's why I did so with Russell Martin in April and with some of the pitchers this month.
But Kent is at a stage where you have to wonder how much he can turn it around. It's not that he'll necessarily stay down at a 72 OPS+ when he hasn't been below 119 since 1997. But how much improvement can one expect? Consider what ToyCannon at True Blue L.A. wrote way back in November:
As Jeff Kent turns 40 he is about to enter an area that historically has not been kind to second basemen. Here is a list of second basemen sorted by age who ever did squat since integration. As you can see only HOF Joe Morgan was able to accomplish the feat (OPS+ above 100) at the age of 40 and most of that was accomplished by his OBP, and the OPS+ of 103 is hardly noteworthy. ...
I wasn't as prescient as this, but it was my offseason hope that Jones' arrival would allow Kent to be pushed out of the cleanup spot. Even I knew he would no longer be suited to bat fourth.
What seems likely is that Kent will have reassuring little bursts of offense here and there to disguise his mediocrity, much like Juan Pierre has had, and then fade again. (Yes, I'm going to pick on Pierre even after - or especially because - he was Wednesday's hero, because it's exactly at such a time that people need reminding that his offense and defense still pale next to that of Andre Ethier, wasting away at 26. Pierre's OPS since the Colorado series, including his 3-for-5 Wednesday, is .552, and his 2008 EQA is still 30 points below Ethier's.) So, at a minimum, the Dodgers had better make sure they have a Plan B in case Kent's decline is real.
Perhaps Chin-Lung Hu or eventually Tony Abreu is that plan. Perhaps Andy LaRoche or Blake DeWitt or Delwyn Young need to practice overtime at second base. Whatever it is, hopefully the team isn't burying its head in the sand. The end comes to the best of them. It might come late, and in Kent's case, it might, might just hold off for one more rebound. But don't get your hopes too high.
* * *
Jeff Passan gets up close and personal with Clayton Kershaw at Yahoo! Sports.
* * *
DeWitt's backed stiffened in the fifth inning Wednesday, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but DeWitt said after receiving postgame treatment that he felt good.
Update: Knock me over with a feather. DeWitt was scratched from the lineup; Russell Martin is starting at third.
Out of the Sinkhole
I really was prepared to be morose tonight. Oh well! Nice comeback for the Dodgers ...
In celebration, I feel compelled to offer this trivial trivia:
Derek Lowe tonight had two intentional walks in an inning for the third time in his career. The previous occurrences:
April 5, 2001: Bottom of the 9th, Orioles Batting, Tied 1-1, Derek Lowe facing 1-2-3
May 13, 2001: Top of the 11th, Athletics Batting, Tied 4-4, Derek Lowe facing 2-3-4
Joe Posnanski makes a formidable case for buying The Soul of Baseball.
At some point, it may well become cheaper to give an inscribed book than a birthday card. (Something for me to keep in mind next Mother's Day.) I guess that's a good thing, unless you're a writer who doesn't write greeting cards.
* * *
The Dodgers' Most Valuable Pitcher To Date
Based on Value Over Replacement Player, it's Chan Ho Park - despite a strikeout/home run ratio of just over 2:1.
Syesha Mercado deserves to make the American Idol finals ahead of David Archuleta.
Yes, I'm Talking To You
When I see someone using two hands to operate a hands-free cellphone device, I feel like we as a society have taken a step backward.
* * *
Furcal to DL
Better that Rafael Furcal gets the rest and rehab if he needs it. And apparently he needs it.
More from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Furcal did not fly to Milwaukee with the club on Monday, instead undergoing an MRI and receiving a cortisone injection in his sprained sacro-iliac joint. He was disabled retroactive to May 6, meaning he would be eligible to return on May 21, but with lower back injuries, there is no way to predict how long he will be out. He will begin rehab therapy on Wednesday.
Furcal, who suffered an almost identical injury last September, was said to be day to day, and wound up missing the final 12 games of the season. He's already missed the past five games, the Dodgers losing the last four of them, while the offense has struggled with rookie Chin-lung Hu replacing Furcal at shortstop and Juan Pierre taking over the leadoff spot in the batting order.
Is "sacro-iliac" really hyphenated?
Folks, if you want a left fielder who most offers the kind of offense that Furcal provided, it ain't Pierre.
The last time the Dodgers panicked over a middle infielder injury, they ended up with Julio Lugo. Caution!
Update: Clayton Kershaw's mechanics are analyzed by Alex Eisenberg at The Hardball Times.
Foulups, Bleeps & Blunders
With two out in the top of the sixth inning Sunday, while working on his no-no and protecting a 2-0 lead, Hiroki Kuroda faced Kazuo Matsui and his 18 career homers and 83 career OPS+. On deck were two major names, Miguel Tejada and the hottest hitter in baseball, Lance Berkman.
Kuroda walked Matsui on four pitches. Kuroda knew who was on deck, knew what was at stake. There's no doubt he wanted to throw strikes; he just suddenly couldn't. He missed low, outside, further outside and then back to low.
I don't think Kuroda lost concentration. If anything, it was the opposite. I suspect one of two things were happening: He was tiring, and/or he became so preoccupied with the notion that the situation demanded he throw a strike that he knocked him off his game.
In any case, it just fascinates me that even at the highest level of the game, performing the easiest tasks, baseball players are inherently unreliable. There is absolutely no guarantee that a pitcher trying to throw a strike will succeed.
How many situations are there in everyday life that require you to do the equivalent of "just throw strikes?" Maybe one is "don't convince yourself you already bought your wife a Mother's Day card without double-checking." I tell you, there are some at-bats you'd really, really just like to have back.
* * *
Say hypothetically the Dodgers' fortunes did depend on Rafael Furcal, as so many have more than hypothesized recently. Does the team's performance while his back injury sidelines him underscore the need to resign him at all costs, or does the injury itself indicate how much the Dodgers need to learn not to rely on him?
I think that it's a mistake to make too direct a connection between Furcal and the recent losing streak. But in my mind, this week on the sidelines has to knock some millions off Furcal's reasonable asking price.
* * *
Clayton Kershaw is the scheduled starter for Jacksonville today at 5:05 p.m. If he were to start for the Dodgers this Saturday, it would be on four days' rest.
Juan Pierre, LF (30)
* * *
I began thinking about hosting a blog about a year ago, and back in January I took the first big step by starting an internal blog for employees of the Padres. The idea all along was to someday create an external blog to engage in a direct dialogue with our fans. Well, given the events of the past few weeks, that "someday" is now.
* * *
I've come upon a blog that is a perfect distraction from tonight's Dodger debacle: Earl Pomerantz: Just Thinking ..., authored by the prolific writer of Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi and the like. Just one rich entry after another.
Here's a sample of Pomerantz's writing for MTM:
TED: I've been reborn, Lou. And all because of a little spider. ... A few days ago, I was sitting on the terrace outside our bedroom when I noticed this spider spinning its web near the screen door patiently, skillfully, lovingly. And then Georgette opened the door and tore the web. And the spider had to build it back up Then a little later someone else opened the door and the spider had to build it back up again and then somebody else .
LOU: Ted could you move it along?
TED: Sure, Lou. You see, I learned something from that little spider, who never gave up, who kept re-building his web over and over and over I learned that life is short and you have to live for today.
MARY: Ted, that's not a "live-for-today" story; it's a "perseverance" story.
TED: It was a "perseverance" story, Mair. But it became a "live-for-today" story when I smacked that spider with my newspaper.
* * *
Now, when Vin says, "In the old days, they'd call it a can of corn," and I remember them doing just that, does that make me old?
Andruw Jones 2008:
Juan Pierre 2008:
Andre Ethier 2008:
* * *
Starting Pitching Will Recover
So, suddenly the starting pitching is collapsing, right? Or is it?
"In 16 of their 35 games this season, Dodgers starters haven't pitched past the fifth inning," Ken Gurnick writes at MLB.com. That's ugly and true, but things were actually looking better until this week began. Here's the ledger for the top four starting pitchers since the woebegone Atlanta series:
The first thing to notice is that until four days ago, the front four were holding their own as far as innings, reaching five innings in 11 consecutive games. I also might argue that a five-inning start in Colorado is at least the equivalent of a six-inning start elsewhere. If you're willing to grant that, the front four made it to six innings or more in nine of 11 games. Now, six innings isn't seven and seven isn't eight, but when you're carrying a seven-man bullpen and have off days, the endurance of the starting pitching really isn't as much of a crisis as you might initially think.
In addition, Joe Torre is as responsible as anyone for the fact that Dodger starters haven't pitched as deeply in games as people would like. Four times, Torre brought the hook when the pitcher was holding down the opposition and hadn't reached 100 pitches yet. I'm not saying he was wrong to do so each time - this includes Torre pinch-hitting for Penny in the top of the sixth at Colorado on May 2 during the seven-run rally from a 3-0 deficit, for example - but it's a factor in evaluating how long the starters have pitched.
Now, I've left the No. 5 starter out of the conversation to this point. It's not that he doesn't matter, but I just don't know how you judge Esteban Loaiza and Hong-Chih Kuo on innings pitched when neither has been given the opportunity to build up innings. Kuo has had six outings of three innings or more, three as a starter, three as a reliever. Add up those appearances, and you get 21 2/3 innings, 17 hits, eight walks and 28 strikeouts. Torre has a bonafide starting pitching candidate here, and he has chosen to keep him in the bullpen. Maybe he's right to do it, but when you make that kind of choice, your starting pitching misses an opportunity to be effective.
Look, Lowe and Kuroda have been in slumps, and Penny just had one of the worst outings of his career and has a declining strikeout rate that recalls Odalis Perez, and some people are always uptight about Billingsley. As far as the Dodger starting pitching is concerned, this isn't 1965. But every member of the rotation is capable of doing better, and that's even before you look into the minors at Clayton Kershaw (33 1/3 innings, 1.09 ERA, 37 strikeouts). I'm not convinced there's a major concern here. Either Torre needs to learn to let his starters run longer when they're pitching efficiently, or he needs to learn to stop worrying and love his middle relief.
Keep the Momentum Going
Arizona isn't so red-hot anymore. The Diamondbacks lost at Wrigley Field today - their sixth defeat in their past 10 games.
Yhency Brazoban was recalled today.
"Loney's doing well?" asked an incredulous Bennett. "I didn't even know he played.
... and when to come clean, writes Ben Platt of MLB.com:
Loney, who is always the gentleman, patiently explained between hands to one of the women playing at his table, what his day job was. "I play first base for the Dodgers," said Loney. "Is that a good position to play?" asked the lady. "Yes, I think it is," replied the 24-year-old from Houston.
Update: At Season Pass, I contemplate the future of Scrubs.
Taking the Lee Train to the Ballpark
Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts and his son got an unexpected surprise on their barnstorming baseball tour this week a subway ride with Cleveland's Cliff Lee, hours before the Indians lefty shut out the Yankees over seven innings.
Scroll down the home page of Baseball Analysts to enjoy the Lederers' jealousy-inducing sojourn from the start.
* * *
It's been mentioned in the comments, but I shouldn't forget to note in this space that in the wake of our co-guest spot on KABC 790 the other night, Dodger commentator Steve Lyons has been pumping up the Bison nickname for Matt Kemp on the Fox Sports Net pregame and postgame shows. Can Bison souvenirs be far away?
In other news from Bisonia, Kemp is launching "Kemp's Kids" Friday, a program that will have him hosting kids from local Boys and Girls clubs at different games this season.
"In addition to Kemp, Dodgers Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones and Dodger legend Fernando Valenzuela have programs that host children at games this season," the press release says.
Thursday Night TV Chat
No spoilers ...
As Loaiza Hits DL and Brazoban Gets Recalled, Kershaw Lined Up for May 17 Start?
Dylan Hernandez of the Times isn't sure Clayton Kershaw is joining the Dodgers in 10 days, but he isn't sure he isn't, either:
Esteban Loaiza was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of tightness and spasms in his right shoulder -- a move that could create an opportunity for top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw to make his major league debut in Anaheim on May 17.
First, the Dodgers are expected to call up Yhency Brazoban from triple-A Las Vegas for the start of a three-game series Friday against the Houston Astros. ... Kershaw, 20, could replace Brazoban or another reliever on the active roster the next time the Dodgers need a fifth starter -- probably on May 17. The spot belonged to Loaiza, whose move to the disabled list is retroactive to Sunday, making him eligible to be activated May 18. Hong-Chih Kuo has also pitched in that role, but Manager Joe Torre said he wants Kuo to remain in the bullpen.
A place for Kershaw on the 40-man roster can be opened by moving Jason Schmidt from the 15-day to 60-day disabled list. Asked Wednesday about the possibility of Kershaw's being called up, Torre replied, "You'll have to wait and see." ...
Wednesday, Kershaw made his season debut as a reliever and threw only eight pitches in a perfect fifth. He is slated to start for Jacksonville in Mobile on Monday, five days before the opening in the Dodgers' rotation.
Loaiza said he first felt the tightness in his shoulder playing catch Tuesday. He said he didn't feel any discomfort when throwing Wednesday and that he protested his move to the disabled list.
"I feel fine," he said. "I want to pitch. I want to be out there and throwing."
That Look In Their Eyes
Newborn babies don't smile. They can be cute beyond all get-out (or not, it doesn't really matter), but they basically won't give you the time of day. You love them, you love them instantly, long before you get any tangible evidence that they love you back, or even like you.
And so, even if you're on your third go-round as a parent, you forget that they're capable of smiling. You grow accustomed to their alternatively stoic and sobbing approach to life. Happiness is defined as a dry diaper, a full belly or a secure swaddle. Happiness is defined as relief.
And then, about five or six or seven weeks in, the corners of the mouth turn up, and it doesn't quite seem like an accident. Maybe once every couple of days, then maybe twice in a day.
And then you come home from work on a Tuesday night, and the kid just can't stop smiling. His mouth is wide-open joy, his eyes are sparkling pools of wonder, and he's giggling from cheeks to belly. It's like a big practical joke "Had you going there, didn't I, Dad?" like the merry mobbing at the end of the silent treatment for Blake DeWitt after his first major-league home run, like the end of the morose Atlanta road trip and the reanimation of the Dodger franchise.
There is joy in Mudville. And the joy will ebb and flow, you realize you'll have winning streaks and losing streaks, tickles and tantrums. You step back and realize that you can do all you can do to win a World Series or raise a child, but you don't know what will happen come October, you don't even know what could happen come the ninth inning of a businessman's special in May, and your stomach curdles in anxiety.
Put that out of your head. Think about the smiles. "All I know is that life is pretty much a losing proposition," Josh Wilker says, "so it stands to reason you should celebrate the rare victories, however small." Focus on the smiles. Focus hard.
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Juan Pierre, LF
Update: The reins have been pulled on Clayton Kershaw, who pitched one perfect inning of relief for AA Jacksonville today.
Here's Ken Gurnick's MLB.com update on Rafael Furcal:
Shortstop Rafael Furcal reported improvement in his sore back and pitcher Jason Schmidt's bullpen session went without incident before the Dodgers' game on Wednesday with the Mets.
Furcal missed his second consecutive start, but said with Thursday's scheduled off-day that he anticipated returning to the lineup for Friday night's series opener with the Astros. Furcal missed the last 12 games of last season with lower back spasms, but this injury is said to be in a different area and not considered by club officials as serious.
Blake DeWitt - Holy Cow
In the third, a two-run single to cut the Mets' lead to 4-3 ... that's just the appetizer.
In the fifth, a drive to the right-field wall ... INSIDE-THE-PARK TWO-RUN GO-AHEAD HOME RUN.
We had a long, fruitful discussion about third base today on Dodger Thoughts, and before tonight's game, it left me prepared to write Wednesday morning that it wouldn't do any good for the Dodgers to call up Andy LaRoche before DeWitt cooled off - even if LaRoche deserved the opportunity DeWitt has - because LaRoche would only be looking over his shoulder. The bulk of the Dodger community would find a slow start by LaRoche intolerable.
So without sacrificing my belief in LaRoche, I was converted to the idea of playing Blake DeWitt for the time being.
This just puts an exclamation point on the whole affair.
Well done, kid!
And meanwhile, Hong-Chih Kuo's first six outs in relief of Hiroki Kuroda came by strikeout.
Update: From Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
The second-place Dodgers (19-14), who remained three games behind division-leading Arizona in the National League West, won't need a fifth starter again until May 17 at the Angels. Whoever it ends up being, it isn't likely to be Kuo, no matter how well he pitches.
"No," Torre said. "That second left-hander in the bullpen ... that's important."
Inevitable as the Tide ...
... and therefore probably not something to get upset over, however unaesthetic it might be. Still, expect naming rights for several elements of the upcoming Dodger Stadium renovation to be up for sale, writes Don Muret of the Sports Business Journal. (You need to be a registered user to read the entire story.)
I don't believe the sales will keep ticket prices down, because the Dodgers will no doubt continue to charge what the market will pay. But if selling naming rights to portions of the park helps keep the Dodger Stadium name intact, so much the better.
Here's a story excerpt:
The money from creating those branded areas will be used to help pay for construction, said Dennis Mannion, the team's chief operating officer. Los Angeles sports marketer Randy Bernstein estimated the team could pull in $3 million to $5 million annually from doing as many as 20 deals for the new development and existing inventory .
Mannion is in the early stages of a long journey to sell secondary naming-rights packages without changing the Dodger Stadium name.
"I think right now the organization is philosophically opposed to naming rights for the ballpark, but anything could change," Mannion said. "The establishment of the Dodger Stadium brand is really important for us."
In doing so, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, a Boston native who tried unsuccessfully to buy the Red Sox in 2001, is following the lead of his hometown team in selling premium spaces but keeping the name of a beloved ballpark intact.
* * *
Forty-four Dodger Thoughts readers voted today on their ideal starting lineup for this moment in time. Here are the results, as tallied by Eric Stephen.
C Russell Martin (44)
* * *
Update: Rafael Furcal was scratched tonight because of a stiff back. Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise has more dour news on Jason Schmidt, Tony Abreu and Scott Elbert.
Not gonna talk about it. But James Loney, watch your back.
* * *
I only just noticed that Baseball Prospectus spiffed up its team pages; you can see the Dodgers here. Among other things, it shows off some pretty stunning equivalent averages that reflect their lovely winning ways, led of course by Rafael Furcal, who also has a Value Over Replacement Player total of 26.3, 33.3 points higher than Andruw Jones.
Congrats to Blake DeWitt for his first home run, and to his Dodger teammates for their great celebration of it. Monday's game sure was fun.
Update: Okay, I couldn't resist. From the aforelinked Ben Bolch Times article:
(Joe) Torre said (Nomar) Garciaparra might need to complete a minor league rehabilitation assignment depending on how quickly he progresses. Is his spot as the everyday third baseman secure upon his return?
"He really didn't do anything wrong, he just got hurt," Torre said. "I think he certainly needs an opportunity to pick that up."
As for the Loney reference above, given Torre's knack for experimentation, I'm wondering if either Andre Ethier or Russell Martin will get a start there.
Ethier, by the way, has still outperformed Juan Pierre on offense this season if you look at the numbers above, even factoring in Pierre's basestealing and recent hot streak.
The Dodgers are tied for the National League wild card lead with Chicago.
* * *
Congrats to the Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana of the Angels for their outstanding starts to 2008: Each is a well-earned 6-0. Saunders ERA is 2.61 (though with only 21 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings); Santana is at 2.02 (38 strikeouts in 49 innings).
Bissinger Contrite, Kind Of
Schmidt in Relief?
So, I was answering some questions for a quick MetsBlog Q&A that should be posted this evening, and I got to thinking about what happens if dare I say when - Jason Schmidt and Clayton Kershaw are both ready to join the Dodgers this summer.
Kershaw could very well beat Schmidt to the roster, although the 20-year-old might break in as a reliever. (There seems to be some internal debate over whether it makes sense to take Kershaw out of his starter's routine and risk reducing his endurance.) In any event, it's rather easy to envision Kershaw being ready to start games by the second half of the season, roughly around the time Schmidt's rehab will be complete.
I feel pretty confident that Kershaw will be a better starting pitcher than Schmidt this year. So what I'm wondering is whether there could be a movement to have Schmidt relieve. As unsightly as it could be to have a $12 million man entering the game in the seventh inning, it could bring him increased effectiveness along with shorter outings that would ease his arm back into action.
I realize it's premature to even worry about this we don't even know if Schmidt has anything left to offer, and the Dodgers should be so lucky as to not have any more arm problems between now and then - so I'm kind of breaking my own rules here. But a rotation of Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Huroda and Kershaw, backed by a bullpen led by Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel, Hong-Chih Kuo, Scott Proctor and Schmidt? That's a good staff, isn't it? And that's without even scratching the surface of the likes of James McDonald.
If there's consternation over the fact that so few Dodger starting pitchers reach the seventh inning, well, maybe that's just not how the Dodgers are going to do it in 2008. Maybe the Dodgers' path to success is to have good-if-not-great starting pitching and deep and effective relief, from the front end of the bullpen to the back. And maybe Schmidt could be a piece of that puzzle. (I'm sure some people will suggest Chad Billingsley, but I'm still confident that he will emerge as the ace of the Dodger rotation, at least until Kershaw flowers.)
One other thing that might be clever for the Dodgers to do as the season heats up would be to allocate the 12th spot on the pitching staff on a rotating basis. You dedicate that spot specifically to minor-leaguers who can be shuttled up and down as needed, to prevent the bullpen as a whole from becoming overworked. Instead of worrying about the Jake Peavy-type ace that you don't have, you take advantage of the depth that you do have.
Just a reminder: I'll be on KABC 790 AM with host Ken Levine and Steve Lyons tonight from 7 to 10 p.m., hoping to channel my inner Wolfman Jack without sacrificing my inner, well, whatever this is. Tommy Davis is scheduled as a guest during the first hour. And if I have any say in it, the answer to the trivia question will be Pedro Astacio.
LaRoche Activated - In AAA
I can't say enough about the stupendous Dodger offense this week, so I'm not even going to try. They've taken maximum advantage of poor pitching - Florida and Colorado are 14th and 15th in runs allowed per game in the NL this season - but that's what you're supposed to do.
So I'll just spend a few moments talking about third base.
Andy LaRoche has been officially activated - and optioned to Las Vegas. With Nomar Garciaparra on the disabled list, Blake DeWitt will remain the starter at third base. Russell Martin will spot start against the occasional lefty, with Gary Bennett catching on those days.
Now, I've gotten as much of a kick as anyone out of Martin showing off his stuff at third - and at the same time, I don't expect it's going to happen every day, like it has the past two days. And I realize that Bennett has to play some, a little. And the Dodgers arguably need 12 pitchers right now, though an off day looms next week.
And I'll even give the Dodgers the benefit of the doubt that they're making this move for LaRoche's benefit, to give him some useful low-pressure at-bats before putting him on the major-league roster - as opposed to the way Garciaparra rushed back into the lineup. "At this point, Andy is healthy, and we want him to stay down there and get at-bats," Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng told Tony Jackson of the Daily News.
But essentially, on nights like Saturday, the Dodgers are choosing to start Bennett over LaRoche. And if LaRoche is healthy, that becomes pretty senseless.
There used to be a code that a player shouldn't be demoted because of an injury. Based on what happened with Matt Kemp last year and LaRoche this year, the Dodgers don't honor that code. I don't like to be a slave to codes, and I appreciate what DeWitt has done. Really. This isn't about putting down DeWitt, it's about comparing two enticing players. It's still worth remembering that if LaRoche had produced DeWitt's numbers in 2008 - .373 on-base percentage, .389 slugging percentage, zero home runs - many would have considered them disappointing. Expectations are higher for LaRoche, and he shouldn't be punished for not getting the same opportunity to meet them that DeWitt had in April - the same opportunity, as opposed to starting irregularly. DeWitt's season is reminding me at this point of Jack Fimple's 1983 season, in which he came out of nowhere when Steve Yeager and Mike Scioscia were nursing injuries and wowed Los Angeles with his simple competency and occasional clutch hits.
The situation is also sort of similar to what's happened with Juan Pierre over the past few days. With a .389 on-base percentage, Pierre has adapted well to being the fourth outfielder this season. Though I opposed his contract and his position in the starting lineup, you've never heard me demand his trade. Once the contract was a fait accompli, I've always thought he could be useful in this position, however overpaid. That doesn't mean Andre Ethier (.393 OBP, .442 slugging) hasn't deserved more playing time in the past couple of days, however, nor does it change the fact that the Dodgers will ultimately benefit most if they can get Andruw Jones unblocked.
Yes, LaRoche has to stay healthy. He left Saturday's AAA game after a rough play in the first inning, according to Dodger Thoughts commenter Nofatmike, though there was no indication he would be out for any length of time. (Update: Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise believes there might have been an online scorekeeping error and that LaRoche never played in the game.) But although there was talk last year that LaRoche wasn't dedicated in taking care of himself, that hasn't been the case this year. He came back from his hand injury ahead of schedule - a hand injury that was a freak occurrence, not a character flaw.
I'm really not trying to rock the boat. This has been a great week. The team is producing, even with Jones still struggling. That's more important. And I firmly believe in giving reserves time-to-time starts to keep them fresh and involved. (Peewee Young, your life is calling.) I just hate to see LaRoche get buried. The idea that DeWitt and Bennett have dibs on the starting lineup ahead of him - that's not a big deal for a couple of days, but longer-term, it will need to change. I trust he'll get his chance again, just like Kemp has.
* * *
The Dodgers' current thought process on Clayton Kershaw is detailed by Diamond Leung of the Press-Enterprise:
Before fifth starter Esteban Loaiza did his part to help blow a 6-0 lead and last only 2 1/3 innings, Manager Joe Torre said a day after Kershaw extended his scoreless inning streak to 18 1/3 innings with General Manager Ned Colletti in attendance that the Dodgers have settled on limiting the 20-year-old to about 160 innings this season. The question becomes how many of those innings should be spent in the major leagues.
One scenario exists in which Kershaw could be called up by month's end to begin his big-league career with on-the-job training as a multiple-innings reliever. But both Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said they favored patience, preferring Kershaw's workload be monitored in the minors so he could eventually help the Dodgers as a starter.
"The safest thing, and I'm not sure it's the right thing, is he should be extended," Honeycutt said.
The Dodgers in the meantime are doing their due diligence in making sure Kershaw, who was still only a teenager while impressing the team as a late non-roster invitee during the spring, is successful upon his arrival to the majors.
Colletti noted that Kershaw struggled with the command of his breaking ball early on during Friday's 6 2/3-inning start, during which he did not allow an earned run and lowered his ERA to 1.11. Of the four earned runs he's allowed this year, three have come before he was through three innings. Scouts also say the team's first-round draft pick in 2006 could improve on holding runners.
Hong-Chih Kuo had a nice outing in relief of Esteban Loaiza on Saturday: 3 1/3 innings, five strikeouts. That gives Kuo 25 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings this season.
* * *
Rafael Furcal - .612 Slugging!
Hey, look - Walt Torrence just made a basket with 35 seconds left to lift John Wooden's Bruins over USC. Denny Crum led UCLA with 17 points. And Santa Anita has suspended Valenzuela, and Stanford has a new football coach!
"I know quite a few Japanese players." - Steve Allen.
The competition: Andruw Jones' hits vs. Chase Utley's homers. Jones leads, 15-12.
Martin Gets Start at Third Base
The lineup in cold Colorado:
Rafael Furcal, SS
Brad Penny, P
What does it say about Martin that he can pick up a position he last played regularly half a decade ago, when defensive whiz Chin-Lung Hu can't? Anything? Nothing?
* * *
Well, here it comes. Will I be part of the solution or part of the problem?
Along with Steve Lyons, I will be a substitute co-host joining regular emcee Ken Levine on KABC AM 790's Sunday Night Sports Talk from 7 to 10 p.m. Yep, that's right: in the studio, on the air for three unbridled, commercial-interrupted hours.
Good thing I got that haircut Wednesday. I want you all to imagine me looking my best as you listen ...
The All-Inclusive Top Sportswriter List
I'm pretty eager to let the whole blogger vs. mainstream media argument die, mainly because there shouldn't be a divide to begin with. The two forums complement each other, as much as people are willing to let them.
So this is what I propose: I want to make a list of the most thoughtful, useful, interesting sportswriters out there today. The sportswriters you are proud to read, regardless of whether their home is with this country's biggest newspapers or in a tiny corner of the Internet.
Let's heal the bay and make ourselves an All-Star squad. Go.
Farewell, Buzzie Bavasi
The Associated Press is reporting that former Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi has died at the age of 93.
Bavasi straddled the Brooklyn-Los Angeles transition, before moving on to join the expansion San Diego Padres in 1968 and later the Angels. Maury Brown interviewed Bavasi about his life in the sport for The Biz of Baseball in 2005.
Update: MLB.com now has a story up - others no doubt will follow.
Thursday Night TV Chat
No spoilers ...
Whoo Boy, It's Early
* * *
Stay in school. Don't do drugs. And for goodness sake, children, wear your contact lenses.
Ex-Dodger Mark Hendrickson has overcome his own ambivalence about having correct vision when he takes the mound - a revelation he can now pass on to his younger Florida teammates, writes Tony Jackson of the Daily News:
The veteran left-hander, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Marlins on Jan. 16 after the Dodgers non-tendered him, underwent Lasik surgery over the winter to sharpen his eyesight. He expected the biggest difference to come at the plate, but there is no question his pitching has benefited more than he ever thought it would.
"I'm just not having to focus as hard," Hendrickson said. "The doctor said something about how nice it would be for me not to have to put in contact lenses anymore. But I told him, 'I don't wear contacts.' I guess I had always just adjusted. My mom told me it was always a hassle when I was a kid to get me to wear glasses or contacts." ...
"I really like being over here," said Hendrickson, who isn't slated to pitch in this series. "I enjoy the fact that I have a leadership role, and I hope I can help some of the younger guys. I learned a lot the last couple of years. Obviously, I went through a lot of things, a lot of ups and downs. But I think I grew as a pitcher and as a player."
The only thing that could undermine this heartwarming tale: Hendrickson's ERA was actually higher this April (3.68 in 36 2/3 innings) than it was last April (1.66 in 21 2/3 innings).
Jon Weisman's outlet
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