Mar 28

Look who’s talking

  • Ronald Belisario said he did nothing wrong to cause his visa delays, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Dubious – and even if it’s true, his communication with the Dodgers still should have been better. I still wonder if something more was going on. Anyway, expect the Dodgers to activate him by April 25 at the latest.
  • Russell Martin is scheduled to catch seven innings and bat seven times against the Indians’ AAA team today, according to the Dodger press notes.
  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News has a nice piece today describing the dog days of Spring Training.
  • The first of a two-part interview with Logan White has been posted by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus. Some really good stuff in there. Sample:

    “Another thing I do is keep a private log of certain types of arm actions – the success rates of them. Certain types of deliveries – their success and failure rates. The same with hitters. There are certain things that we will either like or stay away from based on our own statistics of how those have been working over the past 10 or 15 years. I’ve kept these since I was an area scout. Let’s say for example that a guy is a slinger or he has a bad wrist wrap. How many guys have that who have been drafted and signed, that I’ve seen, and have actually made it? And how far? Things like that. I’ve kept pretty good records and I haven’t publicized them, not even to my own staff, but I do utilize that kind of stuff.”

  • How much playing time do you think each Dodger will get this year? Submit your predictions with Tangotiger.
Mar 26

Hong-Chih Kuo closer to the disabled list


Mark Duncan/AP
Hong-Chih Kuo, shown here March 2, last pitched in a game for the Dodgers on March 19.

Another spot in the bullpen is on the verge of opening with the news from Dodger manager Joe Torre that reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has been shut down and likely will be on the disabled list when Opening Day comes, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

With Ronald Belisario AWOL, that leaves a core of four starters (Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla) and three relievers (Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso) and either four or five open spots on the pitching staff. If nothing else, Carlos Monasterios is pretty much a lock at this point to make the team.

* * *

Russell Martin will rest Saturday after a busy Friday in which he caught six innings, batted six times and scored from first on a double (in a minor-league game).

* * *

Giants pitcherum Tim Lincecum is also playing catchup, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com.

… Lincecum allowed only one run in four innings in the Giants’ 5-3 Cactus League victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, but allowed six hits and walked two — though he did strike out seven.

The Giants ace said afterward that he’s “85 percent sure with my body of what I’m doing out there and confidence-wise. Hopefully that last tuneup job will help.” He admitted that he’s progressing “a little slower than I wanted to.”

Lincecum’s final exhibition outing before he starts the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston won’t be a high-profile appearance. Though his next scheduled turn would arrive next Wednesday, when the Giants play their Cactus League finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he’s virtually certain to pitch a Minor League exhibition or intrasquad game instead.

This would serve a dual purpose. It would prevent the Dodgers from getting a studied look at Lincecum before the regular season, and it would enable the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner to address his pitching flaws in a relaxed atmosphere. …

* * *

On weekends, my 5-year-old son sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor of my 7-year-old daughter’s room. Tonight, my daughter wanted to switch. Because of the way they were behaving before bedtime, I declined her request.

Later, my daughter went up to my son:
D: “I envy you.”
S: “What does that spell?”
D: “I envy you.”
S: “WHAT DOES THAT SPELL?!”

Mar 26

Ronald Belisario: What happened?


Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Ronald Belisario pitching in Game 2 of the 2009 National League Championship Series.

Ronald Belisario has been ruled out for the Opening Day roster by Joe Torre, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Most of what I read about Belisario chides him for blowing this opportunity and letting down the Dodgers and their fans. But absent a rational explanation for what has happened, I still can’t help thinking that the bigger issue is a serious problem that we should be concerned with instead of critical of.

That might make me sound soft, and if he’s being a flake just to be a flake, I’ll adjust my reaction accordingly. But I’m just having trouble imagining why Belisario would willfully self-sabotage. Right now, I’m still in the position of hoping Belisario makes it back, mentally as well as internationally.

* * *

  • I’m scheduled to be a guest on KSPN 710 AM at 1:40 p.m., interviewed by Andrew Siciliano and Mychal Thompson. (That link will also take you to Molly Knight’s interview with the pair from Thursday.
  • In case you missed it, Ronnie Belliard made weight and is now an official 2010 Dodger, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America joins the groundswell of praise for prospect Allen Webster, a fave of Dodger Thoughts and Maple Street Press Annual prospect expert CanuckDodger.
  • Steven Goldman, writing at ESPN’s TMI blog, wonders if the failure of Joba Chamberlain to make the Yankee starting rotation will represent a tipping point for over-protecting young arms.
  • Forty years ago today: “Next Stop for Steve Garvey Is Third Base at Dodger Stadium” (via the Daily Mirror).
  • The Pawnee Parks and Recreation Summer Catalog is a must-peruse.
Mar 26

Russ Ortiz might shine briefly but won’t endure


Mark Duncan/AP
Russ Ortiz

Last year, Russ Ortiz had as many as four consecutive good starts. When he’s hot, he’s hot. When he’s not … well, that’s most of the time.

Here’s a chart of every start he has made since 2005.

Date IP ER   Date IP ER   Date IP ER
4/5/05 6 3   9/11/05 3 5   8/10/07 5 2
4/10/05 5 1   9/18/05 5 2   8/15/07 5 3
4/16/05 6 4   9/24/05 4 5   8/20/07 4 4
4/21/05 7 2   4/7/06 6 3   4/16/09 4 2/3 3
4/26/05 6 2   4/13/06 4 1/3 4   4/21/09 5 3
5/2/05 3 2/3 7   4/18/06 2 1/3 0   4/26/09 5 2
5/7/05 4 1/3 3   4/23/06 1 2/3 4   5/7/09 2 1/3 3
5/12/05 6 2   6/6/06 5 3   6/11/09 5 1/3 0
5/18/05 5 1/3 4   6/11/06 3 1/3 7   6/17/09 6 3
5/24/05 6 4   7/1/06 4 1/3 3   6/23/09 7 2
5/29/05 3 1/3 5   7/6/06 5 6   6/28/09 7 1/3 2
6/4/05 7 4   7/18/06 2 2/3 3   7/4/09 5 2/3 8
6/10/05 7 3   7/21/06 0 6   7/9/09 3 4
6/15/05 5 1/3 7   8/7/06 3 6   7/19/09 6 2
8/13/05 6 5   4/7/07 5 3   7/25/09 4 1/3 6
8/19/05 2 2/3 6   4/13/07 8 2/3 5   7/30/09 2 1/3 9
8/24/05 4 8   4/20/07 7 2        
8/29/05 5 2/3 3   4/26/07 5 1/3 3   Total 260 210
9/4/05 6 2/3 3   5/1/07 3 1/3 8   Average 4.8 3.9
Mar 25

Vicente Padilla named Dodgers’ Opening Day starter


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Vicente Padilla

It doesn’t matter much, and I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I find it bizarre that the Dodgers have chosen Vicente Padilla to start on Opening Day April 5.

It’s not needed to set up Clayton Kershaw to start the home opener eight days later. And in all my years watching baseball, I can’t think of a rationale that would make Padilla the choice over Hiroki Kuroda or Chad Billingsley, both of whom have been with the team longer, contributed more to the team in the past year and have their own sentimental reasons for getting the nod. In particular, I would have thought Kuroda’s comeback from a frightening injury would have given him the honor.

A one-month hot stretch by Padilla shouldn’t trump those factors. Frankly, it’s a decision that cries out to be mocked, despite its insignificance in the grand scheme of things. And heaven knows, lots of people enjoy new reasons to mock the Dodgers.

That doesn’t mean Padilla won’t go out and throw shutout ball — after all, that’s what he did for six innings in his last appearance in Pittsburgh, nearly five years ago. But it still just doesn’t feel right to me. Whatever reasons there were to choose Padilla, there were better reasons not to.

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)
Mar 22

Russ Ortiz continues to vex with his good spring

Goodness, could it really be Russ Ortiz?

The name that is anathema to a rational choice for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, Ortiz produced the coveted four-inning save today in the Dodgers’ 8-4 split-squad victory over Milwaukee, allowing one run on four baserunners while striking out three.

He did so on a day that Carlos Monasterios faltered, giving up three runs in the first two of his four innings today in the other split-squad game, a 4-2 loss to the Angels.

Paul Connors/AP
Clayton being Clayton: Kershaw had the same number of hits allowed and wild pitches Monday.

Monasterios still doesn’t look like a pitcher the Dodgers want to let go of, but Ortiz again asserted himself in a battle for a roster spot. And since Monasterios is much more likely to be a reliever than a starter, it remains possible that Ortiz could be in the rotation despite his poor performance in recent years.

The contenders for the final three or four spots on the Dodger pitching staff: Monasterios, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Eric Stults, Charlie Haeger, Jeff Weaver and Josh Towers. Monasterios, Stults and Haeger are the three who cannot be sent to the minors, meaning that the others are probably battling for a single slot.

Meanwhile, poor fielding helped sabotage Clayton Kershaw’s first inning against Milwaukee, but the young lefty ended up going a solid five innings, striking out six while allowing one earned run.

For the first time since July 18, there was a W next to Kershaw’s name in a boxscore. And an S (not to be confused with Superman’s) emblazoned on Ortiz.

Jamey Carroll went 3 for 4 with a walk, raising his Spring Training on-base percentage to .474.

* * *

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Mar 21

Eric Stults gives doubters an opening, Eric Gagne gives them closure

Eric Stults has pitched in nine innings this month (including Taiwan), if I’m not mistaken. Eight of those innings have been good; one of them has been bad. For his first three innings today, Stults was near-perfect.

Perhaps Stults isn’t meant to be the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter in April, and perhaps that’s justified. But if that’s the decision, I hope it’s not because of a single bad fourth inning on March 21. I hope the Dodgers have better reasons than that. Because it ain’t as if the next guy is gonna be perfect …

  • Game Over is truly over: Eric Gagne’s request for his unconditional release by the Dodgers has been granted. Adios, monsieur.
  • Joe Torre called off contract extension talks between himself and the Dodgers, citing a few reasons, including the idea that they were a “distraction,” according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. I can certainly understand his hesitancy to commit to work beyond the expiration of his contract at the end of this year, but I don’t see how the uncertainty concerning the Dodgers’ post-2010 managerial situation will be any less distracting, Don Mattingly or not.
  • The amazing UCLA baseball team is now 16-0. Eric Sondheimer of the Times notes that the Bruins outscored Oral Roberts 41-7 in a three-game sweep.
  • Sorry, folks, but Dodger Stadium simply won’t be ready for the 1961 season. “You gather that Florida is sufficiently far enough away from the scene of delayed action to keep (Walter) O’Malley from blowing his top,” wrote Times sports editor Paul Zimmerman, “but just barely.”
  • My advice regarding Russell Martin: When Martin and the Dodgers agree that he is absolutely, positively recovered enough from his injury to play in a game … tack on an extra week off right then.
Mar 17

Carlos Monasterios: One surprise fits all

The funny thing about Carlos Monasterios’ emergence as a legitimate roster contender (based on his eight shutout innings this spring) is how little shock there is about it. It’s like being tipped off about a surprise party.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
With even less upper-level experience than Fernando Valenzuela had in the minors, Carlos Monasterios won’t be a full-time starting pitcher in 2010 – but he could still contribute.

By now, we’re all used to unexpected faces on the Opening Day roster, from well-known retreads like Wilson Alvarez  to out-of-nowheres like Takashi Saito. Ronald Belsiario’s 2009 season removed the last vestige of shock-and-huh? from our consciousness. You never know who’s going to be great, but throw enough arms out there, and you’ve got a good chance of finding someone.

Now, the Dodgers do make it look a lot easier than it really is – otherwise every team in baseball would have had Saitos and Belisarios in the past few years. It could be a remarkable run of luck, but why not give credit to the scouts for finding studs among the duds? After all, it was the same scout – Ron Rizzi – who recommended both Belisario last year and Monasterios this year.

Unlike some of the wild-card arms contending for a roster spot, Monasterios at least brings a strikeout pitch, fanning 7.6 batters per nine innings in the minors last season. But Monasterios, who turns 24 Sunday, has only thrown 183 2/3 innings the past two seasons and only 7 1/3 innings above A ball – he’s got less experience than Fernando Valenzuela had in 1980 before his Dodger callup – so let’s be clear. Under no circumstances is Carlos Monasterios going to grab a permanent spot in the Dodger starting rotation in 2010.

At best (underscore that, because it’s still only March), you’re talking spot starter and middle reliever. But that would still be a pretty impressive reward for a $50,000 acquisition fee. An unbelievable coup – yet par for the course for the Dodgers if it happens.

“He’s got a nice presence out there,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said of Monasterios. “He’s got a really good off-speed pitch; he’s very aggressive. I like what I see. He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Eric Stults remains the leading candidate for the starting rotation based the Dodgers’ inability to send him to the minors. Monasterios could be in a direct battle with Charlie Haeger for the final spot on the staff (or there could be room for both depending on what happens with Belisario or Hong-Chih Kuo), while pitchers like Ramon Ortiz begin the season in the minors, waiting for the first calamity.

“Stults and Haeger haven’t done anything to hurt their chances,” Torre said.

Belisario’s DUI case has been resolved, according to Jim Peltz of the Times. Peltz talked to Belisario’s lawyer J. Michael Flanagan, who said Belisario was fined $1,000 after charges against him were reduced to reckless driving. That should mean that Belisario’s arrival in the States will be sooner rather than later, though everyone remains in wait-and-see-and-wonder mode.

As for Kuo, he had an encouragingly successful bullpen session, his first since before elbow pain made him a scratch in Sunday’s Taiwan game, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

* * *

Last call for the Dodger Thoughts March Madness group. Password is “Kershaw.”

Mar 17

James McDonald headed for bullpen


Chris McGrath/Getty Images
James McDonald

This probably won’t come as much of  a surprise, but Dodger manager Joe Torre told reporters this morning that James McDonald “looks like more of a bullpen guy.”

I don’t know yet if Torre means that about McDonald in April, or forever.  But you get the sense that we’ll see McDonald limited to shorter stints in the near future at least, and that he won’t be starting the year in the Albuquerque rotation with Scott Elbert.

No longterm decision on McDonald should be based on the first two weeks of Spring Training games, or for that matter his four career major-league starts. But you start to wonder if the Long Beach native will ever get a full opportunity to prove himself as a starter, or whether, like Jonathan Broxton (who was a very effective starting pitcher over 50 games in the minors), it has simply been decided that McDonald’s skill set doesn’t translate into a big-league rotation.

* * *

  • The Dodgers sent Russ Mitchell, Juan Perez and Prentice Redman to minor-league camp.
  • Former Dodger and current Rangers manager Ron Washington will be part of a media tempest after he admitted to testing positive for cocaine use last year.
  • The Rockies have an ample supply of health concerns, according to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus. Here’s his rundown of Arizona as well, while David Pinto of Baseball Musings points specifically to problems in the Colorado bullpen.
  • In surprising news, the Nationals released outfielder Elijah Dukes.
Mar 16

Absence without malice: Cory Wade now sidelined by surgery


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Cory Wade’s 2009 season still looked bright when he bailed Hiroki Kuroda out of a bases loaded jam in his first appearance of the year April 6, but things began going south soon after.

It says something about the disappearance of Cory Wade from the radar that I didn’t rush to blog about his impending shoulder surgery. Okay, it also says something about my crazy schedule, but you get the idea.

Initial estimates are that Wade will be out for three months, though it’s too soon to say whether that’s too long or too short a guess.  In any case, we’re talking about a guy who’s still only 26 years old. Hopefully they can solve whatever’s bothering him and get him back closer to the form that made him such a critical part of the Dodger bullpen in 2008.

* * *

POTUS potables: Great reaction piece by Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce to Jamie McCourt’s Oval Office ambitions.

… My first instinct on this is that it’s being blown out of proportion. This is probably just the daydream of a very wealthy woman. We all get carried away. It’s just that most of us don’t have the power to make people indulge us and create action plans for carrying out our whims. And, it’s quite safe to say, our delusions of grandeur rarely reach as far as attaining the highest office in the world.

What bothers me more about the current situation is Jamie’s attempt to spin all the negative publicity into a the-world-is-against-me stance. She’s repeatedly talked about how she doesn’t want the litigation playing out in the public arena. …

… So, if you’re following along at home: Jamie actively and intentionally put herself in the public eye as an owner of the Dodgers. You’ll remember that among the perks she’s seeking compensation for are professional makeup and table sponsorship funds for her many community and charity appearances. When the attention was positive and served her own ends–altruistic or otherwise–she sought the public eye.

Now that the attention is not so kind, she portrays her plight as the unfortunate acquisition of “unwanted celebrity.” This is either naive or outright manipulative. Jamie has a habit of wanting things both ways; she wanted to be protected from creditors’ claims in case the businesses failed, but now seeks half the businesses’ worth. She desired attention–was paid to draw attention–when coverage was positive, but claims to be the victim of “unwanted celebrity” now that coverage isn’t so rosy. …


Mar 15

The Ramon Ortiz tease

Fifteen Dodger pitchers have Spring Training ERAs of 0.00, so it’s not exactly a rare feat at this stage of 2010. But it’s fair to tip one’s hat to Ramon Ortiz, who has extended his scoreless string to nine innings (with seven baserunners and 11 strikeouts) after throwing four shutout frames today in the Dodgers’ 4-0 victory over the Angels.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Ramon Ortiz allowed two baserunners in four innings today, while striking out five.

It doesn’t mean that Ortiz will end 2010 a better pitcher than Scott Elbert, who had some soreness about as soon as Spring Training began and was optioned to the minors today with a 20.25 ERA. But it does mean that Ortiz has made himself a very real part of the No. 5 starter conversation, along with fellow 0.00ers Eric Stults, Russ Ortiz and Carlos Monasterios.

I emphasize the word “conversation” because we are still three weeks away from Opening Day, which means we’re still at the talking stage as opposed to the decision stage. The Ortizii also operate at a disadvantage to Stults, Monasterios and Charlie Haeger, all of whom the Dodgers would lose if they’re not on the April 5 roster. As I wrote last month, neither Ortiz (combined age: 73) has had a major-league ERA below 5.00 since 2004. So this isn’t just a question of turning over a new leaf – did they upend the entire tree?

Predictably, there’s all kinds of talk of Ramon Ortiz succeeding by adjusting to his limitations, as seen here in Tom Singer’s MLB.com article this afternoon. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Ortiz benefited by learning  to throw a curveball in Japan in 2008.  I’m not ruling it all out – nor am I ruling out the possibility that Ortiz will leapfrog the others and earn a spot on the staff in April. I just happen to still have major doubts that we’ll be waxing positive about Ortiz in September.

* * *

When Spring Training began, there were at least two spots on the pitching staff open for competition. But now there could be as many as five – if Ronald Belisario begins the year on the restricted list, if Hong-Chih Kuo begins the year on the disabled list and if the team goes with a 12-man staff. (At this point, my bets would be: yes, no, yes.)

There are at least 10 remaining candidates: Ortiz, Ortiz, Stults, Haeger, Monasterios, Jon Link, James McDonald, Josh Towers, Justin Miller and Jeff Weaver. Too soon to say what will happen, but the most intriguing decision might be whether McDonald will be in the Dodger bullpen or the Isotopes starting rotation, alongside Elbert.

* * *

  • Trayvon Robinson Saturday, Brian Cavazos-Galvez Sunday and Angelo Songco today – all hitting no-doubter home runs.  I can’t remember a Spring Training when the Dodgers got homers in three consecutive games from players 22-and-under – two of them not even out of A ball yet. Fun.
  • Argenis Reyes, Brent Leach, Travis Schlichting and Ivan De Jesus, Jr. were sent to the minors this afternoon.
  • Doug Mientkiewicz has a .421 on-base percentage in Spring Training after going 2 for 3 today; Garret Anderson is at .400 (2 for 5 in two games).
  • There will be a memorial service for Willie Davis on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, according to The Associated Press.
  • Now that “Sugar” is making the rounds on cable and DVD – Josh Wilker wrote about it today at Cardboard Gods – it’s time for any of you who ignored my recommendation to see it to go see it already!
  • Update: What do Jamie McCourt and Leslie Knope have in common? The ambition to be President of the United States, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.
Mar 13

For comparison: The New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks No. 5 starter competition

Even the richest team in baseball, the defending World Series champion New York Yankees, has doubts concerning its No. 5 starter.

It’s not for a lack of possibilities. The Yankees’ No. 5 starter competition nominally offers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre, Alfredo Aceves and Chad Gaudin, though the main contenders are probably Hughes and Chamberlain. Not one of the them offers a reliable starter’s resume.

Hughes posted a 3.03 ERA last season – but like the Dodgers’ James McDonald, he did much better as a reliever. Hughes only started seven games in 2009 and had a 5.45 ERA before going to the bullpen for good at the end of May.

Chamberlain, the 24-year-old who began his career with such domination as a reliever, started 31 games in 2009 but with a 4.75 ERA. Mitre, 29, had a 6.79 ERA in 51 2/3 innings in 2009. Gaudin, 27 this month, had a 4.76 ERA in 25 starts a year ago, averaging 5 1/3 innings per start. Aceves, 27, has a 3.24 ERA in 114 career innings, but relieved in 42 of 43 appearances in ’09.

Ben Shpigel of the New York Times writes that Yankees manager Joe Girardi hasn’t focusing on Spring Training results yet but will do so soon.

At Pinstriped Bible on Friday, Steven Goldman hosted a roundtable on the subject with Cliff Corcoran of Bronx Banter and Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus and the Futility Infielder, offering thoughtful analysis before remembering that no April decision on the No. 5 starter will be etched in stone. (Earlier this month, Corcoran previewed the competition here.)

Does it matter? Eric Karabell of ESPN.com writes that the Yankees’ No. 5 starters in 2009 – Chien-Ming Wang, Hughes, Mitre, Gaudin and Aceves – had a 6.92 ERA in 35 starts (147 innings, 4 1/3 innings per start). Obviously, it helps if the rest of your team is strong enough to overcome this weakness.

And just to show that nothing’s even guaranteed at the top of the Yankee rotation, Scott Randall of ESPN.com’s TMI blog notes that the past five innings leaders of World Series champions — Curt Schilling, Mark Buehrle, Chris Carpenter, Josh Beckett and Cole Hamels, have struggled the following year.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: “For comparison: The St. Louis Cardinals No. 5 starter competition”

* * *

Meanwhile, it’s not all peaches and cream with the Dodgers’ National League West rival Arizona.

Arizona has been counting on the return of Brandon Webb to health, but that appears to be delayed, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Kris Benson, the 35-year-old with an 8.46 ERA in 22 1/3 innings since 2006, worked out for the Diamondbacks, Piecoro notes, indicating the depth of their search for more depth.

AZ Snakepit predicts Billy Buckner (6.40 ERA last season) will be the No. 5 starter for Arizona, then goes on to discuss the Diamondbacks’ unattractive candidates for the rotation – behind Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy (6.03 career ERA) – should Webb not make it to Opening Day.

* * *

Things are even a bit testy with the ballyhooed San Francisco Giant rotation, though it might well be much ado about nothing. Amid ongoing concerns about his build and some reports of diminished speed in his fastball, some people are worried about Tim Lincecum — much to Lincecum’s annoyance, as Rob Neyer of ESPN.com notes.

Linceum had a 7.56 ERA after two starts in 2009, then a 2.28 ERA with 251 strikeouts in 217 innings the rest of the way. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News is among those telling Lincecum’s fans not to jump off any bridges — though Baggarly adds that prospect Madison Baumgartner might not make the Opening Day roster for San Francisco.

Apparently, no one’s so desperate that they’re leaping after the guys on Ben Nicholson-Smith’s list at MLB Trade Rumors, led by Braden Looper, a 14-game winner, 39-homer allower in 2009 whose best offer might be a minor-league deal from the Dodgers, and Jarrod Washburn. John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez look like they’ll be part of this year’s partial season gang.

* * *

Jake Peavy is looking good so far – but that’s not for the Dodgers to worry about anymore.

* * *

In passing, Matt Eddy of Baseball America has an interesting article on player development and the use of minor-league options.

Mar 07

For comparison: The St. Louis Cardinals No. 5 starter competition

Want a peek at another pennant contender’s No. 5 starter competition? Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a snapshot of who’s giving it a go for the St. Louis Cardinals:

  • 2009 reliever Kyle McClellan (no career major-league starts)
  • Veteran Rich Hill (who has 77 1/3 innings and a 6.87 ERA the past two seasons)
  • 22-year-old rookie Lance Lynn (2.92 ERA in AA in 2009)
  • and 23-year-old Jaime Garcia (37 2/3 minor-league innings last year, following surgery).

And that’s with mystery factor Brad Penny as your No. 4 starter.

Add comparisons: Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin (1.92 ERA, 74 baserunners in 61 innings) is moving on from his own end-of-season disappointment, writes Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch. Franklin, however, turned 37 Friday and is more than 11 years older than Jonathan Broxton.

Mar 06

Eric Gagne’s Dodger return: Welcome to the Enchanted Tiki Room

There were lots of tidbits from today’s Spring Training game, even though the Dodgers lost. But the one that might stick with people the most is Eric Gagne’s return in a Dodger uniform.

After all the reports I heard that Gagne looked starkly thinner – I was half-expecting Sally Struthers to make an appeal on his behalf – my view of him on TV was that the difference wasn’t so noticeable. Of course, when you’re dealing with baggy uniforms, who knows?

But although Gagne didn’t get hit hard, he did get hit. He didn’t have any strikeouts, and he allowed himself to get dinked and donked for two runs on three hits. None of this matters as far as what he’ll have in 2010 to offer the team or not. My only interest really was in recollecting the Gagne experience, and this certainly wasn’t it (not that I was expecting much).

And still, I was happy to see him, and happy for the reminders that floated through my head of his previous Dodger career.

Gagne told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that he was a “little off mechanically” but “felt really good physically.”

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James McDonald and Jeff Weaver had frustrating spring debuts for the Dodgers, but Eric Stults and Russ Ortiz cruised in their two innings. Manny Ramirez had a single, double and walk to give him an .833 on-base percentage after two days. Blake DeWitt is 2 for 3 with two walks after a perfect two plate appearances today.

“Stults was good,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said. “I thought he mixed his pitches well. I thought he did a nice job, as did Russ Ortiz.

“(James McDonald) just wasn’t throwing strikes. Wasn’t throwing strikes with his offspeed pitch, and just didn’t look like he was locating. Even when he was throwing strikes, it didn’t look like he was throwing them in the place he wanted to throw them. He’s been fine. He’s been throwing the ball good; he’s been working on some stuff. As they say, we’ll see.”

The Dodgers are still looking for their first Spring Training triple or home run. And with rain in the forecast for Sunday’s game against the Cubs in Mesa, they might still be looking.

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Who would have a copy handy of the 1966 Kansas City A’s media guide? Baseball Nerd Keith Olbermann would, and he uses it to render tall Rick Monday’s tale that he was given uniform No. 104 at Spring Training that year.

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I wanted to point you to a feature I did for Variety on one of my favorite blogs – Earl Pomerantz: Just Thinking … if you haven’t been there yet, it’s definitely worth a visit.