Jun 25

Dodgers might be unprepared for this left turn


Getty Images/AP
When James Loney faces CC Sabathia, you can throw out the records! Right?

In 629 at-bats against lefty starters this year, the Dodgers have a .682 OPS, with 41 doubles but only eight home runs. They also have one stolen base with a lefty starter on the mound.

Not too surprisingly, right-handed hitting Jamey Carroll is getting the start over left-handed hitting Blake DeWitt at second base against left-handed pitcher CC Sabathia. Perhaps surprisingly, this is a mistake by small-sample 2010 standards. DeWitt is OPSing .923 against lefty starters this year, Carroll .499.

For his career, DeWitt has an .809 OPS against lefty pitching and .699 against righties.

* * *

A nice treat: Fernando Valenzuela recalls his underrated complete game victory in the 1981 World Series to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. I had never really heard Valenzuela talk about the game before.

* * *

Here’s a preview from the Yankee perspective from our good friends at Bronx Banter.

Jun 25

Flashback to 2004: ‘Yankees Suck’ is a figure of speech

The last time the Yankees came to Dodger Stadium, six flip-floppin’ years ago, I had one child (with another on the way), a job at LACMA, and under two years of baseball blogging under my belt. I had recently joined up with All-Baseball.com, a precursor of sorts to Baseball Toaster, and we picked the final of the three Dodger-Yankee games to do the Rashomon project, in which a bunch of us covered the game from different angles.

Here’s my piece: “‘Yankees Suck’ is a figure of speech”

Continue reading

Jun 25

Minor leaguer Redman suspended for 50 games

Prentice Redman, a 31-year-old career minor leaguer who has a .401 on-base percentage and .551 slugging percentage for Albuquerque this season, will sit out the next 50 games after testing positive for amphetamine usage.

Redman’s only major-league appearances came in 2003 with the Mets. The Dodgers announced that Matt Kemp will be sent to Albuquerque to replace Redman. Just kidding.

Xavier Paul (.392/.594), Jamie Hoffmann (.358/.441) and Michael Restovich (.367/.556) are the other primary outfielders on the Isotopes, with Timo Perez and Jay Gibbons also seeing time on the grass.

The news of Redman’s suspension comes on the day that Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo returns to the field for AA Chattanooga after serving his own 50-gamer.

Lambo is joined by the recently promoted Jerry Sands and Aaron Miller.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins called up Jason Repko. Repko has a .780 OPS in AAA this season, batting mostly against righties. His numbers are better against righties for a change, but BABIP (batting average on balls in play) explains that.

Jun 25

How Reggie Jackson might have led the Dodgers over the Yankees in the World Series


AP
Reggie Jackson played in five consecutive All-Star Games from 1971-75 and 14 in his career.

In 1973, Reggie Jackson won the American League Most Valuable Player Award. In 1974, he finished fourth in the voting (in a year he had a .391 on-base percentage, .514 slugging percentage and a league high 20 intentional walks and 166 adjusted OPS).

In 1975, two years before he would begin tormenting Los Angeles in consecutive World Series, Reggie Jackson almost became a Dodger.

That’s the tale that comes out of Dayn Perry’s new book, “Reggie Jackson.” In the winter before the ’75 season, the future Yankee by way of Baltimore first tried to engineer a deal to Los Angeles.

… Finley presented Reggie with a contract for 1975 that would pay him precisely what he made in 1974. Reggie told the media that his contract offer was “too depressing” to discuss.

He called Finley and asked to be traded. “If I can sell yhou for two million dollars,” Finley said, “I might not give you some of the money, but I’d at least send you a box of candy.”

Reggie, stunned that Finley might trade him, went to Hawaii to fulfill his duties as host of the “Team Superstars” television show. There he met with Dodgers executive Al Campanis. Reggie told him he could be a Dodger if they met Finley’s asking price of $2 million. Campanis said it was a posssibility. Reggie then phoned Finley and told him the Dodgers were interested. “I can’t play money,” the owner said. “He explained to Reggie that unless he received a king’s ransom in talent, he couldn’t trade his best player and still manage to sell tickets. Parting with one of baseball’s biggest tars in a cash grab simply wouldn’t play with the fans. Reggie knew that, but he also knew what Finley had told him earlier. Reggie called him a liar and hung up. …

Then the story that Reggie had attempted to engineer a trade to the Dodgers made the rounds in the Oakland press. Finley confirmed the rumor and said that he’d been shocked by Reggie’s actions. He didn’t mention that he had given Reggie permission to seek out a deal, and he didn’t mention that he had discussed trading Reggie to the Philllies, Indians, Yankees, and Orioles, among other teams. When Reggie learned of Finley’s lies, he called the Oakland beat writers and told them that Finley was willing to sell him for $2 million. They went back and confronted Finley with Reggie’s version of events. He laughed it off. “The Oakland fans would run me out on a rail,” Finley said.

Shortly thereafter, Finley defeated Reggie in their arbitration hearing in Los Angeles. Reggie had oped to make $200,000 for 1975, but the arbitrator chose Finley’s figure of $140,000. Freshly embittered, Reggie went back to Arizona for Spring Training.

Having not come up with the ability to complete the trade, the Dodgers went with Willie Crawford in right field in 1975, then acquired Reggie Smith in place of Joe Ferguson and others in June 1976.

In 1975, Jackson’s final season with Oakland, he led the league with 36 home runs, in what was otherwise an off year for him. He left as a free agent, while Finley would later run afoul of baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn by trying to sell other star players like Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue.

Two seasons later, Jackson was a Yankee, and you know what happened next. Seven home runs in the 1977-78 World Series, three in one game, along with one stray hip.

But the Dodgers did have that one moment of pure wonderfulness against Jackson. Here’s how I described it in “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die”:

Perhaps even more than the pitch, people remember the reaction: Reggie Jackson detorquing himself from a swing that almost corkscrewed him into the ground, grabbing his bat high on the barrel and violently thundering a furious curse.

David slew Goliath. Jack brought down the Giant. And Bob Welch, all 21 babyfaced years of him, struck out the Bronx Bomber on a 3-2 pitch in the ninth inning to save Game 2 of the 1978 World Series and bring on a deafening roar at Dodger Stadium.

The day the Series opened, rumors were spreading that fireballing Dodger rookie Welch had an arm problem. Nonsense, insisted Tommy Lasorda. “Bob had a soreness in his side, down along his rib cage,” he told Scott Ostler of the Los Angeles Times. “Our trainer said he’s fine.”

AP
Steve Yeager raises his fist after Bob Welch strikes out Reggie Jackson with two runners on base to end Game 2 of the ’78 Series.

Apparently. Clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth, the Dodgers sent out Terry Forster for his third inning of work. Yankee playoff hero Bucky Dent opened the inning with a single to left field and moved to second on a groundout. A walk to Paul Blair put the go-ahead run on base, signaling that Forster had passed his expiration date.

Lasorda’s do-or-die replacement had 24 career appearances, 11 in relief. The two batters he needed to get out, Thurman Munson and Jackson, had 465 career home runs – three of them hit by Jackson in the last game of the previous year’s World Series. Dodger fans at the stadium and across the country waited for the roof to cave in.

Welch fed a strike in against Munson, who hit a sinking drive to right field that Reggie Smith caught at his knees.

It was Jackson time. This wasn’t just any slugger. This was the enemy personified, a man, though well-liked in his later years, considered perhaps the most egotistical, vilifiable ballplayer in the game.

Welch began by inducing Jackson to overswing and miss. With Drysdalesque flair, he then sent in a high, tight fastball that sent Jackson spinning into the dirt.

Jackson later told Earl Gustkey of the Times that he was expecting Welch to mix in some of his good offspeed pitches, but instead came three fastballs, each of which were fouled off. Then there was a waste fastball high and outside to even the count at 2-2.

After another foul ball, another high and outside fastball brought a full count. The runners would be moving. Short of another foul, this would be it.

As everyone inhaled, in came the heat. Amped up, Jackson swung for the fences – not the Dodger Stadium fences, but the fences all the way back in New York.

Only after Jackson missed the ball and nearly wrapped the bat around himself like a golf club, only through Jackson’s rage, could Dodger fans begin to comprehend what happened.

Jackson carried his fury into the dugout and clubhouse with him, pushing first a fan on his way to the dugout and then Yankee manager Bob Lemon once inside.

The only thing that could have made the event better for Dodger fans would have been for them to have had longer to enjoy it. The Dodgers didn’t win the World Series that year; they didn’t win another game. Welch himself was the losing pitcher in Game 4, allowing a two-out, 10th-inning run in his third inning of work, and gave up a homer to Jackson in Game 6. But for a moment, the Dodgers and their fans enjoyed one of the most triumphant and exhilarating victories over the Yankees ever imaginable.

If, after revisiting those World Series memories, the thought of Reggie Jackson as a Dodger is still unimaginable, consider the event that took place hours before the Welch-Jackson strikeout. Here’s an excerpt from my chapter on Jim Gilliam, the longtime Dodger who is the only member of the organization to have his number retired without reaching baseball’s Hall of Fame:

On the afternoon of October 11, with Game 2’s first pitch hours away, baseball paused and gathered at Trinity Baptist Church to pay their respects – 2,000 strong – at Gilliam’s funeral. A memorable photo from that day shows Dodger tormentor Reggie Jackson of the Yankees standing solemnly between Lopes and Tommy Lasorda. All three delivered eulogies.

Jun 25

Dodger bullpen status heading into Yankee series

Pitch counts for the Dodger bullpen since the team’s last off day:

Tues. Wed. Thurs.
Ronald Belisario 16    
Ramon Troncoso 12   19
Jonathan Broxton   24 8
Jeff Weaver     17
Hong-Chih Kuo     15
Justin Miller     18
George Sherrill     1

It’s not dire, but the use of the Dodger bullpen Thursday might compel the Dodgers to look for a reinforcement before tonight’s Yankee game. Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton are borderline at best for tonight.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. didn’t like Joe Torre’s use of Broxton with a four-run lead Thursday, and normally I wouldn’t have either, but I defended Torre in the comments:

That stopped being the night for working out struggles after Sherrill gave up the hit. It was worthwhile for the Dodgers just to put that game away rather than hang on. The only other option after Sherrill was Belisario. If he gives up one hit, it’s 10-7, the tying run is on deck and the whole world is asking for Broxton.

If Broxton can’t pitch three games in a row, then he has to miss one Yankee game no matter what. Why not the Padilla game?

I don’t think Sherrill could be trusted (on this night) to get three outs with a four-run lead and one guy on base. He’s on the team because the Dodgers aren’t ready to cut bait on him yet.

They could have brought in Belisario, though I’d say he lowers your 95.1% win expectancy too. And if Belisario gives up but two baserunners – and that’s with Hunter, Matsui and Napoli due up – your tying run is at the plate and you’ve burned both pitchers.

If you think Belisario can do a good job, then let him do that job for two innings Friday. Thursday’s game, if only for subjective reasons, was a special case.

Anyway, whether Stephen’s right or I’m right, we look ahead.

Though I’m ready to designate Charlie Haeger for assignment, sending him back to Albuquerque if he clears waivers or wishing him well if he doesn’t, the Dodgers might hold onto him at least until Chad Billingsley is activated Monday. If that’s the case, another option is to put the shaky Ramon Troncoso on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. This is purely a hunch, but it really seems like he could use the break. That would also allow the premature recall of Travis Schlichting inside the 10-day waiting period.

I thought Jon Link might be called up today, but he pitched 1 1/3 innings Thursday for the Isotopes. A bold move would be to take a look at Kenley Jansen, who in 17 1/3 AA innings has allowed nine hits and 12 walks while striking out 28.

Keep in mind that the Dodgers’ main use for a pitcher tonight is for long relief in case Vicente Padilla’s outing is short. That’s why a Troncoso-for-Schlichting exchange might be the best at this point. I think Schlichting could do Troncoso’s job for a couple weeks.

Jun 24

If you have a Dodger voodoo doll, throw it to the sky: 10-6


Gus Ruelas/AP
Charlie Haeger let the ball leave his hand 102 times Thursday, allowing five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. And his team won.

By itself, the first inning of the Los Angeles-Los Angeles game tonight was enough to mock Dodger fan attempts at sanity. And there was more where that came from.

In that first inning:

  • The Angels’ first batter, Howie Kendrick, hit a soft chopper that lofted over skepticism-inducing starter Charlie Haeger’s head and then died before Rafael Furcal could reach it and throw Kendrick out.
  • A pitch that crossed up Russell Martin moved the fortunate Kendrick to second base, preventing him from being erased on a potential forceout or double play when No. 2 hitter Kevin Frandsen grounded to second base. Instead, Kendrick went to third base.
  • In a game that the Dodgers could have bet the farm they’d need a lot of runs to win, Joe Torre inexplicably decided to play the infield in with one out in the first and Bobby Abreu up. Abreu hit a grounder just past the drawn-in Furcal that went for an RBI single. Haeger, who could have had a 1-2-3 inning, was down 1-0.
  • Trying to steal on the knuckleballer, Abreu was thrown out by a Martin laser.
  • Torri Hunter hit a fly ball to the gap that the doghoused Matt Kemp reached but couldn’t corral. Hunter got a double.
  • Trying to steal on the knuckleballer, Hunter was thrown out by a Martin laser.

Three baserunners, one hard-hit ball, one run, thousands of discombobulated fans.

By the time the Dodgers left the bases loaded in the second inning without scoring, after Manny Ramirez only made it from first to third base for the second night in a row on a two-out double, most everyone were presumably back to assuming the worst.

Instead, more confounding ensued.

The Dodgers scored five runs in the top of the fourth and another run in the top of the fifth to take a 6-1 lead. And while that was happening, Haeger pitched … not horribly. Over his next three innings, he allowed three walks (none scoring) and a solo home run that made the score 6-2.

None of these things was supposed to happen to the team that couldn’t possibly win this game, the team that had came to the ballpark tonight with the odds so stacked against them that the only thing missing was Tommy Lasorda calling out Bob Costas.

Even the Dodgers’ latest blunder was miscast if you read the script. In the fourth inning, Jamey Carroll was safe at second on a grounder by Andre Ethier. But the usually cagey veteran, never accused of any baseball malfeasance, either failed to call time out or thought he had been called out, and simply walked off the base, allowing Brandon Wood to tag him out. An inning later, the Dodgers caught stealing of the night went to Casey Blake. (Carroll and Blake each had a three-hit night as consolation).

So much that was unexpected was happening that it got to the point where Haeger actually seemed to find a rhythm, actually seemed like he might have turned things around, when he struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the fifth.

But then someone gave the snowglobe another shake.

Haeger allowed a walk and single, and was pulled from the game. Ramon Troncoso, continuing recent disturbing relief trends, allowed both inherited runners to score on hits to cut the Dodger lead to 6-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, Jeff Weaver replaced Troncoso after a one-out walk to Reggie Willits and allowed the tying run to reach base on a single. How’d the Dodgers escape? After Kendrick flied to shallow center, with Hong-Chih Kuo warming up in the bullpen for a potential showdown with Abreu, Willits went down on a  slightly nervewracking 1-4-3-5-2-5 pickoff. The Angel team reportedly coached to perfection by Mike Scioscia and his ex-Dodger staff had a key runner on third base picked off for the second time in three nights.

Another shake. The Dodgers score two runs in the bottom of the seventh. And then a bank of lights go out, suspending play for 18 minutes. But instead of descending into the heart of darkness, the Dodgers came back after the delay to score another two runs in the eighth. They end up with 20 baserunners in all.

And then …

Justin Miller and George Sherrill, trying to protect what had become a blowout 10-4 ninth-inning lead, can’t. Three hits and two runs to lead off the bottom of the ninth require Jonathan Broxton, the team’s seventh reliever, to try to keep the team from falling yet another circle deeper into hell.

Broxton gets a strikeout – and then of all things, Abreu is thrown out trying to advance to third base on a potential wild pitch, with his team down by four runs. I mean, that says it all about trying to say it all, doesn’t it?

Finally, more than four hours after the first pitch, a final Broxton strikeout, and the Dodgers had a 10-6 victory that ended their six-game losing streak. With the Padres, Giants and Rockies (13-11 in 10 innings) losing, the Dodgers reversed field on all their National League West rivals.

And they also showed that judging players or a team at their worst isn’t the best way to judge them. No one’s going to take tonight’s game and suggest the Dodgers are unbeatable. But that’s why Wednesday’s game shouldn’t have been allowed to suggest such hopelessness.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it on the way to facing the mighty Yankees. Vicente Padilla against CC Sabathia? Ha ha – laugh at the danger.

Jun 24

Vin Scully and the throne

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times’ Bats blog has a 1,700-word interview with Vin Scully that’s actually a prelude to a more formal Scully column running Friday. It’s a fun read, with some stories you’ve probably heard before and others, maybe not. Here’s the penultimate paragraph:

… I’ve been thinking recently, the Prince of Wales gave up the British throne to marry an American woman, which immediately disqualified him, and I thought, My God, if he can give up the British throne for his wife, maybe I can give up baseball. It’ll be hard. When I’m going to do it completely, I don’t know. If I had my way, I might be able to dabble and do home games, and maybe come down here. I don’t know, and I don’t know what the boss is going to say. He might say, ‘Well, you know, we really need a guy full time,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, then, you’ve made my settlement a lot easier.’ So we’ll just have to see. I really don’t know.” …

* * *

Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News went to Cooperstown and has a blog post highlighting a bunch of Dodger memorabilia at the Hall of Fame.

Jun 23

2-1: The mourning after


Lori Shepler/AP
Joe Torre argues with second-base umpire Jim Reynolds as the Angels celebrate their win.

It was hard to watch the Dodgers tonight, hard to watch Matt Kemp hit into hard luck (even with an RBI double), hard to watch the return of John Ely (seven innings, one earned run) get wasted, and hardest of all watch Rafael Furcal make two critical errors in his first game back from burying his father.

And then …

With runners on first and second and none out in the ninth inning, Dodgers down by a run, Casey Blake, who sacrificed with runners on first and second and none out in this one-run victory over St. Louis on June 9, struck out.

And then …

With the count 3-1 to Russell Martin (after a questionable 3-0 strike call), Kemp is picked off second base.

And then, and then, and then ….

After Martin walks to keep things alive, pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll bloops a single to left field. And with pinch-runner Reed Johnson coming home to score the tying run unchallenged, Martin rounds second base too far and is tagged out before Johnson crosses the plate.

Game over.

“I thought we gave it away,” Joe Torre told Prime Ticket after the game. “I thought Russell was safe getting back to second, but he can’t put himself in peril like that. … It was stated (to the team before the game) that Fuentes has a move, just be careful of his spin-around move, and we got caught. We need more than ability to play this game.”

I want my thoughts to be with Furcal, and the worst part of the way the ninth inning went down is that it makes it hard.

It’s not for me to say what was going on in Furcal’s head, it’s not for me to say whether the errors were coincidence or whether he came back too soon, it’s only for me to say that I feel for him. Tonight’s loss will pass within a day or days, but Furcal will carrying his burden, I can imagine, the rest of his life.

The wolves will be out for the Dodgers, fierce. I want my thoughts to be with Furcal.

Jun 23

Rafael Furcal returns to lineup

As the Dodgers welcome back Rafael Furcal and return Chin-Lung Hu to Albuquerque, Joe Torre indicated to reporters that Thursday’s start for Charlie Haeger will be his last chance to show the team something.

“Now that he’s healthy, it’s the best time to make a decision on him,” Torre said, according to the Dodgers PR department. “He had a good outing last time and threw the knuckleball for strikes. He’s going to have to show us something; tomorrow is his shot. We’ll make room for him tomorrow.”

Travis Schlichting is the most likely player to go to Albuquerque to make room for Haeger. Then, if Haeger bombs out, I think then you might see Haeger designated for assignment and another reliever like Jon Link recalled Friday.

Furcal talked to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com about the final days before his father’s tragic passing.

… “My mother and brother didn’t tell me how bad it was, they didn’t want to tell me while I was playing,” said Furcal. “But the doctors explained to my wife that if I wanted to see him alive, I had to get there. Thank God to the Dodgers for letting me go for the last three days of his life.

“When I got there, he looked so bad. But he saw me and was so happy, he tried to get up, but couldn’t because of the surgery. He was waiting for me, I think.”

Jun 23

Can you stop this, Johnny? Can you top this, Johnny?

John Ely was the surprise stopper at one of the Dodgers’ darkest hours this season, when they were 11-16 and about to be swept at home by Milwaukee. And now, with the Dodger chips down again, Ely has the chance to snap out of his own slump and surprise and delight again.

For Dodger fans, it would be the perfect end to a crazy day that began with breakfast-hour soccer dramatics from South Africa, redoubled with lunchtime Wimbledon wonders from the U.K. and now takes its chances on the latest Stephen Strasburg outing.

* * *

Halos Heaven has a link to a radio interview with Vin Scully.

Jun 23

In honor of today’s tennis marathon

Roughly an hour ago, the fifth set in the Wimbledon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut went past the 50-50 mark in games. In their honor, I present this excerpt from W.P. Kinsella’s “The Iowa Baseball Confederacy.”

“The game shall continue until it is resolved,” says Klem.

“But why,” asks the reporter.

“Sir,” says Klem, drawing himself up until he is as tall as the reporter, who is not very tall. “I need not justify my decisions, any more than I need justify a call of ball or strike, safe or out. The game will continue because I believe that it should.

It always seems to take about two hours to play nine innings. Twenty-seven innings by noon. An hour break for lunch. Twenty-seven more innings by seven P.M., plus whatever can be squeezed in before darkness.

The rain does not seem either to speed up or to slow down the game. The ball is deader than usual. The infielders play in close, as if they were playing softball. The outfielders are barely recognizable as such. They play so shallow they could be mistaken for roving shortstops in the present-day major leagues.

There is no urgency to the game. Even in the pouring rain, there is the same easy lethargy of a sunstruck afternoon where bodies are bathed in sweat rather than rainwater.

“There is more than a contest of wills going on,” I say to Stan as the Confederacy bats in the ninetieth inning. “No one can pitch for ninety innings, three consecutive days – there’s something terribly wrong here. They’re both pitching like it’s the third inning; O’Reilly’s curve is a joy, Brown’s fast ball still rocks his catcher back on his heels.”

All I know is, it’s great baseball,” says Stan, shaking water off like a dog. “I’ve never played in this kind of competition. And I can keep up. I’m still hitting over .300. Lots of the Cubs aren’t doing that.”

Baseball is the only thing on the minds of these men. Those who marched to the Crusades had less dedication. But I seem to be the only one interested in what is really going on here. What, I wonder, are the real stakes of the game?

Jun 23

Ten questions with Albuquerque play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy


Richard Drew/AP
Tim Wallach, shown here as a Dodger coach, has handled all kinds of challenges as Albuquerque’s manager.

With the Albuquerque-Los Angeles shuttle in overdrive, I thought this might be a good time to check in with Robert Portnoy, friend of Dodger Thoughts and the play-by-play broadcaster for the Isotopes. And with that largely ado-free introduction, here’s the interview:

1) First, can you update us on when we might see James McDonald and Scott Elbert back in action? What can you tell us about Elbert’s situation?
I don’t have anything to tell about Elbert’s situation. He is not with the team and we haven’t received word when he might return. McDonald’s recovery from his hamstring strain is coming along well in Arizona. He has thrown a simulated game and is scheduled to make his first start in an Arizona League game. [Note: McDonald pitched two hitless innings Tuesday, after this interview was completed.] His return date is not set, but it’s not too far off.

2) How is McDonald handling things in a year he probably thought he’d be in the majors? Especially when things just seemed to be coming together for him before he got hurt.
He was very disappointed when the injury occurred, that was evident. There’s no doubt he was pitching better than he had all season at the time he went down. He was handling being in Triple-A quite well. He realized he had things to work on, and he made great strides. At the start of the year, A.J. Ellis told me J-Mac’s changeup has always been his best secondary pitch, the one that’s always there for him, his most reliable. J-Mac said his changeup was terrible at the start of the year. He was throwing it much better before the injury. His rehab has been exclusively in Arizona, so I can’t comment on how he’s handled that process.

3) The roster comings and goings have been endless. How crazy has it been, particularly in the Isotopes starting rotation? How does Tim Wallach handle it?
Wallach is as even-tempered as they come, unflappable. The kind of manager who watches a terrible base running mistake, pulls the player aside for a brief moment, asks if that player’s aware what he should have done, then tells him to put it behind him so he can help win a ballgame. He realizes that the primary goal is get players ready to help the Dodgers, and if that leaves his rotation depleted, he’ll adjust. The injuries to key guys don’t help, obviously. Yesterday, big league veteran Tim Corcoran, a reliable starter since joining the rotation, had to leave his start early. We hope he won’t miss a turn.

4) What do you think of Wallach as a managerial prospect?
Fantastic. He’s a players manager who keeps proper distance and maintains full authority. One step ahead, it seems, all the time. When he pitches out, they’re running. His instincts are great. Always gets the matchups he wants. One game I distinctly recall talking about multiple scenarios on the air, then asking him about them after the game. He discussed those and gave three or four others he had considered. He can play the chess game with the best of them.

5) Is it a relief to see Josh Lindblom moved to relief?
Josh has a tremendous head on his shoulders, and he’s a real student of the game. Talks about Clemens, Halladay, Carpenter as starters he tries to emulate, even gave me a Goose Gossage reference when talking about his favorite closers (mentioned Goose getting six outs or more for many of his saves). I had a great conversation with him on our recent road trip in Iowa. Here’s the thinking: He has been a reliever, has never even thrown 100 innings in a season. His arm isn’t accustomed to logging that much work yet. So, the past two seasons he’s gotten run down, lost his arm strength. I think he has the stuff, the fastball command, and the makeup to be a big league starter, a real innings-eater, IF his body can adapt. If not, he’ll make an above-average middle innings or setup guy who can get you up to three innings because he has four quality pitches. He’s a big leaguer for sure.

6) Are you able to see what weaknesses John Lindsey has to keep him from the majors? (And when will he return to the field?)
John might rejoin the team when we get back to Albuquerque this weekend, but he could still have a bit more rehab to do before getting back on the field. He has been recovering from his calf strain in Arizona. John’s a professional hitter, he could help the Dodgers with his bat right now. He’s not James Loney at first base, but he can hold his own. Defense might be the only thing that’s holding him back.

7) Jay Gibbons is a potential lefty bat off the Dodger bench with major-league experience. What do you see as his strengths and weaknesses at this point in his career?
Gibbons’ only weakness, if you can call it that, is how hard he plays. At 33, he still leaves it all out there every day. But as a lefty bat off the bench, there’s no wear and tear. He would be ideal, because he could stay in the game and play either corner OF position or 1B adequately, and he’d be great for multiple ABs because he’s actually BETTER against lefties than righties, the numbers don’t lie. His bat is level through the hitting zone longer than anybody I’ve ever seen, period. And he threw two guys out on the bases from RF in one inning in Iowa last weekend.

8) Does Xavier Paul have anything left to prove in the minors? What is he working on?
No. He’s an everyday big leaguer waiting for his chance. He’s working on his defense constantly, looking to continue to improve in that area any way he can. His arm is unquestioned. Just in the last week, naive hitters have tried to stretch singles into doubles when he’s playing left and paid the price twice. Strong and accurate thrower. RF arm in LF when he plays there. When he keeps his focus in the field, he’s an above-average defensive OF. He has shown how he can hit when he’s been with the Dodgers this year. He is tearing up PCL pitching, and now he’s hitting for power, which adds the final piece.

9) How is Ivan DeJesus’ comeback going?
Talked with Ivan in Iowa as well. He’s still working to get strength back in the surgically repaired left leg. It’s a process. He told me that his rehab was rushed a bit last year, when he first tried to run his leg wasn’t ready. They had to shut him down and reset the timetable. He hasn’t had any problems, though. Going very smoothly. He looks great, and his swing is terrific, uses right-center a lot, and can drive the ball that way. Best of all, he’s already had multiple plays this year at home plate, where he’s beaten throws with a variety of slides, and he says he doesn’t think about the collision that caused the injury anymore.

10) Anyone under the radar on the Isotopes roster that you like?
There are several, but if I had to pick one, I’ll go with Russ Mitchell. Has been solid at the plate all year, consistent approach, hits for average and power. Really impressive at 3B, good first step and strong arm, equally good going left, right, and coming in. And he can play 1B and 2B capably as well. He’s even played OF in his career, though we haven’t seen him there yet. But he’s not a utility guy, I like him at 3B every day. He’s the one keeping everybody loose, always talking, laughing. Clearly loves coming to the ballpark, loves what he’s doing.

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  • Claudio Vargas pitched 3 2/3 innings for Albuquerque on Tuesday, allowing two unearned runs on five baserunners with five strikeouts and throwing 77 pitches.
  • A step forward for Brent Leach? Converted into starting, Leach threw five shutout innings for Chattanooga, allowing four baserunners and striking out six.
  • Dodger farmhand Nathan Eovaldi allowed two runs in an inning of relief in the California League’s 15th annual All-Star game against the Carolina League on Tuesday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • Dee Gordon and Pedro Baez will play in Sunday’s Futures minor-league All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium. Baez was given a spot even though he’s been on the disabled list in recent weeks.
  • A film about a Warren Cromartie-managed Japanese team on a 90-game road trip in California’s independent Golden League, “Season of the Samurai,” will premiere on the MLB Network at 4 p.m. Friday, reports Ben Bolch of the Times.
  • Jerry Manuel pulled a Joe Torre/Hiroki Kuroda with Jon Niese on Tuesday, and is getting grief for it.

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For Dodger fans feeling down about the team’s losing streak, this should cheer you up.

Jun 22

Dodgers shot down again, 6-3

The Dodgers dodged a bullet when Russell Martin picked off the go-ahead run at third base with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday.

Then they got hit by a fusillade.

Clayton Kershaw, who had a one-hit shutout for five innings, ended up the losing pitcher as he and Ronald Belisario combined to allow four consecutive two-out hits in that destructive seventh, the Angels completing their comeback from a 3-0 deficit for a 6-3 victory. The Dodgers lost their fifth straight game to fall three games behind San Diego in the National League West and 1 1/2 behind second-place San Francisco.

Andre Ethier and James Loney, who each reached base twice Tuesday, had RBI hits in a two-run third inning, and Matt Kemp homered to right-center in the fourth, to give the Dodgers their lead. But in the bottom of the sixth, Kershaw walked No. 9 hitter Brandon Wood, then surrendered a single to Howie Kendrick and a booming homer by Bobby Abreu to tie the game.

And then after nearly getting out of the next inning thanks to Martin’s laser throw, the Dodgers were buried.

To illustrate how things seem to be going for the Dodgers, Kendrick and Kemp both hit grounders up the middle tonight. Kendrick’s went through for the single that set up Abreu’s home run. Kemp’s, with runners on first and second in the eighth and none out, was smothered on a diving stop by Wood, the Angels’ emergency shortstop, and turned into a double play.

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The Dodgers signed second-round draft pick Ralston Cash with a signing bonus estimated at $464,000. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Jun 22

Once more, with feeling: Haeger gets Thursday start

The Dodgers confirmed this evening that Charlie Haeger would come up from Albuquerque to give it another go for the big club Thursday.

I want you all to say it loud, and say it proud: “He’s due!”

* * *

Dodger manager Joe Torre told reporters that Chad Billingsley had a good bullpen session and is on track to be activated from the disabled list in time to start Monday in San Francisco.

Rafael Furcal flies back to Los Angeles today, but might not play until Wednesday, Torre said.

* * *

Cory Wade pitched the first inning of the Dodgers’ Arizona League game Monday. With one out, he hit a batter and gave up a triple and a single for two runs. He got the next two batters and was done.