Mar 09

Jansen to have heart checked

Dodgers at Rangers, 12:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Matt Kemp, CF
Juan Rivera, DH
Andre Ethier, RF
Jerry Sands, 1B
Justin Sellers, 2B
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, LF
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

Kenley Jansen experienced shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat Thursday night, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, and is seeing a doctor today.

Jansen was on the disabled list in 2011 for an irregular heartbeat and began to take a blood-thinning medication. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more.

… “He had a little bit of flutters and shortness of breath like last year with the palpitations and his blood pressure was up,” said manager Don Mattingly. “He had trouble sleeping. Sue (Falsone, trainer) said it could be nothing, but she didn’t want to play around with it.”

Mattingly said he hadn’t heard of Jansen experiencing any problems since last year’s incident and added that Jansen is already on blood pressure medication and “not supposed to take any caffeine.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it since the issue last year,” he said. …

Update: Jansen has been cleared to resume workouts, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mar 03

Hitting prospects Silverio, Songco sidelined

Minor-league center fielder Alfredo Silverio, considered by some the Dodgers’ top position-player prospect, will be sidelined indefinitely as he recovers from a serious January car accident in the Dominican Republic. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported initial details, and Jackson has a follow-up.

… In short, the kid is lucky. From talking to various people (still haven’t been able to talk to Silverio), this is what I have been able to cull: the accident happened on a stretch of road called Curva de la Muerte, which translates to Curve of Death. Apparently, he was going about 60 mph and lost control, the car going off the road and flipping several times. He temporarily lost consciousness, and the car was demolished. …

Silverio, 25 in May, had a .883 OPS for Double-A Chattanooga last year.

Meanwhile, Angelo Songco “is expected to miss the next two to three months after having a rod inserted into his lower right leg,” Jackson adds, the results of complications from a 2011 injury. Now 23, Songco had a .948 OPS for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

* * *

  • The boys in the press corp also confirmed that Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to pitch the season opener in San Diego on April 5 and the home opener in Los Angeles on April 10. An off day follows the Dodgers’ first four games, meaning that the No. 5 starter, probably Chris Capuano, will be in the bullpen for the first series of the year. The last Dodger pitcher to start a road Opening Day and a subsequent home opener was Tim Belcher in 1989, in part because Orel Hershiser had the flu.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: Kirk Gibson and Hershiser in that spring of ’89.
  • Dee Gordon had to get stitches on his lip today following a bad-hop grounder, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Blake DeWitt, at age 26, has earned the moniker “professional hitter” from Cubs manager Dale Sveum, according to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Manager Pedro Guerrero? Oh yeah …
  • Adrian Beltre, bathroom trendsetter? Okay …

 

Feb 24

Focus on Stan Conte

Dodger senior director of medical services Stan Conte is obviously a key cog in the franchise machine. Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine has the most insightful piece you’ll probably ever see on his approach, his limitations and his perhaps quixotic goals. (And yes, Jason Schmidt is addressed, though not explained …)

* * *

Howard Cole of the Register’s Dodgers Blog doesn’t want Matt Kemp or his fans to get too wrapped up in all this 50-50 talk.

Feb 22

Kershaw’s back jacked

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw proved last year he’s not one to back away from a challenge from Giants ace Tim Linecum. Perhaps that’s why Kershaw saw Lincecum’s stiff back from Tuesday  and countered with a stiff back of his own.

Neither condition is considered serious. Both pitchers skipped their scheduled bullpen sessions as a precaution.

* * *

  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes about Matt Kemp’s quest for a 50-50 season.
  • Jon Garland’s minor-league deal with Cleveland fell apart over his physical. Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk has a bit more.
  • Evan Bladh tells a story at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance about his childhood friendship, including playing Strat-o-Matic, with Clippers announcer Michael Smith.
  • I actually have had the desire at times to bring more sabermetrics into my entertainment reporting, as Noel Murray of the Onion’s A.V. Club suggests.
  • Steven Spielberg’s career as a high-school sportswriter gets a lively treatment from Bryan Curtis at Grantland.
  • My Match Game contest-offering sister Robyn uses one of her latest to blog about popular 1970s California potato chips at Bird Is the Word.
Jan 10

Hawksworth to have surgery

Blake Hawksworth has come down with a case of bone spuritis, and will have surgery Wednesday to clean up said spur in his right elbow as well as scar tissue.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery, with an estimated recovery time of four to six weeks – in other words, ready to go before the end of February.

Hawksworth – whose 2011 season-in-review can be found here – is an incumbent in the Dodger bullpen and should remain so, presuming the surgery only makes him stronger.

Oct 26

Dodger TV rights hearing postponed, but to what end?

The rumors were flying today that the one-month postponement of the winner-take-all bankruptcy court hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to prematurely sell the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights (what a mouthful that was) was actually a sign that a deal was being forged that would facilitate McCourt selling the franchise. (See ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times for more.)

What’s clear is that talks have been taking place, what’s unclear is whether there was any real momentum behind the talks. And so, there’s no way of knowing whether the next month might see the happy revelation of closure, or whether it will just be 30 more days tacked onto our painful waiting game.

Elsewhere …

  • Hong-Chih Kuo is going to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body (no, this isn’t a Halloween joke) in his left elbow. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Dodger training chief Stan Conte about the situation. Kuo is planning to try to pitch in 2012, but while he is certain to be made a free agent by the Dodgers, they’re still as good a bet as anyone to try to re-sign him to a discounted contract.
  • Maury Wills is the subject of a story in the Times that illustrates what a longshot he was to make the majors with this anecdote: In 1959, Topps chose not to pay Wills the grand total of $5 for the rights to have him on a baseball card.
  • How overdue are the Dodgers for a World Series compared to other teams? Check the list at Cy Morong’s Cybermetrics.
Sep 27

Did Hiroki Kuroda decide the AL wild card?

When Hiroki Kuroda chose not to waive his no-trade clause at the end of July, it left one of his leading suitors, the Boston Red Sox, scrambling.

The Red Sox ended up picking up Erik Bedard from Seattle in the three-team, seven-player deal that sent Tim Federowicz and Stephen Fife to Los Angeles and Trayvon Robinson to Seattle. And then … well, let Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com tell the story.

Tonight’s forecast: Gloom.

And that’s just the weather (scattered thundershowers, 60 percent chance of rain).

It isn’t much better for the Red Sox, who are left with no choice Tuesday but to rely on Erik Bedard, a sore-legged pitcher whose appetite for the big stage has been openly questioned by a former employer, to keep them alive for a playoff spot that should never have been in jeopardy. …

Bedard came back from a 16-day absence because of a strained lat and sore knee last week against the Orioles and lasted just 2 2/3 innings, needing a staggering 51 pitches to record those two outs in the third. The Red Sox will need much more from him Tuesday night.

Boston has surrendered a 10-game lead in the American League wild card race, thanks in large part to a 7.26 ERA for their starting pitchers in September, Edes notes.

Kuroda has a 3.29 ERA since the trade deadline, though it’s 4.18 in a September that has seen him have neck problems. Perhaps going to Boston wouldn’t have helped, but I’m guessing the Red Sox would be happy to have him pitching on the East Coast tonight instead of for the Dodgers in Arizona.

* * *

  • I’m a little concerned with the talk that Don Mattingly might have Matt Kemp bat leadoff to increase his chances (rather slightly, I’d say) of reaching 40 homers and 40 steals. It could spread the impression for potential Most Valuable Player voters that Kemp’s numbers were more of a gimmick in games that weren’t serious. Probably doesn’t matter much either way, but I’d leave Kemp at No. 3 and take his chances there.
  • Meanwhile, when they talk about a player’s body in “Moneyball,” I don’t think they mean this.
  • David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweet Spot asks if Kemp is having the greatest season ever by a Los Angeles Dodger position player.

    … According to Baseball-Reference WAR, his season ranks only behind Adrian Beltre’s 48-homer season in 2004, and just ahead of Mike Piazza’s 1997. In fact, forget limiting it to just Los Angeles. The only Brooklyn Dodger seasons that rate higher are two from Jackie Robinson, in 1949 and 1951.

  • Today is the 75th anniversary of longtime Dodger manager Walter Alston’s one and only at-bat in the majors, writes Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times.

    … on Sept. 27, 1936, he was just a young 24-year-old hoping to get his shot. He was a bit old for a prospect because he’d gone to college and only went pro after graduating.

    In the minors Alston showed promise, hitting over .300 with power in the St. Louis farm system, but there was a big problem. He played first base for a team that already had Johnny Mize. Four times Alston would lead his league in homers, but there was no place for him in the majors. And the more the years went by, the less the aging Alston seemed like a prospect. …

  • Russ Mitchell is having season-ending wrist surgery today, the Dodgers said. He is expected to play winter ball.
  • A tight hamstring is expected to keep Rafael Furcal on the sidelines for the final two games of the Cardinals’ playoff push.
Sep 16

October looms large for Dodgers after all

The Dodgers beat the Pirates tonight, 7-2, to keep their playoff hopes alive for at least another night. But no matter what happens on the field between now and the end of the regular season September 28, there’s a big postseason showdown on tap for the Dodgers in October.

On October 12, Frank McCourt’s attorneys will formally ask the federal bankruptcy court that is overseeing the Dodgers to permit negotiations and possibly an auction for the franchise’s local television rights for 2014 and beyond. Should the court grant the request, it will pave the way for McCourt to retain ownership of the Dodgers – at least until Frank-Jamie II takes place in the courts sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.

Interested parties – Major League Baseball in particular – can and probably will file objections to the Dodgers’ request until September 30. The bankruptcy court’s first duty is to the creditors whom the Dodgers owe; what’s up in the air is whether MLB can make the case that there’s a better way to do this than by giving McCourt the chance to save his ownership – while further mortgaging the franchise’s future – through the future rights sale.

From The Associated Press:

… In a 37-page motion filed Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, the Dodgers say “market conditions are optimal for licensing the telecast rights because the market for sports media rights in Los Angeles is vibrant at this time.”

The Dodgers say “there can be no assurance that these ideal market conditions will last” and they should be allowed to sell rights now “to avoid any risk of deterioration in value.” …

One argument against McCourt is that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to be able to approve any TV rights deal, and that McCourt shouldn’t be rewarded for steering the Dodgers into bankruptcy by being allowed to circumvent the sport’s chieftain. Whether that argument will hold any sway with Judge Gross, I don’t know.

Bill Shaikin has more in the Times, where he also passes along the news that the Dodgers are seeking to retain an expensive New York-based public relations firm.

… The two primary spokespersons (from the firm) charge $750 and $400 per hour, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“Much of the media reporting on off-field issues has been inaccurate or misleading, and LAD requires a seasoned communications firm such as Kekst to better ensure that media coverage of LAD is more evenhanded and accurate going forward,” according to the filing, using the “LAD” abbreviation for the Dodgers.

The filing does not include any examples of inaccurate or misleading coverage. …

As far as I’m concerned, you can take this as another example of how deluded or desperate McCourt is – and no, the new PR firm won’t change my negative thinking on this. As Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine tweeted:

What makes McCourt’s media blaming so laughable is the best stuff we got was straight from his mouth in public court filings. Amnesia maybe?

You can’t file mountains of court documents crying poverty to get out of paying spousal support and not expect fans to think you are broke.

* * *

In other inspiring news, Jonathan Broxton will have surgery Monday, 4 1/2 months after he last pitched for the Dodgers, to remove a bone spur and some chips, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Although Broxton’s bone bruise had improved dramatically, Dodgers medical director Stan Conte said the spur and loose bodies were the cause of repeated setbacks Broxton suffered in his effort to return, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying earlier this week that club officials no longer expected Broxton to pitch this season.

Broxton underwent what Conte said were “three or four” MRIs on the elbow during the season, but Conte said the chips were revealed only after Broxton underwent a CT scan, which was ordered when he experienced mild discomfort earlier this week during his first bullpen session in several weeks.

“CT scans normally aren’t done on elbows,” Conte said. “But we just wanted to make sure the bone bruise wasn’t turning into microfractures.”

The surgery will be performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, after which Broxton is expected to need four to eight weeks to recover before he can begin throwing again. However, with free agency pending, it is possible Broxton has pitched his final game for the Dodgers, who already have replaced him in the closer’s role with rookie Javy Guerra and might balk at re-signing Broxton this winter to a major league contract. …

The surgery will take place nearly 15 months after Broxton began to lose effectiveness.

Jackson adds that Tony Gwynn Jr. will miss at least the remainder of this weekend’s series with the Pirates because of a jammed shoulder, which first happened last week in Washington and was aggravated Wednesday against Arizona.

* * *

Back on the field, the Dodgers came back strong tonight after Hiroki Kuroda allowed an unearned second-inning run, scoring once in the bottom of the second, twice in the third and four times in the sixth, capped by James Loney’s first career pinch-hit home run, a three-run blast that enabled him to reach 10 on the season.

Dee Gordon made his ninth error in his 45th game of the season, but had two hits and stole his 20th and 21st bases. Kuroda gave up a sixth-inning home run to Alex Presley (whom Vin Scully’s wife thinks looks like Tom Cruise, Scully told us), but was otherwise unscored upon. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out seven.

Scully also passed along a story that warmed my heart: Rod Barajas chose uniform No. 28 with the Dodgers because of how much his mother loved Pedro Guerrero in the 1980s.

Sep 08

Billingsley’s tailspin: approach or injury?

Greg Fiume/Getty ImagesChad Billingsley’s ERA rose to 4.30 today.

So, which logic do we follow?

Is it the logic that Chad Billingsley is afraid to trust his stuff? That his mechanics have gone awry?  Or that might be hurt?

Billingsley was chased with one out in the third inning of today’s lidlifter against Washington, after he gave up the Dodgers’ early 4-0 lead. Billingsley surrendered four runs on a single, three doubles and a home run in the third, capping an ugly outing in which he allowed eight of his 15 batters to reach base.

Despite concern rising about his performance on this site two weeks ago, Billingsley actually had a halfway decent August, with a 3.77 ERA while averaging more than six innings per start. But his strikeouts per nine innings fell to 5.5 while his walks were at 4.1.

In September, it’s just gone off a cliff. Billingsley has made two starts and lasted a combined 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs on 14 hits while walking six and striking out five.

It may well be that this is a problem of execution (and no, I don’t mean the old John McKay joke). But given the history of the Dodgers and their players (punctuated this year by Jonathan Broxton and Andre Ethier) trying to slide by with injuries rather than address them, Billingsley’s health is the first question that comes to my mind.

If he’s healthy, then this is the perfect time of the year to work out his issues. But if he’s hurt, gutting it out only serves to hurt Billingsley and the franchise.

Sep 08

Andre Ethier not expected to play again this season

Andre Ethier appears to have become the third Dodger starting position player to call it a season because of injury, joining Casey Blake and Juan Uribe. Less than two weeks after the controversy about his injured knee broke,  the decision has been made that solving the problem is more important than seeing how long it can be tolerated.

From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Ethier has left the club to consult with famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., concerning the right fielder’s continually troublesome right knee.

This appears to be an indication Ethier, who has been an All-Star each of the past two seasons and is a key member of the Dodgers core, won’t play again this season. He already was expected to have surgery on the knee after the season, and this could mean he will have it sooner than that.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s comments to reporters before the Dodgers doubleheader in Washington on Thursday made it sound as if that is a foregone conclusion.

“We knew his symptoms, and it hadn’t gotten worse, but we don’t want it to get worse,” Mattingly said. “It definitely doesn’t sound like something that will be with him the rest of his career once it is taken care of. We will go into next year expecting him to be fully healthy for spring training. … By getting this taken care of now, it allows him to heal and get his work done and come to spring training ready to go.”

Ethier has been playing through pain in the knee since last season and considered surgery last winter before ultimately deciding against it. He received a series of three injections of orthovisc, a synthetic fluid that lubricates the knee, over a three-week period that ended three weeks ago, but that hasn’t lessened the discomfort. …

“You start making changes to get away from pain, and you can easily get away from your base,” Mattingly said.

Sep 01

Casey Blake signing off on Dodger career

My family has felt a special connection to Casey Blake. My two oldest children have run on the field before the game at Dodger Stadium, and each time it was the Bearded One who autographed their baseballs.

So even though their attention to the Dodgers is limited, it will be sad for me to break the news to them that Blake has apparently played his final game as a Dodger:

… Blake is having season-ending surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck.

Blake did not travel to Pittsburgh for the Dodgers’ game against the Pirates on Thursday, remaining in Los Angeles to have tests in advance of the operation Tuesday.

Blake has been bothered by the nerve and a cervical strain much of the season, and missed time with an elbow infection and back spasms. He hit .252 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 63 games.

He told the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez 12 days ago: “Obviously, this neck thing is pretty serious. I want to be able to move my neck when I’m 50.” …

The Dodgers were already planning on exercising their buyout of Blake’s 2012 option. Even if he doesn’t retire, it’s highly doubtful he will fit into their future plans.

Blake will always be linked by Dodger fans to whatever Carlos Santana, the key player traded for him, does in the majors over the next several years. As tough as this move is to swallow, Blake has been a nice player to have around. 

Playing steady defense, he had a .313 on-base percentage and .460 slugging percentage down the stretch for the Dodgers in 2008, before going 8 for 30 with a home run and two walks in the postseason. For his 406-game Dodger career, Blake had a .338 OBP and .431 slugging. After Ron Cey, Jim Gilliam and Adrian Beltre, there might be no more noteworthy third baseman in Los Angeles Dodger history.

Blake, who turned 38 last week, has played 1,265 games with a .778 OPS and 167 home runs.

Aug 28

Andre Ethier saga another case of ‘The Code’ going wrong

Before today’s game ended, Andre Ethier, focal point of a day-long controversy, made an appearance in the on-deck circle. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a lengthy account that you need to read in full.

The situation is kind of a mess, really, but if I could apply Occam’s Razor to it, I think what we’d be left with is this …

If the goal, weeks and weeks ago, had been to get Ethier to as close to 100 percent health as possible before putting him back on the field, there wouldn’t be this confusion, and everyone would be healthier and happier.

It would be clear: Ethier would have the necessary treatment on his knee, including surgery, before returning to the field. For all the virtues of what a partially healthy Ethier provides, it’s hard for me to see how it doesn’t serve both Ethier’s and the Dodgers’ short-term and long-term needs to have made this the goal.

The Dodgers have gone through this dance before with other players, most notably this year – though with much less bitterness – with Jonathan Broxton. It’s a weird game of chicken where each party puts the burden on the other to determine when to sit an injured player, and all it does is kick the can down the road until the problem is worse. And the team isn’t much better in the interim.

Mythology aside, injured players, however gutty, generally aren’t as good as healthy backups. Ethier certainly hasn’t been. And whether the Dodgers were fighting for first place or fighting to stay out of last, a hobbled Ethier is not such a valuable asset.

We’re not talking about a hangnail here. We’re talking about an essential limb, and this is not a Monty Python movie: If you don’t have your arms and legs, you’re usually not going to be a very good baseball player. This is a sport of mechanics, of timing, and the smallest injury can knock you off your game, even if you feel like you can and should play.

If the injured baseball player doesn’t feel he can take himself out of action, because of love of the game, or arrogance, or denial, or fear of being labeled a sissy, then management needs to make the decision for him. You can’t rely on the Russell Martins and Broxtons and Ethiers to break “The Code” of manning up. There are a few exceptions to the rule (his name, I believe, is Kobe Bryant), but you need to have the rule.

Everyone’s wondering, “Is it really that bad?” If you have to ask, then the answer is yes.

Even Kirk Gibson sat out 44 of 45 innings in the 1988 World Series.

Aug 26

Minutia, Minushka

Catching up on some news …

  • Kenley Jansen has been activated from the disabled list. Josh Lindblom was sent to Double-A Chattanooga, where he will bide his time until he can return, in 10 days when rosters expand or sooner if there’s another Dodger injury.
  • Dee Gordon was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but Gordon did not play Thursday. It does not appear that the Dodgers will wait until when rosters expand September 1 to activate Gordon, which would mean that Eugenio Velez might not remain on the 25-man roster for long (though would no doubt clear waivers).
  • Ted Lilly is responding well to acupuncture treatment, he told Gurnick.
  • Don Drysdale’s daughter Drew is scheduled to sing National Anthem and God Bless America at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
  • While much talk about the Cubs’ general manager vacancy has centered on Ned Colletti, it’s former Dodger general manager Dan Evans who might be a more likely choice, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dodger prospect Jerry Sands is breaking some eggs – that is, making some significant adjustments with the hopes of deriving long-term benefit. From Christopher Jackson at Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:

    … “It’s been real tough, cause I came back down and I knew I needed to change some things, but it’s tough to totally overhaul in the middle of the season and be productive,” Sands said. “I want to get back up there, but I want to look like I learned something.

    “It was tough having to change things I’d done for years and then change them right over. The hot and the cold stretches have been a part of me learning, just a process of what I have to do to be more consistent.” …

  • Clayton Kershaw “stands to become just the fourth Dodger in the 128-year history of the franchise to post three straight seasons with an ERA+ of 130 or higher,” writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Jeff Pfeffer, Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser are the others.
  • Stephen also passes along the news that outfielder Kyle Russell has gotten a late-season promotion from Chattanooga to Albuquerque.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey caps its visit to St. Louis with a long, thoughtful piece about sportswriting.
  • The man himself, Bob Eubanks, talked to Dodger historian Mark Langill about the Beatles, setting up this weekend’s commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles playing Dodger Stadium (via Blue Heaven).
  • The friendly folks at Bronx Banter passed along “10 Things John Sterling would say in a hurricane” from IT IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS… caught.
  • On target as always, Joe Posnanski about “the myth of pressure.”

    … This line — that it’s easier to put up numbers without pennant pressure — is a lot like that. Nobody can possibly believe this. First of all, there’s the obvious flaw: If it were easier to put up numbers in non-pressure situations, then players would consistently and obviously have better years on lousy teams than they do on good ones. Does this ring even the slightest bell of truth? Does anyone believe that Derek Jeter would have put up better numbers had he played for Kansas City? Does anyone believe that Albert Pujols would be so much better if he had spent his career playing in the carefree world of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Roy Halladay was great for mediocre Blue Jays teams and is great for outstanding Phillies teams. Hank Aaron was the same great player with the same great numbers when Milwaukee won, when Milwaukee almost won, and when Milwaukee wasn’t very good at all. …

    If you’ve read this blog at all you know: I’ve covered a lot of bad teams in my life. I’ve been around some good ones, too. And as far as “pressure” goes, well, from my observation, it’s not even close. There is infinitely more pressure on players on lousy teams than on good ones. Obviously, this depends on how you define pressure, but if the textbook definition of pressure is “the feeling of stressful urgency cause by the necessity of achieving something,” well, absolutely, there’s way more pressure on the lousy teams.

    … Think about it: What pressure is there on players in pennant races? The pressure to win? Sure. But players come to the ballpark energized. Everyone on the team is into it. The crowd is alive and hopeful. The afternoon crackles. Anticipation. Excitement. There’s nothing in sports quite like the energy in a baseball clubhouse during a pennant race. Players arrive early to prepare. Teammates help each other. Everyone’s in a good mood. There’s a feeling swirling around: This is exactly the childhood dream. The added importance of the moment could, in theory I suppose, create extra stress. But the reality I’ve seen is precisely the opposite. The importance sharpens the senses, feeds the enthusiasm, makes the day brighter. Baseball is a long season. Anything to give a day a little gravity, to separate it from yesterday, to make it all more interesting — anything like that, I think, is much more likely to make it EASIER to play closer to one’s peak.

    A losing clubhouse? Exactly the opposite. The downward pressure is enormous and overwhelming — after all, who cares? The town has moved on. A Hawaiian vacation awaits. Teammates are fighting to keep their jobs or fighting to impress someone on another team or just plain fighting. The manager might be worried about his job. The reporters are few, and they’re negative. Smaller crowds make it easier to hear the drunken critics. Support is much harder to come by, and there is constant, intense force demanding that you just stop trying so hard. After all: Why take that extra BP? You’ve got the swing down. Why study a few extra minutes of film? You’ve faced that hitter before. Why take that extra base? Why challenge him on that 3-1 pitch? Why? You’re down 9-3 anyway.

    It’s absolutely AMAZING to me when a player puts up a fantastic year even when the team around him stinks. …

Aug 06

Eovaldi shoulders the load in 5-3 win

Ross D. Franklin/APDee Gordon dives to tag Kelly Johnson, but ends up not sticking the landing.
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesNathan Eovaldi followed through on his first big-league start.

Hey #dodgerfans I’m gonna be ok, just tweaked my shoulder alittle bit…I’ll be back really soon!!!
Dee Gordon on Twitter

So, yeah, to lose Rubby De La Rosa and Dee Gordon in one week? That would have been unreal.

Instead, despite Gordon’s awkward tag on a rundown play in the third inning tonight that forced him out of the game following his thud on his right shoulder, the report is that he did not suffer a sprain or dislocation, and should be back in a few days (allowing for the math of Dodger medical reports).

And so a good first start for Nathan Eovaldi was not spoiled. The 21-year-old allowed two runs in five innings and was the winning pitcher in the Dodgers’ 5-3 victory over Arizona.

Eovaldi struck out two batters in a perfect first inning and was a strike away from re-feating in the second when Ryan Roberts worked out a walk. Eovaldi then allowed a single, another walk, and then a two-run single to opposing pitcher Joe Saunders that seemed like it had removed all the pixie dust from the youngster’s debut.

Instead, Eovaldi only faced one batter over the minimum (thanks in part to Gordon) for the remainder of his outing, striking out seven in all, and even got his own first major-league hit and run.

Eovaldi was said to be on a 90-pitch limit for the day, but came out after 77 when the Dodgers put together a two-run top of the sixth to take a 4-2 lead. The bullpen allowed one run over four innings, with Scott Elbert giving Javy Guerra a rest and picking up his second save of the season.

Sunday, Clayton Kershaw pitches to try to give the Dodgers their first road sweep of 2011.