Apr 21

My Beli’s back and you’re gonna be sorry


Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Reinstated from the restricted list, Ronald Belisario will try to do his part to reverse the Dodgers’ disturbing bullpen performance.

I mean, one way or another, someone’s gonna be sorry.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Dodger pitchers have an ERA of nearly 7.00 after the third inning this season. Belisario will hopefully pass that sorry-ness to opponents.

Stephen also has a post that shows how Matt Kemp’s April hitting is starting to rival Ron Cey’s hallowed April 1977 (the first month of my full-on rooting for the Dodgers).

* * *

Vin Scully’s alma mater has something else to be excited about.

Apr 20

Dodgers expect to activate Belisario, Kuo by the weekend

The Dodgers had Hong-Chih Kuo throw a bullpen session today, so he won’t be activated until Thursday at the earliest. Joe Torre told reporters this afternoon that Ronald Belisario might be activated sooner than Kuo – maybe even Wednesday.

  • Shocking and sad news for the Rockies: Team president Keli MacGregor passed away at age 48.
  • The Dodgers’ 22-4 mark against Cincinnati since 2006 is the best of any one MLB team against another, according to the Dodger press notes.
  • Chad Billingsley is making his fourth career start at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Previously: five innings, one run in 2007; 6 1/3 innings, one run in 2008; five innings, four runs in 2009.
  • Juan Pierre has gotten off to a rough start this year with the Chicago White Sox, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com.
  • MLB rescinded its suspension of Cliff Lee. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk explains why.
Apr 18

Kershaw LIV: Kershaw the Frog


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Manny’s calf is still mooing.

Russ Ortiz has been designated for assignment by the Dodgers, who have called up righty Jon Link to replace him for the time being. Link has been hit pretty hard at Albuquerque this season – 10 baserunners against 13 outs – so at this point he might just be a different sort of mop-up man until Hong-Chih Kuo is activated.

  • Today marks the 60th anniverary of Vin Scully’s Dodger debut.
  • Saturday’s 20-inning Mets-Cardinals game was scoreless for the first 18 innings, the longest a game had been scoreless since Rick Dempsey’s 22nd-inning home run gave the Dodgers a 1-0 victory over Montreal in 1989.
  • Josh Towers pitched six innings of one-run, seven-baserunner ball for Albuquerque on Saturday, but the Isotopes suffered a 2-0 defeat.
  • Jerry Sands had two doubles and a triple in Great Lakes’ 4-2 loss Saturday. The 22-year-old is on-basing .465 and slugging .763 in 10 games this season, with seven extra-base hits in that time.
  • Babe Ruth was in a near-fatal car accident in 1938, when he was a Brooklyn Dodgers coach. Blue Heaven passes along photos of Ruth and a description of the wreck.
  • Video of Lefty Grove has been posted at Minor League Ball. Grove was held captive in the minors well past the point that he was major-league ready.
  • Nice recap of Ubaldo Jimenez’s no-hitter for Colorado – the first in Rockies history – from Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
  • According to the Dodger press notes, DodgerTalk with Ken Levine and Josh Suchon on KABC AM 710 will be soliciting callers for their best nicknames for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Somebody better stick up for the Bison.
Apr 17

Dodgers have a monster mash – but Tim Lincecum awaits


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Hello … is it me you’re looking for?

Andre Ethier is just mashing the ball. And it’s not just Friday in the Dodgers 10-8 victory over the Giants. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Ethier has hit 25 home runs in his past 81 home games. Sons of Steve Garvey has a photo essay showing just how incredible Ethier’s night was.

And Matt Kemp is just mashing the ball, too. He has homered in four consecutive games and five of his past six.

James Loney doesn’t have a home run yet, but he is mashing the ball in his own way. Loney is 12 for his last 25, raising his batting average from .167 to .327 and making him one of seven Dodger regulars hitting over .300.

And for a night, opponents stopped mashing the ball against Vicente Padilla. With the Dodger bullpen in a shambles, Padilla picked a good time to give the Dodgers his best outing of the season. But Vin Scully and KCAL noticed Padilla rubbing his pitching arm pretty vigorously just before the fifth inning – the inning in which he lost his no-hitter and was hit pretty hard. Though Padilla lasted seven innings, we’ll have to see if what Scully saw had any significance.

The Dodgers came within one run of matching their team record (since moving to Los Angeles) for most runs in the first 10 games of a season (68). At the same time, they also reached their third-highest total of runs allowed in the first 10 games of a season (60).

* * *

Manny Ramirez came out of the game after three innings because of calf tightness, but Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Joe Torre said Ramirez would have stayed in the game if the Dodgers hadn’t been up by seven.

Of course, there were no guarantees the Dodgers would hold such a lead. And the fact that Russ Ortiz again could not finish an easy assignment is the last straw. Ortiz needs to be released.

When you take a flyer on a pitcher who hasn’t pitched well in years, the sole (if questionable) purpose is to try to see if there’s a chance he has solved his problems or even has one hot streak left in him. When you can see that he’s just as bad as he’s always been, there is nothing to hold out for. There is no situation in which Ortiz is a reliable pitcher, and the Dodgers should not wait any longer on him.

If Hong-Chih Kuo is about to be activated, that’s a simple exchange. But if Kuo has a setback, the Dodgers still need to jettison Ortiz.

* * *

  • It’s a tall order, but the Dodgers will try to “outlast” Tim Lincecum in today’s game, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. It’s similar to how they were able to get a late victory against Arizona on Thursday – if they can make the great starter throw a lot of pitches, they can at least give themselves a chance against the bullpen.
  • The fifth-inning Padilla pitch that hit Aaron Rowand left him with two small fractures in his cheekbone and a concussion, writes D.J. Short of Hardball Talk.
  • Joe Torre recalls that when he was managing the Mets in 1977, the team almost traded Tom Seaver to the Dodgers for a package of players that included minor-leaguer Pedro Guerrero, writes Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News.
  • John Ely pitched six two-run innings for Albuquerque last night.
  • Dee Gordon went 3 for 6 for Chattanooga and now has a .448 on-base percentage. Trayvon Robinson had a single, double and homer.
  • Will Savage, the 25-year-old from West Hills, pitched six innings without allowing an earned run while striking out eight for Great Lakes. In 12 2/3 innings this year, Savage has allowed two earned runs and five unearned runs.
Apr 16

Russell Martin deserves a hand, if not a nap


Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Back in the home opener, Russell Martin had no idea of how rough the middle of his week would get.

Last May, I wrote about Orlando Hudson in the midst of his hot start to 2009:

I’m not going to attempt to tell you how long Hudson can perform at an All-Star caliber level. Rather, my point in these giddy times for Dodger fans is to remind us that there was serious doubt whether Hudson, coming off a traumatic 2008 wrist injury, could play this well at any point in the remainder of his career — for a month, for a week, for even a day. That we now know he can is a revelation.

Things will go up and down, but just setting the ups this high is juicy. Right now, this is looking like a magical signing.

That Hudson didn’t finish the season in the starting lineup shows how a hot start doesn’t guarantee anything, but I do feel it’s worth making a similar point about Russell Martin.

In a year where expectations for Martin couldn’t have been lower – particularly after he missed most of Spring Training – the Dodger catcher leads the major leagues in on-base percentage and is 19th overall in OPS. Martin always has had a good eye, but he’s even slugging .591, compared to .329 last season and .256 last April.

Again, there are no assurances he won’t slump, especially if the Dodger pitchers keep wearing him out, but it’s nice to know that he can get this hot even for a little while.

* * *

Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness makes explicit what I implied in my last post: The Dodgers really only have Russ Ortiz, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Troncoso available in relief of Vicente Padilla tonight, unless they make a more dramatic move. (Petriello includes Jeff Weaver among the available — Joe Torre included both Weaver and George Sherrill in his pregame conversation with reporters — but I can’t imagine the Dodgers want to go there tonight.)

If the Dodgers fall behind big early, then you pretty much can burn Ortiz and Monasterios to get through the game. But in a competitive game, the Dodgers figure to be at a huge bullpen disadvantage if Padilla has to leave before the eighth inning.

I’ve never been all that high on Padilla, but I kind of feel he’s due for a good outing. Just a gut thing I’m having.

* * *

Torre said that the day-after reports on Hong-Chih Kuo’s rehab outing showed no problems, and that he’s due to pitch again in a minor-league game Sunday. Torre pointed out that Ronald Belisario isn’t eligible to make rehab appearances, so that he will come straight to the Dodgers when his command is present.

Torre also said that he doesn’t consider carrying 13 or 11 pitchers on the staff to be an option at this time. Twelve it is.

* * *

One pitching bright spot: As a team, the Dodgers have struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings. Four pitchers are over the 9.0 mark, led not by Jonathan Broxton (15.4) but Charlie Haeger (16.7).

Apr 15

Dodger uniforms display ’42′ tonight in honor of Jackie Robinson, not team’s ERA


Getty Images
The Dodgers will lead Major League Baseball’s celebration of Jackie Robinson — otherwise known as Chapter 1 — tonight at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers have not made any personnel moves to address their struggling bullpen, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles said in his live chat today. But that doesn’t mean Dodger manager Joe Torre isn’t concerned.

“I think he is very worried,” Jackson said, “and you can read between the lines of what he says after every game. Joe isn’t the type to rip on his players or his team, but he has a way of expressing when he’s not happy about something that leaves little doubt as to how he feels. Keep in mind that (Ronald) Belisario and (Hong-Chih) Kuo will be back soon, possibly by sometime next week. Once that happens, everybody can kind of settle into their usual roles. Until then, they have to try to stay afloat with these guys.

Joe Torre later told reporters that the pitching staff can’t continue to not get the job done, but the Dodgers feel they’re better than what they’ve done so far or else they wouldn’t have left Spring Training with this group.

In this blogger’s opinion, however, the Dodgers need to replace at least one of the white flags in their bullpen. They are being given more rope than the younger, more promising alternatives were, and it isn’t deserved.

* * *

More Torre tidbits:

1) He hopes to avoid using Jonathan Broxton tonight, with Broxton having pitched in two consecutive games, and also hopes to continue resting Jeff Weaver.

2) I thought Jamey Carroll was starting for defensive reasons to support Hiroki Kuroda, whom the Dodgers need to really stay in the game for a long time tonight. But Torre said that Blake DeWitt was being given a day off to regroup for offensive reasons – saying that his swing is getting long and he is fouling balls off that he should put in play.

3) Torre expects Ronnie Belliard to get two starts this weekend, one of them at first base in place of James Loney against Barry Zito .

4) Andre Ethier’s ankle is still bothering him, but he is ready to go tonight.

* * *

Arizona pitcher Dan Haren is making his third start of the season tonight. After allowing three baserunners and a run in seven innings against San Diego on Opening Day, Haren allowed five earned runs on 11 baserunners in 6 2/3 innings against Pittsburgh.

* * *

The Dodgers are last in the National League in first-pitch strikes, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

* * *

Dodgerama has an interesting chart showing how long it took each Dodger to reach the majors.

* * *

John Lindsey Watch: A homer and three doubles in Albuquerque’s 13-5 victory today. Lindsey is now on-basing .611 and slugging .969. Lindsey, Jay Gibbons and Prentice Redman, batting fourth, fifth and sixth, each had four hits. Gibbons had his second consecutive four-hit game.

Josh Lindblom struck out five but allowed four earned runs in five innings of his second start of the year, lowering his ERA to 7.88. Brent Leach pitched two shutout innings.

Apr 14

Stating the obvious, but …


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Casey Blake (shown homering Tuesday) has a .476 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage so far this season.

… everyone knows that the pitching will improve and the offense will cool down, right?

No matter what happens, “Follow the Dodgers!” (Thanks, Blue Heaven.)

Apr 13

Kershaw LIII: Kershawme Opener


John Cordes/Icon SMI
Andre Ethier blasted two homers and drove in four runs in the Dodgers’ home opener a year ago today.

They were overshadowed by Orlando Hudson producing the first Dodger cycle in 39 years, but there were plenty of heroes that made last year’s Dodger opener a laugher in the best kind of way for the fans. Every Dodger starter had at least one hit, Andre Ethier homered twice, Chad Billingsley scattered four singles and a double over seven innings while striking out 11 – heck, even Will Ohman pitched a shutout inning. All against the Giants. The good times rolled on through April’s record streak of consecutive home victories to start a season.

Things are a bit cloudier a year later, with the Dodgers 3 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West before the home crowd has even seen a regular-season pitch. But Monday’s gray skies have cleared up, just as Albert Peterson predicted. Let’s go have some fun!

* * *

  • Joe Torre-managed teams have won 12 consecutive home openers, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Stephen has more Dodger home opener details here.
  • In the comments of that thread, BHSportsGuy lists the 15 Dodger pitchers credited with a win since Clayton Kershaw’s last on July 18.
  • Via Twitter, Stephen points to a nice feature by Tom Krasovic on Dick Enberg, reborn as a Padres play-by-play announcer. Related: Rob Neyer of ESPN.com heard Enberg say that he tried to write a screenplay about legendary spy/catcher Moe Berg.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone took a close look at the Dodger defense.
  • Padres pitcher Chris Young went on the disabled list, where he’ll find Arizona catcher Miguel Montero and might soon be joined by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Juan Castro is the Phillies’ current replacement for Rollins.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods gets some nice Huffington Post exposure in writing about the anniversary of Mark Fidrych’s death and the connection with his childhood.
  • Blue Heaven passes along a March 6, 1948 letter from Branch Rickey to Walter O’Malley (written from Spring Training at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic) calling for a trade of Eddie Stanky “even if we were getting nothing for him at all,” to create  an opening in the Brooklyn infield. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Stanky was traded within 24 hours with a player to be named later to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later, Bama Rowell, Ray Sanders and $40,000. (A month later, the Dodgers completed the trade by selling Sanders back to Boston for $60,000.)
  • Four-hit nights for Dodger minor leaguers on Monday: Xavier Paul had three singles and a homer for Albuquerque, Dee Gordon had three doubles, a single and an error for Chattanooga and Jerry Sands had two doubles and two singles for Great Lakes. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus writes that after an 0-for-6 start in AA, Gordon has six hits (including four doubles) in his past seven at-bats.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach is having a Sherrill of a time in his first two games of the year.
  • Matt Hiserman, son of Times assistant sports editor Mike Hiserman and a college pitcher for the University of San Francisco, has come back inside of two months from a liner to the head that landed him in intensive care for four days, writes Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • The crackdown on Dodger Stadium pregame tailgating was scheduled to begin at dawn in Elysian Park, according to Zach Behrens of LAist (via L.A. Observed, which also points to a David Kipen piece talking about the origins of the Dodgers’ “LA” logo.).
  • How much of a difference does payroll make in baseball? Tom Tango writes at TMI: “If you spend at the league average (Payroll Index = 100 percent), your chance of making the playoffs is 27 percent. If you spend at double the league average (Payroll Index = 200 percent), your chances are 77 percent. And if you spend at half the league average, your chances dwindle to almost 0.”
  • Bob Timmermann wrote movingly about his grandmother, Ella Kimberling, for L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
  • Quick entertainment notes from my day job: 1) Definitive details on Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS, 2) DirecTV will broadcast all five seasons of “The Wire” commercial-free, 3) Three major new hits (“The Good Wife,” “Modern Family” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” premiered within 25 hours of each other.
  • Leaving you with this: Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters is thinking of hanging up his blog if he has to hang up his spikes. While I certainly hope he signs with another team, reading his latest post will serve as a reminder that no matter what, he should keep writing.
Apr 11

Relief disbelief: Same old song with a few new lines


Keith Srakocic/AP
George Sherrill’s bad outing against Pittsburgh on Opening Day was mere prelude to Saturday’s Florida fright night.

George Sherrill should be able to get three outs before he gives up three runs. And inevitably, there was going to be a do-or-die situation this season when he would need to do that. Just as Vicente Padilla shouldn’t give up four runs on nine baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, Sherrill needs to do better if the Dodgers are going avoid trouble.

But Padilla and Sherrill’s failings are basically heat-of-the-battle failings, whereas Joe Torre’s use of Jonathan Broxton this week is the equivalent of filling the bubbles in your SAT exam with Crayola burnt orange. (Assuming they still use bubbles.)

We’ve said it before and we hate to say it again – so this is going to be brief. If you can’t afford to allow a run – as was the case when the Dodgers played extra innings in Pittsburgh on Wednesday – you use the pitcher least likely to allow a run. Only after that pitcher has been used do you turn to others. And certainly, you don’t worry about saving your best pitcher for a situation in which you can allow a run and still win.

On one level, it was coincidental that Torre’s use of Broxton this week led to us talking about his absence from Saturday’s game. It required a specific flow of events from Opening Day on. On the other hand, we do see this from Dodger managers, including Torre’s recent predecessors, all too often. If Sherrill had been used Saturday after a proper use of Broxton in previous days, people would have been talking about Sherrill overnight a lot more than Torre.

Do not save your best reliever for a save situation in an extra-inning game on the road.

  • One other oddity regarding Saturday and the bullpen: Torre told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Ramon Troncoso, who was pitched a perfect eighth inning but was pulled after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth, “is basically a one-inning guy.” I realize that bullpen roles have changed with Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario out, but especially when he hadn’t pitched the day before and with Broxton out, since when is Troncoso a one-inning guy? The guy made his reputation with his ability to go multiple frames. Troncoso needed only seven pitches to get out of the eighth inning, then had thrown six pitches in the ninth when he came out of the game.
  • The botched squeeze in the second inning Saturday (that resulted in a bases-loaded, one-out situation imploding) was even crazier than it appeared. As many surmised, Vicente Padilla missed the suicide squeeze sign that resulted in Casey Blake getting tagged out between third and home. But from what Torre told reporters this morning, it appears that Torre himself wanted to take the squeeze off after having initially called for it – but that he gave the second sign too late for third-base coach Larry Bowa to see. So Bowa and Blake incorrectly, though understandably, thought the squeeze was still on – while Padilla, apparently, was oblivious to all of this. Torre indicated that he puts signs on and takes them off all the time.
  • Manny Ramirez had his 2,500th career hit Saturday, while Rafael Furcal had his 1,500th. Furcal has a .480 on-base percentage this season and is tied for the major-league lead in doubles.
  • Ian Kennedy is the scheduled starter for Arizona against Clayton Kershaw in Tuesday’s home opener, followed by Rodrigo Lopez against Chad Billingsley on Wednesday and Dan Haren against Hiroki Kuroda on Thursday.
  • LeeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem Tuesday.
  • Josh Lindblom was hit hard in his first 2010 start for Albuquerque – needing 77 pitches to get through three innings that saw him give up eight hits, two walks and three runs while striking out one.
  • John Lindsey, the 33-year-old minor-league lifer still looking for his first major-league action, is 7 for 13 with three doubles in his first three games for the Isotopes. Lindsey would need a few injuries to right-handed hitting Dodgers before he’d have a shot at a cup of coffee.
  • James Adkins, a 2007 first-round pick, allowed five runs in three innings of relief in his first 2010 outing for AA Chattanooga.
  • Ethan Martin’s Inland Empire season debut was a different story: five innings, no runs, three singles, no walks, one hit batter, nine strikeouts.
  • Allen Webster allowed one run over five innings (six baserunners, four strikeouts) in his ’10 Great Lakes debut.
  • Dixie Walker, the Brooklyn Dodger long remembered for starting a petition against Jackie Robinson joining the team, is revisited today by Harvey Araton of the New York Times (via Inside the Dodgers). The article’s main point seems to be that Walker was remorseful and not the racist he’s been accused of being:

    … Though (Maury) Allen and Susan Walker suggest in the book that her father did not initiate the anti-Robinson petition, Roger Kahn, in his 2002 book, “The Era,” wrote that Walker told him in 1976 that he had.

    Kahn quoted Walker saying: “I organized that petition in 1947, not because I had anything against Robinson personally or against Negroes generally. I had a wholesale business in Birmingham and people told me I’d lose my business if I played ball with a black man.”

    In a telephone interview, Kahn said his conversation with Walker took place when Walker was the hitting coach for the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

    “He invited me out for a glass of wine — somewhat shocking in that Budweiser world,” Kahn said. “We talked for a while, and then he got to the point: the petition and his letter to Rickey. He called it the stupidest thing he’d ever done and if I ever had a chance to please write that he was very sorry.”

    Calling the Walker he met “a lovely, courtly man,” Kahn said that the assumption should not be made that all early opposition to Robinson was based on core discrimination and not confusion or fear.

    “Ballplayers depended on off-season work back then,” he said. “When I was covering the Dodgers, Gil Hodges sold Buicks on Flatbush Avenue. Now, if you’re Derek Jeter and you have a wholesale hardware business, you can say, ‘So what?’ ”

    Rachel Robinson’s response in the same article: “If you’re asking about forgiveness based on the context of the time, I can’t say I worry about the view of them at this time. Maybe they learned better or changed, but at the time, they had a chance to move forward from segregation and chose the opposite. They had an impact.”

Apr 09

April 9 game chat + Superhuman pretzel update

With the Dodgers’ home opener only a few days away, here’s a link to the latest Dodger Stadium food news. Apparently USC and UCLA fans both like pastrami. Also …

  • Victory Knot: A new item is the Victory Knot, an extreme take on the traditional soft pretzel. Enough to feed about four hungry fans, this giant pretzel is made with two pounds of dough, topped with sea salt and served with three dipping sauces – chipotle honey mustard, sweet cinnamon crème and beer cheese – in a full-size pizza box. The Victory Knot is available at California Pizza Kitchen stands
  • Fan Favorites – Back by Popular Demand: Due to overwhelming fan demand, including a Facebook group dedicated to the subject, the spicy Picante Dog will be reintroduced to the menu throughout Dodger Stadium. California Pizza Kitchen has also returned as the pizza sponsor and Dippin’ Dots will be available at portable carts on the Field and Reserve levels. The fish tacos at the Camacho’s stands, made with beer-battered cod served with shredded cabbage, chili lime crema, pico de gallo and a fresh lime wedge, were first introduced last season and will also return in 2010
  • Kaiser Permanente Healthy Plate Carts: Levy Restaurants continues to offer lighter, nutritious options for fans at the three Kaiser Permanente Healthy Plate Carts. The menus are expanding this year to include new items like the Curried Chicken Lettuce Wraps served with radish, cucumber, cottage cheese and cherry tomatoes; Spicy Shrimp Cocktail, a refreshing gazpacho-like dish; Fresh Fruit Salad using only fruits that are in season; Greek Salad made with basil, feta cheese, tomatoes and red onions with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette; assorted sushi including California rolls, spicy tuna rolls and cucumber rolls; and a turkey sandwich served on whole wheat with avocado. Gluten-free beer and snacks will also be available at the Kaiser Permanente Healthy Plate Carts
Apr 08

Dodgers enter series finale with much reserve-ation


Lili von Schtupp – “I’m Tired”

J. Rho | MySpace Video

Rest for the weary … or for the worry?

In case you’re wondering why Chad Billingsley’s first start of the season is being backed with five backups, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. did a quick rundown: “Manny and Blake were a given, day game after a night game. Ethier has the foot thing; I can see them being cautious. DeWitt sitting against a LHP. Martin has still basically only played for two weeks, so I can see them easing him back.”

And so we come to this …

Apr 07

Kershaw LII: There’s no business like Kershaw business

In case you missed it, check out Tony Jackson’s feature on tonight’s starter, Clayton Kershaw, for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

After Chad Billingsley starts Thursday morning in Pittsburgh (with Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake likely on the bench, according to Dodger manager Joe Torre), the Dodgers will go with Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla and Charlie Haeger (in that order) over the weekend in Florida.

Torre also told reporters that Matt Kemp will generally bat second against right-handed pitchers, that Blake DeWitt would continue to start against some lefties (depending on their type), that Ronald Belisario will practice game pitching on back-to-back days next week, and that Hong-Chih Kuo is on track to go out on a rehab assignment “soon.”

Other notes …

  • Believe it or not, the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants have each notched final scores on three games since the final out of the Dodgers’ Opening Day loss. Colorado surrendered a lead today in Milwaukee to fall to 1-2 on the season, while the Giants countered a three-run, seventh-inning, game-tying rally by Houston with six runs in the final two innings to sweep the Astros. Later tonight, San Diego and Arizona will stage a battle for second place in the National League West.
  • Jason Repko has signed with the Twins organization and will start there with AAA Rochester, the team’s official blog confirms. According to the site, Repko is the Twins’ first true centerfielder on their depth chart behind Denard Span.
  • “Among the eight starting position players on Opening Day 2009, only third baseman Andy LaRoche went on to start at least 100 games for the Pirates,” writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Over the past eight years, stats guru Bill James has tracked the number of games started by each team’s Opening Day starters. The Pirates amassed 665 games last year — the lowest single-season total James has ever recorded.”
  • I’m always a sucker for a good Danny Goodman story. Here’s a find on the Dodgers’ original marketing maven, from Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror. Goodman called Los Angeles “the greatest gimmick town in America.”

    And 1960′s hit-seller?
    “I expect it’ll be the transistor radio. Blame that on Vince Scully,” smiled Danny. “He started the vogue. Why? People wanted to hear him at the game, so they started carrying radios.
    “Score one for Scully!”

Apr 05

Time to play ‘Win, Lose or Guffaw’: 2010 Dodgers Opening Day chat


Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Rafael Furcal singled to start the 2009 season.

It’s 181 days until the final day of the 2010 regular season October 3, and it never ceases to amaze me that the Dodgers’ fate on only 20 of those days – the difference between, say, a 95-win season and a 75-win season – will be the difference between happiness and desolation. And 20 days is a generous estimate – for all we know, it could come down to just one.

But you don’t get to find out in advance which 20 days it will be, and so we buckle up for another wild ride into the unknown. There is mystery, intrigue, thrills and not a small amount of comedy awaiting Dodger fans this season. Here’s hoping it’s once again a ride everyone can enjoy.

And of course, I look forward to spending the season with you all here. If you’re having trouble commenting, e-mail me.

* * *

  • What did those schedulers know that we didn’t? While it pours outside my window, weather today in Pittsburgh, according to The Associated Press, is supposed to be lovely with a chance of glorious.
  • Dodgers vice president of communications Josh Rawitch passed along these pregame thoughts from Joe Torre:
    –Manny Ramirez has been very consistent with his balance, and Torre thinks he’s going to be good offensively.
    –Russell Martin has been hitting up the middle and to right the past 10 days – that, combined with his 6-for-12 history against Pirates starter Zach Duke accounts for his batting second today, and then they’ll see where it goes from there.
    –Chad Billingsley needs to regain his confidence. Sigh.
  • Ramon Troncoso and his wife had a baby girl Sunday, so he won’t be with the Dodgers until Tuesday.
  • Baseball Analysts hosted a series of extended season preview interviews in a series called “Stakeholders.” Among the participants: Joe Posnanski, Aaron Gleeman, Cliff Corcoran, Dave Cameron, Jonah Keri, Bernie Miklasz and yours truly.
  • The average Opening Day player salary has dropped 17 percent in a year. USA Today has updated its salary database to include 2010 salaries; here’s their summary of the Dodger payroll. (Keep in mind that USA Today has its own way of factoring in deferred money.)
  • Some tidbits from the Dodger press notes: 1) The last time the Dodgers opened a season in Pittsburgh was the year of their first World Series title, 1955; 2) The Dodgers are 26-26 on Opening Day since moving to Los Angeles; 3) The five Dodger reserves have 60 years of major league experience; 4) Today marks the first time the Dodgers have had seven players from the previous year’s Opening Day lineup since 1986-87, and the first time they were at the same position since 1978-79. (In 1979, of course, the Dodgers followed two consecutive National League West titles with a sub-.500 season.)

Update: USA Today with a major correction: Rather than a 17% drop in salary, the paper is now reporting a 1% increase.

Apr 02

Garret Anderson in left, like he never left


Jeff Chiu/AP
Garret Anderson

Wouldn’t it be dramatic if Garret Anderson suddenly announced his retirement tonight, in front of those Angels fans? No?

* * *

  • What other Rule 5 draftees besides Carlos Monasterios look like they’ll stick with their new teams? Matt Eddy of Baseball America has the short list.
  • It’s About the Money, Stupid busts myths about human growth hormone (HGH).  (via Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk).
  • Umpires Ed Montague, Randy Marsh, Rick Reed and Charlie Reliford have retired, David Pinto of Baseball Musings notes.
Mar 24

Starting pitching: Working down the list


AP/Getty Images
Jose Lima fared well as a surprise starting pitcher in 2004; Scott Erickson was a Spring Training hit in 2005 (2.10 ERA) but fell out of the starting rotation before the end of May.

The chart below shows how quickly the Dodgers went beyond their first five starting pitchers, in each of the past six seasons. In parentheses next to each name is the game number of their first start that year.

No season was created equally. For example, Hiroki Kuroda was injured before his second start of 2009, meaning that the Dodgers had six starters in their first six games. Chad Billingsley was delayed in 2008 only because Joe Torre didn’t want to send him out on a rainy April night. The year before, of course, was the beginning of the Jason Schmidt saga. In 2005, Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson each got starts before Brad Penny did. Dessens, memorably, got the start in Game No. 161 of 2004.

In the past six years, the latest the Dodgers have gone to a sixth starting pitcher was their 32nd game of the season. In the past five years, the Dodgers have used eight starting pitchers before the season was half over.

It’s interesting that the Dodgers used fewer starting pitchers in the woebegone 2005 campaign than they did in the next four seasons. But my favorite tidbit of this chart is that in 2006, the Dodgers didn’t use a starting pitcher with more than five letters in his last name until the 66th game of the season.

Who’s your favorite name from this group? Jason Johnson? Derek Thompson? Any members of the Jae Seo Marching and Chowder Society, speak up now!

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
1 Kuroda (1) Penny (1) Lowe (1) Lowe (1) Lowe (1) Nomo (1)
2 Wolf (2) Lowe (2) Wolf (2) Penny (2) Perez (2) Perez (2)
3 Billingsley (3) Kuo (3) Schmidt (3) Perez (3) Weaver (3) Weaver (3)
4 Kershaw (4) Kuroda (4) Penny (4) Tomko (4) Dessens (4) Ishii (4)
5 McDonald (5) Loaiza (7) Tomko (8) Seo (8) Erickson (5) Lima (11)
6 Stults (6) Billingsley (8) Hendrickson (16) Sele (32) Penny (18) Alvarez (28)
7 Weaver (28) Park (42) Kuo (55) Billingsley (66) Alvarez (45) Jackson (51)
8 Milton (38) Kershaw (49) Billingsley (73) Hendrickson (80) Thompson (48) Penny (105)
9 Schmidt (103) Stults (72) Stults (99) Maddux (108) Houlton (55) Dessens (161)
10 Haeger (119) Johnson (106) Wells (130) Kuo (141) Jackson (124)
11 Padilla (128) Maddux (128) Loaiza (137) Stults (143)
12 Garland (135)