Jul 15

Billingsley scratched from today’s start

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Juan Uribe, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

News in today’s lineup:

  • A morning change pushed Chris Capuano into today’s start in place of Chad Billingsley, who has an as-yet undisclosed injury, according to Alex Angert of MLB.com. Jimmy Bramlett of LAist tweets that Billingsley will have an MRI on his elbow.

    “According to Donnie, Bills has had soreness in his elbow the last several starts but thought it was just normal wear,” Bramlett adds.

    The Dodgers say that Nathan Eovaldi will start Monday; Tuesday is TBD.

  • Matt Kemp is getting a rest day to protect his rehabilitated hamstring.
  • Juan Uribe is getting his first start at shortstop since May 4, 2011.
Jul 15

Home, home on the strange

One time during my junior year in college, I failed to set the parking brake on my Scirocco, and it rolled into the middle of an alley. I got a knock at my door saying that a policeman was giving me a ticket.

Don Mattingly had that moment where he made two trips to the mound at once, costing the Dodgers a relief pitcher.

I’m sure we’ve all had such a brain cramp, more times than we’d care to admit, and now Kenley Jansen has had one as well – allowing a steal of home and topping that with a throwing error that left the Dodgers, one strike away from victory, with a 7-6 loss to the Padres.

The defeat came on a night in which the recently recovered trio of Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier each reached base three times, with Ethier (four RBI) hitting a two-run home run that seemed to be a game-winner in the sixth inning.

Chad Moriyama looks at all the things that went wrong on that single play. Not to be forgotten is that the Dodgers also allowed a run-of-the-mill unearned point in the first inning.

* * *

Wanted to send along belated best wishes to Javy Guerra, who is in Mexico tending to his father, who suffered a heart attack. Guerra pitched Friday with the knowledge that his father was stricken. He has now taken literal and metaphorical line drives to the jaw this year, not to mention surgery on his knee, and it’s pretty impressive how he’s handled it.

And congrats to Josh Wall for his promotion to the big leagues. Wall’s Albuquerque stats aren’t impressive except for his 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings, so I’m not sure how much we’ll see him during this initial stint, but I will certainly look forward to it.

* * *

  • The Dodgers have had more games with extra-base hits than you might expect, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. Only five times this year have they gone extra-base-hitless, and that includes a no-hitter against them.
  • The Dodgers had their annual night for independent bloggers. Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A. offers a recap.
  • Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation passed along a 26-minute 1946 Pacific Coast League promotional film.
  • Minor-league basethief extraordinaire Billy Hamilton was the subject of a nice profile by Steve Dilbeck of the Times.
  • Newly released documentary “Ballplayer: Pelotero,” about two teenagers in the Dominican Republic with big-league aspirations, is getting largely positive reviews according to Metacritic.
  • One-time Baseball Toaster star Bob Timmermann has toed his way back into blogging with The Portable Griddle.
Jul 13

The resurrection of John Ely

One-time breath of fresh air John Ely is quietly having a stellar 2012, posting a 3.22 ERA in Triple-A Albuquerque with 9.7 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings. You just don’t see those stats with the Isotopes very often. James Bailey of Baseball America has more on the Pacific Coast League All-Star.

“It took a couple of years of getting my head beat off the wall a little bit in this league to try to figure it out a little bit,” Ely told Bailey. “The PCL can get to you, man. Ask anybody out here. It’s a tough league to pitch in with the travel and the ballparks and the matter that you’ve got some pretty darn good hitters in this league. I think I underestimated it a little and I probably didn’t take it quite as seriously as I should have.”

“A lot of it has to do with staying ahead and basically just throwing my best pitches when I have to throw them,” Ely added. “You know, making pitches when you need to and realizing, ‘OK, this is what I want to do with this pitch right now.’ ”

Though the Dodgers’ rumored trade-market pursuits include starting pitching, Ely would certainly seem to have some renewed value – either as a stopgap starter if the Dodgers still end up needing one, or as a trade chip.

* * *

  • Andre Ethier played in rehabiliation games Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to join Matt Kemp in tonight’s Dodger starting lineup, writes Alex Angert of MLB.com.
  • Ronald Belisario’s certainly got the right to go home to Venezuela during the All-Star break, but somehow it isn’t surprising that his return to the States was delayed, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com (pictured, right, with Ned Colletti). However, Belisario is expected to arrive for tonight’s game.
  • Yasiel Puig’s arrival in Arizona is documented by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
  • Kemp will be featured on the next edition of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, premiering Tuesday.
  • A midseason review of the Isotopes is provided by Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • It’s a quirk to say the least, but Zach Greinke of Milwaukee tonight will become the first pitcher since 1917 to start three consecutive games, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. He faces James McDonald of Pittsburgh.
Jul 12

Trade rumors, 2003

How times have changed …

In this Dodger Thoughts piece from July 2003, you can see Ken Rosenthal (then with the Sporting News) report that “the Dodgers continue to target Melvin Mora, and the Orioles might be willing to take third baseman Adrian Beltre if they also received quality prospects in the deal.”

Mora was an All-Star from 2003-2005. Still, it’s amazing to contemplate the idea of needing to give up Beltre and top prospects for him.

Jul 11

Variety Sports Entertainment Summit on Thursday

I’ll be spending Thursday at the second-annual Variety Sports Entertainment Summit, presented in association with the Sports Video Group at the Loews Hollywood Hotel and offering more than a dozen interesting panels about the intersection of sports and entertainment.

For you big spenders who can’t attend, there’s a live webcast you can sign up for.

Along those lines, here’s a look by Variety’s Dave McNary at a new wave of sports films and profiles on more than 30 people whose work bridges sports and entertainment, along with some additional thoughts on the landscape.

Jul 11

Adrian’s head


What’s the deal with Adrian Beltre and people trying to touch his head? Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation investigates in the clip above.

Elsewhere …

  • Chasing October, a book by David Plaut that focuses on the 1962 pennant race between the Dodgers and Giants, is getting a three-part review by Scott Andes of Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers his midseason report card on the Dodger position players.
  • James McDonald’s rise to prominence could be the result of increased use of his slider, writes Ben Duorino of Fangraphs. (Wasn’t the slider the key to Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young season?)
  • ESPN Sweet Spot bloggers preview the second half of the season for National League teams. Oh, and here’s the American League.
  • Matt Kemp is having a post-ESPYs bash tonight to benefit “Kemp’s Kids,” which provides support to underprivileged youth, writes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Meanwhile, Lyle Spencer of MLB.com writes about Kemp’s visit to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at starting pitchers potentially on the trade market.
  • Farewell, Kenny Heitz.
Jul 10

Take me out to the movie

If Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer had been differently inspired:

Take me out to the movie
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some popcorn and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I ever get back
Let me root, root, root for the protagonist
If he doesn’t complete the hero’s journey it’s a shame
For it’s lights, camera, action – and cut
At the ol’ movie.

Jul 09

So, it’s gonna be one of ‘those’ divisions?

For a good portion of this season, the Dodgers had the best record in the majors. But at the All-Star Break, they have the poorest winning percentage (.540) of the six division leaders, and they are atop a division that is collectively 26 games below .500, also the worst in baseball. The National League West has been outscored by 130 runs in 2012, with the Dodgers and Giants at +10 each.

That could change, but right now, it’s a winning ugly scenario.  Not that Dodger fans won’t take it.

At the Hardball Times, Steve Treder takes the pulse of the NL West.

* * *

  • In a guest post for Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, Christopher Jackson checks in on the progress (or regression) of the Dodgers’ top minor-league pitchers.
  • Former Dodger Jay Gibbons has retired.
  • Matt Kemp homered 17 times in 69 games (40-homer pace) after last year’s Home Run Derby.
Jul 09

Will Matt Kemp go from 40 steals to four?

Matt Kemp has two stolen bases in five attempts this year, after 40 in 51 attempts last year.  Do you see him running much in the second half of 2012?

Also, have you picked out the hole you’re going to crawl into if Kemp hurts himself again this year?  You don’t want to get caught without a good crawling hole just when you need one.

* * *

A couple of quick notes:

  • Dodger blogger Greg Zakwin is a finalist to win a Sandy Koufax autograph — you can help him by voting for him here.
  • One out of every eight MLB regulars made the All-Star Game this year – and that’s defining “regular” generously, writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.’
Jul 08

The end of the line for Juan Uribe … or not?

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Elian Herrera, RF
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

I didn’t come up with the thought, but quickly I realized it made sense. Presuming that Matt Kemp comes off the disabled list before Friday’s post-All-Star opener against the Padres, Scott Van Slyke will return to Albuquerque. But when Andre Ethier comes off the disabled list, it might mean the end of Juan Uribe’s Dodger career.

Since a second-inning double June 20 at Oakland, Uribe is in the midst of an 0-for-27 slump, with three walks and nine strikeouts. That happens. The problem is that when he hasn’t been slumping … well, Uribe can hardly say he’s ever not been slumping as a Dodger.

If Uribe gets an at-bat today and makes an out, that will leave him with exactly 80 hits in 400 at-bats as a Dodger – a pristine .200 batting average. He has 25 walks and has been hit by more pitches (eight) than he has hit home runs (five). His OPS as a Dodger is .546.

That Uribe, who is still owed $8 million on his contract after this season ends, is still the Dodgers’ best defender at third base has been the lone remaining argument in his favor. However, that saving grace has been weakened by two emerging factors.  One is that Jerry Hairston Jr. has played capable defense at third while swinging a more reliable bat, and the other is that the injury to Dee Gordon has meant that Luis Cruz needs a spot on the Dodger roster.

Unless the Dodgers are willing to start giving Uribe time at shortstop – he played 21 2/3 innings there in 2011 after 103 games for the Giants at short in 2010 – Cruz is staying. That leaves a battle for the final roster spot between Uribe, Elian Herrera and Adam Kennedy.

The choice might seem obvious, but you can’t rule out the possibility of Herrera, who has minor-league options, going back to the Isotopes. He’s been 100 times more fun to watch than Uribe and his versatility is an asset, but once Kemp and Ethier are back in their starting roles, Mark Ellis is re-entrenched at second base and Bobby Abreu, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Juan Rivera are holding down left field, there’s going to be less call for Herrera to roam around the diamond. That’s not to say that he’s without a purpose, but with his own slump to a .326 on-base percentage and .335 slugging, the difference between him, Uribe and Kennedy (.315 OBP, .309 slugging) isn’t overwhelming.

Who will bat leadoff for the Dodgers when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier return?

Dee Gordon is injured, and Tony Gwynn Jr. won’t start often. That leaves Luis Cruz, Bobby Abreu, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis.

Assuming Dodger manager Don Mattingly still can’t stomach the idea of his catcher leading off a game, I would say Abreu, Hairston and Mark Ellis all have a case. Something tells me, though, that we might see Cruz there as much as anyone.

By optioning Herrera, the Dodgers can put off making a final decision on Uribe or Kennedy, neither of whom can be sent down. The question is whether those decisions need any more putting off. Do the Dodgers see any hope left in Uribe? Before you answer, note that Andruw Jones has an .820 OPS in more than 1,000 plate appearances since the Dodgers got rid of him.

My instinct is to cut Uribe, but I wouldn’t call it an automatic decision. The defense is there, and once Ethier and Kemp are back, you don’t lose much by sending Herrera down and keeping Uribe as a defensive specialist who bats eighth, nor by just getting rid of Kennedy, who doesn’t give you defense or a bat (.617 OPS against right-handed pitching).

The best news is that the Dodgers might finally be healthy enough that they can even make the decision.

* * *

Jul 07

Lineup of the Gods chat

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 7:10 p.m.
Elian Herrera, CF
Luis Cruz, SS
Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Chad Billingsley, P

From the Dodger press notes:

Los Angeles Dodgers All-Time Strikeout Leaders

1. Don Sutton 2,696
2. Don Drysdale 2,283
3. Sandy Koufax 2,214
4. Fernando Valenzuela 1,759
5. Orel Hershiser 1,456
6. Ramon Martinez 1,314
7. Bob Welch 1,292
8. Hideo Nomo 1,200
9. Chan Ho Park 1,177
10. Claude Osteen 1,162
11. Burt Hooton 1,042
12. Chad Billingsley 998

Jul 07

The trauma of potential

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Silly me – when I described the yin and yang of Clayton Kershaw in Arizona on Friday somehow I left off the third rail. (Or maybe I included the first and third rails but left off the second.) Read more about that – as well as Vin Scully’s latest moment of ethereal insight – in my latest piece for Los Angeles Magazine’s CityThink blog.

 

Jul 06

Kershaw CXXXIV: Kershawn Golden Pond

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Rivera, RF
Adam Kennedy, 3B
James Loney, 1B
Luis Cruz, SS
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

Clayton Kershaw has had some dominant performances against Arizona, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes. But I still find myself a little nervous when he faces the Diamondbacks, for reasons that A.J. Cassavell of MLB.com describes.

… At Dodger Stadium last September, Kershaw was ejected for hitting Arizona outfielder Gerardo Parra on the elbow with a pitch. That came a day after Kershaw took exception to Parra admiring a home run off then-Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.

When the two clubs met in Los Angeles on May 14 — the first time Kershaw had faced Arizona since the ejection — D-backs starter Ian Kennedy threw behind Kershaw, who responded by brushing back Kennedy. Both pitchers were warned and no fireworks ensued. …

I don’t want shenanigans. I just want to see Kershaw pitch.

Reports of the demise of Kershaw, by the way, continue to feel exaggerated to this intrepid analyst. In the past month, Kershaw has 43 strikeouts in 34 innings (11.4 per nine innings) with a 2.91 ERA. A year ago at this time, Kershaw had a 3.23 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.