Jun 19

Bill James on the 1981 Dodgers

From the 1982 Bill James Baseball Abstract:

… When I was young the Boston Celtics used to coast through the season with a 50-32 sort of record, far behind the best mark in the league which might in a given season belong to Philadelphia or Los Angeles or whoever. But come playoff time, the Celtics would crush those teams with no apparent ease but considerable regularity. When Bill Russell retired he attributed this to the fact that during the season the Celtics, knowing that they could make the playoffs, would take care to develop their sixth and seventh and eighth players, as well as being careful to decentralize the offense, not relying on any one or two or three scorers to put the points on the board. And then come playoff time, the Celtics would have more weapons than their opponents. Russell could fight Chamberlain to a standoff and the Celtics would win because the rest of their roster was ready to contribute, whereas the reliance on the big man would have gradually weakened the rest of the roster.

I thought of that when I noticed a pattern in the Dodger playing time in the second half of the season. Three of the four first-half champions were veteran teams, near the point of having to start getting some new names in the lineup. But only the Dodgers seemed to realize that, with a spot guaranteed, they might as well start developing some more weapons. All of the Dodger regulars, with no exceptions, batted fewer times in the second half of the season than in the first. The team did play four more games in the first half, but that’s not the cause of it; all eight regulars batted more times per team-game in the first half than the second. The extra at-bats were absorbed by Derrel Thomas, Rick Monday, Reggie Smith, Steve Yeager, Steve Sax, Candy Maldonado and Mike Marshall, who all batted more times in the second half, despite the four fewer games, than they had in the first. The Dodgers also took the opportunity to take a look at Tom Niedenfuer and Dave Stewart and Alejandro Pena, pitchers who figure to help them sometime later.

Then you look over the score sheets of the Dodger victory that led them over the World, and you see Monday’s home run, Yeager everywhere, Derrel Thomas tracking balls down on the track, Niedenfuer shutting people down, Jay Johnstone hitting a key home run. I can’t remember a World Championship that was won with so much help from the bench. Lasorda’s a conservative manager, not really a very interesting manager in substance. But I think you have to give him some real credit here. …

James was in his ascendance at this time – this was his first Abstract that had a formal publisher. The year before, I ordered a copy of the 1981 Abstract from a small ad in The Sporting News, and it came with a hand-designed cover and essentially was photocopied and bound. Reading James at this time was like Clayton Kershaw pitch — you practically salivated over every insight with excitement and no small amount of awe.

Reading the passage above three decades later, I can’t avoid having some amount of skepticism. I don’t necessarily doubt the Dodgers used their bench more than other teams did that year, but a) they might simply have had a more talented bench (I mean, those are some good names up there) and b), I question whether their use of the bench was as revolutionary or as James asserts.

But like I said, James was Kershaw. So I am tempted to take it as gospel. And certainly, a similar formula helped propel the 1988 Dodgers to their title. The bottom line is, much like with a bullpen, you need a good bench to win, though it might not be something you plan.

Dodgers at Yankees, 10:05 a.m.

May 17

Dodgers try to get by on reserve power


Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI
Ronnie Belliard has an .872 OPS in 12 starts this season. The Dodgers are 5-7 when he is in the starting lineup.

Until further notice — hopefully days but possibly weeks — the Dodgers will be playing without two starting position players, Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal. It’s the second time this season this has happened: Furcal and Manny Ramirez were both on the sidelines from April 27 through May 7.

Those injuries, combined with scheduled rest for older players and the semi-platooning of Blake DeWitt, have meant there have been 11 games this year in which the Dodgers have started at least three reserves. The Dodgers are 4-7 in those games, averaging 3.5 runs per game.

Los Angeles is 16-10 when it has at least six regulars starting.

Oddly, in games with four or more reserves starting, the Dodgers are 2-2, but in games with three reserves starting, the Dodgers are 2-5.

  • Dodgers 10, Pirates 2 (April 8): Brad Ausmus (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Reed Johnson (LF), Garret Anderson (RF)
  • Marlins 6, Dodgers 5 (April 11): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Garret Anderson (LF), Reed Johnson (RF)
  • Giants 9, Dodgers 0 (April 17): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Garret Anderson (LF)
  • Dodgers 2, Giants 1 (April 18): Ronnie Belliard (1B), Jamey Carroll (2B), Reed Johnson (LF)
  • Nationals 5, Dodgers 1 (April 23): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Garret Anderson (LF)
  • Nationals 1, Dodgers 0 (April 25): Ronnie Belliard (2B), Garret Anderson (LF), Reed Johnson (RF)
  • Mets 10, Dodgers 5 (April 27, Game 2): A.J. Ellis (C), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Reed Johnson (LF)
  • Mets 7, Dodgers 3 (April 28): Ronnie Belliard (2B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Xavier Paul (LF)
  • Dodgers 9, Pirates 3 (May 2): Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Xavier Paul (LF)
  • Brewers 11, Dodgers 3 (May 5): Ronnie Belliard (2B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Reed Johnson (LF)
  • Dodgers 1, Padres 0 (May 16): Nick Green (2B), Ronnie Belliard (3B), Jamey Carroll (SS), Garret Anderson (LF), Reed Johnson (RF)

Sunday’s 1-0 victory over San Diego was the first time since in nearly three weeks that Joe Torre rested more than one healthy player in the same game. The Dodgers are 3-4 when they rest more than one healthy player (again, keeping in mind that some of these decisions involve a platoon situation).

Mar 07

MRI on Russell Martin encouraging, he says

Following up on a few items from last night …

Dodgers at Cubs,
12:05 p.m.

Today’s Lineup
Xavier Paul, LF
Jamey Carroll, SS
Blake DeWitt, 2B
Reed Johnson, CF
Brian Giles, DH
Nick Green, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Russ Mitchell, 1B
Jason Repko, RF
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

Russell Martin says his MRI showed only a strain, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Let’s hope he does not try to conceal anything more.

Martin told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com: “They said I have a little strain somewhere, either the lower abdomen or the groin area in the muscles that connect the hip, abdomen and groin.”

Update: This Gurnick paragraph doesn’t sound quite as good.

Martin’s discomfort is in the same general area that plagued former Dodgers infielder Tony Abreu, who first underwent a sports hernia operation, but ultimately needed arthroscopic surgery to repair torn hip labrum.

* * *

Dodger Thoughts commenter Bumsrap pointed out overnight that on days the Dodgers start Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, James Loney and Blake DeWitt, it would be hard for opponents to stack righty relievers against the Dodgers, even if the team has no lefty pinch-hitters.

Still, the Dodgers are looking for ways to save room for a lefty. Weather permitting, Jamey Carroll is getting a start at shortstop today (while Nick Green plays third), so the Dodgers are at least entertaining the option of having Carroll be the backup shortstop in April.

Brian Giles gets his first start of the year, but won’t play in the field.

* * *

  • Russ Mitchell, who made a fine catch in foul territory Saturday on behalf of Eric Gagne, gets the start at first.
  • Jason Repko is batting ninth on a day that features at most one regular Dodger starter.
  • Tony Jackson noticed Garret Anderson in a long conversation with Russ Ortiz and tweeted, “I wonder if the words ‘we couldn’t believe Dusty took you out’ have been spoken.”
  • Baseball players from four elementary schools in Taiwan will sing the national anthem before the Dodgers’ first two games there later this week, according to FocusTaiwan.

* * *

It got busy over here overnight, so here are the in-case-you-missed-’ems:

Mar 06

Torre talks about going without lefty on bench – isn’t this unthinkable?

Dodger manager Joe Torre says he is contemplating going without a left-handed hitter on the bench, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.  I can’t believe it. I can’t believe any manager would do it. It puts your team at such a disadvantage, by allowing opponents to throw their best right-handed relievers against you at will.

But it’s true that the Dodgers have basically put themselves behind the right-handed 8-ball by signing non-southpaws Jamey Carroll, Nick Green, Ronnie Belliard and Reed Johnson this offseason. And with the latest news that Anderson won’t be ready to face live pitching for at least a week, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com – along with ongoing health concerns about Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz, and the team’s reluctance to make the inexperienced Xavier Paul their lefty off the bench – the Dodgers have to at least plan for the possibility that come Opening Day, they will have no lefty options better than their righty ones.

Torre faces a problem because, as was noted when the team was signing Johnson, the Dodgers don’t have room for 12 pitchers and a lefty bench player unless a) Blake DeWitt starts the season in Albuquerque or b) the team does something it went out of its way to avoid in 2009, by making a non-shortstop the backup to Rafael Furcal. (Remember, the Dodgers kept Juan Castro as a backup basically all of last season, and that was with Mark Loretta having more shortstop experience than Jamey Carroll has.)

Even though DeWitt is off to a nice start after two Spring Training games, he’s still got a ways to go before the starting second base job is his.  But if he wins it, the Dodgers would face such a roster crunch that the next most logical choice might be to cut Belliard, rather than go without a lefty pinch-hitter. After all, Belliard (whose contract isn’t officially guaranteed yet) is really only with the team in case DeWitt needs more seasoning.

If Giles or Mientkiewicz were healthy, I’d recommend keeping them over Belliard. However, Belliard projects to be better against righties than the over-the-hill Anderson, so choosing Anderson over Belliard is a bit unsavory.

A different solution would be to go with 11 pitchers, but as I said all last year, the Dodgers really do have a pitching staff that benefits from a 12th man. Maybe someone should run the numbers, but I think the cushion the seventh reliever provides helps the team more than a sixth bench player would.

The Dodgers are going to have to bite one of these bullets, and after shooting through all the different options, the best one might be to go without a true backup shortstop. With Furcal looking much healthier this year, backup shortstop will be one of the team’s lower priorities come Opening Day. If Furcal gets hurt, I’d much rather see Carroll at shortstop at the end of a close game than see a righty batter against a tough righty reliever. Neither Green nor Chin-Lung Hu would be likely to help the team more than even Anderson would.

The question is whether Green or Hu’s defense makes either a better choice for the roster than Belliard. I do think, if DeWitt starts at second base, that’s where the choice would be.

If the Dodgers do the heretofore unthinkable and keep an all-righty bench, I’d bet the house it doesn’t last more than two weeks. A team should have more than one left-handed hitter on the bench. Having none, strategically, is just a nightmare.

Mar 04

Notes for a Spring Training afternoon

In inscrutable order …

  • I’m continuing to follow the rehab progress of Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb closely, partly because he’s on a division rival, partly because I imagined a scenario where Webb might have become a Dodger. Anyway, Webb described himself as “stagnant,” according to The Associated Press, but it’s better for him than having an actual setback.
  • One contender made it through this year’s version of Dodger Idol. Ricky Rivas of El Paso Texas, who pitched for El Paso in independent ball last year, was signed to a minor-league contract after showing his skills at the Dodgers’ annual open tryout. Tommy Lasorda, Logan White and DeJon Watson were among those judging.
  • To encourage carpooling, the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate in Albuquerque grants free parking to cars containing at least four people. Fees of $5 for other cars — which apparently is an increase — will go “directly toward improvements to the entire Sports Complex area … “
  • Buried in this story by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com about Garret Anderson’s impact on the bench is a note that backup shortstop candidate Nick Green is playing “without limitations” despite offseason back surgery.
  • While Brian Giles looks increasingly retirement-bound, Doug Mientkiewicz reasserted that he thinks his shoulder problems shouldn’t prevent him from playing, according to Gurnick.
  • Orel Hershiser has joined ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team, working with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.
  • Speaking of Dodger greats: Ramon Martinez — the beloved one — is at Camelback Ranch as an instructor. See for yourself.
  • This Baseball Prospectus piece by Shawn Hoffman corroborates my view that the nasty payroll projections contained in a recent court filing by Jamie McCourt are nothing to be concerned about. “Unless they’re all on some kind of psychoactive drug cocktail, or possibly preparing for the next round of MLB collusion, there’s no way those projections are anything but a sales tool, pitching an investor on what they think he’ll want to hear,” Hoffman writes.
  • Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone looks at minor league prospects with high strikeout totals and doesn’t find much that would make one feel good about the future of Dodger farmhand Kyle Russell.
  • Fifty years ago today, according to the Daily Mirror, the Dodgers were all excited about pitching prospect Phil Ortega (Filimeno Coronado Ortega for long).
Mar 04

Older is not better for bench players

We all know about the great, the wonderful, the tremendous Manny Mota. But generally, do aging reserves have a history of success with the Los Angeles Dodgers?

To try to answer the question, I decided to look at the batting numbers for Dodgers since 1958 who were at least 35 years old. (I chose players with between 20 and 400 plate appearances, then removed most of the players who were basically starters that got hurt or were part of a midseason acquisition.) At first I was only going to look at pinch-hitting numbers, but then I realized that except for someone like Mota, a key component of a good bench player includes how well they perform in spot starts.

Of the 89 players on this list, 20 of them (22.4 percent) had at least a league-average adjusted OPS of 100. Mota accounts for three of those 20 seasons, as does Rick Monday. (Sidebar: Is Monday, who OPSed .854 primarily as a reserve in 841 plate appearances from 1980-83, the greatest bench player in Los Angeles Dodger history?) Only 30 (33.7 percent) of the 89 even managed an OPS+ of 90.

Some of these older guys who didn’t produce are catchers or defensive specialists who never were expected to hit much in the first place. Nevertheless, the over-35 bench club is strewn with names of guys who had past hitting success (Jim Eisenreich, I’m looking at you) but were in such decline that not even their veteran moxie could save them.

Even Mota had some unimpressive 35-and-up seasons. Because many of these players don’t get a lot of at-bats, their performances can fluctuate quite a bit year to year. It’s not as if older players are doomed to failure, but there’s clearly nothing about being a veteran that guarantees bench success.

And that makes sense, despite the baseball cliches that would suggest otherwise. After all, there’s a reason these guys lose their starting jobs in the first place — and usually, that reason is related to offense more than defense.

There are some names in the below-average portion of this chart that are actually part of Dodger lore: Vic Davalillo in 1977, Jay Johnstone in 1981, Mark Loretta last October — players who by virtue of a single at-bat put a positive stamp on disappointing seasons. That doesn’t change the fact that overall, veteran benchmen have been more forgettable than memorable.

You can still argue for keeping a Garret Anderson over a Xavier Paul. Maybe the Dodgers will get more long-term value out of Paul if he plays every day in Albuquerque until he’s needed. Maybe there’s a matchup in a key September or October game that Anderson will use his experience to take advantage of. Maybe Anderson’s numbers will improve if his at-bats are rationed.

On the other hand, Paul is 25 years old, entering his prime, superior on defense and already performing at a level on offense that projects better in 2010 than Anderson does. It’s not clear at all that it benefits the Dodgers to hand Anderson a job that he would be earning solely through his resume.


Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Rick Monday 194 156 1981 35 11 .423 .608 1.031
Manny Mota 176 50 1977 39 1 .521 .500 1.021
Duke Snider 149 196 1962 35 5 .418 .481 .899
Rick Monday 140 254 1982 36 11 .372 .481 .852
Olmedo Saenz 132 204 2006 35 11 .363 .564 .927
Jose Morales 131 34 1982 37 1 .382 .433 .816
Rick Dempsey 129 198 1988 38 7 .338 .455 .793
Ken Boyer 123 243 1968 37 6 .317 .403 .720
Jose Morales 121 54 1983 38 3 .296 .509 .806
Chad Kreuter 116 271 2000 35 6 .416 .410 .827
Doug Mientkiewicz 115 20 2009 35 0 .400 .389 .789
Mitch Webster 114 93 1994 35 4 .344 .464 .808
Manny Mota 110 47 1979 41 0 .400 .357 .757
Rick Monday 109 208 1983 37 6 .351 .399 .750
Manny Mota 106 60 1976 38 0 .367 .346 .713
Jeff Reboulet 105 253 2001 37 3 .367 .397 .764
Kevin Elster 104 259 2000 35 14 .341 .455 .796
Trent Hubbard 102 120 1999 35 1 .387 .390 .777
Vic Davalillo 102 81 1978 41 1 .333 .390 .723
Robin Ventura 100 127 2003 35 5 .331 .422 .753
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Gary Carter 98 280 1991 37 6 .323 .375 .698
Willie Randolph 98 113 1990 35 1 .364 .344 .707
Chad Kreuter 97 234 2001 36 6 .355 .377 .732
Enos Cabell 96 208 1985 35 0 .340 .349 .689
Jerry Grote 96 83 1978 35 0 .354 .343 .697
Manny Mota 96 37 1978 40 0 .361 .333 .694
Brett Butler 95 178 1995 38 0 .368 .336 .703
Bill Mueller 94 126 2006 35 3 .357 .402 .759
Chad Kreuter 94 108 2002 37 2 .333 .379 .712
Brad Ausmus 93 107 2009 40 1 .343 .368 .712
Pee Wee Reese 87 181 1958 39 4 .337 .381 .718
Robin Ventura 86 175 2004 36 5 .337 .362 .699
Bill Russell 85 298 1984 35 0 .329 .321 .649
Manny Mota 85 72 1974 36 0 .328 .316 .644
Sandy Alomar 84 62 2006 40 0 .323 .403 .726
Manny Mota 84 59 1975 37 0 .357 .286 .643
Bill Russell 83 192 1985 36 0 .333 .308 .641
Reggie Smith 83 44 1981 36 1 .318 .314 .632
Boog Powell 83 53 1977 35 0 .415 .244 .659
Otis Nixon 82 191 1997 38 1 .323 .349 .671
Rick Dempsey 81 183 1989 39 4 .319 .305 .623
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Devon White 79 168 2000 37 4 .310 .386 .696
Vic Davalillo 79 48 1977 40 0 .313 .354 .667
Ron Coomer 78 137 2003 36 4 .299 .368 .667
Jay Johnstone 77 90 1981 35 3 .267 .349 .616
Juan Castro 76 121 2009 37 1 .311 .339 .650
Gil Hodges 76 245 1961 37 8 .313 .372 .685
Gil Hodges 76 231 1960 36 8 .291 .371 .661
Geronimo Berroa 74 35 2000 35 0 .343 .323 .665
Al Oliver 74 85 1985 38 0 .294 .316 .611
Carl Furillo 74 103 1959 37 0 .333 .333 .667
Bill Russell 73 242 1986 37 0 .302 .301 .603
Rick Monday 73 57 1984 38 1 .309 .298 .607
Steve Yeager 72 221 1984 35 4 .295 .310 .605
Jim Gilliam 71 273 1966 37 1 .315 .268 .583
Rickey Henderson 70 84 2003 44 2 .321 .306 .627
Wally Moon 69 104 1965 35 1 .304 .270 .574
Gary Bennett 68 23 2008 36 1 .261 .381 .642
Tim Wallach 68 175 1996 38 4 .286 .333 .619
Rick Dempsey 68 151 1990 40 2 .318 .281 .599
Vic Davalillo 68 29 1979 42 0 .310 .296 .607
Elmer Valo 68 115 1958 37 1 .322 .317 .639
Brett Butler 66 145 1996 39 0 .313 .290 .603
Davey Lopes 66 243 1981 36 5 .289 .285 .574
Olmedo Saenz 65 132 2007 36 4 .295 .345 .641
Cesar Cedeno 65 87 1986 35 0 .294 .282 .576
Mark Belanger 63 57 1982 38 0 .309 .260 .569
Bill Madlock 62 69 1987 36 3 .265 .344 .609
Mark Loretta 60 204 2009 37 0 .309 .276 .585
Jose Valentin 60 184 2005 35 2 .326 .265 .591
Player OPS+ PA Year Age HR OBP SLG OPS
Mark Sweeney 55 34 2007 37 0 .294 .303 .597
Jeff Reboulet 55 58 2002 38 0 .291 .271 .562
Chris Donnels 54 101 2001 35 3 .277 .295 .573
Phil Garner 54 151 1987 38 2 .299 .270 .569
Ken Boyer 49 36 1969 38 0 .250 .265 .515
Shawn Gilbert 47 23 2000 35 1 .227 .350 .577
Jim Leyritz 47 68 2000 36 1 .294 .267 .561
Mitch Webster 46 63 1995 36 1 .246 .286 .532
Irv Noren 46 26 1960 35 1 .231 .320 .551
Steve Yeager 43 131 1985 36 0 .246 .256 .502
Mike Lieberthal 41 82 2007 35 0 .280 .260 .540
Jim Eisenreich 39 140 1998 39 0 .266 .244 .510
Mickey Hatcher 39 141 1990 35 0 .248 .250 .498
Chris Cannizzaro 35 25 1973 35 0 .280 .190 .470
Brent Mayne 29 113 2004 36 0 .286 .188 .473
Mark Sweeney 13 108 2008 38 0 .250 .163 .413
Jose Morales 3 20 1984 39 0 .200 .158 .358
Maury Wills 3 152 1972 39 0 .190 .167 .357
Milt Thompson -3 57 1996 37 0 .211 .137 .348

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/4/2010.

Mar 03

Dodgers sign Garret Anderson to minor-league deal

In a move one can’t help but interpret, at least in part, as a vote of no confidence in the health of Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz, the Dodgers have signed local hero Garret Anderson to a minor-league deal, the team announced tonight.

Anderson, 38 this June, had a .705 OPS last season (86 OPS+) and was almost equally bad against right-handed pitchers as he was against lefties.  But the team might just be determined to have a veteran at least start the season as the team’s lead lefty pinch-hitter, rather than Xavier Paul, whose bat could certainly match what Anderson did last season.

Perhaps the thinking is also that Anderson might do better with more rest than he has ever had in his career – he has been a regular since 1995.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Superman, Then and Now

* * *

Updates:

  • Arizona signed 22-year-old right fielder Justin Upton to a six-year, $51.25 million contract. Upton is nearly three years younger than Matt Kemp and has one fewer year of service time, and had a .301 EQA (or, as Baseball Prospectus now wants us to call it, True Average) compared to Kemp’s .304.
  • The importance of Clayton Kershaw’s slider is the subject of a Jay Jaffe post at ESPN.com’s new pay-blog, TMI. “Kershaw’s numbers, since he introduced the pitch in early-June, are eye-popping,” Jaffe writes. “They stand with the elite hurlers in the majors, with the caveat that his age limited his workload.”
  • Scheduled Dodger pitchers for Spring Training Opening Day on Friday: Vicente Padilla, Ramon Ortiz, Charlie Haeger, Luis Ayala, Scott Dohmann and Jon Link.
  • An all-encompassing MLB batted-ball location chart is now available at Katron.org (link via True Blue L.A. and Dodger Divorce).
  • Following their disappointing 2009 seasons, Dodger catcher Russell Martin put on chunks of weight, while Cubs catcher Geovany Soto took them off. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports explores their criss-cross paths.
  • Lefty reliever Brent Leach is trying to get through a sore groin muscle, Gurnick reports. Leach has been playing catch on flat ground but has stayed off the mound in recent days.
  • Minor leaguers had their per diem raised to $25 from $20, and Rob Neyer of ESPN.com is unimpressed by the largesse – and even less impressed with the efforts organizations make to encourage healthy eating among their prospects.
  • Forty years ago today, Ross Newhan of the Times began his feature (passed along by Keith Thursby at the Daily Mirror) on Bobby Valentine with this opening: “He might have become the second O.J. Simpson.”
  • The Dodgers’ annual open tryout for all unaffiliated men and women 18 and over takes place Thursday at Camelback Ranch. Hope your visa’s in order!
  • Is the future of baseball bats knobless? Read and decide for yourself.
  • Manny Mota (via Gurnick) is trying to draw attention to the Haiti relief efforts of former major-leaguer Neifi Perez and his merengue-performing brother Rubby.
Feb 25

Giles, Mientkiewicz have chronic ailments

Considered leading contenders for the Dodger bench because of their previous major-league success, both Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz have arrived at Spring Training with health concerns that aren’t going to go away.

As Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports:

He went on the disabled list on June 19 and never came off, diagnosed with what was called a bone contusion, which can be a nice way of saying it’s bone rubbing on bone. In that case, all the rehab in the world is meaningless, as the pain will return as soon as he starts running.

“I feel healthy, but you don’t know until you start pounding on it,” he said of his knee, which underwent micro-fracture surgery in 2007. “I’ve always said, if it’s too hard or I can’t play well, I’ll walk away myself. I did regular offseason workouts and they went well.” …

… Giles’ most obvious rival for the bench role is Doug Mientkiewicz, who has physical problems of his own, with chronic pain in his throwing shoulder and, for the second year, must make the club on a Minor League contract. …

Left-handed hitting Xavier Paul would be the most obvious potential beneficiary if Giles and Mientkiewicz can’t make it for the long haul.

* * *

  • Vicente Padilla will start the official March 5 Spring Training opener, Gurnick reports, though this is not an indication he will be the Opening Day starter in April. Gurnick also notes that the Dodgers actually have a B game three days earlier — this coming Tuesday.
  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com had lots of good tidbits in his lunchtime chat today. Among other things: Ivan DeJesus, Jr. is still experiencing soreness from his broken leg. Also, he tells us not to forget about Cory Wade, whom he thinks is capable of a comeback.
  • At Dodgers Blog, Steve Dilbeck tells his story of being at his first Spring Training and meeting Sandy Koufax — and experience first-hand his predictive powers regarding Vero Beach weather and earth.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone analyzes the past, present and future of Dodger pitching prospect Chris Withrow.
  • Recovering Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb had a clean 45-pitch throwing session today.
  • I’ve talked in the past about always wanting to chronicle the seasons of those who proclaim at Spring Training that they’re in the best shape of their lives. Fangraphs is taking on the project head on, with posts by Dave Cameron and Joe Pawlikowski.
  • Meanwhile, proving once again that his reputation as a softie is off-target, former Dodger J.D. Drew played in pain throughout 2009, reports Daniel Barbarisi of the Providence Journal (via Hardball Talk).
  • Kicking off a series of interviews with the most important people on this planet, DodgerFan.net has “Five Tweets with … Jon Weisman of ESPN/LA’s Dodger Thoughts.”