Aug 02

Rubby Bluesday


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa struck out 60 in 60 2/3 innings in his rookie season.

The statement from the Dodgers:

Dodger right-hander Rubby De la Rosa underwent an MRI on Monday that showed a partial tear of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL). After consultation with Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. James Andrews, it was decided that reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery should be performed. The date and location of the surgery is yet to be determined.

The recovery time of approximately one year, give or take, puts De La Rosa out of the Dodgers plans in any meaningful way until 2013.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.

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In case you missed it, there was more sad and stunning news in the Bryan Stow case Monday. From Andrew Blankstein of the Times:

A key witness in the beating case of Giants fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium may have died of a peanut allergy, though officials have not determined a positive cause of death.

Matthew Lee attended the Dodgers’ home opener on March 31 with Stow and was cited in court papers filed Monday involving the two suspects charged in the beating.
According to law enforcement sources familiar with the case, Lee died Sunday after eating a salad that apparently contained nuts, which caused an allergic reaction. The sources said Lee had a peanut allergy.

It’s unclear how this will affect the case against Stow’s alleged attackers, but the sources said Lee was an important witness.

However, officials have said they have physical evidence in addition to the evidence provided by eyewitnesses to the beating.

Los Angeles police detectives said Monday they were trying to find additional Giants fans from the Bay Area who were assaulted by the suspects. …

Aug 01

Make it stop: Rubby heads to disabled list

Have Dodger fans not suffered enough?

Something was rubbing Rubby De La Rosa the wrong way Sunday. A day after spending 103 pitches over four innings, De La Rosa was placed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation by the Dodgers, who recalled John Ely from Triple-A Albuquerque.

The abruptness of the roster move indicates that the Dodgers were under no illusion that De La Rosa was in position to pitch again anytime soon — plus, they have every reason to be cautious with him. Best-case scenario is this is just a well-timed rest for a pitcher who needs to be protected. I wonder if De La Rosa was ailing before Sunday’s start and kept it to himself.

That puts Kenley Jansen and De La Rosa on the disabled list in the past four days. Clayton, do be careful out there.

Jul 31

So, what’s Dee Gordon been up to?

Since being sent back to Albuquerque on July 4, Dee Gordon has had a .402 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage with eight steals in nine attempts. In 92 plate appearances, he had the same number of walks and triples: four.

There is little expectation for Gordon to be a quality hitter at this point in his career, but the hope is that these two months of major-league experience will help him get off to a faster start in 2012, when the Dodgers’ record mercifully returns to 0-0. In the meantime, enjoy the Roadrunner show.

Still a chance of more trades being announced: The non-waiver deadline is 1 p.m., and sometimes the news trickles out minutes later. And then, of course, there can be waiver trades after the deadline.

Jul 30

Rafael Furcal: The best Dodger shortstop I ever saw


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireExcept for Bill Russell, Rafael Furcal reached base more than any shortstop in Los Angeles history.

When Rafael Furcal first signed with the Dodgers, he had recently turned 28 and had averaged 152 games and 687 plate appearances over the previous four seasons, with a .342 on-base percentage, .418 slugging percentage and .794 stolen-base percentage. He wasn’t spectacular offensively, but he was solid and a step up from Cesar Izturis and Alex Cora, who mainly manned the position over the previously six years.

Coming from Atlanta, Furcal was no Andruw Jones. Though his first month was below par, Furcal snapped out of it and got better as the 2006 season went on, OPSing .963 after the All-Star break and helping the Dodgers reach the playoffs. Of no small significance, he played in 159 of 162 games and started 156 of them.

Furcal missed the first nine games of the 2007 season and the last 12 as well, but in between he played in 138 out of 141. That year, he didn’t have that great finishing kick (nor did the Dodgers), and finished with only a .687 OPS.

However, it wasn’t really until year three that the Furcal that will linger in the minds of many Dodger fans emerged. He blasted out of the gate like never before as a Dodger, playing in each of the team’s first 32 games with an MVP-caliber .448 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage. To put that in perspective, that’s hotter than Matt Kemp this season. And then, he was sidelined until the final week of September.

The Dodgers (thanks in part to a guy named Manny Ramirez) made the playoffs despite this, and Furcal went right into the fire of the postseason. He reached base in seven of his 15 plate appearances in the Dodgers’ Division Series sweep of Chicago, leading a dominant team performance that convinced numerous pundits to make Los Angeles favorites to reach the World Series.

Game 1 of the NLCS remains, for me, the most pivotal game of Rafael Furcal’s Dodger career. In the sixth inning, with the Dodgers leading 2-0, Furcal (0 for 4 that night) rushed a throw and made an error to allow Shane Victorino to reach first base. The next batter, Chase Utley, homered off Derek Lowe to tie the game, and Pat Burrell sent the go-ahead run out of the park one batter later.  It’s not that I’m pinning responsibility for the defeat on Furcal, but that throwing error remains as much a moment of wondering “what might have been” as Cory Wade’s and Jonathan Broxton’s pitches in the eighth inning of Game 4 are.

Furcal came back in 2009 to, without looking at things too closely, essentially repeat his 2007 season – with the main difference being that the Dodgers had the offense to withstand his deficiencies and return to the postseason. Again, Furcal shined in the NLDS triumph and floundered in the NLCS disappointment.

For your typical player, that would have been the beginning of a steady decline, but not for the you-never-know Furcal.  A year ago, here’s what was written on Dodger Thoughts:

At the start of this season, I had practically given up on Rafael Furcal.

Last year was limp, and his brief fireworks in 2008 looked like the death throes of a player just before his back was hijacked by the devil. He seemed, to adapt one of the most malleable and miserable of baseball cliches, an old 32.

Maybe in an honest attempt to be objective, maybe in an attempt to be too clever, I picked Furcal as the Dodgers’ hidden weak link. While everyone else was worried about the starting pitching or Manny Ramirez, I was the one who so smartly pointed out that the Dodgers had a fizzler as the backbone of their infield.

Turns out, that fizzler has been the most valuable shortstop in major league baseball — All-Star snub be damned — according to Fangraphs.

That Furcal has made me look so wrong is wonderful. That he has done it in a year of personal tragedy is wondrous. How did he go back to work so quickly after his father died? And how did he go back so well?

Furcal is a player of tremendous ability — he quite possibly will leave the Dodgers at the end of 2011 as the greatest-hitting shortstop in their long history — and, if it may still be said, somewhat maddening inconsistency. At times like these, with a .443 on-base percentage and .667 slugging percentage since June 4, he is arguably the best player in the game, punctuated by the spring in his defensive step. But even this year, Furcal has had his struggles. Thanks to more injuries and more ill production, Furcal reached base only 13 times compared with 11 strikeouts over a six-week span from April 22 through June 3. To put it in the best possible light, Furcal has an uncanny ability to remind you that he is all too human.

He’s one of us. Until he’s not.

Furcal will cool off again, maybe starting tonight. And one of these days, months or years, he won’t heat back up again. After all, he’s an old 32, right? But someday, after it’s all over, I hope I remember these inspiring weeks, when Furcal not only found life worth living in a dark hour, he made it that much more rewarding for the rest of us.

Should Rafael Furcal’s trade to St. Louis become official, some will look back on all the money spent on Furcal and all the games missed, not to mention his lost year of 2011, when he managed to reach base only 41 times in four months. I’ll look back on Furcal as a guy who, each time he was signed, was worth taking a risk on. He was the most brilliant Dodger shortstop of my lifetime as a follower of the team. While I wish and hope for nothing but the best for Dee Gordon, his fleet and healthy feet will have some fly shoes to fill.

Jul 29

Jansen heads to disabled list

Kenley Jansen has gone on the disabled list with a cardiac arrhythmia, and Josh Lindblom has come from Chattanooga to replace him, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Also, Carlos Monasterios has had Tommy John surgery and will be out for approximately one year.

Jul 27

Kenley Jansen has irregular heartbeat issue

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details of Dodger reliever Kenley Jansen’s sudden trip to the hospital.

Los Angeles Dodgers rookie reliever Kenley Jansen was transported to a local hospital for treatment of an irregular heartbeat shortly after recording his second save of the season Tuesday night against the Colorado Rockies. Although he was expected to remain at White Memorial Hospital through Wednesday night for observation, the situation didn’t appear to be serious.

Still, Jansen did have to undergo cardio conversion — the procedure of shocking the heart back into its normal rhythm — when medication didn’t immediately correct the problem.

“Anytime you have an irregular heartbeat, we take it pretty seriously,” Dodgers medical-services director Stan Conte said. “They were able to get his heart back into normal sinus rhythm. The next 24 hours will tell us what we want to do next.” …

Click the link above for the remainder of the story.

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I’m not sure this will be Hiroki Kuroda’s last game in a Dodger uniform. My head tells me it should be; my heart hopes it isn’t.

Jul 26

Obscure but memorable No. 5 hitters for the Dodgers

Three weeks ago, in honor of Aaron Miles, we talked about “obscure but memorable No. 3 hitters for the Dodgers.”

Today, once again in honor of Aaron Miles, let’s look back at the Dodgers’ most unusual No. 5 hitters since their last World Series title.

Here’s the all-time Los Angeles Dodger batting order by frequency, dating back to 1958:

1) Maury Wills (1,276)
2) Bill Russell (679)
3) Willie Davis (1,250)
4) Steve Garvey (819)
5) Ron Cey (576)
6) Mike Scioscia (437)
7) Mike Scioscia (510)
8) Bill Russell (668)
9) Don Sutton (522)

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From the Dodger press notes and the Elias Sports Bureau:

Most strikeouts per nine innings in one month, minimum 15 games
9.70 Cubs (August 2002)
9.53 Cubs (September 2006)
9.36 Dodgers (July 2011)
9.30 Astros (August 1998)
9.29 Cubs (May 2001)

Jul 25

Javy Gravy? A guarded response to Guerramania


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireJavy Guerra

All praise is due to Dodger reliever Javy Guerra, who had never pitched above Double-A before 2011 but has posted a standout rookie season.

The 25-year-old has a 1.99 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings against 31 baserunners and has yet to blow a save opportunity. His perceived calm on the mound — perhaps marked by how he pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam of his own making July 8 against San Diego — has led many to wonder if the Dodgers have found their replacement at closer for Jonathan Broxton, who surely will not be back in a Dodger uniform in 2012, if at all.

On one level, I take issue with the question itself — the goal is always simply to find the best relievers you can and not worry about their roles. Part of the beauty of what happened with Guerra this year is how he wasn’t assigned the closer job, but just began pitching in the ninth inning because he happened to be the guy who was available. You shouldn’t doubt, for example, that Kenley Jansen, who has been absolutely unhittable since coming off the disabled list, could close games.

But as far as whether Guerra is the real deal, I’m of two minds. He certainly showed his potential after striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings in his 65 games with Chattanooga from 2009-11. But he has also always allowed a fair number of baserunners: his career WHIP in Double-A is nearly 1.5. That’s not all that good. Jansen’s WHIP at Chattanooga, by comparison, was below 1.1. It’s reasonable to suggest that Guerra might be pitching over his head.

People are talking about Guerra’s precocious performance, but we’ve done that about many other young relievers who made strong debuts only to falter a year later. People are talking about Guerra’s fearlessness and attack mentality on the mound … just like they did for John Ely. Seriously, there were experts that not only thought Ely was the real deal a year ago, they were crediting him for showing other Dodgers how to pitch. A year later, he’s a pitcher of last resort.

Guerra is on a particular roll of late, having retired his past 10 batters over four appearances – striking out five and earning saves in each game. It’s wonderful. I’m just not ready to declare him a natural closer, partly because I’m skeptical about the use of such a definition, partly because we still haven’t seen enough of him to know how effective he’ll be over the long haul.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Guerra hits a rough patch. We also shouldn’t be alarmed. The guy hasn’t even faced 100 batters yet in his career – I’d recommend being patiently optimistic. I’m just saying, it really is still early.

In any case, the Dodgers do appear to have the potential for a nice, mostly home-grown bullpen brewing for 2012, with Guerra, Jansen, Scott Elbert and minor-leaguers including Josh Lindblom, Steven Ames, Shawn Tolleson and Cole St. Clair in the mix. That’s seven names right there before you even talk about veteran holdovers like Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth and Mike MacDougal. Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo might be gone next season because of performance, salary and injury concerns, in much the same manner that Russell Martin departed last winter, but at least in this area, Los Angeles looks ready to move on without them.

Update: More on Guerra here from Jason Grey of ESPN.com.

Jul 20

Dodgers fire hitting coach Pentland

The Dodgers have fired batting coach Jeff Pentland and replaced him on an interim basis with Dave Hansen.

This was Pentland’s fourth year in the organization and first as major-league batting coach (replacing, of course, Don Mattingly). He has had hitting coach jobs with the Royals, Cubs and Mariners dating back to 1997.

Hansen, who holds Dodger records for pinch-hits and pinch-homers in a season and pinch-hits in a career (ahead of Manny Mota), came back to Los Angeles last winter after four years in the Diamondbacks organization.

James Loney and Juan Uribe are the most noteworthy Dodgers who have performed below expectations this year, though an ongoing issue with the team is that you couldn’t expect much from the offense at other positions, such as catcher and left field. Essentially, Pentland is getting blame for the poor performances while not getting credit for players like Matt Kemp. That assessment might be deserved — I honestly have no idea.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more, including quotes from Ned Colletti:

… “It was a very tough decision,” Colletti said. “This is a good man. Pent has always been a good man and a very good hitting guy. … (But) this is a reflection on how we’re hitting.”

The Dodgers entered Wednesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park hitting just .250 as a team, and they were next to last in the National League in runs scored. They have been particularly bad at hitting with runners in scoring position.

Pentland was told of his firing in a meeting with Colletti and Mattingly immediately after Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Giants. Mattingly broke the news to the team a couple of hours before Wednesday’s game.

Pentland wasn’t made available for comment.

“Donnie and I had talked about it for a couple of weeks,” Colletti said. “My hope was that after the (All-Star) break, we would come out refreshed a little bit and become more productive. But the focus hasn’t been there, and the at-bats haven’t been there. The production with runners in scoring position is near the bottom of baseball.”

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“Major League Baseball has not reached out to AEG about building a downtown stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite Internet reports,” AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke told Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Jul 19

Bankruptcy hearing on tap

At ESPNLosAngeles.com, Josh Fisher previews Wednesday’s bankruptcy hearing for the Dodgers:

… On Wednesday, Judge Kevin Gross will decide whether McCourt can shepherd the Dodgers through their bankruptcy using McCourt-arranged financing. In McCourt’s favor is the strong deference bankruptcy courts usually show debtors who secure their own financing. Working against him is Major League Baseball’s proposal to fund the team’s operations at a much lower cost. Coupled with allegations of McCourt mismanagement, baseball could increase its influence on the Dodgers by convincing the court to deny McCourt his own financing.

Gross’ ruling on the issue has two layers of importance. First, from a technical standpoint, forcing McCourt to accept MLB financing paves the way for Selig to exert control over the Dodgers should McCourt fail to follow baseball’s terms. Second, because of the great deference typically shown debtors to exercise their own business judgment in these scenarios, a ruling against McCourt would be a strong message that Gross lacks faith in McCourt’s ownership. A pro-MLB decision Wednesday would not end the McCourt era, but it would be a damaging blow. …

Bill Shaikin of the Times has more.

The early-in-the-day bankruptcy hearing will be followed by a probable bankruptcy of runs at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday when Clayton Kershaw faces Tim Lincecum.

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Shawn Green will be signing copies of his book, “The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph” at 6:30 p.m. August 3 at downtown’s ESPN Zone.

Jul 17

Rafael Furcal, heal thyself


Brent Davis/US PresswireRafael Furcal has a .217 on-base percentage and .210 slugging in 107 plate appearances this season.

Rafael Furcal’s post-disabled list slump has reached 3 for 34 (.088) with three walks and no extra-base hits. It’s the kind of slump that can happen to the best of ‘em – and as far as the 2011 Dodgers are concerned, consistently seems to.

On balls hit beyond the infield this entire season, Furcal is 16 for 40 (.400) with a .900 OPS.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, compare that OPS to his previous five seasons as a Dodger on balls to the outfield.

2010 1.573
2009 1.388
2008 1.817
2007 1.222
2006 1.494

It’s probably not overstating to say that Furcal is not hitting the ball with much authority this year. Is it physical? And if so, how permanent?

Jul 16

Dodger Thoughts Tragic Illness chat: Act 2

Hey kids! It’s time for another chat between myself and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. It’s kid-tested, mother-approved!