Mar 28

Chad Billingsley close to three-year contract extension

The rumblings first came from Joe McDonnell of Fox Sports, aided by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy. Now, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com is reporting, based on multiple anonymous sources, that the Dodgers are close to extending Chad Billingsley’s contract through 2014, with a possible 2015 option.

Billingsley, who is earning $6.275 million in 2011, would be the first Dodger of the current young core to be signed passed his free-agent years. Billingsley could otherwise become a free agent in November 2012.

We’re still waiting on precisely how much Billingsley will get, but it’s a tremendous sign of faith that the Dodgers have in Billingsley, who was dropped from the starting rotation for the 2009 playoffs.

* * *

There’s an argument that Jamey Carroll should get the Opening Day start at second base after all, instead of Ivan De Jesus Jr. Though I’m hoping De Jesus seizes the day (or month, or year) at second base, I’m fine if Carroll starts — it’s important for De Jesus to get off to a good start, and having his first game be on Opening Day against Tim Lincecum on ESPN stacks the deck against him pretty strongly. Maybe Carroll can work a walk …

* * *

* * *

Angels at Dodgers, 7:05 p.m.

Mar 27

2011 Dodger X Factor: Left field

It took me an hour to think of how to start a post that captured my feelings about the Dodgers’ left fielders. I finally decided to go with madcap:

Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for fun. “The Left Field Rally” has begun!

“The Left Field Rally.” An all-out, anything goes, absolutely illegal race.

The players come in all shapes … sizes … and … sexes. (You never know.)

From all walks of life, all over the world.

In “The Left Field Rally,” the left fielders are the stars.

Thames. Paul. Gibbons. Gwynn. Gimenez. Oeltjen. Hoffmann. Kapler. Sands. Midseason Acquisition Guy. They go over … under … around … and through … anything that stands between them and the finish line.

Mar 27

Dodgers drop Camelback finale

Indians 6, Dodgers 1

Highlights:

  • Aaron Miles went 2 for 2.
  • Corey Smith hit a ground-rule double to dead center. In 14 plate appearances this spring: two singles, two doubles, two homers, four walks, four outs, 2.114 OPS. Smith, a third baseman who turns 29 next month, is shaping up to be this year’s John Lindsey. He’s an 11-year minor-league veteran who has never reached the majors.

Lowlights:

  • Chad Billingsley allowed a single, a walk, a hit batter and a double in a two-run second inning.
  • Ivan DeJesus Jr. was called out on strikes with two on and two out in the third.

Sidelights:

  • Ramon Troncoso was sent to the minors. As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com says, the final spot in the bullpen is a two-man competition between lefty Scott Elbert and righty Lance Cormier. If the Dodgers were going on last year’s performance, however, Cormier would be a lock ahead of Mike MacDougal, who has apparently made the team. That being said, Cormier did walk more than he struck out last year as well.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times is suggesting that the Dodgers are now considering going to a fifth starter on April 10, to give Clayton Kershaw and Billingsley an early extra day of rest, and aree lining up Tim Redding for the slot.
  • Jerry Crowe of the Times tells the story of how Mike Brito discovered Bobby Castillo, which of course had a major effect on Fernando Valenzuela’s path in Los Angeles.
Mar 26

Kershaw perfect in warmup to regular season

Dodgers 5, Padres 4

Highlights:

  • In a scheduled short tune-up outing for Opening Day, Clayton Kershaw retired all 11 batters he faced (including one that reached on an error by Juan Uribe). Kershaw struck out three.
  • Dodger pitchers didn’t allow a hit until Jason Bartlett singled off Lance Cormier in the sixth inning.
  • Uribe doubled and homered, driving in four runs.
  • Jonathan Broxton hit a batter before retiring his next three, striking out one.
  • James Loney singled, walked and scored twice.

Lowlights:

  • With roster spots all but locked up, Scott Elbert gave up a homer and two singles to the four batters he faced …
  • … and then Mike MacDougal allowed both baserunners to score, giving up a single and two walks among his five batters.
  • Rafael Furcal went 0 for 3. For the spring, he has a .264 on-base percentage and .240 slugging percentage – 10 singles and a double in 50 at-bats.

Lowlights:

  • Furcal was hit by a pitch an inning after Broxton hit his batter, and both benches emptied. From The Associated Press:

    … There were no pushes, punches or ejections during the dustup in the sixth inning.“That’s just players being players,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “It was a competitive game even though it was spring training. It was good, spirited play.”

    The incident occurred after the Dodgers’ half-inning ended when Andre Ethier began shouting at the Padres dugout from the on-deck circle. Moments earlier, Furcal was hit by Padres reliever Brad Brach.

    Ryan Ludwick was struck by Broxton’s pitch in the bottom of the fifth.

    On his way back to the dugout, Ludwick stopped at home plate and began hollering at the Dodgers, but neither side got within 10 feet of each other as Black and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly broke up the dispute.

    “I’ll tell you what, I don’t mind our boys stepping up,” Mattingly said. “I don’t mind at all.” …

  • With roster spots all but locked up, Scott Elbert gave up a homer and two singles to the four batters he faced …
  • As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports, John Ely was optioned as planned – remaining a candidate to be called up for an April 12 start – and Ron Mahay was granted his release.
  • Travis Schlichting was reassigned to minor-league camp.
  • According to the Dodger press notes, Los Angeles is 13-9-1 this spring in full-squad games, which would mean they are 0-9 in split-squad games.
Mar 26

Joey from the Block

Here’s an introduction to Joe Block, the Dodgers’ new KABC 790 AM co-host. The one-time play-by-play man for the Dodgers’ Double-A team in Jacksonville kindly agreed to this interview:

Dodgers 2011 talkshow host. Excuse the generic question, but how does it feel?
DodgerTalk is one of those staple shows that transcends its hosts and eras. I revere it. And I’m humbled to join some legendary and talented people who have fostered baseball conversation on countless summer nights across L.A. In English, it’s very cool.

What’s it been like getting reacquainted with the players from Jacksonville who are still on the club? Do you see a big change?
These guys are all the same. Jonathan Broxton is still quiet. Chad Billingsley and I talked like it’s been weeks, not years. James Loney said hello to me by name coming off one the backfields the other day, before I could even re-introduce myself. There is a special bond you forge riding the buses in the minors. All the bad movies, breakdowns and flatulence. … Once you’re in, you’re in.

You’ve lived the life of an up-and-coming sportscaster, it appears – different jobs, different cities, different sports. What’s been the best and worst parts of that journey?
The worst part – anyone will tell you – is being apart from family and, now, my fiancee. She’ll move here after the season, thank goodness.

The best parts are the people you meet and the experiences on and away from the field. I’ve met some wonderfully kind people and unique characters all the same. I’ve been piloted in a tiny plane over Montana mountains, marched in smalltown parades, dressed up as the team mascot, watched nervous kids become big-time stars … but nothing beats the self-discovery that takes place when you encounter so many different walks of life. The journey is as good, if not even better than the destination.

What’s your craziest game you ever covered?
I figured out that I’ve called something like 900 baseball games, so, odds are there have been a few crazy ones. The one that sticks out the most: It was the front end of a day doubleheader in Jacksonville. Nineteenth inning, A.J. Ellis is on the mound. He allows a run that breaks a 1-1 tie. Who can blame him? He’s a catcher. So he comes up in the bottom of the 19th and laces a game-tying single to run his day to 6-for-6. Now he’s the hero (or still the goat, for those who remembered that we’re going to the 20th inning with another seven-inning affair to follow). Ellis ends up getting the win after the Suns hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 20th. So, Ellis was in line for the loss, got the win and had a game-tying hit and a perfect day at the plate, after catching the first 18 innings. John Shoemaker gave him the second game off.

Do you now see studio host as your path, or is play-by-play with some team your main goal?
You know, it’s funny. Your goals change as the years go on. I recently got engaged and now the No. 1 goal is to establish stability, make a home and, in time, start a family. So I want to be in position to do that. That’s why I came to KABC. I wanted to be back covering the Dodgers, and this is a great area to start putting down some roots.

What came naturally for you as a broadcaster, and what skills did you have to develop?
The love of baseball and the inability to shut my yap came naturally. My parents were so encouraging, telling me to pursue this career. They also discouraged me from calling play-by-play of everyone eating at the dinner table. But, I still got to “entertain” their friends when they had company and goofy stuff like that, though.

I’ve had to develop numerous skills, and I still believe one can always improve. I think I’ve gotten decent at transitioning from element to element within a live show, like DodgerTalk. There is an art to it. I’ve learned from good talk hosts and from repetition, primarily.

You had experience broadcasting for the organization in Jacksonville, but that was close to five years ago. From a career-building standpoint, how did you keep yourself in the Dodgers’ mind to pave the way for getting this job?
I always see myself, I suppose, as one who is genuinely interested in people. I’ve met so many great folks within the Dodger family that it was just natural to stay in touch. I’m grateful they thought of me to join Josh Suchon on DodgerTalk.

Who were your broadcasting role models?
Which broadcaster doesn’t look up to Vin Scully? You find me one, and I’ll be astounded. But as a kid growing up in Detroit, before the days of the Internet and worldwide access, I admired Ernie Harwell. His kindness toward me – and countless others – really encouraged me to dig in and learn the craft of broadcasting and the intricacies of baseball while still being a good person and helpful to others.

Lastly, and I ask you this in preparation for your new job answering fan phone calls: Is there such a thing as a stupid question?
Not at all. Folks calling in spend their time working a job, raising kids – dealing with their lives full-time. I get access to players and coaches and spend my day watching baseball and learning from them, so, as a result, I should have a thicker knowledge base than a typical caller.

I see myself as a liaison between the busy fan and the team. I want to share my perspective in hopes it’ll give them a tidbit or idea to tell the guys at the water cooler. I often ask callers’ questions to players and coaches on their behalf. Now, sometimes, I’ll get a funny look in response, but there’s never a stupid question. I’ve often heard insight from callers that stoked a new idea for me.

* * *

The Dodgers try to bounce back from John Ely’s rough outing Friday:

Dodgers at Padres, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 25

Ivan DeJesus Jr. likely to start at second base while Blake is out

Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesIvan De Jesus Jr. has a .380 on-base percentage this spring.

“Barring an injury,” writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, “infielder Ivan DeJesus looks like a strong bet to make the club and remain in the big leagues until Blake returns from back injury. DeJesus, who will be making his major league debut, likely will get the bulk of the starts at second base during that time, while Juan Uribe will move to third.”

It’s a pretty impressive feat for the infielder, who has remaining options, who had to come back from a 2009 broken leg and was even said by some to be in the Dodgers’ doghouse last year.

Jackson also writes that the Dodgers will carry four starting pitchers on their Opening Day roster, and will call up a fifth starter from the minors April 12. That pitcher figures to be John Ely, especially if Tim Redding’s back ailment today proves to be serious. Jackson:

… Redding returned to Camelback Ranch, the team’s spring-training complex in Glendale, for further examination. No diagnosis or prognosis was immediately available. …

The season opener for Triple-A Albuquerque isn’t until April 7, so whomever the Dodgers choose to start in place of Garland could start that game and then be perfectly lined up to pitch for the Dodgers on April 12 in San Francisco. …

* * *

Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 3

Highlights:

  • Coming in to relieve the injured Redding with one on and none out in the fourth, Rubby De La Rosa got a double-play grounder and only allowed a bunt single in his first three innings.
  • Backup catchers A.J. Ellis and Hector Gimenez each went 1 for 2.
  • Xavier Paul thew out a runner at the plate.
  • Doubles by Aaron Miles and Justin Sellers’ sandwiched Ellis’ single and gave the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead.

Lowlights:

  • Redding allowed a two-run homer in the third and six hits total in his three-plus innings, before leaving with the back trouble.
  • De La Rosa allowed three runs in his fourth inning of work.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr. went 0 for 4, his spring OPS falling to .689.

Sidelights:

  • Christina Taylor Green’s brother Dallas and Tucson shooting victim Ken Dorushka threw out first pitches before today’s game.
  • Nick Charles, who has terminal cancer, will call the opening bout on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” on Saturday, says Sports Business Daily.
  • Rafael Furcal has been recovering from an offseason illness, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times in this feature.
  • Great pics of Fernando Valenzuela pitching in Mexico last week, shared by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Another great item, this from Eric Nusbaum at Pitchers & Poets, gives us Ken Levine talking about Vin Scully: “Normally I can look over somebody’s shoulders, I can pick up their scorecard and I can kind of figure it out. With one exception – Vin Scully. He’s got lines and dots and stuff. I have no idea. You need Navajo code breakers to figure out Vin’s scorebook. I have no idea.”
  • Here’s part 3 of Mark Timmons’ LADodgerTalk.com interview with Logan White.
  • The Dodgers aren’t the only ones with injuries, by any means. The shoulder of Phillies closer Brad Lidge is hurting, and so is Philadelphia’s bullpen, writes David Schoenfield of ESPN.com.
  • Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos is also ailing, notes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Will Leitch on the Mets (via Rob Neyer): “Even if this year is a write-off, the team will be more enjoyable to watch than it has been the last four years, if only because the franchise is finally moving forward. It’s going to get better, soon. I promise, this isn’t a scam. You are forgiven for fearing otherwise. This is, after all, the Mets.”

* * *

Dodgers at Mariners, 7:05 p.m.

Mar 25

Navarro likely to be out until May

Dioner Navarro will be on the Dodger disabled list when the 2011 regular season begins and likely remain out until the end of April because of a right oblique tear. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

… Mattingly said A.J. Ellis and Hector Gimenez will compete during the handful of days left before Opening Day for the right to hold down the backup catching job until Navarro returns. But Mattingly also hinted that Barajas might draw almost all of the starts while Navarro is out. Although Barajas is 35 and Mattingly had planned to give him regular rest, that rest presumably isn’t as important in April.

“We’re looking at Rod as the primary guy,” Mattingly said. ” I know I have to keep him strong, and I know he is an older guy. But I love his leadership. Earlier in the season, it isn’t as big a deal. As you get more into summer, he will have more games under his belt and you’re getting into some heat, so really, you’re trying to keep him from breaking down.”

It seems more than safe to bet that Gimenez will now make the Opening Day roster, which is shaping up thusly:

Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda

Relief pitchers (7): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, Blake Hawksworth, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert or Ron Mahay

Starting lineup (8): Rod Barajas, James Loney, Jamey Carroll or Ivan De Jesus Jr., Rafael Furcal, Juan Uribe, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons or Xavier Paul

Bench (4): Hector Gimenez, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr., Aaron Miles

Fighting for two spots: John Ely, Tim Redding, Ramon Troncoso, Lance Cormier, Travis Schlichting, Juan Castro, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Jay Gibbons/Xavier Paul, Trent Oeltjen, A.J. Ellis

Mar 25

Tragedy and survival

Just after 7 a.m. Tuesday, I got in my car for a three-minute drive to our neighborhood bagel store. As I moved into the left-turn lane, a many-wheeled truck was lolling the opposite direction past the driveway of the mini-mall parking lot. And then, just as I began to make my left turn, the truck driver suddenly put his truck into reverse, blocking the driveway before I could get through.

I was on the wrong side of the street, perpendicular to traffic, with nowhere to go and a car coming at me at regular speed from about 75 yards away.

I threw my car into reverse in the middle of the boulevard to get out of the oncoming car’s way, and lived to breathe for another day.

* * *

Today in Tucson, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will gather to play a baseball game in memory of those killed in the January 8 mass shooting in Tucson and to raise money for the Tucson Together Fund, sanctioned to assist victims, families and witnesses of tragedy.

Spirits will be heightened, but I imagine they will also be high. They’ve wrapped this day around a game, after all. It’s going to be a day where life is celebrated, even in death’s immense shadow.

The best antidote to sadness is the argument that things will get better, and short of that, to find happiness in the moments that follow, and short of that, to just find meaning. But there’s no throwing tragedy into reverse. The players and the fans will go home, will go on with their lives. The survivors will go forward into their suffering. They walk a different path.

* * *

My first depression of note came when I was in college, though it was mild by any serious standard. It was over a girl, a girl I never really had but just seemed so perfect. No, not so perfect, but so right. And in order to make sense of why she didn’t want me, I started weighing the conclusion that there might be no reason anyone would want me.

Over the next couple of years, the stakes seemed to increase. I dated, but there would be times a girl would reject me and it would just devastate me, and I truly, truly feared that I was going to spend my life alone. My biggest breakup of all, in my mid-20s, pulverized me.  I walked through life with a constant weight in my head for a couple of years. I bought books on depression. I sought therapy. It felt like the end of the world, and yet this was with the full knowledge that no one had died. It seemed so likely to me that things would be worse before they would get better.

People told me that I was being too negative. “You’re a good person. You’ll be fine.” I just had to rebuild my self-esteem, they said. I had to like myself again before anyone else could like me. But they didn’t know. They didn’t know like I did.

Each miserable day seemed eternal, and yet within five years, I did rebuild, and I met the woman I would marry.

You’d think that have taught me a lesson but good, but I can still struggle with a positive outlook, to this day. Despite my best efforts, my household outlives its means, and I cannot seem to find a solution. It weighs on me repeatedly. It doesn’t mean I don’t have happy days in between, but I do worry. My self-esteem rises and falls like the Dow.

Still, people can tell me things will get better, and they might be right.

What are those who lost loved ones in the Tucson tragedy told? What do they tell themselves?

As the Dodgers play baseball in his daughter’s memory, what is Dodger scout John Green to think?

Do they say to live each day in honor of your lost love? Do they say to just live?

This is not a self-esteem issue. The man lost his little girl. There is no going back from that.

And this happens every day, every hour, every minute. I know it has happened to readers of Dodger Thoughts.

It takes a special person to be able to survive this kind of loss. I don’t feel that I’m special in that way. But somehow people are?

I thought about this post as I kissed my daughter goodnight on her forehead last night. I wish I were going to be at today’s game.

* * *

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 24

Shades of 2004: Dodgers rally with seven in ninth

Dodgers 7, Rockies 5

A.J. Ellis, who has not hit a regular-season home run in the majors or minors since 2008, will rarely be confused with a power hitter, but he provided the knockout blast today, Steve Finley-style.

Against Rockies minor-leaguers Michael Marbry and Chris Malone, the Dodgers scored seven in the bottom of the ninth to avert a 5-0 defeat, capped by Ellis’ walkoff three-run home run.

Gabe Kapler’s two-run double in the ninth, driving in Travis Denker and the unconquerable Corey Smith (6 for 9 with three walks this spring), saved the Dodgers from a shutout. Ivan De Jesus Jr. singled in Kapler, and after Juan Castro singled and Jay Gibbons walked to load the bases, Ellis stepped up.

A wild pitch by Malone made the score 5-4 and ultimately denied Ellis the chance to truly duplicate Finley with a grand slam. Instead, Ellis settled for a three-run shot to left.

Last year’s backup catcher for much of the season, Ellis has been an afterthought in Spring Training because he has an option remaining. The immediate thought is that a serious injury to Dioner Navarro would carve out a roster spot for Hector Gimenez, not Ellis, and that may well be true — Ellis hasn’t helped himself by going 3 for 28 with two walks this spring before the home run.

But given that the Dodgers’ seem to like the idea of Gimenez playing other positions besides catcher, it’s not impossible that Ellis could still end up being the guy who would replace Navarro, with Gimenez continuing to try to make the team in a utility role.

Anyway, one home run off a minor-leaguer doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but it was a beautiful moment nonetheless.

Highlights:

  • Make it three straight six-inning outings for Dodger starting pitchers, thanks to Hiroki Kuroda, who also had a rare single at the plate.
  • Jonathan Broxton and Mike MacDougal each had a walk and a strikeout in their shutout innings.
  • DeJesus singled in his first two-bats against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin and finished 3 for 5.
  • Last-minute starter Gimenez went 1 for 3.
  • Castro, who preceded his single with a walk, is now hitting .400.
  • The Dodgers drew eight walks.

Lowlights:

  • Kuroda lost a quality start when a fourth run came across with two out in the sixth.
  • James Loney and Xavier Paul each went 0 for 3.
  • Matt Kemp and Loney couldn’t convert a two-on, one-out chance in the first inning, and Loney struck out with two out and two runners on in the third. The Dodgers were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base through the firsteight innings.
  • After Kuroda’s single moved him to second base, Jamey Carroll got picked off. Carroll also grounded into a double play with two on in the second.

Sidelights:

  • Davey Lopes is the subject of an interview and feature by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

    … Lopes’ baserunning tutorials this spring have included a little humor here and there, but there is no question he takes this stuff very seriously. He does as much demonstrating as he does talking. And while he covers the nuances and the technical aspects of taking a lead, rounding a corner and picking a spot, he delivers the information in a way that is easy to digest.“If I had him as a coach when I was younger, I would have 500 stolen bases right now,” said shortstop Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers’ leadoff man, who has 293 of them in 11 seasons. “You look at some of these kids like Dee Gordon and [Trayvon] Robinson, they are basically learning all this stuff right now, while they’re young, so when they get to the big leagues, they are going to be ready.

    “They are going to know how to run the bases in a way that will help this team win games.” …

  • Part 1 and Part 2 of LADodgertalk.com’s interview with Dodger exec Logan White. The second segment includes White’s defense of Jonathan Broxton against questions of mental toughness. “I do know that it’s in that man’s gut to be real good,” White says. “He doesn’t like to fail.”
  • “Beaver” Cleaver starts a baseball blog, at Halos Heaven.
  • The dithering about Neftali Feliz’s role on the Texas pitching staff has undithered — he will remain a reliever. New ESPN.com Sweet Spot blogger David Schoenfield shares his thoughts.
  • Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles waxes about the injuries to San Francisco’s Brian Wilson and Cody Ross. Meanwhile, David Cameron of Fangraphs looks at the Giants’ shortstop worries.
  • Japan is eyeing an April 12 Opening Day for its baseball leagues, reports The Associated Press.
  • Nice piece on Pittsburgh college basketball player Nasir Robinson taking responsibility for his March Madness mess-up, from Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com.
Mar 24

Dioner Navarro to play ‘MRI of Fortune’

From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Dodgers catcher Dioner Navarro was scratched from the starting lineup for Thursday’s Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies and sent for an MRI exam after feeling pain in his right side taking a swing during a morning session of batting practice.

Results of the MRI aren’t expected until later in the day or possibly Friday. But with the season opener now just a week away, Navarro’s injury at least raises the possibility that he could become the fourth Dodgers player expected to begin the season on the disabled list, where he would join pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland and third baseman Casey Blake. …

* * *

Rockies at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 24

Dodger Thoughts revives the Hollywood Stars Game

Getty ImagesSofia Vergara has never faced Bill Murray in an official game – yet.

Apropos of nothing …

I got to thinking the other day about the demise of the Dodgers’ Hollywood Stars game, which actually began fading in importance in my childhood – I’ve never once seen it in person – but has truly crashed on the rocks in the current era. But once upon a time, it was a big deal. In a way, with the Lakers having become the gathering nexus of stars and sports, I’m surprised they haven’t made a celebrity game a tradition.

Anyway, it’s kind of a frivolous topic, but I decided to have some fun trying to come up with rosters that would make me want to come to the game – a lineup that would put some sizzle and some stakes back into the Hollywood Stars game. Here are the ground rules:

  • Each team should have breadth across the decades, dating back at least to players born in the 1950s.
  • Each starting lineup should have at least three women.
  • Each starting lineup should have at least five players who you have reason to believe can half-decently hit, throw and catch.
  • As many players who can both play the game and play to the crowd as possible.
  • There should be one or two players on each team from foreign lands who are inept at baseball but charmingly so.
  • Oh, and the winning team gets $10 million to donate to its favorite charity. The losing team gets $5 million. Don’t worry – I’ve got it covered.

Here are my opening suggestions:

Sandys
Manager: Eli Wallach
Coach: Don Rickles
Captain: Sandy Koufax

Starting lineup
Miranda Cosgrove, C
Kobe Bryant, LF
Jon Hamm, SS
Tom Hanks, 3B
John Kraskinski, RF
Bill Murray, P
Reese Witherspoon, CF
Idris Elba, 1B
Emily Blunt, 2B

Bench
Jeff Bridges, P
Robert Redford, OF
Marisa Tomei, P
Nick Offerman, C
Ron Howard, IF
Danica McKellar, OF
Betty White, PH

Fernandos
Manager: Clint Eastwood
Coach: Ernest Borgnine
Captain: Fernando Valenzuela

Starting lineup
Alyssa Milano, 2B
Blake Griffin, CF
Bryan Cranston, P
Jimmy Kimmel, SS
Sofia Vergara, RF
Brad Pitt, 3B
Louie C.K., C (and for scorekeeping purposes, he should strike out in his first at-bat)
Tom Selleck, 1B
Amy Poelher, LF

Bench:
Will Smith, IF-OF
Anne Hathaway, OF
Zach Galifianakis, C
Mark Harmon, P
Adrianne Palicki, P
Selena Gomez, IF-OF
Mickey Rooney, PH

Broadcaster: Vin Scully

OK, now time for your suggestions. Which players did I miss? Whom would you add, and whom would you cut?

Mar 23

Kemp remains hot

Dodgers 6, White Sox 2

Highlights:

  • Matt Kemp (2 for 4) hit his fifth homer of the spring, a three-run shot that gave the Dodgers the lead for good. According to ESPN.com, Andre Ethier in 2008 was the last Dodger to hit five spring homers, and none has hit six since before 2005.
  • Ted Lilly gave the Dodgers another six-inning outing from a starting pitcher. Lilly allowed two runs on six hits, walking none and striking out five.
  • In a back-to-back outing, Scott Elbert pitched a shutout eighth, allowing a single to Alex Rios but then sandwiching a popout from Christian Marrero with strikeouts of Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski.
  • James Loney went 2 for 4, Juan Uribe and Ivan DeJesus Jr. went 2 for 3 and Aaron Miles went 2 for 2.
  • Watch out: Juan Castro singled and is now hitting .379.

Lowlights:

  • Not much to complain about today. Ron Mahay allowed a double and a walk in a four-batter outing but no runs. Travis Schlichting allowed two baserunners with two out in the ninth before ending the game on a Gordon Beckham strikeout.

Sidelights:

  • Casey Blake had his best workout day in quite some time, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Jamey Carroll also got his first Cactus League at-bat in a while, striking out.
  • Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce elaborates on this morning’s Forbes story on baseball’s major debt issues.
  • Kemp’s work with Davey Lopes gets a detailed look from Dylan Hernandez on the Times.
  • Former Dodger Don Zimmer is beginning his 63rd year in professional baseball, believed to be the most among non-owners, writes Tom Zucco for the St. Petersburg Times (via Hardball Talk).
  • Former National League West pitchers Brandon Webb and Jake Peavy have each suffered injury setbacks.
Mar 23

A Place in the Sun

Farewell, Elizabeth Taylor. Above is a scene from my favorite film of hers. (If you can’t see the video, click here.)

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  • In case you missed it, here’s Tony Jackson’s postgame notebook from Tuesday on ESPNLosAngeles.com, topped by Chad Billingsley. Among other news, Oscar Villarreal was sent to minor-league camp. And here’s a quick note on Jamey Carroll:

    … Carroll, who has been playing on the minor league side the last few days to get at-bats while he has been limited from throwing because of soreness in his right index finger, said he had no trouble throwing Tuesday and feels ready to return to Cactus League action. However, Carroll indicated the medical staff will make the final determination on when he actually does return.

  • From Forbes: Special Report: Inside Baseball’s Debt Disaster. Believe it or not, the Dodgers are mentioned — though as Maury Brown notes, overall valuation of the franchise has risen to $800 million, third-highest in baseball.
  • “Sweet” Lou Johnson was interviewed by Evan Bladh, Jr. of Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Ernie Banks, Morgan Freeman and Carlos Santana (the musician) will be honored with Beacon Awards at MLB’s fifth-annual Civil Rights game May 15.
  • I stumbled across this article I wrote 10 years ago and had a laugh.  Enron, Qualcomm, Network Associates, 3Com … it’s quite the Hall of Fame.

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Dodgers at White Sox, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 22

Billingsley shines, Dodgers win in 10th


Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley (shown here on St. Patrick’s Day)

Dodgers 2, Cubs 1 (10)

Highlights:

  • In the finest outing by a Dodger pitcher this spring, Chad Billingsley threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out three. Starting in the second inning, he retired 12 batters in a row before allowing a single and two walks with two out in the sixth, but Billingsley then retired Jeff Baker on a fly to center.
  • Dodger farmhand Kyle Russell doubled with one out in the 10th, then scored on Orlando Mercado’s game-winning hit.
  • Hector Gimenez’s charmed spring added another clover when, in his first inning in left field, he threw out Tyler Colvin at the plate. Dodger Thoughts reader BHSportsGuy said Colvin had barely passed third when Gimenez picked up the ball, but it was a good, low throw to Rod Barajas.
  • Scott Elbert relieved Lance Cormier with two on and two out in the seventh, and struck out Colvin.
  • Rafael Furcal singled and doubled.
  • Xavier Paul singled in Eugenio Velez (2 for 3) in the fifth to give the Dodgers their initial 1-0 lead.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a perfect inning, striking out Carlos Pena and Geovany Soto.
  • Minor-leaguer Corey Smith singled and walked — in nine plate appearances this spring, he has a single, a double, two homers and two walks. OPS: 2.611.

Lowlights:

  • Velez hurt himself while bunting for a hit in the seventh inning.
  • Ramon Troncoso gave up a game-tying homer to the first batter he faced in the ninth inning, Baker, before retiring the next three hitters.
  • Gimenez’s charmed spring lost a clover when he went 0 for 4 at the plate with three strikeouts.
  • Jay Gibbons went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Sidelights:

  • Good work by Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., showing how the Camelback Ranch attendance drop reported by Steve Dilbeck of the Times was overblown.
  • Logan White told Mark Timmons and Jared Massey of LADodgertalk.com, “I’d rather be a Dodger than a GM,” adding that his heart really wasn’t into the job interviews he has had.
  • Blake DeWitt tripled off Cormier to start the Cubs’ thwarted seventh-inning rally.
  • Even though Stanford lost, this was the highlight of my day: