Carlos Monasterios takes the hill tonight, a reminder of how much people lamented the Dodgers’ lack of a reliable No. 5 starter earlier this year.
This came up in the Dodger Thoughts comments on Thursday, and I think it’s worth pointing out that while the Dodgers had mixed success finishing off their starting rotation from inside the organization, it wasn’t as if the strategy itself was a failure. It worked quite well down south for the National League West-leading San Diego Padres.
In fact, the Padres’ rotation was even more of a longshot. Back in March, Mat Latos was a guy with 10 career starts and a 4.62 ERA, Wade LeBlanc had 13 career games with 5.05 ERA and Clayton Richard 51 games with 4.80 ERA. Yet all three of these guys came through huge, joining Kevin Correia and free agent signee Jon Garland in making 118 of the Padres’ 120 starts so far this season.
Some will argue that the Dodgers should have done things differently, or that the Padres had more reason to believe that their guys would do better than Monasterios, John Ely, James McDonald, Scott Elbert and ex-Padre Charlie Haeger. But the fact remains that very few teams enter a season with five established starting pitchers. By necessity, the Padres cobbled together a rotation largely from within, with a mixed bag of resumes, and it paid off handsomely.
Basically, things have just gone very right for San Diego this year.
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Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has this update on the man in the crosshairs, Matt Kemp:
Slumping center fielder Matt Kemp took about a half-hour of early batting practice on the field just before the rest of the team came out for pregame stretching. The only coach on hand to watch Kemp was the one who was pitching to him, hitting coach Don Mattingly, who offered occasional batting tips between pitches.
“For the most part, we were just working to get his posture back,” Mattingly said. “His butt was jutting out, so he was reaching for a lot of balls. I was trying to get him to keep his butt underneath him, in layman’s terms, to give him more of a direct path to the ball.”
And, in theory, prevent him from chasing so many low, outside breaking balls, a habit that had contributed greatly to Kemp’s recent struggles. He entered the day hitting .218 for August, with 16 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances, and he had struck out 128 times in 510 plate appearances (once every four trips to the plate) for the season.
After his one-on-one session with Mattingly, Kemp went 0-for-4 in the game. But that wasn’t as important as the fact that he didn’t strike out, and two of his three outs (he reached on an error in the eighth) came on balls that were squared up.
“He was a lot better,” Mattingly said. “I was really happy with him tonight. Hopefully, he felt better. He didn’t get any results, and that [stinks], but his swing was much better.”
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- From the Dodger press notes: Los Angeles has won 12 straight home games against Cincinnati since losing July 28, 2005.
- Albuquerque has eight players with at least 10 home runs this year, according to the team press notes: John Lindsey (21), Jay Gibbons (19), Russ Mitchell (19), Xavier Paul (12), Lucas May (11), Prentice Redman (10), Michael Restovich (10), and Justin Sellers (10).
- Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine still can’t quite believe that the McCourts aren’t settling.
- The possibilities and hurdles of trading Manny Ramirez are broken down (from the perspective of whether the Texas Rangers might get him) by Jamey Newberg of MLB.com. Ignore the part about the Dodgers offering Ramirez arbitration — that won’t happen.
- These Bat Slicers remind me of the round All-Star Baseball cards I played with in the 1970s.
Chris Carlson/APThe Manny Ramirez of Dodger deadline-day pitching acquisitions
I’m trying to think of the last time someone made me look as bad as Ted Lilly and his 1.29 ERA as a Dodger have. Not sure anyone has done it quite like this since I’ve been doing Dodger Thoughts. Maybe someone during my woebegone dating adventures of the 20th century? Or maybe I have to go all the way back to the time in grade school I challenged Brad Saunders to a tennis match and he waxed me, 6-0, 6-1 (and that 1 might have been charity).
Anyway, it wasn’t like I thought Lilly would be bad, but I certainly never dreamed he would be this good. I tip my embarrassed hat to him.
Reed Johnson’s two-run homer, his first of the season, gave Lilly the chance at the win.
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAfter allowing eight earned runs in eight starts from June 25-August 4, Vicente Padilla allowed 12 in his past two outings.
Perhaps the next time Vicente Padilla slumps, we should just assume he’s hurt.
Padilla got off to a poor start this season, and it turned out he needed to go on the disabled list.
Then he came back, and got red-hot for a while.
Then he slumped, and it turns out he needed to go on the disabled list — with a bulging disc in his neck, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports …
Both (Joe) Torre and Dodgers director of medical services Stan Conte said the injury is nothing they didn’t know about, but that Padilla wanted to try to pitch through it. Torre admitted that the injury was a major factor in Padilla’s ineffectiveness in those two starts, when he gave up 12 runs on 14 hits over 9 1/3 innings.
Carlos Monasterios, who pitched 5 1/3 innings this month, most recently facing eight batters Sunday, is now a potential starter in Padilla’s place Friday, and Travis Schlichting is coming back from Albuquerque.
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- If the Dodgers had released this draft-day video two months ago showing how badly Logan White wanted Zach Lee, no one would have thought for a moment that they had punted the pick. (Link via Blue Heaven.)
- Vin Scully learned (kinda) what a mullet is, and Wezen-ball has the amusing transcript.
- Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce looks at today’s McCourt news.
- Pedro Feliz and his .555 OPS with Houston got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals today for Single-A pitcher David Carpenter, who has good stats but is already 25. In case you want to compare trade value, Casey Blake, who turns 37 on Monday, has better numbers (.722 OPS) than the 35-year-old Feliz but is owed a bunch more money. Not that Blake appears to be going anywhere …
- Lou Gehrig finished a triple short of the cycle 42 times, writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
- Hey, Manny Mota’s under there! (Another one from Blue Heaven.)
Morning drive-time news …
- Larry Bowa: Taking responsibility, sorta, kinda, not really. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
“They made two good plays,” Bowa said. “If he makes it, it’s a good play. If he doesn’t, it’s a bad play. I take the blame for it. I don’t think you guys [the media] have talked to me [about getting a runner thrown out] in three years, so I must be doing all right.”
This was hardly the first time that Bowa sent a runner to his doom in brutal fashion, but whatever …
- Features on Zach Lee’s arrival from Jackson, Kevin Baxter of the Times, Evan Dreilich of MLB.com and Al Balderas of the Daily News.
- Some detailed Jonathan Broxton pitch stats and analysis comes from Think Blue Crew (via True Blue L.A.)
- Some good news: Former Dodger Dave Roberts expects a full recovery from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Times.
- It’s been 20 years since it was 20 years, Candy. You were so fine. (No, I wasn’t talking about you.)
Chris Carlson/APLogan White introduces Zach Lee to Dodger fans before tonight’s game.
In the three games that Jonathan Broxton has pitched in since he lost his status as the Dodgers’ top reliever, he has twice been used in situations that, if I were manager, I would probably use the team’s top reliever.
Friday at Atlanta, he was the first reliever used with the Dodgers down by a run in the eighth inning. Tonight against Colorado, he was the first reliever used with the Dodgers tied in the eighth inning.
Those, for some reason, are considered lower-pressure situations, even though they are situations when it’s almost imperative you don’t give up a run. Certainly, they are tougher assignments than when you enter a game needing three outs with a three-run lead, as was the case Thursday in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, in the last two games he has pitched in since he was promoted to co-closer status, Octavio Dotel has flailed, giving up a walk and a game-winning single Monday, and then tonight’s crazy appearance in the 10th, walking three and throwing three wild pitches to bring about the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Rockies.
Not trying to make too much of this, just that it’s kind of goofy. But then, such is the baseball scene in Los Angeles. Broxton certainly knows how ridiculous it can get.
Once again, Hiroki Kuroda pitched well: seven innings, seven baserunners, seven strikeouts. Once again, the Dodger offense struggled, compounded by a missed suicide squeeze attempt by A.J. Ellis. And once again, the Dodgers lost more of what little ground they have left in the playoff race.
The game’s final play had its own brand of poetry. With Reed Johnson on first base and two out, Scott Podsednik hit a blooper to center. Dexter Fowler dove but couldn’t glove the ball. Johnson, racing around the bases, tried to score, but was nailed at the plate in “from you to me” fashion by Troy Tulowitzki’s relay. Even Steve Lyons, on the postgame show, questioned why Bowa would send the runner on a longshot attempt against Tulowitzki’s arm.
Anyway … Manny Ramirez walked, singled and struck out as a designated hitter in his rehab game tonight. He had no health issues, according to the Dodgers, and is expected to play the field tomorrow.
Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. sums up how pathetic the Dodger offense has been in the second half of 2010: .301 on-base percentage, .325 slugging percentage. You’ll note that Matt Kemp, sitting so that Jay Gibbons can get some at-bats (according to Joe Torre), is not exactly the only problem. The point again being, if you’re going to start looking for platoon advantages with Kemp, why not look for them with other Dodgers who have left something to be desired lately.
Or, just let your best players develop.
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- Manny Ramirez’s first professional baseball game since July 16 is set for tonight with Single-A Inland Empire, 7:05 p.m.
- A wish may come true for Phil Gurnee of True Blue L.A.
- Bobby Thomson once said that a better hitter would have let the pitch go by for a ball.
- “Drysdale Nearly Maimed, Then Loses”
- John Wooden had a hole-in-one and a double eagle in the same round of golf in 1939, according to a story first reported by Jill Painter of the Daily News.
Ben Platt/Los Angeles DodgersLogan White and Clayton Kershaw, June 2006
Kershaw’s first Dodger mugshot
As mentioned on Dodger Thoughts on Tuesday, first-round draft pick Zach Lee will make his first appearance at Dodger Stadium before tonight’s game. Here are some photos from the day 18-year-old Clayton Kershaw made his Dodger Stadium debut, in June 2006.
Also, here’s a linkto what Dodger Thoughts had to say about Kershaw the day he was drafted.
Logan White has supervised Dodger drafts since 2002.
Pretty nice 28 hours that Logan White just had.
Monday evening, White 2003 draftee Chad Billingsley finished his sixth consecutive quality start, with an ERA of 1.33 in that span.
Tuesday evening, White 2006 draftee Clayton Kershaw threw seven shutout innings in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory over Colorado and moved up to third in the National League in strikeouts.
And in between, White converted his bold first-round selection of Zach Lee into what might be the coup of the 2010 draft.
Lee’s reported $5.25 million deal was more than twice the size of Kershaw’s draft-year signing, in part because of the leverage that college football provided Lee, but it also reflects the belief that Lee could make the kind of remarkable impact for the Dodgers that Kershaw already has.
We might not get to see all three of these pitchers in the same Dodger rotation — Billingsley becomes eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, while it might be a rush to get the teenage Lee to the bigs by then — but there is that tantalizing possibility. And even if it doesn’t happen, you can be pretty sure the past two nights haven’t gone unnoticed inside baseball.
Put another way, even if there comes a weekend series in the September 2012 stretch run with Kershaw, Billingsley and Lee on the mound for the Dodgers, will White be around to see it?
White has long been an attractive candidate for other front offices in baseball, certainly from a scouting viewpoint but also in terms of general manager openings. Getting Lee to the Dodgers — convincing both parties to get on board — when almost no one thought he could, adds a new layer of appeal.
The signing arguably turned around a year in which, aside from Kershaw and Billingsley, things went a little south for White’s other prodigies. There was Blake DeWitt’s and James Loney’s lack of home-run power, Russell Martin’s ongoing fade and Matt Kemp’s backward steps. There was James McDonald once more not seizing the day (though he seems to be thriving in Pittsburgh), and Scott Elbert’s disappearing act. And there was a mixed bag of results on the development front in the low minors — some remarkable advances like that of Jerry Sands, some retreats by others.
But Kershaw, Billingsley and Lee serve as a reminder that betting on White is about as safe a gamble as you can make in — this can’t be over-emphasized — an inherently risky field. I have no idea what specific interest other teams will show in White, but as the Dodgers make their lengthy to-do list for the 2010-11 offseason, one item that needs to be on it is “Keep Logan White happy.” Unless you subscribe to the philosophy of, “If you love someone, set him free.”
Manny Ramirez is alive! He took batting practice at Dodger Stadium tonight and is close to a rehab assignment. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.
Rafael Furcal felt tightness and will be held back from starting a rehab assignment for at least a couple more days.
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Question: Are the Rockies more disappointing than the Dodgers this season, less or the same?
Related: Bob Timmermann explores “The Dodgers in 2010: The Year of Crabbiness” at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
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- Zach Lee is expected to make an appearance at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, the team said.
- Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), reports Alan Schwarz in a fascinating New York Times article.
- Josh Wilker has a fine piece about Mickey Rivers today at Cardboard Gods.
- Remember Brent Mayne, he of the last Dodger catching tandem that couldn’t hit straight before this one? Mayne has a blog and an interesting post about ballplayers as social misfits. (via Hardball Talk).
- If it’s an upset that the Padres are in first place and the Dodgers are in fourth, it’s another upset that the Dodgers had a more satisfying 2010 draft than the Padres did. Paul DePodesta tells the story of what happened to leave San Diego’s front office disappointed at It Might Be Dangerous … You Go First.
- Claudio Vargas has been granted his release by Albuquerque, the Isotopes said.
- Former Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo has had his second setback of 2010 — a shoulder injury, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Sweet-hitting pitcher Micah Owings, whose career ERA and slugging percentage each start with the number five, has been designated for assignment by Cincinnati.
In case you missed it, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has much more from Dodger assistant general manager for amateur scouting Logan White about newly signed draft choice Zach Lee:
White said Lee’s contract won’t allow him to play football on the side.
“He is absolutely 100 percent dedicated to baseball,” White said.
However, in the unlikely event Lee changes his mind down the road and goes back to football, White said there are provisions in the contract that will limit the Dodgers’ financial losses, although he wouldn’t go into detail as to what those provisions are.
As a pitcher, White said Lee is a better all-around athlete than either Kershaw or Chad Billingsley, two recent first-round picks (2006 and 2004, respectively) who are now mainstays in the Dodgers’ starting rotation.
“He has an absolutely picture-perfect delivery and excellent arm action,” White said. “He is as pure as any pitcher I have ever seen. He has power stuff like Kershaw and Billingsley, but when those guys were younger, they would almost fight through a wall sometimes and try to overpower somebody, but they have grown and learned how to pitch more than just throw and be more effective with their pitch counts.
“I think Lee at the same age has a better feel for how to pitch than Chad or Clayton, and I don’t mean that to disparage them at all.”
White said Lee’s fastball touches 95 mph, but that he normally pitches in the 89-90 range, has a good breaking ball and a great changeup. …
First the Dodgers Joc the world, and now they shock the world.
Confounding skeptics from coast to baseball coast, the Dodgers made good on their word and successfully delivered an offer to first-round draft choice Zach Lee reportedly at $5.25 million over five years, luring him from Louisiana State, where he had been about to embark on a quarterbacking career. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.
Back in October, I suggested that the divorce might bring about “a time when you buy the kids a nice pony to take their mind off the ugliness.” It took a while, but Lee is that pony, at least for the hardcore Dodger fan. It’s a remarkable turn of events and expectations.
- Here’s the Dodger Thoughts writeup on Zach Lee from draft day. Dodger fans have something to celebrate.
- Statement from Louisana State.
John Bazemore/APChad Billingsley’s seven innings of one-run ball went for nought.
Brooks Conrad won the first game of the four-game Dodgers-Braves series with his bat. He nearly lost the fourth game with his glove.
But the reorganized Dodger bullpen got in the way of that symmetry.
Los Angeles blew a ninth-inning lead yet again, allowing three runs to Atlanta in its final at-bat, turning a 3-1 victory into a 4-3 defeat.
On a night that saw the Dodger offense pull another disappearing act, Conrad made two errors in the eighth inning of tonight’s game, allowing the Dodgers to score twice to break a 1-1 tie. Update: The official scorer changed Conrad’s error on Reed Johnson’s at-bat to a hit.
Hong-Chih Kuo entered the game and worked a perfect eighth inning on seven pitches, then came out for the ninth and allowed two singles and a wild pitch to put the tying runs in scoring position with none out. Troy Glaus fouled out, but Conrad was walked on four pitches. Octavio Dotel then replaced Kuo.
Dotel walked pinch-hitter David Ross, and the Braves cut the lead to 3-2.
And then Melky Cabrera singled on a 3-2 pitch to drive in the tying and winning runs.
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I know it’s a bit beside the point after what just happened, but I am just wondering …
Chad Billingsley pitched seven innings for the Dodgers and allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Billingsley struck out the side after issuing his only walk of the game in the fifth inning, then gave up a triple and sacrifice fly in the sixth. Otherwise, he was near impeccable. (Coincidentally, James McDonald also pitched seven innings of one-run ball for Pittsburgh tonight.)
I realize some people won’t get back on board the Billingsley bandwagon until he completes a perfect October, but surely he must have won a few converts back this season. He’s challenging hitters, pitching deeper into games, and his ERA in 20 starts since April 25 is 3.23.
Has anyone who de-friended him re-friended him?
Since holding the best record in the National League on June 9 with a 36-24 record, the Dodgers are 24-34 and have lost 11 games in the standings to the Padres (35-23). Losses today and tomorrow would allow the Dodgers to bookend their two 60-game stretches, 36-24 and 24-36.
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- Ricky Romero (not Ricky Roma) just signed a five-year, $30 million deal with Toronto. What does that mean for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers? Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness explores the topic. (Perhaps a propos to this, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com asks another question: Is Tim Lincecum’s slump permanent?)
- Life Magazine has posted some previously unpublished photos of Babe Ruth at his final Yankee Stadium appearance in 1948. (Scroll down for the links to the different images.)
- If you want a preview of the upcoming free-agent market in starting pitchers, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk has it.
- Linda McCoy-Murray and her work on behalf of the Jim Murray Foundation are profiled by Shelley Smith for ESPNLosAngeles.com.