Jul 27

Elbert pitching well prior to disabled list delegation

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Stephen Fife, P

The Dodgers placed Scott Elbert on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation, and used the vacated roster spot to recall Stephen Fife for tonight’s start against Matt Cain in San Francisco.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported that Elbert “has been dealing with discomfort for several weeks,” which is itself discomforting to hear. Interestingly, however, Elbert has been pretty strong in over the past two months. Since May 23, he has a 0.98 ERA in 18 1/3 innings over 22 games, allowing 18 baserunners while striking out 17 — and stranding all 22 inherited runners.

Elbert has also been more effective against right-handed hitters (.584 OPS) than lefty (.733) this season.

* * *

From the Wish I’d Thought of That Dept., Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus discusses the prospects of introducing a deep pit into a baseball field.

Jul 26

Root beer reviews: River City

River City Root Beer enters the palate neutral to slightly saccharine. It doesn’t taste of medicine, but it teeters close enough that the thought will cross your mind.  A latent, more sincere sweetness is its finishing touch, making the beverage vaguely seductive, like a first date you’re not sure you should call again. But in a pinch …

Sampling date: July 24, 2012

Ingredients: Carbonated water, cane sugar, caramel color, natural flavor, quillaia extract, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), potassium sorbate

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 180 calories, 0 grams fat, 46 grams sugar, 15 milligrams sodium, 0 grams protein

Headquarters: Sacramento, California

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) River City Root Beer
4) Cool Mountain Root Beer

Jul 26

St. Louis is back to being St. Louis

The Dodgers had a nice winning streak going against the Cardinals for a while there, but St. Louis is now back to being a place of nightmares and daymares.  Pounding Los Angeles with 18 hits — the most the team has allowed since April 15, 2011 — St. Louis sent the Dodgers to a third consecutive sweltering defeat, 7-4.

Andre Ethier (2 for 4) and Hanley Ramirez (1 for 2 with two walks) each singled as the Dodgers scored four in the fifth to take a 4-2 lead, but the Cardinals came right back to knock out Chris Capuano in the bottom of the inning. Capuano allowed 12 baserunners while getting 13 outs.

Los Angeles will next play a three-game series against the Giants, whom they trail by three games in the standings. The last time these two teams played in San Francisco with one of the teams ahead by three games in the National League West, the other team swept the series.

Jul 26

Wishing Nathan Eovaldi well

Dodgers at Cardinals, 10:45 a.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Hanley Ramirez, 3B
Juan Rivera, 1B
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

Several Dodgers had some nice parting words for Nathan Eovaldi, reports Jim Peltz of the Times.

… Veteran pitcher Ted Lilly said, “I really liked Nathan Eovaldi. I think they got a pretty special pitcher and a really good, hard-working, talented young man.”

Right fielder Andre Ethier, noting that he and Eovaldi had “become really close” friends the last two months, said he saw Eovaldi in the lobby of the team hotel Wednesday “and it was kind of tough seeing him go.”

“I wish him the best,” Ethier said, “but also I think we got someone we need right away.” …

Jul 25

Hanley inspires, Dodgers expire

Hanley Ramirez hit the first pitch he saw as a Dodger for a sky-high triple to the center-field wall. He scored to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead, then later rallied the team to a 2-2 tie with an RBI single in the sixth inning.

Even when he mangled a ball defensively, all was okay. A ninth-inning grounder richocheted off his chest to shortstop Luis Cruz, who threw to first base to end the inning.

Ramirez went 2 for 4 with a walk in his Dodger debut, but he could not prevent Los Angeles from dropping its second in a row in St. Louis, a 12-inning, 3-2 defeat.

The sixth Dodger pitcher, Jamey Wright, got into trouble by walking ailing pinch-hitter Lance Berkman with one out in the bottom of the 12th. Matt Carpenter singled pinch-running pitcher Joe Kelly to second base, and then Rafael Furcal, the guy that Ramirez is in some ways replacing, singled in the winning run – thanks in part to Tony Gwynn failing to come up with the the two-hop hit in left field for a chance to throw out Kelly.

Aaron Harang pitched well enough to win for the Dodgers – eight strikeouts, two runs, six baserunners in 7 1/3 innings – but he was long gone by the time the game ended.

The biggest key to the loss was arguably Matt Kemp, batting two spots ahead of Ramirez, going 0 for 5.

The one-run defeat matched the result of the Dodgers’ first game with Manny Ramirez, a 2-1 loss to Randy Johnson and Arizona on August 1, 2008.

Jul 25

Hanley Ramirez trade shakes baseball world

The earthquake before an earthquake — the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from Miami — is official. Here’s some of what’s been posted in the 10 hours since the news broke.

  • Overall, the main concern regarding the decline in Ramirez’s performance in the past two years is that he might never be what he was thanks to a 2010 shoulder injury. It sure would be great to get Stan Conte’s take on him.
  • It’s been a weird year for Ramirez, who has a .336 batting average on balls in play at home, .198 on the road. His batting average reflects the difference, even though his power production is almost even home and away.
  • The Dodgers were able to nab Ramirez, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Hardball Talk), mainly because they were willing to take on his full contract, while Oakland was not.
  • Chad Moriyama is apprehensive about the trade but sees the upside as a worthwhile gamble.
  • Cliff Corcoran of SI.com is a bit grimmer, noting that the only saving grace of the deal for the Dodgers is that it improves an area of the team from terrible to less terrible.
  • While the Dodgers were trading for Ramirez, the Yankees were losing Alex Rodriguez for a few weeks to a fractured hand. That puts New York in the infielder market, as Jay Jaffe of SI.com discusses.
  • Cole Hamels will not be putting on a Dodger uniform. Philadelphia signed him to a six-year contract extension worth $144 million, the second-biggest deal for a pitcher ever.
  • After seeming on the verge of acquiring Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, Atlanta has backed off, reports ESPNChicago.com. That leaves the Dodgers as the apparent leading suitor — thanks, apparently, to the friendship between Dempster and Ted Lilly.  But this saga has had too many turns to make confident predictions about.
  • Dodger prospect Tae Hyeok-Nam of Ogden hit for the cycle Tuesday. Robert Emrich has details for MLB.com. The last Ogden player to do so was former Dodger and current Ogden hitting coach Doug Mientkiewicz.
Jul 24

Report: Dodgers acquire Hanley Ramirez

The Dodgers made their first big move of the trade deadline, and it’s for former All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports report that the Marlins have traded Ramirez and Randy Chote to the Dodgers for Nathan Eovaldi and a minor-leaguer to be named.

Ramirez, 28, had a .410 on-base percentage and .543 slugging percentage as recently as 2009, when he finished second in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, but he has struggled in the past two years. In 2012, he has a .322 OBP and .430 slugging – far off his career totals, though still good enough at his worst to make him a central part of the shaky Dodger lineup. His 14 home runs this year top every Dodger save Matt Kemp.

Choate, who will be 37 in September, gives the Dodgers a second lefty reliever. He has a 2.16 ERA in 50 innings over the past two seasons, and left-handed batters in 2012 are 9 for 60 with three walks and 20 strikeouts against him.

At age 22, Eovaldi remains a pitcher with potential but an uncertain immediate future.  His ERA is a respectable 4.16, but he strikes out fewer than six batters per nine innings and allows more flies than grounders.

The trade won’t be ready for evaluation until the fourth player is named, but on the surface it seems sensible, offering from a position of relative depth for a position of desperate need (and using the Dodgers’ newfound cash reserves to make it happen by paying the remaining big salary owed on Ramirez’s contract, which runs through 2014). Ramirez can play shortstop, as he did until Jose Reyes joined the Marlins, or he can play third base, as he has this season. He happens to be the same age Rafael Furcal was when he came to Los Angeles.

Ramirez has been sidelined since July 20 with a hand infection that came after he punched a dugout fan.

To replace Eovaldi in the starting rotation, the Dodgers have short-term minor-league options, as well as their ongoing pursuit of such outsiders as Ryan Dempster and the imminent recovery of Ted Lilly, who is nearing a minor-league rehabilitation assignment. Next year, Rubby De La Rosa, whom I believe is the sole untouchable pitcher in the Dodger universe next to Clayton Kershaw, should be ready to step in to a starting slot as well.

Update: Rosenthal is now reporting that the other Dodger going to Miami is Scott McGough, a 22-year-old righty reliever who has a 3.88 ERA, 24 walks and 47 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.  It’s clear that the Marlins wanted to reconfigure themselves without the weight of Ramirez’s contract, which pays him $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014, as well as the remainder of a $15 million 2012 salary.

“The Miami Marlins have identified infielder Hanley Ramirez as the core of their woes,” wrote Bob Nightengale for USA Today. “Ownership wants him gone. Manager Ozzie Guillen is tired of him. And the fans have grown indifferent.”

Update 2: Ramirez’s defense is an issue – so this is just speculation, but maybe Ramirez someday follows the Alfonso Soriano path to left field, or becomes the first baseman the Dodgers have been lacking …

Update 3: It appears that Ramirez will take Adam Kennedy’s roster spot. The reserve infielder is headed to the disabled list after aggravating a groin injury Tuesday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Choate will probably take Shawn Tolleson’s spot in the bullpen.

Jul 24

July 24 game chat

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:15 p.m.
Kershaw CXXXVII: Kershuwnger Games

Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Rivera, LF
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

For all their woes at different times this season, the Dodgers and Angels are tied for the seventh-best record in baseball as play opens tonight …

  • With Luis Cruz’s HR last night, the Dodgers have matched Babe Ruth’s 1927 season with 60 HR, notes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And it’s only July!
  • James Loney nearly made his pitching debut Sunday, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness delves into the rising costs of deadline acquisitions.
  • Ross Stripling, the Dodgers’ fifth-round draft pick this year, earns praise from John Sickels of Minor League Ball. “I would not be surprised if Stripling rises rapidly through the Dodgers farm system in the next year or two,” Sickels writes. “He could be an inning-eating strike machine at the major league level.
  • On this date in 1947, writes Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times, the Dodgers ended a 38-year period of being below .500 all-time as a franchise. A 6-1 victory over Cincinnati made them 4,650-4,650.
Jul 23

Billingsley returns from disabled list

Dodgers at Cardinals, 5:15 p.m.
Bobby Abreu, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 3B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Chad Billingsley, P

Chad Billingsley isn’t the only righthander of note coming back from the disabled list. Plagued with a calf problem this year, 42-year-old former Dodger reliever Takashi Saito finally made his 2012 debut Saturday, pitching one inning for Arizona and allowing an unearned run.

Jul 23

The wallet blues

It happened again this morning. I spent nearly 15 minutes looking for my wallet, and when my wife joined the challenge, she found it in 15 seconds. It’s one of the less original tropes in my household: I can take forever to look for something that my wife will then find in an instant.

My question is, why can’t I laugh at this? Instead of stewing at my inadequacies, why can’t I find the cheap humor in it, you know, like it’s Drabble or something? As my wife handed me the wallet, explained where it was and moved on with her day, I stood there, shaking my head, wanting to laugh but not being able to.

Somehow, this explains a lot about me, I think.

Jul 21

Root beer reviews: Cool Mountain

Cool Mountain Root Beer frontloads its bite with a carbonated sizzle that has a slight echo of Pop Rocks, followed by a rather slim aftertaste. It’s not bad and certainly inoffensive, but there isn’t an abundance of joy in it.

Sampling date: July 18, 2012

Ingredients: Filtered water, pure cane sugar, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, phosphoric acid, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as a preservative

Nutritional information: 12-ounce serving, 160 calories, 0 grams fat, 40 grams sugar, 15 milligrams sodium, 1 gram protein

Bottling location: Des Plaines, Illinois

Rankings to date:
1) Route 66 Root Beer
2) Bulldog Root Beer
3) Cool Mountain Root Beer