Jul 06

Cultivating a new generation of Dodger fans isn’t easy …

… when the Dodgers lose the last 10 games I have taken my children to. Seven Webkinz games last year, and now three games this year with Monday’s Fireworks Night flail. And that doesn’t count the Freeway Series loss to the Angels.

Anyway, we’re all staying home tonight, so things should be looking up for the home team …

Update: Via Sports by Brooks, “The Greatest American Hero” at Dodger Stadium. And it only gets better …

William Katt: “I’m gonna be on ‘The Mike Douglas Show?'”
Markie Post: “Can you take a bit of advice from a girl who lived in Mandeville Canyon and used to grow organic vegetables?”

Jul 06

Furcal named player of the week … and other notes

Rafael Furcal was named National League Player of the Week. According to the Dodger press notes, Furcal has scored in 11 straight games, tying Davey Lopes (1979) and Shawn Green (2002) for the Los Angeles Dodger record. The franchise record of 12 was set by Gil Hodges in 1953.

* * *

Minor-league news: John Lindsey activated from the disabled list after missing a month of games, James Adkins sent to AA Chattanooga, Timo Perez released.

* * *

James McDonald is pitching now in the first game of a doubleheader for the Isotopes, who play another twin-bill Friday. McDonald started his night with two perfect innings. Three pitchers currently with Albuquerque – Carlos Monasterios (well, technically he’s not on the roster), Ramon Troncoso and McDonald — all might be with the Dodgers inside of a couple of weeks, given the ongoing roster shuffling.

Update: McDonald took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He pitched six innings of two-hit, no-walk shutout ball, striking out five batters in a six-batter stretch at one point, and was two outs away from a shutout in the scheduled seven-inning game before getting charged with four runs in the seventh inning. (Three of those came in when Kiko Calero allowed a two-out, bases-loaded double.) Until that final frame, McDonald was working on a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings.

Jul 06

Dodgers, Ely cede middle ground in 6-5 loss


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesRafael Furcal shows how close John Ely was to a good night Monday.

During one of Stanford’s unexceptional football seasons when I was there, the offense had become so frustratingly predictable that the student section began yelling out “Volpe up the middle” on first and second down before the plays were run. Almost invariably, we were right. Not surprisingly, defenses adjusted quickly. It wasn’t exactly sabotage on our part – we were just trying to encourage change. They told us during freshman orientation to question authority, after all.

Anyway, that all came unpleasantly back to mind Monday at Dodger Stadium, when Florida relentlessly went up the middle on the John Ely, knocking him out in the third inning of a 6-5 victory over the Dodgers. If you look at the game’s hit chart (click on “Field Controls” and then “Away Hits”), you’ll see that eight of the Marlins’ 10 hits went between the 385 and 395 markers, five to straightaway center. A potential inning-ending double-play ball in the first went off Ely himself, leading to the second run of the opening frame. Then in the third inning, the first four Florida batters all singled up the middle, three of them scoring to boost the Marlins’ lead to 6-1. A diving Rafael Furcal stopped one of the balls and almost turned an amazing double play that inning as well, but it was not to be. Ely’s night ended when he allowed a single to opposing pitcher Nate Robertson … to center field.

This is not to completely exonerate Ely for his performance, but I came away feeling the rookie righthander mostly did what he was supposed to do. He threw strikes (25 balls to 18 batters), walked only one and struck out three in his 2 2/3 innings. Clearly, Florida was able to hit the ball hard enough to cause problems, but a small amount of luck would have made a big difference. You’d rather have a pitcher that didn’t need luck to win, but I still feel encouraged that the Dodgers have a guy in Ely who at least will take advantage of it.

“It’s still not going to keep him from pressing,” Dodger manager Joe Torre told Brian Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He’s still young, and it’s still new to him. He may not be able to restore order as quickly as someone who has been down that road a time or two, but that’s how you gain your experience. Trial and error.”

More tangibly, the Dodgers had just enough good performances in this one to turn what might have been a rout into a heartbreaker. Jeff Weaver and Ronald Belisario were fairly remarkable in relief of Ely, combining for 6 1/3 innings of one-hit, one-walk shutout ball (with Weaver stranding two runners inherited from Ely). Weaver threw 50 pitches in his 3 1/3 innings, while Belisario completed his career-high three innings in only 26 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers rallied, scoring a run in the third before the running-out-of-words-to-describe-how-hot-he-is Furcal hit a two-run homer to cut the deficit to 6-4. A double by James Loney to drive in Andre Ethier (2 for 3 with a walk) in the eighth drew the Dodgers within a run. However, the team went down in order in the ninth, with Garret Anderson missing a potential leadoff double as a pinch-hitter because Florida was guarding the lines. You should’ve gone up the middle, Garret – that was the winning strategy Monday.

* * *

Manny Mota was interviewed by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus. Much of it is focused on Mota’s arrival in the States and the beginning of his career.

Jul 05

An intentional post about intentional walks

Twice-former Dodger reliever Guillermo Mota, now with the Giants, walked four batters intentionally Sunday, the most by a pitcher in a game since 1998.

Baseball-Reference.com lists 49 pitchers with at least four IBB in a game, dating back to approximately 1952. Their teams are 3-45-1 in those games.

Another Giant, Mike McCormick, in the year he became the first to win the National League Cy Young Award after Sandy Koufax retired, apparently holds the record for most intentional walks in a game with six. Two came in the first inning, and two came in the 11th.

Don Drysdale, Ron Perranoski and Larry Sherry each walked four batters intentionally in a game for the Dodgers, all in the 1960s, all in losses, all before Walter Alston basically abandoned the intentional walk.

The last Dodger to walk three batters intentionally in a game was Derek Lowe in 2008. They were his only walks of the game, and Lowe didn’t allow any runs. But the Dodgers lost in 11 innings, 1-0.

Jul 04

Hong-Chih Kuo: a heartstopping six strikeouts in Dodger victory


Rick Scuteri/APLeft-handed batters are now 0 for 30 with 16 strikeouts against Hong-Chih Kuo this season.

Hong-Chih Kuo is an equal-opportunity heart-attack giver – to his fans and his opponents.

Joe Torre let Kuo throw two innings today, his most since September 1, 2008, and 32 pitches, his most since July 21 of that year. And as his pitch count rose, I felt a tingling in my left arm as I thought of Kuo’s fragile elbow.

But what an elbow. Kuo struck out six batters in those two innings, making a statement to those who didn’t support him for this year’s All-Star team and serving as the linchpin on the mound for the Dodgers in their 3-1 victory today over Arizona.

Kuo’s mastery was part of a closeout by the Dodger pitchers today, which struck out eight of the final 10 batters they faced.

Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley did what the Dodgers have asked him to do. He threw strikes and toughened up with runners on base. Billingsley allowed one run over six innings, striking out eight, and had only 35 balls called among the 26 batters he faced. His pitch count ran up to 111 in six innings because Arizona did walk twice and rap six hits off him, including a booming RBI triple by Mark Reynolds that gave the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. But Billingsley struck out the next three batters and slammed the door on Arizona thereafter.

That meant the Dodgers were able to tie things up on Rafael Furcal’s double and Andre Ethier’s single in the sixth inning, and then take the lead on Matt Kemp’s two-run homer with Furcal aboard in the eighth. Kemp has an OPS of over 1.000 and four home runs in his past 12 games.

Jonathan Broxton got the Dodgers’ 15th and 16th strikeouts in his perfect ninth inning, his first save opportunity since June 9.

Jul 04

Xavier Paul should stay for remainder of season


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesXavier Paul slides home in the fifth inning Saturday.

This is not a news flash. But when Manny Ramirez returns from the disabled list, the Dodgers should bid farewell to Garret Anderson.

It’s not just that in 133 plate appearances, Anderson has an on-base percentage of .205 and slugging percentage of .291. It’s not just his negative value defensively, on a team that could use defense from its backup outfielder.

It’s that even being optimistic about Anderson, what he’s capable of is not what Xavier Paul is capable of. Or, for that matter, Paul’s recent Albuquerque teammate Jay Gibbons.

Anderson has walked three times all season. Three times. So even if he gets luckier with some balls in play dropping in, there’s little hope for a dramatic rise in his poor OBP. And his slugging percentage has maxed out at about .400 since 2009. That’s not enough value for a guy who can’t field.

No doubt Joe Torre is expecting all this non-production will be worth it when Anderson has a key RBI single in the postseason. The problem with that theory is that 1) Anderson might, in his own small way, keep the Dodgers from reaching the postseason, and 2) it’s a canard that you need a veteran to come through off the bench in the playoffs.

As I pointed out before the season, older is not necessarily better for bench players. By far, the majority of over-35 bench players for the Dodgers have hit poorly. And Anderson has hit worse than almost all of them.

Mark Loretta’s hit in Game 2 of last year’s National League Division Series was memorable, but that didn’t mean Loretta was a good player for the Dodgers to have. If the Dodgers can do better, they should. And Paul is an example of better. Paul already has more walks than Anderson and nearly as many hits and extra-base hits despite playing half the time, plus better speed and defense. And he, unlike Anderson, has real potential to improve.

If it’s leadership you want from Anderson, make him a coach, or make use of the countless other former major-leaguers that are already on staff with the Dodgers.

The common argument against keeping Paul is that, as a potential 2011 starter for the Dodgers, he should be playing regularly this year. But Paul really has spent enough time playing at AAA, racking up more than 800 plate appearances there since 2008 and showing improvement each of the past three seasons. His injuries put up a roadblock last season, but he has recovered impressively. His OPS is over 1.000 with the Isotopes, outstanding even by their standards.

As far as his future development goes, I’m struggling to see how copying Blake DeWitt’s frequent-flyer service between Albuquerque and Los Angeles from last year is a better use of Paul’s time than letting him steadily grow comfortable in a major-league clubhouse, learning about the game’s top pitchers and becoming tested in key situations.

It’s not as if Paul will never play. Given the rest the Dodgers want to give Ramirez even when he’s healthy, Paul could easily amass another 150 plate appearances if he stays with the big club through the end of the season. That would give him more than 400 for the season. That’s plenty for a player who has mastered AAA pitching.

Put it this way: If there’s going to be a Dodger backup outfielder with a .500 OPS, I’d rather it be someone having a learning experience. Better that than the slow, painful fadeout of a once-great player.

* * *

The Dodgers said today that they expect to activate Carlos Monasterios from the disabled list in the middle of this week. Monasterios is done pitching rehab outings for Albuquerque.

The Isotopes released Jesus Colome from their roster, according to the team press notes. The former major-leaguer had a scoreless inning, then gave up five runs to his next six batters.

* * *

For the second time this season, a team has designated Dontrelle Willis for assignment shortly after he got hit hard by the Dodgers. Los Angeles scored seven runs off him in 6 1/3 innings while he pitched for Detroit and Arizona.

* * *

Clayton Kershaw is … ‘Lost’.

Jul 04

Andre Ethier to start for NL All-Stars, Broxton in bullpen


Getty Images/US Presswire Anaheim Time

Andre Ethier was named to the National League All-Star team, announced this morning. Jonathan Broxton was selected for the NL bullpen.

Ethier has been coming on for some time now, but grabbed the nation’s attention with his Triple Crown start to 2010. Interestingly, this announcement comes with Ethier feeling something to prove again, following his post-pinkie injury slump. But he should come around.

Rafael Furcal (.884 OPS, 142 OPS+, 12 steals) is the NL’s most valuable shortstop this season, according to Fangraphs, but his surge unfortunately came too late to make an impact on the fan/player/manager selectors. Jose Reyes (.741 OPS, 100 OPS+, 19 steals) got the call to back up Hanley Ramirez ahead of Furcal.

Moreover, in its desire for versatility the NL found a spot for Atlanta utility player Omar Infante (.721 OPS in 56 games).

Former Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre, an MVP candidate this year for Boston, made his first All-Star game.

Who chose whom? MLB.com has the answer:

NL Player Ballot position players include catcher Brian McCann of the Braves, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, shortstops Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, third baseman Scott Rolen of the Reds, Prado, and outfielders Corey Hart of the Brewers, Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs. Because Tulowitzki is on the DL and unavailable, he is replaced by Reyes, who was the next choice on the Player Ballot behind him.

NL Player Ballot pitchers include starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, Roy Halladay of the Phillies, Josh Johnson of the Marlins, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, along with relievers Matt Capps of the Nationals, Brian Wilson of the Giants and Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers.

From there, Manuel, in conjunction with MLB, filled out his roster with the following: first baseman Ryan Howard of the Phillies, second baseman Brandon Phillips of the Reds (replacing Utley), infielder/outfielder Omar Infante of the Braves, outfielders Michael Bourn of the Astros and Chris Young of the Padres, and pitchers Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals, Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers, Tim Hudson of the Braves, Evan Meek of the Pirates and Arthur Rhodes of the Reds.

Jul 03

Dodgers make Diamondbacks rue the error of their ways, 14-1


Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAfter tonight’s game, Kirk Gibson and Rodrigo Lopez have a story to rival the Andrea Doria survivors.

Clayton Kershaw and Rafael Furcal nearly had a face-to-face collision on the basepaths, and yet that mistake didn’t even register tonight. But six errors by the Diamondbacks did.

Arizona broke its club record for team trauma, making its most errors ever in what would have been the team’s worst shutout loss ever, before scoring a ninth-inning run to settle for a 14-1 defeat.

It would have been the Dodgers’ biggest shutout victory since they won 14-0 on September 24, 1975. Los Angeles’ biggest shutout victory ever was 19-0 over San Diego in 1969.

The Dodgers had a 7-0 lead before scoring their first earned runs, which came on home runs in the fourth inning by the scalding-hot Furcal and then Andre Ethier (both of them 2 for 4). According to True Blue L.A., Casey Blake became the first Los Angeles Dodger to score three runs without a hit or walk.

Furcal is now hitting .338 with a .384 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 226 plate appearances, 22 plate appearance short of what he needs to qualify for the leaderboards. Among those on the team with at least 248 plate appearances, only Ethier has a higher slugging percentage than the 5-foot-8 Dodger shortstop. And Furcal lost a few digits when his 400-foot blast to center field ended up being only a single, because Kershaw (running from first base) thought it was caught and started heading back from second base back to first. Furcal, trying to get Kershaw’s attention, was called out for passing Kershaw on the bases.

James Loney reached base four times, and Matt Kemp added a homer and double. Xavier Paul, in his first game back from Albuquerque, had two singles and a three-ball walk after a moment of home-plate umpire confusion. The game-winning RBI went to Blake DeWitt (2 for 5), who had a bases-loaded single in the second inning.

Arizona made two errors in that inning, then made errors on three consecutive batters in the third. Former Dodger Tony Abreu, playing shortstop tonight, made his third error of the game in the fifth inning.

Clayton Kershaw was effective, if not entirely efficient. He crossed the 100-pitch mark in the sixth inning, and with the 14-run lead, Joe Torre pulled him out. Kershaw allowed only four hits and two walks while striking out eight. By entering with at least three innings remaining, Travis Schlichting had a save opportunity, but was hit for after getting seven outs on 40 pitches. Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t pitched since Sunday’s debacle, was eased back into action. Broxton lost the team shutout by giving up his first homer since August 15 – both the then- and now-homers were hit by Mark Reynolds, but got the next three batters to end the game.

The Dodgers have split the series so far but lead on goal differential, 19-13.

* * *

Carlos Monasterios pitched three shutout innings in tonight’s rehab start with Albuquerque.

Jul 03

Manny Ramirez to DL, Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque

The Dodgers not only placed Manny Ramirez on the disabled list and called up Xavier Paul, they also optioned Ramon Troncoso to Albuquerque and called up Travis Schlichting.

The first move was expected, and the second move isn’t too much of a surprise considering that Troncoso has seemed in need of a breather for a while now. Troncoso pitched two shutout innings Friday (32 pitches) and has not been scored upon in his past three appearances, so his being optioned might have more to do with providing a fresh arm to the bullpen following Hiroki Kuroda’s early exit.

George Sherrill and Justin Miller, who have performed worse, remain on the team for now, because Troncoso has options and they don’t.

* * *

  • Claudio Vargas pitched six shutout innings for Albuquerque against Pacific Coast League South Division leader Oklahoma City on Friday, allowing two baserunners and striking out seven batters in a row at one point.
  • Blake Smith, a 22-year-old right fielder, went 4 for 6 with six RBI and one of the Loons’ four homers in Great Lakes’ 13-3 victory. Smith has an .858 OPS on the season. Catcher J.T. Wise, 24, had four hits and a walk. Josh Wall struck out 10 in seven innings.
  • Minor-league reliever Hyang-Nam Choi, 39, was released from the Albuquerque roster last weekend, according to the Isotope press notes.
  • Pinch-hitter in the making? Josh Lindblom is 6 for 14 at the plate this season for Albuquerque and 10 for 25 over the past two seasons with a walk and five strikeouts.
Jul 02

Wait-and-see game with Ramirez to continue through weekend

Manny Ramirez probably isn’t available as a pinch-hitter during this weekend’s series with Arizona, Joe Torre told reporters today, but the Dodgers continue planning to play a man down rather than commit to placing him on the disabled list. Xavier Paul was set to hit leadoff tonight for Albuquerque.

Scroll down this Baseball America prospect report to see how many Dodger farmhands have been put on the minor-leagues’ seven-day disabled list. I wonder if anyone has ever thought about reducing the minimum stay on the major-league disabled list by a few days, say to 11. That would still be long enough to fulfill its purpose, but give clubs fewer instances of having to carry an injured player.

* * *

  • Earlier this week, AZ Snakepit was trying to determine the Diamondbacks’ Loss of the Year (yes, we know it’s only midseason), and the Dodgers provided two of the seven candidates. The May 31 balk-off finished a close second to a June 28 collapse against the Cardinals.
  • AZ Snakepit also says that Arizona will have played 42 consecutive games against teams with winning records by the end of this weekend’s series.
  • Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has transcripts of this morning’s press conferences from Arizona president/COO Derrick Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick.
  • From the Dodger press notes: “Spanish-language broadcast engineer Mike Noto worked his 2,634th consecutive game on Wednesday and earlier this week surpassed Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak (2,632). Noto is now in his 20th season and has missed just one game during that time, when he worked a Stanley Cup Finals game for the Kings in 1993. However, Noto has a way to go to catch the Hall of Famer in his booth, Jaime Jarrin, who once called close to 4,000 consecutive games spanning 22 seasons.”
  • Also from the press notes: “The Dodgers have signed left-handed pitcher Adam Dedeaux to a minor league contract and he’ll start his career in the Arizona League. Adam is the grandson of former Dodger Rod Dedeaux (1935), who went on to become the winningest coach in college baseball history while at USC.”
Jul 02

Chin-Lung Hu out for at least six weeks after thumb surgery


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireChin-Lung Hu (shown here in 2008) slugged .507 in June.

Chin-Lung Hu is trying a bit too hard to be like Chase Utley.

Hu had surgery on an injured thumb and is expected to be out six to eight weeks, reports Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.

James McDonald would have gone past four innings Thursday, but he was hit on the left knee by a comebacker and was taken out of the game for precautionary reasons.

Cory Wade, outrighted to Albuquerque on Thursday, pitched a scoreless fifth to get the win. Josh Lindblom and Travis Schlichting each allowed runs in their relief outings.

Tim Wallach talked to Jackson about the 53 transactions the Isotopes made in June, believed to be a team record:  “It’s kind of what Triple-A is,” he said. “If we’re not moving guys up then we’re not doing our job, so that’s a good thing. Certainly guys are trying to get to know each other, I’m trying to get to know them, but it’s part of the deal. It’s good experience for not only the players but for us as a staff, too. You’ve got different personalities coming in and out all the time no matter where you’re at. I don’t look at it as tough.”

* * *

Dodger farm teams Chattanooga and Ogden each played 15-inning games Thursday.

The highlight for the Lookouts was Kenley Jansen striking out six batters in two innings. Chattanooga starting pitcher Aaron Miller allowed one run in five innings and had five of the Lookouts’ 17 strikeouts. Chattanooga scored three in the 15th to win, 4-1. Dee Gordon was 0 for 6 with a walk, Jerry Sands was 0 for 6 with three strikeouts and Andrew Lambo was 0 for 7.

Ogden also won, 5-4, on an RBI single by Chris Henderson (3 for 7), driving in Jesse Bosnik (2 for 4 with three walks).

* * *

Great Lakes righty Elisaul Pimentel, who turns 22 a week from Saturday, allowed more earned runs Thursday (five in six innings) than he had in his previous eight starts combined, in which his ERA was 1.00. But the Loons won, 7-6.

Phil Gurnee of True Blue L.A. posted a lengthy interview with Great Lakes beat writer Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News. And don’t miss the latest Dodger prospect rankings from Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone. Chris Withrow remains No. 1, but Jansen and Sands made huge leaps into the top five.

* * *

Dylan Hernandez of the Times has more details on the incident that apparently got Matt Kemp benched: a spat with coach Bob Schaefer. Kemp has reportedly not been backing up second base on basestealer throws by Russell Martin. Hernandez says Kemp has denied having “a confrontation” with the Dodger coaching staff, but I think that must be a semantics issue or just a cover.

Hernandez also today had a very nice feature on Hiroki Kuroda, who seems more haunted when he’s not pitching by the line drive that hit him in the head last year.

* * *

Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro on the Diamondbacks’ new manager: “I’m curious to see how interim manager Kirk Gibson settles into this role. I find the public perception of him to be wildly different from the way he actually is. It seems like everyone expects some kind of drill sergeant to come in and whip everyone into shape, a guy who’ll have smoke shooting from his ears on every bad call. Who knows, maybe that’s what he’ll be like, but that’s not what he’s been like in his time as the bench coach. He’s more of a goofy guy, someone the players monkey around with in the clubhouse, a guy who’s always keeping them loose. Maybe being the guy in charge will bring that drill sergeant out of him. We shall see.”

Jul 01

Who’s got two thumbs, a famous limp around the bases and now manages the Arizona Diamondbacks?


Mike Powell/Getty ImagesThis guy

Friday in Arizona, the Dodgers will meet their (history) maker.

Kirk Gibson has been named interim manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, replacing the man from my alma mater, A.J. Hinch, who lasted only 212 games before getting the axe, the axe, the axe.

The guy who hired Hinch was fired as well. Josh Byrnes was replaced as general manager of Arizona on an interim basis by Jerry Dipoto.

Stories galore inside of the next 24 hours: Ex-Dodger Edwin Jackson goes for his second no-no in a row, ex-Dodger Gibson goes for his first managerial win, and we wonder if Logan White or Kim Ng might become ex-Dodger executives before next season.

Jul 01

James McDonald shines in return

James McDonald pitched four shutout innings for Albuquerque tonight in his first appearance in a month. McDonald allowed two singles, a double and a walk while striking out three, needing only 51 pitches for the four innings.

Xavier Paul was not in the Albuquerque starting lineup tonight, for those trying to read tea leaves about what will happen Friday with Manny Ramirez and the disabled list.