Apr 06

Retreads in middle relief not a sign of the apocalypse


US Presswire
Jeff Weaver (left) is exactly the kind of pitcher major-league teams typically have in the back of their bullpen. James McDonald deserves to be on the Dodgers, but his front-line potential might explain why he’s in Albuquerque today.

There’s a difference between having junk in your front yard and having junk in your back.

By that I mean, it doesn’t bother me as much that the Dodgers have retreads in their bullpen, as long as they stay out of the starting rotation.

People lose sight of it because of the recent success the Dodgers have had in relief, but bullpens are largely made up of retreads.  We know for a fact that there isn’t enough quality starting pitching in baseball to come close to filling 30 major-league rotations, so why would the bullpens be bursting with star quality from top to bottom? It makes sense that they’d be comprised of pitchers who aren’t even good enough to be mediocre starters.

In the bullpen, you’re looking for guys who can put together for one or two innings what they can’t hack over five to seven. And so it’s not crazy to try your luck with a Jeff Weaver or Ramon Ortiz — or for that matter a newbie like Carlos Monasterios. Maybe with limited innings, they can excel. It might end up a failed experiment, but it’s not a senseless one — as Weaver showed us last year.

That Weaver, Monasterios and the law firm of Ortiz & Ortiz pitched for the Dodgers on Opening Day was, I’m sorry to say, not a reflection of a franchise in divorce-induced disarray. It was nothing more than a reflection of major-league standard operating procedure when you’re starting pitcher is knocked out early — especially when three of your top relievers — Hong-Chih Kuo, Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario — were unavailable for circumstances beyond the Dodgers control.

In case that point needs underscoring, the World Payroll Champion New York Yankees used Chan Ho Park to try to protect a 7-5 seventh-inning lead on Opening Night in Fenway Park.

The one thing you might say the Dodgers should have done Monday was use Jonathan Broxton in the pivotal moment of the game — when Vicente Padilla was nearing his end with two runners on base and one out in the fifth inning of a one-run contest. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for a Dodger manager to be that bold.

On the other hand, in the one Spring Training decision regarding the starting rotation that did require boldness, you can’t say Joe Torre didn’t deliver. Rather than go with a retread, Torre chose Charlie Haeger, whose major-league resume is shaky but comes with an upside that Weaver and the Ortizes no longer have.

Haeger, keep in mind, is only a year older than James McDonald and four years younger than Eric Stults. And what’s interesting is that Torre seemed to have this idea in mind regardless of Spring Training performance — Torre was signaling his inclination for Haeger even before the knuckleballer started to turn in some good exhibition innings. With several over-30 options available, Torre went, relatively speaking, with a kid.

If Haeger fails — and who knows how much rope he has before failure is declared — we’ll see if the choice to replace him is a retread or a younger player like McDonald or Scott Elbert. If I were in charge of the Dodgers, McDonald would be on the major-league roster today. He proved in 2009 that he could perform well as a major-league pitcher, with a 2.72 ERA as a reliever in 41 games as a reliever. Sending him down to the minors because he didn’t pitch well in mid-March made little sense — unless it was part of a broader plan to make him the No. 1 option to replace Haeger by giving him some fine-tuning in the Albuquerque rotation.

I don’t have much long-term confidence in Padilla, though he will have better days than he had Monday. I’m not going to sit here and say that the Dodger starting rotation couldn’t be better. But I know this much: You don’t judge a team by the back of its bullpen. And if you do, the Dodgers have little to apologize for in theirs.

Apr 05

That’s a Padillaing: Dodgers fall in opener, 11-5


Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Vicente Padilla allowed 11 of 24 batters he faced to reach base Monday.

The last time the Dodgers played a game that counted, Vicente Padilla started for Los Angeles in Pennsylvania and got pounded before the Dodgers tried to rally from a six-run deficit in the seventh inning — and almost made you think they would succeed.

In Philadelphia for Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, the Dodgers were down, 9-3, but scored a run and loaded the bases in the eighth inning with none away before James Loney, Russell Martin and Casey Blake made outs. Today in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles halved their 8-2 deficit and had the tying run on deck in the seventh — and at the plate in the eighth — before faltering and ultimately tumbling, 11-5, in their 2010 season opener.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Wednesday’s second game of the regular season should, if nothing else, break the Paddle Padilla Pattern.

The cup of Dodger offense was more than half-full today, pouring five runs on 14 baserunners but, unfortunately for them, stranding 10. Every Dodger starter reached base except Loney, who had an RBI groundout in the seventh on an 0-for-5 day. Rafael Furcal had a couple poor at-bats with runners on base before recovering with a single and walk late, and in general the Dodgers’ missed some golden opportunities to score more, but it’s not as if you could lay this loss on the hitters. Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez each had a single and a double, Blakes Casey and DeWitt each had two hits, and Martin reached base three times.

Keith Srakocic/AP
Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones homered to right field and left field in his first two at-bats of the season.

But it was Padilla who from the beginning looked very much like the castoff that he had been when the Dodgers signed him, rather than the savior who earned playoff and Opening Day starts. Granted a 2-0 first-inning lead on Matt Kemp’s two-run single, Padilla walked the leadoff batter and then gave up a prodigious Allegheny River-splasher to Garrett Jones that tied the game. (I’ll try not to belabor this point beyond today, but if Chad Billingsley had performed similarly in the first inning with a lead, there would have been calls from the usual suspects to institutionalize him.)

Padilla allowed at least two baserunners in each of the first three innings — escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second with the aid of a 1-2-3 double play, before giving up another homer to Jones in the third. He then settled down, relatively speaking, to get out of the fourth with just a single.

This being early April, you could make an argument to be made that the Dodgers should have cut their losses and gone to the bullpen before the fifth inning rather than extend Padilla farther, given the off days yesterday and tomorrow, but instead Joe Torre went by the book and stuck with Padilla into the fifth. (I’m not saying Torre did anything controversial — just that it wasn’t likely that Padilla was going to do much better this day.)

In fact, Padilla was rousted in the fifth — HBP, walk, double — and with new reliever Ramon Ortiz unable to minimize the damage, the Dodgers fell behind, 8-2.

Carlos Monasterios had a 1-2-3 sixth in his major-league debut and Russ Ortiz struck out former Dodger Delwyn Young to end a Pirate threat in the seventh after the Dodgers scored three, but then after Andre Ethier’s bid to tie the game in the eighth with two on base went awry, George Sherrill came out and gave Dodger fans even more to worry about, allowing a double, walk and then a three-run homer to Ryan Doumit. (Remember, Sherrill only allowed one homer as a Dodger last year, before the playoffs.)

It’s just one game, and Dodger fans can calm themselves with the notion that by getting  Padilla out of the way, they should have matchup advantages on the mound for the rest of this series.  But Opening Day 2010 was certainly a reminder of Closing Day 2009 in all the wrong ways.

* * *

Ronald Belisario is making rapid progress in his efforts to rejoin the active roster, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Belisario is scheduled to throw to hitters for the first time this spring on Tuesday, a significant move in his effort to rejoin the big league club. Belisario arrived five weeks late to spring training because of lingering visa issues in his native Venezuela, but club officials don’t think he will need the full six-week equivalent of spring training in order to be ready. One Dodgers source said Monday that Belisario could be ready in as few as “15 or 20 days.”

Apr 04

NL West race shapes up as Rockies-Dodgers dogfight


US Presswire
Ubaldo Jimenez, 26, is coming off a banner 2009 season for the Rockies, while Jeff Francis is back on the disabled list after a setback in his attempt to return to game action for the first time since September 12, 2008.

First, here are the 25-man Opening Day rosters (along with a few names of players lurking underneath) for the five National League West teams, followed by some thoughts on the division.

Arizona Colorado Los Angeles San Diego San Francisco
SP Dan Haren Ubaldo Jimenez Clayton Kershaw Chris Young Tim Lincecum
SP Edwin Jackson Aaron Cook Chad Billingsley Jon Garland Matt Cain
SP Ian Kennedy Jorge De La Rosa Hiroki Kuroda Kevin Correia Barry Zito
SP Rodrigo Lopez Jason Hammel Vicente Padilla Clayton Richard Jonathan Sanchez
SP/RP Jordan Norberto Greg Smith Charlie Haeger Mat Latos Todd Wellemeyer
RP Chad Qualls Franklin Morales Jonathan Broxton Heath Bell Brian Wilson
RP Juan Gutierrez Rafael Betancourt George Sherrill Mike Adams Jeremy Affeldt
RP Bob Howry Manuel Corpas Ramon Troncoso Luke Gregerson Sergio Romo
RP Aaron Heilman Matt Daley Jeff Weaver Edward Mujica Guillermo Mota
RP Esmerling Vasquez Matt Belisle Carlos Monasterios Tim Stauffer Dan Runzler
RP Leo Rosales Randy Flores Ramon Ortiz Sean Gallagher Brandon Medders
RP Blaine Boyer Esmil Rogers Russ Ortiz Cesar Ramos Waldis Joaquin
Bench Chris Snyder Miguel Olivo Brad Ausmus Yorvit Torrealba Eli Whiteside
Bench Gerardo Parra Melvin Mora Jamey Carroll Jerry Hairston, Jr. Nate Schierholtz
Bench Rusty Ryal Ryan Spilborghs Ronnie Belliard Scott Hairston Andres Torres
Bench Tony Abreu Jason Giambi Garret Anderson Matt Stairs Travis Ishikawa
Bench Augie Ojeda Seth Smith Reed Johnson Oscar Salazar Eugenio Velez
C Miguel Montero Chris Iannetta Russell Martin Nick Hundley Bengie Molina
1B Adam LaRoche Todd Helton James Loney Adrian Gonzalez Aubrey Huff
2B Kelly Johnson Clint Barmes Blake DeWitt David Eckstein Juan Uribe
SS Stephen Drew Troy Tulowitzki Rafael Furcal Everth Cabrera Edgar Renteria
3B Mark Reynolds Ian Stewart Casey Blake Chase Headley Pablo Sandoval
LF Conor Jackson Carlos Gonzalez Manny Ramirez Kyle Blanks Mark DeRosa
CF Chris Young Dexter Fowler Matt Kemp Tony Gwynn, Jr. Aaron Rowand
RF Justin Upton Brad Hawpe Andre Ethier Will Venable John Bowker
DL/Minors Brandon Webb Huston Street Hong-Chih Kuo Joe Thatcher Freddy Sanchez
DL/Minors Clay Zavada Jeff Francis Ronald Belisario* Adam Russell Fred Lewis
DL/Minors Billy Buckner Greg Reynolds James McDonald Chris Stewart Emmanuel Burriss
DL/Minors Ryan Roberts Taylor Buchholz Xavier Paul Wade LeBlanc Madison Bumgarner
DL/Minors Zach Kroenke Eric Young, Jr. Scott Elbert Chris Denorfia Buster Posey

When compelled to do so by ESPN.com, I picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, but not with any conviction. I definitely respect the talent in Colorado – shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, for one, has become an MVP candidate at age 25 – and feel that, at a minimum, the difference between the two teams is small enough at this point that either team makes sense as a favorite.

In my darker moments, I can envision an everything-goes-wrong scenario for the Dodgers that condemns them to a repeat of the 2005 nightmare. (Yes, I can get that dark.) But you could dream up doomsday scenarios for any team.

The return of Colorado pitcher Jeff Francis to the disabled list this weekend was yet another reminder that McCourts or not, just because the Dodgers have problems doesn’t mean other teams won’t have them too. Colorado begins the coming season without its top reliever (Huston Street) and someone who was formerly their top starter. The Rockies obviously aren’t dependent on Francis, whose last good year was 2007 and who sat out in 2009 when Colorado won 92 games. But his absence is another sign that the Rockies won’t be immune to depth issues. Both the Dodgers and Rockies have the talent to win the NL West, but both need things to go right.

By comparison, however, Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco need many more things to go right.

A year ago at this time, it was easy to find predictions that the Giants would finish in last place because of their poor hitting, but I didn’t see such a dire result happening with the strong pitching they had. Now, San Francisco is, for those who don’t believe in Colorado, a trendy pick to win the division. Considering the Giants have hardly improved their offense in the past 12 months, I’m not seeing this happening either. The Giants surely have the ability to stay in almost any game they play – although the strength of a rotation that has the once-great Barry Zito and the inconsistent Jonathan Sanchez has probably been overrated by those who judge entire pitching staffs by their aces – but San Francisco still lacks a lineup that makes me think they can score sufficiently. I might even rather suffer through the indignity of Vicente Padilla as an Opening Day starter than get worked up over the John Bowker vs. Nate Schierholz Spring Training battle to start in right field for San Francisco. You have to love Pablo Sandoval and pay a healthy respect to some of the others (including minor-league catcher Buster Posey), but this still looks like a third-place team on paper.

Ed Andrieski/AP
Edwin Jackson had a 5.45 ERA in the final two months of 2009.

The Diamondbacks are led by the one player who might make Matt Kemp fans jealous – 22-year-old rightfielder Justin Upton – but the state of Arizona’s starting pitching should make Dodger supporters feel more secure about theirs. After Dan Haren, Arizona has Edwin Jackson (a sentimental favorite of mine whose 2009 second-half resembled Chad Billingsley’s), Ian Kennedy (6.03 career ERA in 59 2/3 career innings) and Rodrigo Lopez (5.49 ERA in 298 1/3 innings since 2006) – before they even get to figuring out who will fill out their rotation. A first-rate second-half comeback from Brandon Webb could turbo-boost the Diamondbacks, but it’s hardly anything to feel certain about. Though there are some great players in Arizona, I see a team as likely to return to last place as it is to ascend to first.

San Diego is a fairly universal choice for last place, and though it’s not set in stone, I don’t see enough in the organization right now to be the one to make the case otherwise. I’ll just expect that no matter where they are in the standings, they’ll give the Dodgers problems.

Anything can happen in 2010, but if Fate doesn’t get crazy, there’s a two-team race in the NL West between the Dodgers and Rockies. Neither team should feel insecure or overconfident; both should gear up for a wall-to-wall battle.

Apr 03

Don’t be jonesing for failure

Danny Moloshok/AP
At age 25, Chad Billingsley has a career ERA of 3.55. His adjusted ERA of 119 is fifth in Los Angeles Dodger history among starting pitchers with 500 or more innings.

When the Dodgers gave Juan Pierre millions of dollars over my proverbial dead body, I didn’t actively seek out immediate justification for my ill feelings. You never once caught me using any Pierre at-bat or game or even any month as proof that the signing was a mistake.

Good players have bad games; bad players have good games. Everyone knows this – no matter how often some people ignore it. Using a moment or series of moments as evidence that the Dodgers blew it with Pierre would have been wrong. Pierre’s signing was a mistake because over the life of his contract, he wasn’t going to be worth the cost. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t have hot streaks that made him look like the biggest bargain on earth. But the big picture is what matters.

Without a doubt, there have always been some Dodgers for whom fans seem to lie in wait for them to stumble, just so they can point out how awful they are. Pierre, for some, was certainly one. So was Hee Seop Choi and J.D. Drew. On the current Dodger team, the choice villains are Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton.

The people who have it in for Billingsley and Broxton have an unfailing ability to dismiss all the good they do and make mountains of the bad. Broxton was by many criteria the best closer in the National League last year, but each blown save he had wasn’t merely disappointing, it was unforgivable. No matter how good he was, he was worthless.

Billingsley is an even tougher sell these days because his struggles extended for about three months last year. Never mind that that period still constitutes a sliver of his career, never mind that the previous time Billingsley struggled, in the 2008 National League Championship Series, he came back to become an All-Star pitcher in the first half of 2009, building on the considerably excellent performance he has given since he broke into the big leagues. There are people out there who only see the negative. And there are people out there who, once they form that negative opinion about a player, only want to see the negative – just so they can be proven right.

Case in point: Entering the third inning of today’s game, Billingsley had a 1.84 ERA this exhibition season. It didn’t mean much to me, because no Spring Training stats mean much to me. You can bet that it also didn’t mean much to those who have complained about Billingsley since last fall. But when Billingsley ran into trouble and gave up six runs in the third inning, suddenly across the Internet and Twitter you could find people shouting out about the latest proof of how awful he is.

I’m not happy when Billingsley gives up runs. I was crushed each time in both the 2008 and 2009 NLCS when Broxton gave up the big hits to the Phillies. But perfection is not an achievable standard, and one’s state of mind in the heat of the moment is not a basis for evaluating a player.

If you’re skeptical about Billingsley or Broxton or anyone else, you obviously don’t need me to tell you you’re entitled to your opinion. But don’t get caught up in that game of  “Gotcha!” Don’t take one moment and try to tell me that’s all I need to know about a player – especially if that moment is in the minority of events. Just ask yourself how you’d feel if you were only judged at your extreme worst.

On a similar note, if you want to make an argument that the Dodger starting rotation lacks depth, please, please take a moment to compare the Dodgers’ rotation with other rotations. Don’t point out all the potential problems with the Dodgers while ignoring how threadbare things are in Arizona with Brandon Webb out, or the fact that just because Barry Zito was once an All-Star doesn’t mean he’s still one. The Dodgers might not have the best starting rotation in the NL West, but the distance from No. 1 is slim at best if you actually look at the entire rotations, rather than just making a judgment based on the most famous pitchers from each team.

Guaranteed, there will be some good players who get off to bad starts in 2010. There’s nothing like the beginning of a new season to skew one’s perception. But it’s a loooong season.  Try to keep a cool head.

* * *

Carlos Monatsterios’ place on the 25-man roster was made public today, while all signs pointed to Russ Ortiz getting the final spot on the team, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, who also reported that left-handed hitting second baseman Blake DeWitt would get the Opening Day start Monday at Pittsburgh even with the Pirates starting southpaw Zach Duke.

Also, A.J. Ellis was optioned to Albuquerque, confirming that Russell Martin and Brad Ausmus would be starting the season as the team’s active catchers.

Apr 02

Garret Anderson in left, like he never left


Jeff Chiu/AP
Garret Anderson

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

* * *

  • What other Rule 5 draftees besides Carlos Monasterios look like they’ll stick with their new teams? Matt Eddy of Baseball America has the short list.
  • It’s About the Money, Stupid busts myths about human growth hormone (HGH).  (via Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk).
  • Umpires Ed Montague, Randy Marsh, Rick Reed and Charlie Reliford have retired, David Pinto of Baseball Musings notes.
Apr 01

Blake DeWitt, Charlie Haeger officially win starting jobs


Mark Duncan/AP, Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Blake DeWitt and Charlie Haeger combined to appear in 37 games for the 2009 Dodgers.

The Dodgers just broke bottles of champagne on the broadsides of Blake DeWitt and Charlie Haeger, with Joe Torre officially announcing they have been named the team’s starting second baseman and No. 5 starting pitcher.

“Blake DeWitt is our second baseman,” Torre told reporters before tonight’s exhibition. “Over the long haul, DeWitt needs to play everyday. Belliard and Carroll can play against left-handers … so we have flexibility. If someone gets hot, we’ll find a spot for them.

“We initially pulled the April Fools’ Day prank on Blake. We told him he was going down, but we didn’t keep him there long. He was joyed, relieved. That’s as emotional as I’ve seen him in a long time.

“Haeger will be our fifth starter. He can pitch out of the bullpen before that. His versatility is a plus. We’ll give him a shot.”

The Dodgers sent Josh Towers to Albuquerque, but as of this writing didn’t confirm what the back of the bullpen will look like.

The question is, did Torre and the Dodgers wait until today to give DeWitt the job just so they could do the April Fools’ Day gag? Maybe the Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard signings were done just to beef up the joke!

Mar 31

You thought Jason Repko battled injuries? You have no idea …


Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Jason Repko

One of the highlights of the Maple Street Press 2010 Dodgers Annual was the feature by Albuquerque Isotopes broadcaster Robert Portnoy on cup-of-coffee men Jason Repko and Mitch Jones. In particular, you really come to understand how brutal the injuries were that Repko faced early in his professional career. They sapped his greatest potential away.

Just for starters in 2000: right hamstring blown out, two tendons torn away from the bone in his right leg, stress fracture in his back. As Portnoy writes:

… While the hamstring healed, the back did not. Repko wore a form-fitting brace for eight weeks, immobilizing him from his armpits to his hips. Still considered the number four Dodger prospect entering 2001, Repko played in constant pain and batted just .220 over 88 games at Low A Wilmington.

After the season, doctors told him the fracture remained in the L-5 vertebrae. Then they told him something shocking: Break the same vertebrae on the other side.

“They told me it was putting stress on the other side,” Repko said. “They said, ‘If you can handle playing with it, dive hard and slide hard and see if you can get it on the other side — it’ll be easier to fix.’”

In the Instructional League that fall, Repko did just that, fracturing the other side rounding third base. The options were spinal fusion, which would hurt rotation and flexibility, or a return to the brade, with promise of better results. Opting for the brace, Repko healed well, and he has learned to manage a resulting condition known as spondylothesis.

“The vertebrae will slip forward and the back will go into spasm, because there is more flexibility in there,” Repko said. “I can’t lie on my stomach and I don’t slide head first much anymore, but I’ve only had two or three spasms the last three years.” …

The guy didn’t have what it took to stick in the majors for the Dodgers, but he truly battled. Today, more than 10 years after the Dodgers drafted him, he heads off on waivers.

* * *

  • Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White has certainly opened up in the past couple of weeks. Following the recent two-part series on Baseball Prospectus, White talks at length with Mark Timmons of L.A. Dodger Talk. It’s a great interview, full of insights and really needs to be read by all Dodger fans.
  • The McCourt ownership trial has been set to start August 30, placing it right in the stretch run of the 2010 season. I have to admit, for the time being I’ve had my fill of the innuendo and speculation, and don’t have much to say about it.
  • George Sherrill is taking a week off from game action to try to iron out some mechanical issues, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com — so expectations about him at the start of the regular season should be guarded.
  • Blake DeWitt is the subject of a feature by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Mar 29

Torre: Dodgers likely to start season with 11 pitchers

Joe Torre told reporters today that the Dodgers would probably start the season with 11 pitchers and then go to 12. That would allow the team to keep Blake DeWitt as a starting second baseman and Nick Green as backup shortstop.

“I’ll let you know the fifth starter in L.A.,” Torre said. “It’s not because I’m unsure, but because we’ve got work to do with the other guys. We’re looking at 11 pitchers now to start. I think we’re still determining who the 11 will be. I think 12 will be the number for most of the year. We’re going to need a fifth starter four times in April.”

As I’ve written before, I don’t agree with the need to keep Green but I’m far from surprised by it, because the Dodgers essentially did the same thing last year in saving a spot for Juan Castro almost the entire season.

I also suspect that the decision to go with 11  pitchers is a response to the probability of both Ronald Belsiario and Hong-Chih Kuo missing Opening Day. The competition for the bullpen isn’t quite as tight.

At this point, I would bet heavily on these 10 pitchers being on the Opening Day roster: Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Charlie Haeger, Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz. The remaining competition, I believe, is for the 11th spot.

* * *

  • Hiroki Kuroda had a breezy seven innings in a minor-league game today, allowing one run (a solo homer) on two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 91 pitches. Russell Martin, looking more and more like the Opening Day catcher, caught all seven innings.
  • Josh Lindblom won the 2010 Jim and Dearie Mulvey Award for being the top rookie at Spring Training.
  • It’s a Dodger Divorce day, with Josh Fisher providing numerous updates on today’s spousal support hearing.
  • Mike Petriello has a fun wrap-up of his trip to Camelback Ranch at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Of the 19 pitchers in baseball last year who had RBIs after the seventh inning, according to Stat of the Day, four were Dodgers. Can you name them?
  • If you haven’t already, be sure to make your 2010 Dodgers prediction in the thread below.
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 27

Never fear, Ronald Belisario is here

Tony Jackson chronicles Ronald Belisario finally arriving at Camelback Ranch.

…Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng said Belisario can be kept on the restricted list for up to 30 days after being placed there on Friday, meaning he has to be either activated or waived — he is out of minor league options — by April 25.

Belisario is expected to dress in the major league clubhouse until the team breaks camp on Wednesday, but his activity will take place in minor league camp.

“We have to see what kind of shape he is in,” Ng said. “After determining that, then he will probably be on the other side.”

Other than saying hello to a couple of reporters in the parking lot, Belisario declined to speak with reporters until Sunday morning. …

Colletti was asked minutes before Belisario’s arrival whether the pitcher’s strange behavior might signify a deeper problem.

“It certainly makes you wonder,” he said. “But he is obviously a talent.” …

* * *

  • Following up on the tea leaves, which I posted on the fly from my cellphone and couldn’t comment on: It sure seemed as if Joe Torre was hinting at the possibility that Blake DeWitt would go to the minors for roster reasons. (And no, I wouldn’t agree with any decision that would send DeWitt down to preserve Nick Green.)  I wouldn’t assume DeWitt won’t start at second base, but I wouldn’t quite lock it in, either.
  • And, when Charlie Haeger and Florida (site of the Dodgers’ fifth-starter debut) were mentioned in the same sentence, you got the feeling that Torre was liking the idea of Haeger in the rotation, and today’s 5 1/3 shutout innings probably made him like it just a little more. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness arrived at Camelback this weekend and posted a first-hand account of Haeger today.
  • Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsGuy wrote a worthy piece for True Blue L.A. about the effect of the divorce litigation on the Dodgers.
  • UCLA baseball is now a mesmerizing 20-0.
  • A few months before his 60-homer 1927 season began, Babe Ruth was arrested in Long Beach – and Steve Harvey of the Times tells the story.
Mar 27

Big and low tea leaves

Joe Torre quotes to reporters this morning:

“Blake and Ethier are going to Las Vegas. Ellis and DeWitt will both be there too. We’ll make a statement on second base in a few days. DeWitt couldn’t have done anymore that is within his control, he’s done everything he possibly could have done and come through with high marks.

“Physically guys are ready, mentally it’s tough to remind yourself these games are important. We still have decisions to make not just at second base but the pitching staff as well.

“Haeger could go five or six today, we’re not concerned about building up his endurance. He’s done a good job and handled everything we’ve thrown at him. He can dominate a game when that thing’s working. He talked with Charlie Hough about how to pitch in certain environments. Florida should be fine, he said he enjoys pitching indoors too.

“We’ve got to figure out our starters and figure it out from there. You have Sherrill, Broxton, and Troncoso. Kuo is a question mark, he probably won’t be ready for the season. We’ve got a lot of options.  Sherrill is looking at some video for those who are wondering. They thought he was doing some mechanical stuff that he doesn’t normally do.

“I had a talk with Doug Mientkiewicz yesterday and told him it doesn’t look like he’ll make the team with Anderson around. I told him I’d love to have him around, but he’ll take a day to think about his options. He was understanding of the decision, he likes being here but he wants to be in the big leagues.”

Mar 23

Another day on the Hong-Chih Kuoller coaster

Hong-Chih Kuo hasn’t thrown since Friday and received treatment today, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Hopefully, it’s just precautionary …

Chad Billingsley became more and more pleased with his mechanics in an 84-pitch, six-inning outing in a minor league game. Gurnick and The Associated Press have details. And Gurnick has a vow from James McDonald to come back strong from his demotion to the minors.

Your top story tonight, however, is this feature on Dodger photographer Jon SooHoo by Chris and Alex Volk at DodgerFan.net.

Mar 22

The ever-prodigal Jamie Hoffmann returns to the Dodgers


Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
Jamie Hoffmann was 3 for 23 with three walks for the Yankees this spring.

The Dodgers are like the island on “Lost” for Jamie Hoffmann, who can’t seem to stay away no matter how often he leaves or how far he goes.

Designated for assignment last summer only to return, then taken by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft in the winter, Hoffmann once again is a Dodger, according to multiple news reports, after failing to make the Yankee Opening Day roster and clearing waivers. Hoffmann figures now to start the season in the Dodger minor leagues, competing with Jason Repko for a midseason callup if neither is traded.

In other Dodger news, Russell Martin was hit by a Tim Corcoran pitch at practice this morning. Dodger manager Joe Torre said Martin’s back and wrist were casualties, but there was “no damage.”

Torre continued to show support for Charlie Haeger, among others — to the point where it almost seems a roster spot is being preserved for him.  “I have high regard for him,” Torre said. “We probably wouldn’t pitch him in Colorado, but I don’t think anybody wants to pitch there. Arizona is different since it’s indoors.”

I’m a little surprised by Torre’s affection for Haeger only because of how quickly he was buried last summer after that one bad inning in Cincinnati. Haeger allowed runs in only three of the 20 innings he commenced for the Dodgers last season.

Update: Ken Gurnick of MLB.com clarifies that Martin was hit not by one pitch but by three.  “It got a little too simulated,” Torre said. “There was no damage. He was lucky on the one on the wrist. It was a little too uncomfortable to continue.”

Gurnick also notes that the Dodgers released shortstop Angel Berroa.

Mar 21

Vin, we accept your apology …

“Hi everybody, and a very pleasant Sunday to you, wherever you may be. Hope you don’t mind if I take a moment out: First of all, I am sorry to have caused the accident that caused so much stress. I’m very sorry for that. I’d also like to salute the gentle heroes of 911 in Calabasas, and the doctors and nurses at West Hills Hospital, for taken care of me so very, very well. However, now that I’ve done that, let’s get to the more important thing, and that is the game. The Dodgers and the Indians. Jake Westbrook will be on the mound for Cleveland. Left-hander Eric Stults will be on the mound for the Dodgers. And Lord, I am happy to be here. We’ll be with the ballgame, right after this.”

Yep, Vin Scully is back. Before today’s broadcast, he talked to reporters briefly about his eventful week, and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

“All of a sudden, I felt one of those big, bronchial coughs coming up, and I thought I could get to the bathroom,” Scully said. “So I jumped out of bed — bad idea — I got dizzy, and then, trying to keep the cough in until I got to the bathroom, I did something to myself. I’ll explain: I went from the bedroom toward the bathroom, and there was a marble floor, and all of a sudden, I blacked out.“I woke up sitting in the floor, my wife calling 911 and blood on the floor.”

Scully had hit his head on the floor, as well as bruising his arm and slightly injuring his back. When he arrived at the hospital, he received staples in the back of his head.

“Instead of stitches, they put in five staples with a thing like a staple gun,” he said. “I will never go by that office supply store without thinking of what happened. … I won’t mess around with a marble floor ever again. But I never thought I was in any [life-threatening] trouble at all.”

Scully was in the broadcast booth for Sunday’s Cactus League game with Cleveland, the first game he has called this spring. He said he was under no restrictions following the accident.

“I’m supposed to cut back on dangling participles, and I’m not allowed to split any infinitives for at least another week,” he said.

Talk about your health scares, though: former Dodger player and current minor-league instructor Lenny Harris had emergency quadruple bypass surgery. “Harris was stricken with chest and arm pains Friday, but did not suffer a heart attack as there was no heart damage,” reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “In a Saturday operation, doctors found blockages in four arteries, with one 95 percent blocked.”

* * *

  • Ronald Belsiario’s visa paperwork is completed, according to an anonymous source of Jackson’s, meaning that the Dodgers could see him as soon as Monday or Tuesday.
  • Though Russell Martin is improving, taking live batting practice Sunday, he is still not expected to be in the lineup Opening Day because of the probable need of a rehab assignment. In contrast, Brad Ausmus had a flareup of chronic back pain, but is expected to be on the Opening Day roster.  No. 4 catcher Lucas May was optioned to Albuquerque, at least for the time being.