Can John Ely keep it going?


Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT
Luke Prokopec is fifth all time in major-league innings pitched by an Australian native.

Nine years ago, at the age of 23, Luke Prokopec began the 2001 season with the following three starts:

Date IP H R ER BB SO ERA
4/6 7.67 4 1 1 0 7 1.17
4/21 6.00 6 2 2 0 5 3.00
4/27 7.00 6 3 3 0 5 3.86
Total 20.67 16 6 6 0 17 2.61

Prokopec was a sight for sore eyes in a starting rotation that at the start of 2001, except for Kevin Brown, was a mixed bag, with Eric Gagne and Darren Dreifort each posting April ERAs of around 5.00.

However, Prokopec, who walked the leadoff batter in start No. 4 after having faced 78 batters in a row without a free pass, didn’t last the year in the rotation, finishing the season with a 4.61 ERA in 22 starts. That December, newly installed Dodger general manager Dan Evans made the rather prescient decision to trade Prokopec and minor leaguer Chad Ricketts to Toronto for Cesar Izturis and Paul Quantrill.

This trade was personally memorable for me because it was the first time I had ever recognized that it might be a good idea to trade a pitcher who had promise but didn’t have great strikeout totals – Prokopec was at 5.9 per nine innings. If I recall correctly, there were those who felt the Dodgers should have traded Gagne, who was 25 with a 4.75 ERA.

As it turned out, the following season was miserable for Prokopec, who had a 6.78 ERA and battled serious arm trouble. He made his last major-league appearance August 23 of that year.

So yeah, I went there. I’m telling the cautionary tale, that just because a young pitcher rips off three starts without walking anyone and looks like he can make the baseball do his bidding, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a bright future.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me just say that I couldn’t be more excited about John Ely’s next start, coming today in the Dodger Stadium shadows before a Fox audience. I hope in a matter of hours, the whole nation is catching Elymania.

* * *

Rafael Furcal had a good day in an extended Spring Training game today, Joe Torre told reporters, and is on track to be activated Sunday or Tuesday.

Torre added that Andre Ethier has begun hitting off a tee and is progressing.

The Dodgers don’t need to start their fifth starter again until Saturday, but might do so Friday to give Hiroki Kuroda an extra day off. Monday’s off day is the Dodgers’ last before a stretch of 17 games in a row heading into June 10.

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