Jun 13

Matt Kemp rests

After 62 games, Matt Kemp is rested for the first time in 2010. “I’m giving Matt Kemp a day off, which is something he hasn’t had,” Joe Torre told reporters today. “He’s fighting himself a little bit, and I noticed yesterday that he was just trying to put the ball in play. I wanted to give him a mind day off, it’s not a physical thing.”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the recap of Saturday’s game.

Torre on Vicente Padilla: “We’ll talk Tuesday when we see him in Cincinnati, he’ll throw his bullpen on Wednesday. I need him to be honest, I don’t want him to be almost there, I want him all the way back.”

Steven Strasburg is at it again: eight strikeouts in five innings so far today. Though he has walked three, he has allowed only one hit, a home run.

Jun 11

Dodgers get Munched, 10-1


Solum, Stian Lysberg/AFP/Getty Images

If I were the Dodgers, I would not have planned the bizarre Ozzy Osbourne-led screamfest take place for right before Chad Billingsley was taking the mound at the start of the fifth inning. Why not let the opposing pitcher wait that out?

Anyway, moments after the scream, Joel Pineiro reached base for the second of three times tonight, and eventually scored the second of his three runs when Andre Ethier’s diving attempt to catch Hideki Matsui’s bases-loaded drive in a 1-1 game came up empty. Billingsley walked Pineiro again with two out and the bases loaded in the sixth, launching a four-run sixth inning. (George Sherrill, in his first game back from the disabled list, allowed three inherited runs to score.) It ended up a 10-1 Angels victory.

Pineiro personally outscored the Dodgers while going the distance on a five-hitter. Ken McBride in 1962 is the only other Angel pitcher to score three runs in a game. It was the first time in 25 years that the Dodgers allowed an opposing pitcher to score three runs.

Jun 11

The Angels brought on Chad Billingsley’s demons in 2009

When the Angels last faced Chad Billingsley at Dodger Stadium, on May 24, 2009, they ended Billingsley’s streak of consecutive quality starts at nine, scoring three runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead. When Billingsley faced the Angels again on June 19, at Anaheim, he had a 4-1 lead before giving up three runs in the sixth inning again.

Billingsley gave up three runs in the sixth inning of his next start, against the Chicago White Sox on June 25, and suddenly, a pitcher who was on his way to the All-Star Game began to have a reputation as a pitcher who would melt down in the sixth inning — even though, as you can see from his game log, it was hardly a regular occurrence even in the second half of 2009.

Fortunately, Billingsley has done a lot in 2010 to repair his reputation. The skeptics will no doubt return should Billingsley falter again, even once, but it’s just a reminder to keep the big picture in sight when evaluating a player. Nearly 70 percent of Billingsley’s starts in 2009 were quality starts, yet people wanted to give up on him.

I don’t know if he’ll make it past the sixth inning against the Angels today, but I sure look forward to seeing him try.

* * *

In his afternoon media session, Joe Torre made a comment to reporters about the Dodgers’ recent streak of one-run victories to the effect of “the bulk of those have been at home, where the main ingredient is that you can use your closer in tie games.”

Someone needs to remind Torre that you actually can use your closer in tie games on the road — and that you’re better off doing so than using a lesser pitcher to try to keep you in the game.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for managers to grasp that it’s easier to protect a one-run lead than a zero-run lead, but such is life.

* * *

While comments remain welcome here, of course, you can also join me and ESPNLosAngeles beat writers Tony Jackson (Dodgers) and Mark Saxon (Angels) for a Cover It Live chat during tonight’s game. They’ll be chatting live from Dodger Stadium, I’ll be chatting live while putting the kids to bed.

Editors at ESPNLosAngeles.com also picked their all-Los Angeles-named-baseball-team stars. You can make your own picks here.

Jun 11

Scream saver

ESPN’s Page 2 asked me to write about The Scream, and I said I would, and then it turned out they didn’t want an Edvard Munch piece at all. They wanted this.

Anyway, I didn’t say this in the Page 2 piece, and I realize this is all for a good cause, but tonight’s scream strikes me as just an extraordinarily bad idea. But I guess I’m biased against the idea of people being involuntarily subjected to the loudest scream in history …

* * *

He’s here — or more accurately, he’s there. Cleveland has called up Casey Blake tradee Carlos Santana.

AAA Albuquerque slugger John Lindsey has been placed on the Isotopes’ disabled list with a strained calf, according to the team’s press notes. For the time being, Justin Sellers is taking Lindsey’s roster spot.

There were other Albuquerque roster moves that I mentioned in the Dodger Thoughts comments Thursday – so in case you missed them, here’s the press note version:

“Lefty Brent Leach has been sent to Double-A Chattanooga in the place of starter Alberto Bastardo, who joins the ‘Topes after going 5-3 with a 4.85 ERA in 11 starts for the Lookouts. In the bullpen, Jon Link returns from his latest stint in Los Angeles and Major League veteran Kiko Calero joins the Dodgers organization after signing as a free agent. Calero started the season at Triple-A Buffalo in the Mets organization but was released on May 16 after going 2-0 with a 10.59 ERA (20 ER / 17.0 IP) in 10 games. To make room for Calero and Link, Scott Elbert was placed on the Temporary Inactive List and Eric Thompson was transferred to Ogden’s roster.

Jun 10

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 6


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Clayton Kershaw, whose May 8 excellence marked a turning point in the Dodger season, leads the major leagues in strikeouts per nine innings.

In this edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs, we’re giving it over to the pitchers, who have taken things over. The hitting has remained timely enough, but the pitching has been just shy of dominating – and not just in the recent homestand. In the 30 games since May 8, the day Clayton Kershaw shut out Ubaldo Jimenez and Colorado – we’re talking half the season now – the Dodger team ERA is 2.88.

No Cogs and Dogs on Monday’s off day – that’s too soon. The next C&D will be June 21.

6/10 . 5/24 . 5/13 . 5/3 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 1 1 1 2 11 Andre Ethier Only OPSing .736 since return from DL, but we’ll let him slide.
2 3 5 6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw Out of 13 starts this year, 12 allowing three earned runs or less.
3 2 2 2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Brief decline reversed in a big way Tuesday, lowering ERA to 3.30.
4 11 10 5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton When the ERA goes down to 0.95, you get extra credit.
5 7 8 26 NR NR John Ely If Sunday’s counts as a bad Ely start, I’ll take it.
6 8 11 12 12 10 Chad Billingsley With 230 pitches in past two starts, extra day off might help.
7 18 14 16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios Forget where he came from: He’s fifth on the team in innings and ERA.
8 16 18 NR NR NR Hong-Chih Kuo Lefty batters: 0 for 20 with a walk and a sac fly. Righties only OPSing .520.
9 4 4 3 1 5 Matt Kemp Less spectacular than before but still solid, reaching base in 24 of past 25 games.
10 14 9 7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Looking better almost every day.
11 9 16 11 7 6 Casey Blake Blake was on verge of passing Ramirez in offensive value (let alone defensive) before Wednesday.
12 5 3 4 4 9 Manny Ramirez With days off and DHing, might only play four games in LF through June 24.
13 10 6 8 9 24 James Loney Would just love to see him have one of those red-hot months before September.
14 12 12 15 14 14 Blake DeWitt Hitting and fielding are improving gradually.
15 6 7 10 5 2 Russell Martin I was propping him up for too long. Hang in there, Russell.
16 13 17 18 21 18 Jamey Carroll Best walk rate on the team.
17 25 24 NR NR NR Ronald Belisario Bumped up by popular demand and belief that despite ERA, he has been key.
18 21 22 21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Has faced eight batters in past 11 days.
19 17 15 9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso A phantom DL trip wouldn’t be the worst idea and would be easy to sell.
20 20 20 17 20 8 Reed Johnson .852 OPS vs. lefties, .642 vs. righties. Would help more if reversed.
21 19 13 14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Numbers are holding up, but just doesn’t play a lot.
22 15 19 19 NR NR Xavier Paul Still happy with what he did, but he was ranked too high last time.
23 NR NR NR NR NR Justin Miller Six strikeouts, 1.23 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.
24 NR NR NR NR NR Travis Schlichting Just one game for the Dodgers, but what a game.
25 22 23 20 15 25 Vicente Padilla His return could come at just the right time. But he won’t be as fun as Carlos.
26 23 25 22 19 19 A.J. Ellis He should be able to stay in the majors as backup for some time to come.
27 29 29 28 25 NR Jon Link Reestablished himself as viable emergency reliever with two shutout innings.
28 24 26 24 23 23 Brad Ausmus His .750 OPS is third-highest of his career (minimum four plate appearances).
29 26 21 23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Still sixth on team with 30 innings, 1 2/3 more than Broxton. That gets a “Yikes!”
30 27 27 NR NR NR Nick Green Biggest achievement of ’10: reminding Ned Colletti that some players do clear waivers.
31 28 28 27 26 26 George Sherrill I think he can, I think he can, I think he can …
32 30 30 29 27 22 Russ Ortiz This is it, Russ. Next time, I’m bumping Anderson up for intangibles.
33 32 32 30 22 16 Garret Anderson Two RBI in his past seven games … and his average is still tumbling
34 31 31 25 16 3 Charlie Haeger I think he actually is hurt; I also think he’d clear waivers.
35 NR NR NR NR NR Scott Elbert Don’t call up a struggling pitcher for a game at Colorado, okay?
Jun 09

Close and yes cigar for the Dodgers, 4-3


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Blake DeWitt and Aaron Miles star in Series Metaphor Theater.

‘Twas a fortuitous bounce.

Leading off the top of the ninth against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton for the second night in a row, down by a run for the second night in a row, St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols this time coaxed a 3-2 single after it appeared he had been struck out. Two outs later, he was still at first base when Yadier Molina hit a drive in the right-center gap. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both pursued, but it landed just out of reach on the warning track – and then, as if on classic Cardinal AstroTurf, bounced into the bleachers. Pujols, who would have scored the tying run, was pinged back to third base on the ground-rule double.

Repreived, Broxton induced a slow ground ball from Randy Winn to Casey Blake, who narrowly completed the throw to James Loney for the final out of the Dodgers’ 4-3 victory, the franchise’s first three-game sweep of the Cardinals at home since A.D. 1988. With San Diego rained out, Los Angeles now leads the National League West by one game, and heads into Thursday’s off day having gone 11-5 since their last. Nine of those victories were by one run. In consecutive series against (at-the-time) division leaders, the Dodgers went 5-2.

The Dodgers led this one all the way and at one point seemed to be headed for a surprising, dominating and even history-making romp. Through three innings, the Dodgers cuffed the normally nemesing Adam Wainwright (1.38 ERA in his past five starts vs. Los Angeles, per True Blue L.A.) for four runs on six hits and four walks, two of the runs coming on a Manny Ramirez first-inning homer.

While Wainwright needed 70 pitches to get through those three frames, Clayton Kershaw allowed only a first-inning walk to Pujols while striking out six. But Kershaw faltered briefly but significantly in the fourth inning, surrendering a three-run home run to Ryan Ludwick.

Kershaw only allowed two baserunners thereafter while completing seven innings and striking out a total of 10 (he now has 90 on the season, one behind Wainwright’s MLB-leading 91), but even with a 4-for-4 night from Loney (and thanks in part to his line-drive snag in the eighth), the Dodgers could not press their advantage. And so it came down to the reverb from the Dodger Stadium warning track to keep a spring in the Dodgers’ step.

* * *

This story by Bill Shaikin of the Times is quite something. It’s sure to be overblown, but it doesn’t mean it’s not quite a read. All I’ll say is, it seems now the McCourts heard all our cries to sign Vladimir – they just signed the wrong one.

Of a different sort of interest: Ted Miller of ESPN.com reports (based on an anonymous source) that the Pac-10 is on the verge of becoming the Pac-16. It depends on Nebraska moving to the Big 10. “The new conference would be split into divisions with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado forming an Eastern Division with Arizona and Arizona State opposite the former Pac-8 (USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State) in the Western Division,” Miller writes.

Jun 09

How do you read Dodger Thoughts?

Just curious how you read Dodger Thoughts …

  • Do you go to the DT home page and scroll to make sure you see all new posts?
  • Do you just read the top post?
  • Do you hang in the comments and wait for the “New Post Up Top (NPUT)” alert?
  • Do you read the posts via RSS reader?
  • Do you come via the ESPNLosAngeles.com home page or any other website?
  • Do you check new posts via Twitter?
  • None of the above? Some of the above?

One of my main questions is whether, if there has been more than one post since your last visit to the site, do you see them all?

Jun 09

Cardboard Gods comes to town: Interview with Josh Wilker

Readers of this site will know of my evangelism for Josh Wilker’s website, Cardboard Gods. That appreciation redoubled when I read his book, Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards, which I couldn’t recommend more highly to you all. It is at once entertaining and deeply affecting – kind of magical, really.

Wilker’s book tour reaches Southern California on Thursday with his 7 p.m. appearance at the South Pasadena Library, co-hosted by the Baseball Reliquary. (This takes place in conjunction with the Reliquary’s exhibit, “Son of Cardboard Fetish.”) This seemed like a perfect time to talk with Wilker about a few of the many things that make his writing so compelling:

A big part of Cardboard Gods that migrated from the site to the book is the importance of what you think a player’s pose or expression on the card is telling you. Obviously, these are guesses on your part, but do you think the photos on the cards are nevertheless windows to the gods’ souls – a veritable truth you wouldn’t necessarily get any other way? Or are they more just windows to our own souls?


Lookin’ sharp, Steve

I don’t know if they get me to any truths, but they definitely have always been able to get me to start wondering. The moments captured in my cards from the ’70s would seem to most people to be flat and trivial, the kind of thing that no one, not the player, not the photographer, not the great majority of people who would ever look at the card, could ever care much about. But because I cared about them as a kid, the stiff poses and enigmatic expressions continue to have a hold on me now, especially because many of them seem to include the same element of aimlessness and absurdity that has threaded through my post-childhood years. So they exist in two worlds for me, the adult world and the child world, and so it’s no wonder I’m drawn to them, since I’m an adult who has been kind of perpetually haunted and fascinated by his own childhood.

Aimlessness is an important theme in the book, especially after your brother put up boundaries between the two of you as he got older. But one thing about your family is that it seemed passionate about intellectual pursuits – your dad, your mom, Tom, even Ian with all the reading he seemingly did. And even in your aimless days, you were thoughtful and imaginative to say the least. How come that didn’t translate for you into more interest or dedication to schoolwork as a kid? Was life just too painful to allow you to focus on school, to allow that to be an outlet?
Continue reading

Jun 09

Controversy remains over Dodger draft

The controversy over the Dodgers’ top draft choice continued Tuesday.

Dodger assistant general manager Logan White insists that the Dodgers think they can sign Zach Lee, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, despite speculation that the Dodgers purposely chose a player whose salary demands would be unreachable, in order to save money.

Louisiana State football coach Les Miles said Tuesday that he met with Lee and his parents and that Lee intends to go to college to play football and baseball. White addressed that statement directly.

“He might go to school,” White said. “That is always a possibility. We certainly knew that was a possibility when we drafted him.”

Even so, White adamantly denied that the Dodgers would ever draft a player knowing they couldn’t sign him.

“I can understand why people might think that,” he said. “But that is one of those things where people create what they want to create, and it is just so far from the truth. I certainly want to sign Zach Lee, as much as any player I have ever drafted.”

White also dismissed a suggestion that he was under orders from McCourt to tank this year’s first-round pick.

A similar (though perhaps less intense) drama brewed around the Dodgers’ sixth-round pick, pitcher Kevin Gausman, who is also an LSU recruit. Writes Evan Drellich of MLB.com:

Gausman told The Denver Post he too was leaning toward going to college.

“Because of the amount of money that I want, they are going to follow me and see if I’m actually worth that,” Gausman told The Post.

“Being drafted in the sixth round, I think I have a chance to next year come out and really be a big influence at LSU and maybe even be their No. 1 guy on the mound,” Gausman said. “As of right now, I’m set on [LSU].”

White called Gausman’s statement “a normal part of the process.”

“He would’ve been a potential late first-round sandwich pick, but he’s got significant signing demands as well,” White said. “And he may not sign. We’ll see what happens.”

If Lee doesn’t sign with the Dodgers, the team will get a compensatory pick in the 2011 draft. Some believe this might be a smart move, because that draft is expected to be deeper in talent – so that even if the Dodgers acknowledge (to themselves, if no one else) that Lee isn’t coming, it doesn’t mean that they are avoiding paying amateur talent. We’ll see.

On a brighter note, Drellich writes that second-round pick Ralston Cash said he is interested in signing with the Dodgers despite having a scholarship to Georgia. Cash flew out last weekend for a last-minute workout with the Dodgers, and he and White bonded.

* * *

  • Vicente Padilla went 4 2/3 innings with one run allowed in a rehab start for Inland Empire on Tuesday. Padilla gave up three hits, walked one and struck out four.
  • Kyle Russell singled and tripled in his AA debut for Chattanooga on Tuesday, while Chris Withrow threw seven innings without allowing an earned run, striking out six.
  • Elisaul Pimentel allowed one run over six innings in Great Lakes’ victory. Brian Cavazos-Galvez had three hits.

* * *

Stat of the Day has a fun list of pitchers who have thrown at least five consecutive starts of eight innings or more, without allowing more than one run – fun because the list of course includes the Orel Hershiser and Don Drysdale scoreless inning streaks, as well as Fernando Valenzuela’s beginning to the 1981 season. You’ll also find Don Sutton and Don Newcombe there.

Jun 08

Broxton and crew boost Dodgers to best record in NL, 1-0

The thing is, Albert Pujols in the ninth inning is scary. But Jonathan Broxton just might be scarier.

No offense to Pujols, who does it all day, all year long. But Broxton is a force unto his own in the ninth, and tonight he bested Pujols and the Cardinals to preserve a 1-0 victory over St. Louis, in the teams’ first meeting since the 2009 National League Division Series.

Broxton has now faced Pujols 13 times in their careers and has allowed a single and two walks while getting him out the other 10 times. (Pujols was also 1 for 3 against Broxton in the 2009 postseason.)

The victory – the Dodgers’ second consecutive 1-0 Tuesday victory at home and third in eight days – vaults the Dodgers into first place in the National League West, with the best record in the entire league for the first time in 2010. The Dodgers have won 27 of their past 37 games to complete their worst-to-first (for now) journey.

The game was scoreless headed into the eighth. Hiroki Kuroda and Chris Carpenter dueled for seven shutout innings apiece, Kuroda allowing four hits and a walk while striking out six, Carpenter allowing six hits and a walk while striking out five. Things changed in the bottom of the eighth, when Rafael Furcal (2 for 4) led off with a single and one out later went to second on Andre Ethier’s third hit.

Manny Ramirez, 0 for 3 to that point, was up.  Ramirez had a .438 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position this season going into tonight’s game, but I’ll forgive you if it felt like he was overdue. Sure enough, Ramirez then launched one into the right-field corner for a double to drive in Furcal.

After an intentional walk to James Loney, Casey Blake and Blake DeWitt struck out to leave the bases loaded and keep the pressure on Broxton, who had to face Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick in the ninth.

Pujols fouled off seven consecutive pitches in an 11-pitch at-bat before striking out for the third time tonight (10th time in his career that happened, according to Vin Scully), but Holliday, in his first ninth inning in Los Angeles since his enormous playoff error, singled to center. However, Broxton struck out Ludwick, then got an 0-2 broken-bat comebacker from Skip Schumaker for the final out.

Broxton’s 2010 numbers: 27 1/3 innings, 21 hits, three walks, 42 strikeouts, 0.99 ERA.

* * *

With two off days between now and Vicente Padilla’s expected activation from the disabled list June 18, Carlos Monasterios might be headed back to the bullpen, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.

Jun 08

Casey Blake returns to action

Casey Blake returns to the Dodger starting lineup after missing four games with back spasms. Trainer Stan Conte gave the go-ahead.

* * *

Memories of Kevin Malone has information on the Dodger draft picks that came after the third round:

* * *

Scott Elbert had to miss his start for Albuquerque today because of a family matter. Bobby Blevins and his 5.80 ERA for Class A Inland Empire took his place and allowed one run in five innings. Last week’s Dodger hero, Travis Schlichting, gave up two runs in a 9-6 Isotopes loss.

* * *

Former Dodgers Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young had the first hit and home run, respectively, off Steven Strasburg during his otherwise impressive major-league debut. Strasburg struck out six in his first three innings for Washington before giving up the two-run homer to Young in the fourth, and was still losing 2-1 in the sixth despite having 11 strikeouts and no walks.

But back-to-back homers by Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham in the bottom of the sixth put Strasburg in position to get the victory.

Stat of the Day places Strasburg’s debut in historic context. Through six innings, he had the most strikeouts without a walk in a major-league debut ever.

* * *

Jerry Stephenson, the former Dodger scout and major-league pitcher, passed away from cancer at age 66. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes about Stephenson.

Jun 08

Dodgers activate George Sherrill

As expected, the Dodgers activated George Sherrill from the disabled list and vaulted Jon Link back to Albuquerque. Both have restored some credibility in recent days: Link threw two shutout innings Monday, while Sherrill had two shutout rehab outings this weekend.

The Dodgers also officially announced the promotion of minor leaguer Kyle Russell from Class A Inland Empire to AA Chattanooga.

In other minor league news, 21-year-old Great Lakes pitcher Elisaul Pimentel was named Midwest League Pitcher of the Week after his six shutout innings Wednesday (with nine strikeouts) extended his scoreless string to 18.