Nov 02

Dodgers exercise option on Podsednik, who can still test free agency

Scott Podsednik and the Dodgers entered the offseason with a mutual option on his $2 million 2011 contract. Today, the Dodgers voted yes on their half, leaving the outfielder three days to decide if he wants to reciprocate or test free agency.

Podsednik, who will be 35 in March, made a good impression on Dodger general manager Ned Colletti despite performing rather unimpressively.

“Our thought process after watching him play for us and seeing what he added to our club was that we would like to have him back,” Colletti said. “He obviously has versatility in the field, plus he has an added component in the speed he has.”

Oct 19

Dollars for Lilly: $33 million for three years

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details of Ted Lilly’s signing becoming official, to the tune of $33 million over three years. The figure isn’t surprising, given that Lilly was averaging $10 million per year in his last deal — and in fact, the average of $11 million per year is lower than the $12 million Lilly made in 2010, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Sep 26

Uncomfortably numb: Bullpen wastes Billingsley’s 13 Ks

Chad Billingsley tied a career high with 13 strikeouts today while allowing five baserunners and one run in seven innings. His only problem: It’s 2010, the Year Without a Reliable Bullpen.

It wasn’t long ago that Jonathan Broxton giving up a late-inning home run would have caused me great angst, but now I just chalk it up to a lost season. Broxton and George Sherrill each gave up two-run home runs in the bottom of the eighth inning today, surrendering Billingsley’s 4-1 lead and sending the Dodgers to a 5-4 defeat.

The one thing I wasn’t clear on: Why did Ronald Belisario leave the game after retiring one batter with the bases empty and a three-run lead? Or, if Joe Torre was worried about the left-handed bats in the eighth inning for Arizona, why not start the inning with Sherrill?  I don’t care that much at this point, but I just was curious.

The loss was the Dodgers’ 81st of the year, ensuring they won’t have a winning season.

* * *

Earlier today, the Dodgers traded future manager Don Mattingly’s son, Preston, to Cleveland for Ramon Pena in a deal of floundering minor leaguers. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Sep 18

Dodgers traded James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for player to be named later …

… plus the 18 2/3 innings they got in between from Octavio Dotel, who went to Colorado in another trade today. That would be the Dodgers cutting their losses. Dotel will help the Rockies try to make the playoffs but is ineligible for the postseason because the trade happened after August 31.

Sep 07

Dodgers designate Ronnie Belliard for assignment

In 83 regular-season plate appearances for the Dodgers in 2009, Ronnie Belliard had five homers and a 1.034 OPS. In 183 plate appearances in 2010, Belliard had two homers and a .622 OPS, sinking to levels below what got him cast off by the Washington Nationals last summer.

Belliard’s chapter in Dodger history ended today with the team designated for assignment in order to purchase the contract of 27-year-old Australian outfielder Trent Oeltjen, who had a .979 OPS for Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has details.

Belliard and Marlon Anderson — how their Dodger stories paralleled.

* * *

Dodger prospect Jerry Sands finished tied for third among all minor-leaguers in home runs this year with 35. As John Manuel of Baseball America notes, behind Sands was a familiar name: Joel Guzman.

The one-time Dodger phenom, now 25, hit 33 homers for the Orioles’ Double-A farm team in Bowie. That’s right — Double-A, the same level Guzman was at as a 20-year-old when he was considered arguably the Dodgers’ top position prospect.

Guzman had a career-high in walks with 45 this season, against 121 strikeouts — still not enough to assuage questions about his eye at the plate.

John Lindsey (.353) won the minor-league batting title in absentia, to go with the slugging percentage title.

Sep 06

Since they aren’t needed elsewhere, three cheers for John Lindsey!

Let’s start with Sunday’s best story: John Lindsey is finally a major leaguer. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Lindsey, 33, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A first baseman who has played more seasons in the minors without earning a call-up to the majors than any current player, was among five players the Dodgers promoted Sunday afternoon.

Lindsey will be joined by third baseman Russ Mitchell, who is also making his major league debut, infielder Chin Lung Hu, and pitchers Jon Link and John Ely.

For Lindsey, set to join the team Monday, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. He’s spent nearly half his adult life in the minor leagues, since the Colorado Rockies took him in the 13th round of the 1995 draft.

He’s had a career season in 2010, batting .354 with 25 home runs for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

“Oh man, the second [Isotopes manager Tim Wallach] told me my whole brain kind of shut down. I was hearing what he was saying, but I couldn’t even believe it,” Lindsey said.

“He went to shake my hand and I had to hug him because my legs were so weak.”

Lindsey said Wallach had initially tried to fool him by asking him to come into his office, then slamming the door.

“I think he was trying to mess with me, but [hitting coach] Johnny Moses was in the corner, trying to keep a straight face the whole time, but he couldn’t stop smiling,” Lindsey said.

“Wally told me it was the happiest day as a manager he’s ever had. I walked out of that office and hugged all my teammates, called my wife, and I haven’t stopped smiling or pacing around the clubhouse since.

“I probably won’t sleep the next three or four days.” …

Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s that you get to play the game.

Says Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.: Lindsey, who is 33 years, 219 days old today, will be the oldest non-Japanese Dodger to make his MLB debut since Pete Wojey (34 years, 213 days) on July 2, 1954.

* * *

As for Sunday’s results – yes, the team looking to make a miracle comeback in the standings suffered a blow. Arizona fell to Houston, 3-2, missing a chance to close within 12 games of the fourth-place Dodgers, who lost to San Francisco, 3-0.

The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch non-last place is 12. Los Angeles has clinched the tiebreaker against Arizona by winning the season series, so even though six of the Dodgers’ final nine games are against the Diamondbacks, the odds remain in the Dodgers’ favor.

Oh, as for the other races? Can’t say the Dodgers are doing much there.

The Padres are the first team to stay in first place despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1932 Pittsburgh Pirates, and looking to be the first team to make the playoffs despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1982 Atlanta Braves, according to Stat of the Day. That was the year that the Dodgers took advantage of the Braves’ slump to regain the National League West lead, only to run into a most bitter ending. This year is looking bitter in a different way.

Greg Zakwin wraps up Sunday’s Ack-loss at Memories of Kevin Malone: “(Andre) Ethier, Jamey Carroll, and Matt Kemp struck out a combined eight times. Five baserunners. Thirteen strikeouts in total against just a single, solitary walk drawn. Just a single extra-base hit. No Dodger reached base more than once. Pitiful is a word that seems to perfectly describe the offensive side of things since the All-Star Break.”

Hiroki Kuroda made his sixth straight start of at least seven innings, with a 2.47 ERA and .179 opponents batting average in that time, according to the Dodger press notes. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes that it was the sixth time this year that Kuroda has been on the wrong end of a shutout. As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes, opportunities to watch Kuroda in a Dodger uniform might be dwindling to a precious few.

* * *

  • Al Wolf of the Times (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror) predicted in 1960 what the team’s 1962 Dodger Stadium opener would be like. His conclusion: “As broadcaster Vince Scully said in his dulcet tones: ‘Wotta show! Wotta show! Come on out tomorrow night, those of you who missed it. But if you can’t be with us, plunk down a dollar in your pay TV set and watch it that way. Or better yet, put in two bucks and see it all in living color.’”
  • Fred Claire, who acquired Tim Wallach for the Dodgers on Christmas Eve 1992, puts his support at MLB.com for the Wallach for Manager campaign, though not with the Dodgers specifically. Claire, of course, was the Dodger general manager throughout Mike Scioscia’s post-playing Dodger career. His departure preceded Scioscia’s by about a year.
  • Four of the Dodgers in Sunday’s game – Carroll, Ryan Theriot, Ethier and Reed Johnson – finished with a .289 batting average.
Aug 22

Dodgers acquire catcher Rod Barajas

The Dodgers have tried to stop the bleeding at their catcher position by acquiring Rod Barajas today from the New York Mets for cash. Here’s a brief news story.

Barajas, who turns 35 on Sept. 1, had a .263 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage in 267 plate appearances with New York this season.

The Dodgers, who lost starting catcher Russell Martin for the season Aug. 3 with injuries to his right hip, have been trying to get by with Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis., neither of whom have slugging percentages above .250.

Barajas has 12 homers this season – more homers than walks (eight). He has thrown out four of 27 runners attempting to steal. Barajas, who had a $500,000 base salary this season (not counting bonuses), could be a candidate for the backup catcher slot in 2011.

Aug 21

Welcome back, Manny – for the last time?

We had a yard sale today, putting out all our wares that we’ve outgrown at discount prices.

In related news, the Dodgers have activated Manny Ramirez and inserted him into tonight’s starting lineup. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

The Dodgers haven’t actually outgrown Ramirez – they need anything resembling a bat, however antique (as Jay Gibbons batting cleanup today tells us) – but we’re certainly watching to see if this is a prelude to a parting. Or a final trip to the disabled list, if Ramirez can’t stay healthy.

Juan Castro was designated for assignment – but the fates might allow him to be around with the Dodgers come September. We’ll see if the same holds true for Manny.

* * *

Jackson reported after Friday’s game that Scott Elbert, whose personal problems earlier this year have not been clarified for the public, is dealing with shoulder soreness.

Aug 14

Dodgers 2, Braves 1: Newcomers lead the way, but …


John Bazemore/APTed Lilly

In a relief of a win that could have been another vexatious loss, the Dodgers funneled 12 hits into only two runs, but made them stand up for a 2-1 victory over Atlanta on Saturday.

Major credit for the result goes to Ted Lilly, who had his third consecutive sharp start since coming to Los Angeles. Lilly allowed five baserunners over six shutout innings, lowering his ERA with the team to 1.89. He has allowed 10 hits and two walks while striking out 15, and if the rest of the team were jelling, we’d be talking in glorious tones about how he was spearheading the Dodgers’ pennant drive.

As it is, even if he keeps up this pace and makes me look bad for questioning his consistency (though I also said “undoubtedly, Lilly will provide some short-term gain in the rotation”), he does figure to have only about 10 or fewer starts left in a Dodger uniform before leaving as a free agent. So I’m still feeling a little bittersweet about him. But so far, he has absolutely pitched well – a perfect fit for the team.

Octavio Dotel even chipped in 1 1/3 perfect innings tonight; he has retired 14 of 19 batters as a Dodger since coming from Pittsburgh.

Staying with the theme of new players, I’ll even throw a little love Scott Podsednik’s way, reluctantly. Podsednik went 3 for 5 tonight and now has 12 hits and two walks in his past five games. Of course, that’s outstanding.

Now, without this incredible hot streak – which he won’t be able to maintain – Podsednik will revert to being that ordinary player that I still don’t really want much part of. Even as well as he has played for the Dodgers, Podsednik has two extra-base hits in 74 plate appearances with the team. I’m willing to live with a sub-.400 slugging percentage from my catcher (Russell Martin) or my utility infielder (Jamey Carroll) if they’re getting on base a lot. But from my left fielder, I think the offense needs more. And if a hot streak of singles convinces the Dodgers that this is the guy they want starting in left field next year, at age 35, that’s going to make me even more unhappy.

Living in the now, though, Podsednik has provided an admitted boost. I’m going to be even more of a sourpuss with regard to Ryan Theriot, however.

Theriot has been a poor man’s Podsednik, going 2 for 4 tonight to give him a .283 batting average as a Dodger. That has made a lot of observers feel good about the trade, but it’s an empty .283: accompanied by a .328 OBP and .302 slugging percentage. He may be a better fielder than Blake DeWitt, but again, I feel like this has opened the door for the Dodgers to settle for aging mediocrity when they need something better. (By the way, DeWitt’s numbers since leaving the Dodgers and his overall 2010 numbers remain better than those of Theriot.)

Right now, there’s no doubt the Dodgers added talent in the short term last month, at a time when there was legitimate postseason hope. That pretty much fulfills the mission as Ned Colletti saw it, I imagine. He has gotten results.

And yet it all feels so temporary …

Aug 09

Ramon Troncoso optioned … for Ronald Belisario?

The Dodgers announced today that they have sent Ramon Troncoso back to Albuquerque:

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso was optioned to Albuquerque today, creating an opening for fellow reliever Ronald Belisario to return to the active roster from the restricted list Tuesday.

Troncoso pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings over two games since being recalled from Triple A on Aug. 3, when Jeff Weaver was placed on the disabled list. Troncoso — like Belisario, a mainstay of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2009 — has a 4.85 ERA in 39 innings this season.

The Dodgers, who were off Monday, did not immediately confirm that Belisario would be activated before Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia. However, Dodger manager Joe Torre said over the weekend that Belisario, who made rehabilitation appearances for Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday and Sunday, was close to a return.

Belisario has not pitched for the Dodgers since July 5. He was placed on MLB’s restricted list effective two days later, for reasons still not publicly disclosed. Belisario, who resumed workouts two weeks ago, has a 3.79 ERA in 35 2/3 innings for the Dodgers.

Belisario’s 2010 season also began on the restricted list, after visa problems delayed his spring training arrival. Belisario had a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings last season.

What’s interesting to me is that the Dodger bullpen suddenly seems so deep that it could part with Troncoso even though he had not been scored upon since his return — and that’s with Weaver still sidelined. The offense, certainly, remains a different story.

* * *

After Brandon Morrow threw a 17-strikeout one-hitter Sunday, Stat of the Day made a list of all the pitchers under age 26 since 1920 who had thrown one-hitters while striking out at least 10, within their first 160 career games.

Two Dodgers are on this quirky list. Sandy Koufax is one. If you can guess the other without looking, I’ll be really impressed. Name the non-Koufax Dodger under the age of 26 who struck out at least 10 batters in a one-hitter. It came in the pitcher’s 22nd career game.

Jul 31

Trade deadline blues


Ben Margot/APJoe Torre walks to the mound to replace Hong-Chih Kuo with Jonathan Broxton in the bottom of the eighth inning today.

Why am I unhappy about today’s deadline deals?

After all, to reiterate a point I made this afternoon, the Dodgers now have a pitching staff that you can quite reasonably hope will shut down the opposition on a daily basis. The Dodgers have five starting pitchers with ERAs below 4.00, and that’s not without significance. There’s a formula in place for winning if the team can start hitting at all — something they might do, if these guys can get their act together and Manny Ramirez has one last spurt left.

Just when you think you know what will happen, you’re caught off guard. Anyone from Clayton Kershaw to Ted Lilly can have a bad game, and pitchers can fall into ruts like the one Jonathan Broxton, who allowed a crushing, game-losing home run to the Giants today after falling behind in the count 3-0, currently finds himself in.

Today was a day Broxton gave more ammunition to his critics. Today was also a day Chad Billingsley left his naysayers mute. (I’m assuming there’s some intersection between those two groups.) Stepping up to pitch on three days’ rest, Billingsley extended his scoreless inning string to 21 2/3 innings. Heck, he even hit two batters — so there. And he would have gone even further in the game if not for a seventh-inning error by Rafael Furcal that, though it did not lead to a run, accelerated Billingsley’s exit and might have been the first domino of today’s loss.

In any case, the acquisition of Lilly helps the rotation, and the addition of Octavio Dotel, if nothing else, gives Joe Torre an arm he’ll trust at the outset, which might spare us the destruction of other, more valuable arms.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that within 48 hours, the Dodgers traded Blake DeWitt, James McDonald, Lucas May, Elisaul Pimentel, Brett Wallach, Kyle Smit and Andrew Lambo for two months of Lilly, Dotel and Scott Podsednik and potentially a couple of more years of (grumble) Ryan Theriot. Two months of one decent starting pitcher and three marginal contributors.

It is impossible for me to believe those seven players, assembled together, would not have been enough to bring Cliff Lee to Los Angeles. It is impossible for me to believe these assets could not have been better used in some fashion.

And so whether Lee would have been the difference-maker for the Dodgers, whether or not the seven players traded away were going to be of much value going forward, it is impossible for me to feel good about what has happened.

Maybe Lilly, Dotel, Podsednik and Theriot go hog-wild and carry the Dodgers to a title. I have no way of saying that won’t happen. But I’m not happy the Dodgers gambled what they gambled to make the bet that they made.

The Dodgers don’t look particularly good entering the 2010-11 offseason. Three-fifths of the current starting rotation will be free agents, as will their left fielder, and the team will face serious offensive problems at no fewer than three other positions. This week brought an opportunity to begin addressing those problems, or make a bold move toward winning in the last year before those problems manifest. Instead, the Dodgers added, and subtracted and got a little better, but not a lot.

(I do find myself curious about the inquiries other teams made about Manny Ramirez. If the Dodgers don’t rebound in the next couple of weeks, we might see Ramirez, who would have no trouble clearing waivers, unloaded — and see the rebuilding begin after all.)

Look, the Dodger are in a serious funk, and I’m not immune. If the team weren’t on this latest four-game losing streak, we’d all feel better about things. So keep that in mind when I say that this week’s trades feel more symbolic of the Dodgers’ weaknesses, in ownership, front office and clubhouse, than like solutions to them. They are trades that seem destined to keep us wandering rather than reaching Shangri-La.

Jul 31

A second trade: James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for Octavio Dotel

Octavio Dotel, 36 years old with 52 baserunners allowed in 40 innings for Pittsburgh this season against 48 strikeouts, comes to Los Angeles as the Dodgers give up on James McDonald and minor-league outfielder Andrew Lambo.

Dotel has had a brief resurgence since mid-June, so the Dodgers will try to ride that wave and hope this isn’t another Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez.

In a way, the Dodgers are copying the Padres’ formula – trying to smother the opposition with pitching options, and hope the offense scores just enough to make it worthwhile. It’s a plan that could work, especially if Manny Ramirez comes back and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier step things up. I’m just not in love with the guys they acquired this week to try to make it happen.

* * *

In other news, Andre Ethier is away from the team for the birth of his second child.

Jul 28

Dodgers trade for Scott Podsednik


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireScott Podsednik

Seeking to solve their Manny Ramirez-less outfield problems, the Dodgers have agreed to a deal for Kansas City outfielder Scott Podsednik, according to ESPN.com writer Jayson Stark’s sources. (Update: The Dodgers have confirmed the trade.)

The Dodgers parted with AAA catcher Lucas May, and more significant, Class A pitcher Elisaul Pimentel.

Podsednik, a 34-year-old left-handed hitter, draws comparisons to Juan Pierre — not the least because the White Sox replaced Podsednik with Pierre this winter. Podsednik hits for a bit more power than Pierre — as well as current Dodger part-time left fielder Jamey Carroll — but of course that’s not saying much. Podsednik’s slugging percentage in 2010 is .400, to go with a .352 on-base percentage. Like Pierre, Podsednik likes to run — but gets caught stealing his fair share.

In other words, this guy helps your team, but not a ton.

Podsednik is owed the remaining 40 percent or so of his $1.75 million contract for 2010, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, plus a potential 2011 club option for $2 million. (Yes, the Dodgers are paying that remaining 2010 salary.)

Pimentel, who turned 22 this month, has had a very nice 2010 season for Great Lakes: 3.49 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings, against 106 baserunners.  Those numbers were actually even better until a poor July.

May, 25, has an .848 OPS for Albuquerque — he probably isn’t a serious catching prospect at this stage. He wasn’t going to replace Russell Martin or anything next season.

This is a hard spot for me — I never like to give up promising young pitching unless it’s for a major player, and I don’t think Podsednik qualifies.  My first reaction is that it’s not the worst trade the Dodgers could make, but I’m not sure it was necessary.  The only thing I’ll say is that, given that Pimentel was probably going to be at least 24 before sniffing the big leagues, I’m guessing the Dodgers didn’t surrender the next Pedro Martinez.