May 15

Kershaw LIX: Kershaws Clay

Joe Torre told reporters this afternoon that Russell Martin feels good but will probably rest instead of starting Sunday’s game, along with Casey Blake and possibly Manny Ramirez. Torre isn’t worried currently about resting Matt Kemp.

* * *

Good game between Houston and San Francisco this afternoon, one that I was able to watch with the sound down while I worked. Tim Lincecum started for the Giants and allowed a run (without a hit) in the top of the first. Roy Oswalt started for the Astros and surrendered a two-run homer to Juan Uribe in the fourth. And the score remained 2-1 until the ninth, when Brian Wilson relieved Lincecum after a 120-pitch, eight-inning effort. Houston loaded the bases on a walk, a charitable infield single and another walk, and then .378-OPSing Kazuo Matsui extended Wilson into a 15-pitch at-bat. But on his 39th pitch of the ninth, Matsui flied to left and the Giants hung on with their 159-pitch 2-1 victory.

* * *

The hottest pitcher and hitter in the Dodger minor leagues are both with Great Lakes, at least for now. Allen Webster, born February 10, 1990, struck out 11 in six innings Friday and now has 38 in 34 1/3 innings this season (against 36 baserunners) along with a 1.57 ERA.  Meanwhile, 22-year-old outfielder Jerry Sands homered again to give him 13 in 35 games, to go with a .459 on-base percentage and .813 slugging.

* * *

Vin Scully was interviewed on San Diego radio station AM 1090 Friday, and thanks to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.here’s the recording. The interview’s interesting in that it mainly allows Scully to just talk about the current Dodgers, something he probably prefers to talking about himself.

* * *

A warm welcome back to San Diego pitcher Kevin Correia, making his first start tonight since his 22-year-old brother Trevor’s tragic death.

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Update: Looks like Andre Ethier’s the one who got stung. He jammed the pinky finger in his right hand in batting practice. Garret Anderson replaced him in the starting nine, in the relatively primo No. 5 slot.

May 14

An unexpected thriller: Dodgers 4, Padres 3


Lenny Ignelzi/AP
Matt Kemp took Tony Gwynn, Jr. to the wall, and we all held our breath …

With Jon Garland matching Ramon Ortiz in allowing baserunner after baserunner – and with both offenses failing to take advantage – the early innings of tonight’s Dodgers-Padres game in San Diego had a sluggish, Spring Training feel. But somewhere along the way, a switch flipped, and a nearly random game in May took on the illusion of a true pennant-drive contest between two teams desperate to win.

And so, as the Dodgers trailed 3-2 in the seventh inning with Russell Martin on second base, when Matt Kemp lofted an enormous fly ball to dead center field, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. leaped a good two feet over the wall, and the ball disappeared momentarily in the blur of his glove … only for Gwynn to slam the wall in anger after the ball had somehow gotten through and to the other side, the Dodger season ascended into a moment of September-caliber drama. The Dodger bullpen then made Kemp’s two-run homer hold up, giving Los Angeles a 4-3 victory, its fifth victory in a row and 10th out of the past 13, cutting the Padres lead to four games in the National League West.

“That’s probably the hardest ball I’ve hit in a little while,” Kemp told Prime Ticket after the game. “If he had caught it, I probably would have had some words for him in batting practice tomorrow.”

The drama came five innings after what was probably the Dodgers’ offensive lowpoint this season, when they loaded the bases with one out in the second inning, down 1-0, but came away empty after Ortiz bunted feebly into an easy 1-2-3 double play. (“I still don’t understand it, trying to bunt with the bases loaded,” Dodger manager Joe Torre told reporters after the game.)  In the next inning, the top of the Dodger order slammed four straight singles off Garland, but settled for one run to tie the game.

Lenny Ignelzi/AP
After fastballs on seven of his previous eight pitches, Hong-Chih Kuo struck out Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez on a slider.

Ortiz gave up a first-inning homer to Adrian Gonzalez (who is 6 for 9 with two walks and two homers against Ortiz in his career) and nine baserunners in all out of 20 batters faced, but for all his problems wasn’t really outpitched by Garland, whose ERA is more than three runs lower. Both were often in trouble; both managed to avoid the big inning. (Garland caught a break, in a manner of speaking, when a fifth-inning blast by Andre Ethier hit high off the wall and ended up being only an RBI double instead of his 12th home run of the year.)

The spirit of the night turned serious when, after Ethier’s double made the score 2-2, Torre finally got Ortiz out of the game after allowing a walk and a single to lead off the bottom of the fifth and, as I predicted, began playing with his entire bullpen to get through the game. George Sherrill, Jeff Weaver and Ronald Belisario each faced three batters before Hong-Chih Kuo came in with the tying run on base. In a nine-pitch encounter, Kuo struck out Gonzalez – another edge-of-your-seats moment – then went on to complete the eighth inning in his longest shutout outing since September 7, 2008.

“Kuo was huge. Kuo was huge,” said Torre, who earlier had praise for Kemp. “I guess I wasn’t disappointed that DeWitt got (caught in an eighth-inning rundown), because that would have forced me to pinch-hit.”

Jonathan Broxton didn’t mess around in the ninth, retiring the side on 12 pitches to close things out. After Ortiz, Dodger relievers retired 15 of 17 batters.

“We were able to pitch great out of the bullpen, and that was the difference tonight,” Torre said.

May 14

Rafael Furcal doesn’t come off disabled list as expected


Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Rafael Furcal

Rafael Furcal was expected to be activated from the disabled list for tonight’s game, but the Dodgers just announced (via Twitter) a starting lineup with Jamey Carroll at shortstop again. Details to come.

Update: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the latest on Furcal:

… “I don’t know,” Furcal said when asked when would be activated. “They have to see. I just have to keep working on it and see when it gets better.”

Furcal played six innings defensively in each of two minor-league rehabilitation games with high Single-A Inland Empire on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I felt it a little bit when I was playing there,” he said. “But afterward, I felt it a little bit more.”

Furcal said if it were his choice, he would have come off the DL and play despite the lingering discomfort. At the same time, though, he didn’t question the decision of the team’s medical staff to keep him sidelined a little longer. …

* * *

Ramon Ortiz starts for the Dodgers, with a full compliment of seven relievers behind him, thanks to Thursday’s day off. I don’t know if the Dodgers did this intentionally, but given the fact that the team was going to need a No. 5 starter at some point in the next five days, it makes sense to start your worst pitcher on the day your bullpen is completely rested.

May 14

The San Diego Padres: Juggernaut or jugger-not?


Andy Hayt/Getty Images
Jon Garland and the Padres are out to prove they’re the real deal.

And moving now to the Nobody Knows Anything portion of the show, let us turn to the San Diego Padres.

A popular pick to finish last in everything in 2010 but trade deadline rumors, San Diego is a National League-best 22-12, with a 3 1/2-game lead over San Francisco and five games ahead than the Dodgers. And that’s even with their best-known player (their only known player?), Adrian Gonzalez, having what’s for him a subpar season. Gonzalez’s .836 OPS this season (.319 EQA per Baseball Prospectus) barely puts him ahead of his Los Angeles counterpart James Loney’s .826 (.306).

But Gonzalez is so far a footnote to the Padres’ Cinderfella story, which has been written by their incredible pitching.  Petco Park provides a boost to almost any hurler, but that doesn’t entirely account for a San Diego team ERA that currently sits at 2.67. The home ERA is 2.13, but the road ERA is still a pretty nifty 3.16. And all this in the Padres’ first full season without Jake Peavy in years.

Jon Garland, who has gotten the most attention in these parts because of his erstwhile Dodger status, brings a 1.71 ERA to tonight’s start against the Dodgers despite having nearly as many walks (21) as strikeouts (25) in 42 innings over seven starts.  Garland exemplifies the uncertainty that surrounds the Padres – can he stay this good? Signs, including a seemingly luck-filled batting average allowed on balls in play of .225, point to no. On the other hand, early indications (underscore “early”) are that the Padres have one of the best team defenses in baseball, according to Fangraphs. So if that holds up, that could help sustain pitchers like Garland.

Meanwhile, the Padre pitching success hardly stops with Garland; there’s also 29-year-old Kevin Correia (3.97), 26-year-old Clayton Richard (3.21), 25-year-old Wade LeBlanc (1.61!) and 22-year-old Mat Latos (3.32). Latos came within an infield single of a perfect game Thursday as San Diego completed its road sweep of San Francisco – and in his past two starts, Latos has faced 54 batters and retired 51, giving up three singles and walking none. According to Stat of the Day, he is just the fifth pitcher since 1952 to have consecutive starts of no more than two hits allowed with no walks.

Thursday’s 1-0 victory was the Padres’ eighth shutout of the year. In their past 13 games, San Diego has held its opponent below three runs 10 times. As for the bullpen, opponents have a .580 OPS against it in 434 plate appearances. With few exceptions, the Padre offense certainly hasn’t been anything impressive (again, even accounting for park effects). So far, that hasn’t mattered.

In a sense, the Padres are like one big bowl of John Ely – dazzling at the outset but still leaving open questions about whether they can sustain it for the long haul. Most feel the Padres are a fluke, but for now it’s been left up to the Dodgers to begin to prove that. The high-powered Dodger offense and suspect pitching (at least in tonight’s starting relief pitcher, Ramon Ortiz), playing in a park that hasn’t always been kind to Los Angeles even in the best of years, have much more of a challenge this weekend than anyone would have thought a month ago.

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  • The Times’ version of Casey Blake/Blake DeWitt – Kevin Baxter and Baxter Holmes – feature Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Angel pitching coach Mike Butcher in answering the question, “What does a pitching coach do?”
  • Elymania? Michael Becker of the Press-Enterprise has a fun profile of May flower John Ely. And yes, Andre Ethier has now heard of him.
  • Hot-hitting Great Lakes prospect Jerry Sands is analyzed by Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright are in early talks to join Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in “Moneyball,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety.
  • Watch what can be done with a whimsical photo of Washington outfielder Nyjer Morgan (at Lookout Landing). I can’t tell you how many different times I laughed.
May 13

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 4


Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireAndre Ethier: .385/.444/.738. On pace for 55 homers, 185 RBI.

Andre Ethier isn’t carrying the Dodgers by himself. There’s Hiroki Kuroda on the mound, and Manny Ramirez when he’s healthy. After that on today’s edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs, you go from supreme to solid … to not without their moments … to a fairly long list of names that mostly seem to be occupying space. All in all, that’s how you get to .500.

Remember – this list is designed to measure overall season value, but with some subjectivity on my part mixed in with the stats to make it interesting. Have at it …

5/13 . 5/03 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 1 2 11 Andre Ethier The wild and the innocent no match for the Ethier Street Shuffle.
2 2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Seven starts this year, six of them rather grand.
3 4 4 9 Manny Ramirez .500 on-base percentage since coming off DL.
4 3 1 5 Matt Kemp Homerless in past 20 games, but season numbers remain strong.
5 6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw 2.41 ERA in ’10 if the fates would remove the Milwaukee game.
6 8 9 24 James Loney Snaps 0-for-13 slump by going 7 for 14 in Arizona.
7 10 5 2 Russell Martin 6 for 21 with two walks and two homers in past five games as leadoff hitter.
8 26 NR NR John Ely No joke: He has meant this much.
9 7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Technically in 4-for-22 skid when he comes off disabled list.
10 5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton Opponents have .444 (12 for 27) batting average on balls in play.
11 12 12 10 Chad Billingsley On the precipice of … something.
12 15 14 14 Blake DeWitt Homerless in 2008 until May 4, then hit four in his next nine games.
13 14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Has only home run among Dodger middle infielders in 2010.
14 16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios Mini-Ely: Five walks in 20 2/3 innings so far.
15 9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso Last year: five of 32 inherited runners scored. This year: eight of 17.
16 11 7 6 Casey Blake Golden sombrero (and sixth error) Wednesday leaves him with .512 OPS since two-homer game 4/24.
17 18 21 18 Jamey Carroll .697 OPS as Dodgers went 8-6 with Furcal on DL.
18 NR NR NR Hong-Chih Kuo Pitches so infrequently (5 1/3 innings in ’10) that no one noticed I forgot about him.
19 19 NR NR Xavier Paul Earned the right to stay with the big club.
20 17 20 8 Reed Johnson Lowered the bar for Ramirez’s return by going 2 for 15 this month.
21 23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Entering Friday’s game, hard to argue that Weaver or Padilla has been more valuable.
22 21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Two strikeouts Tuesday were a good but small sign.
23 20 15 25 Vicente Padilla There’s an opening for a No. 5 starter in June …
24 NR NR NR Ronald Belisario Has looked great at times, but 6.52 ERA more than hints at inconsistency.
25 22 19 19 A.J. Ellis Has one at-bat since last start 16 days ago.
26 24 23 23 Brad Ausmus Has caught two innings fewer than Ellis this month.
27 NR NR NR Nick Green Dodgers might actually have to DFA him Friday unless Haeger’s foot disease is catching.
28 27 26 26 George Sherrill In addition to 7.94 ERA, 10 of 15 inherited runners have scored.
29 28 25 NR Jon Link Albuquerque ERA (not factored into Cog/Dog ranking) now at 10.45 – yes, that decimal point is placed correctly.
30 29 27 22 Russ Ortiz I’m betting that Sherrill stays above Ortiz, but it’s getting dicey.
31 25 16 3 Charlie Haeger They say knuckleballers can work constantly, but did he overdo it?
32 30 22 16 Garret Anderson Currently tied for third place, lowest single-season OPS+ in L.A. Dodger history (minimum 50 PA).
May 12

Diamondbacks walk but can’t hide: Ramirez blast lifts Dodgers, 6-3


Ross D. Franklin/AP
Manny Ramirez follows through, literally and figuratively.

A year ago, Andre Ethier was being told he couldn’t hit at all unless Manny Ramirez was batting behind him.

Tonight, the Arizona Diamondbacks told Ethier that they were so scared of how well he can hit, they’d rather face Ramirez.

It was an awe-wow moment that punctuated the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory over Arizona Wednesday, yet not at all shocking considering Ethier’s unbelievable season – and it was hardly a slight against Ramirez, who brought a 1.064 OPS for 2010 into the at-bat. But with runners on second and third with two out in the top of the seventh inning, and the Dodgers leading 3-2, Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson simply didn’t feel he could mess around with Ethier, who boosted his Triple Crown numbers earlier in the game with a two-run homer.

The logic was simple: Walking the left-handed Ethier eliminated the platoon advantage for the Dodgers and created a force at every base for Ramirez, who turns 38 at the end of the month. But still, here it was, the bases being loaded on purpose for one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters (still) – only because the Dodgers have come up with a player 10 years younger and even more dangerous.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Edwin Jackson wipes his forehead after loading the bases ahead of Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning.

Jackson shouldn’t have even been in the situation. He had pitched well overall, allowing three runs on nine baserunners in 6 2/3 innings and striking out eight before the intentional walk. He had already thrown 114 pitches when Ethier came up.  But the Arizona bullpen has been such dogmeat that Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch decided he didn’t have a better hope against Ramirez with the bases loaded than the gassed Jackson.

Ramirez fouled off two pitches to fall behind 0-2 in the count, but on the next pitch, he cannoned a ball high off the center-field wall, 407 feet away, easily a grand slam in Dodger Stadium but a mere three-run double tonight. The smash blasted  Jackson’s valiant effort into ruins, and gave the Dodgers a most exuberant and comfortable four-run lead.

The moment stole the spotlight from what I think we can call a vintage Hiroki Kuroda performance. Kuroda’s first four pitches of the game were low and outside, but he didn’t walk a man after that in 7 1/3 innings, while allowing three runs on six hits and striking out nine. The third run – the run that would have tied the game were it not for Ethier and Ramirez – came across on a sacrifice fly off Hong-Chih Kuo in the eighth, after walks by Ronald Belsiario and Kuo loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. But nothing more came across.

Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t been needed in the series up to now, fell short of a 1-2-3 inning for the sixth time in his past seven chances but got the save, interspersing a single and walk with three strikeouts, giving him 22 in 12 2/3 innings this year.

The Dodgers won their ninth in their past 12 games, reached the .500 mark (17-17) for the first time since they were 7-7 on April 21 and moved within two games of second-place San Francisco. And another threshold in Andre Ethier’s mammoth season was crossed.

May 12

Arizona’s acquisition of Edwin Jackson hasn’t paid off as hoped


Roy Dabner/AP
Has it really been almost seven years since Edwin Jackson’s thrilling debut against Arizona?

While the Dodgers were getting worked over by the press for not adding a premium starting pitcher during the 2009-10 offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks were boldly going out to get 2009 American League All-Star Edwin Jackson (who starts tonight against the Los Angeles) for their rotation — trading, among others, one-time prized prospect Max Scherzer. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

My early reaction to the news that the Arizona Diamondbacks had traded away Max Scherzer was, “The Dodgers have the McCourts. What’s Arizona’s excuse?”

From what I could tell, almost all the thoughts about Tuesday’s trade, a three-way endeavor that included Arizona sending Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to Detroit in exchange for the Tigers’ Edwin Jackson and the Yankees’ Ian Kennedy, matched mine. Why was Arizona giving up a lower-paid pitcher with a higher ceiling?

I know I’m not alone among Dodger fans in retaining a soft spot for former boy in blue Jackson, who had his best season last year and is still only 26. But I’ve been hearing for quite some time splendiferous things about Scherzer, who is 25, struck out more than a batter an inning in 2009 with an adjusted ERA of 111 (4.12 ERA) and will make millions less than Jackson in 2010.

If the Dodgers had made this kind of trade — a prized young pitcher sent away for short-term gain — anger would have blasted through the roof and finger-pointing would have zoomed through the hole in the roof that anger had created. It would have been an ugly day, at least on this website. Even though the Dodgers would be taking on more salary for 2010, the trade would have been seen as a short-sighted mortgaging of the future, another sign of a crumbling empire. (A similar scenario: Imagine the Edwin Jackson for Lance Carter-Danys Baez trade happening now.)

Yes, some would have defended the trade, just as some are pointing out that Scherzer might not have the build or mechanics to truly blossom as a starter, or that Kennedy still has rotation potential, or that Jackson should do even better in migrating back to the National League. But considering how negative the overall reaction is toward Arizona making this move, you can only imagine, in the context of the Dodgers’ current dysfunction, how harsh things would have been if Los Angeles had done it. …

So how has it all worked out?  As you might expect, not as expected.

Scherzer has a 6.81 ERA in seven starts for Detroit — and that’s lower than Jackson’s 7.32 mark for Arizona. However, Kennedy, the lesser of the starting pitchers to come in the trade, has a 3.48 ERA despite allowing a National League-high eight home runs. (Among others involved in the trade, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson have also done well for Detroit, while Schlereth is in the minors.  Curtis Granderson is mired in a lousy year, making the Yankees the big loser in the deal to date.)

In September 2003, Jackson made his major-league debut on his 20th birthday against Randy Johnson and won, on a night dimensionally more thrilling than John Ely’s besting of Dan Haren Tuesday. Tonight on the same field, he’ll be trying again to recapture those good vibes, while the Dodgers, who were held to two runs over six innings the only other time they have faced him (while he had a 7.85 ERA with Tampa Bay at the time), will try again to avoid looking bad for ever letting Jackson go in the first place.

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Two notes from Stat of the Day: 2009 Dodger Will Ohman, who spent most of the year on the disabled list, has a 0.00 ERA after 11 innings with Baltimore (allowing four of 13 inherited runners to score), and No. 8 hitters for the Giants have an Andre Ethier-like 1.194 OPS this season, led by Nate Schierholtz.

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Joined by my colleague Stuart Levine, I’m doing another live chat about all things TV today for Variety at 2:30 p.m. As of this moment, you can click the link and start sending your questions …

May 11

Wa happen? Dodgers blindside Haren and Diamondbacks, 13-3


Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Manny Ramirez is congratulated by Matt Kemp during the Dodgers’ victory.

“John Ely” is “John Elway” minus “wa,” the Japanese term made famous to baseball fans in the U.S. in Robert Whiting’s book “You Gotta Have Wa.” “Wa” means “group harmony,” so I’m told, and I get the sense that a heroic John Ely gave up his “wa” for the good of the Dodgers.

That is my best explanation for how, on a night when Arizona pitcher Dan Haren got all nine outs in the first three innings via strikeout, the Dodgers ended up coming away with a 13-3 slaughter of the Diamondbacks – and how Ely defied the odds and took a shutout into the seventh inning for the second game in a row.

Ely has now faced 48 batters over 12 2/3 innings in his past two starts and allowed only 10 singles – and no walks or extra-base hits – while striking out 13. He has allowed three runs in that period, all of them in the seventh inning. He has been indisputably critical in turning around the season for the Dodgers, who have now won eight of 11 games to move into third place by themselves, 4 1/2 games behind San Diego and three games behind second-place San Francisco.

As for the offense, after weathering Haren’s strikeout storm, the Dodgers got three consecutive doubles in the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead and doubled that margin by the bottom of the seventh, when Ely, Jeff Weaver and George Sherrill combined to allow three runs and make it a tight game again. (Ramon Ortiz was called into get the final out of the seventh inning, throwing four pitches and raising questions about whether this will impact his scheduled start Friday.)

Just when nervous time seemed to be approaching, Jamey Carroll and pinch-hitter Garret Anderson singled before Russell Martin hit a three-run homer to give the Dodgers breathing room in the top of the eighth, an inning that ended up with Los Angeles sending 12 men to the plate and scoring seven runs. Two more tallies came across in the ninth, while Carlos Monasterios (lowering his ERA to 2.18) retired all six batters he faced to wrap things up.

The Dodgers had 23 baserunners in all. James Loney had two doubles and two singles, Manny Ramirez two walks and two singles, Martin a single and hit-by-pitch to go with his homer, and Andre Ethier two doubles. Ramirez’s on-base percentage is now at .507 for the season, Ethier’s league-leading OPS is at 1.175, and thanks in no small part to Ely, the Dodgers are looking like a real team again.

May 11

John Ely and Dan Haren: no guarantees


US Presswire
John Ely tonight faces Dan Haren, an All-Star selection the past three seasons.

I’m going to say the odds are stacked against John Ely coming close to his success last week against Milwaukee. First of all, any rookie pitcher would have a tough time pitching shutout ball into the seventh inning of back-to-back games. Then, you add in the uncertainty of the past four days, when instead of having a normal routine, Ely was triangulating (at least mentally) between Los Angeles, Albuquerque and Phoenix.

Further, the Diamondbacks will have the benefit of having seen video of Ely’s dominance of the Brewers and can prepare accordingly. Ely will have to be able to adjust in front of a visiting crowd.  It’s going to be a challenge.

Pitching for Arizona will be Dan Haren, their undisputed top pitcher at least while Brandon Webb remains injured. However, the Dodgers haven’t found him unbeatable — though he has been tougher lately. Since coming to the National League in 2008, here’s how Haren has done against the Dodgers (ERA is Haren’s season ERA entering each start):

Date Place ERA* IP H R ER BB SO Team result
4/7/08 Arizona 4.50 6.00 6 3 1 0 5 W, 9-3
4/23/08 L.A. 1.80 4.67 9 6 5 2 5 L, 3-8
7/19/08 Arizona 2.72 7.00 4 0 0 2 7 W, 3-2
8/30/08 Arizona 3.10 6.00 10 5 5 0 5 L, 7-14
9/5/08 L.A. 3.41 4.00 6 5 5 4 2 L, 0-7
4/12/09 Arizona 1.29 6.00 4 2 2 3 2 L, 1-3
6/2/09 L.A. 2.54 7.00 2 1 1 1 7 L, 5-6
8/14/09 Arizona 2.57 8.00 6 1 1 2 8 W, 4-1
9/9/09 Arizona 2.78 7.33 7 3 3 1 9 W, 4-3
4/15/10 L.A. 3.95 6.33 6 2 2 2 7 L, 6-5
    Average 6.23 6.0 2.8 2.5 1.7 5.7

*ERA entering the start

* * *

Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan and his son, former major-leaguer David Newhan, have teamed up on a blog, Newhan on Baseball. In the most recent post, David goes after Ken Griffey, Jr. about the hotly debated sleeping incident. Earlier, Dad and lad disagree on Arizona’s illegal immigrant law. (Remember, no political debates at Dodger Thoughts, but the Newhans seem to welcome them.)

May 11

Have you noticed the Dodgers are playing .700 ball?

Some mid-day snacks:

  • The Dodgers have won seven of their past 10 games, but as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness writes, it doesn’t quite feel that way, does it?
  • What has gone wrong with the Dodger defense? Neil Paine tries to break down the breakdown at Baseball Reference Blog.
  • Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone explains why he thinks James Loney might be getting worse, not better.
  • Bryan Morris, who was included in the Manny Ramirez trade, has pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings, notes Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. His ERA for the season is 0.66 in 40 2/3 innings. Keep in mind he’s a 23-year-old in A ball.
May 10

As Dodgers cruise in Arizona, questions about Billingsley ease


Matt Kartozian/US Presswire
Chad Billingsley zeroed in on 14 first-pitch strikes out of 23 batters faced tonight.

It was just about a wire-to-wire victory for the Dodgers tonight, who never trailed in defeating Arizona, 7-3. The amazing Andre Ethier had three more hits – part of the 17 men that reached base for Los Angeles.

In fact, it was such a good night that the most controversial moment of the game was merely this: Was a victorious Chad Billingsley taken out too soon?

Billinglsey, of course, has the millstone of not having pitched in the seventh inning of a game since July. But in his past three starts entering tonight, he had completed six innings in under 100 pitches. Even after he got hammered by Milwaukee in the first inning last week, he followed up with five shutout innings and was only at 90 pitches after six. Nevertheless, each of those past three starts Billingsley was removed from the game, either for a pinch-hitter and/or because Dodger manager Joe Torre felt he had had enough.

This, by the way, also happened during Billingsley’s maligned second half of 2009: On six occasions after the All-Star Break, Billingsley pitched six innings in under 100 pitches while allowing three earned runs or fewer. It’s not as if Billingsley hasn’t struggled since last July, but this idea that he always melts down by the sixth inning is in some ways a joke.

So anyway, Billingsley was just about cruising tonight in Arizona: five innings, 81 pitches, two hits, three walks, seven strikeouts. In the sixth, with the Dodgers leading 4-1, he allowed a walk and a double to put runners on second and third with one out. Chris Young, who accounted for the Diamondbacks’ only run with a second-inning solo homer, was up. And Torre went straight to the bullpen.

This isn’t the worst decision Torre is going to make in 2010, but it was one of the least inspiring. Billingsley, who now has a 3.47 ERA in his past four starts with 19 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings, had earned the right to try to get out of the jam with only 90 pitches under his belt.

The scenario was not unlike what Billingsley faced September 23 at Washington, during the Dodgers’ pennant drive. Billingsley had a no-hitter for 5 2/3 innings and a three-run lead with only 84 pitches thrown, then allowed a game-tying home run to Ryan Zimmerman. So yeah, it wasn’t like bad things couldn’t have happened tonight, things that would have haunted our conversations for days. But if you expect this guy to be a mainstay of your staff, you’d think you’d be a little less fearful of what could go wrong and instead more hopeful about what could go right – especially when he’s been pitching well.

In any case, if people want to get up in arms about Billingsley and the seventh inning, they’d better at least throw an angry glance in Torre’s direction.

But I will offer this as a counterpoint. If Torre made the decision to pull Billingsley in order to protect his arm for the long haul – similar to his choice to give Billingsley and other Dodger starters an extra day of rest this week by starting Ramon Ortiz on Friday – I might be able to get behind it. Torre was almost relentless in his use of Billingsley in the first half of last season, when the righthander threw at least 105 pitches in 12 consecutive games and 17 out of 19, racking up the most pitches thrown in all of baseball for the first half of ’09. It’s been my theory that Billingsley, who was only 24 at the time with one full season as a starting pitcher in the majors under his belt, simply wore down by the second half (and then had his leg injuries complicate matters). I can’t prove it, but it’s more plausible than other theories I’ve heard.

I think it’s possible that Torre, while also perhaps being a bit nervous regarding Billingsley and his reputation for suddenly allowing big innings, might also be thinking that Billingsley needs to be paced, and is actively looking for ways to limit his use in the early going. And if that’s the case, despite my being upset at Billingsley being pulled from tonight’s game, I’m all for it.  And I’m confident that if Billingsley keeps giving Torre good innings, we won’t be talking about this subject much longer.

For what it’s worth, Ramon Troncoso, who is the focus of a lot of burnout fears, has had his workload eased a bit this month. He had one outing of 27 pitches between last Wednesday and tonight’s 13-pitch ninth inning. In four appearances (none in consecutive games) over the first 10 days of May, Troncoso has thrown 71 pitches.

May 10

Dodgers eye Ramon Ortiz for Friday start


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Ramon Ortiz’s last major-league start was in 2007.

Joe Torre told reporters tonight that as of this moment, he plans to start Ramon Ortiz on Friday instead of taking advantage of Thursday’s off day to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Torre wants Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to get the extra day of rest.

Ortiz has a 5.24 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with 31 baserunners allowed (including four home runs) against 16 strikeouts. In relief against Colorado on Saturday, he was charged with two runs on eight baserunners in five innings. He’d be taking the mound next in pitching-friendly San Diego.

Torre indicated that he expects John Ely to stick around for a while, that this second callup isn’t a one-time thing. A start Friday by Ortiz would bump Ely’s next outing from San Diego to Monday in Houston.

Torre also said that Charlie Haeger’s heel has been bothering him and that he wasn’t letting on about it. If Haeger’s injury isn’t invented and he really has been pitching hurt, well, you know, that was really irresponsible of him.

May 10

A fine time for a shutout

Clayton Kershaw’s 30th pitch of the first inning Sunday was a laser that on first glance looked too high and too inside to prevent him from walking in a run and unleashing another torrent of dread for the Dodgers. But home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called it a strike, and on replay it appeared it was the right call.

Another right call: Having faith in Kershaw, who went from the tightrope to the autobahn in the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory over Colorado and Ubaldo Jimenez.

After loading the bases in the first on a single and two walks, Kershaw allowed only two more baserunners  in his next seven scoreless innings, striking out nine. The Rockies didn’t once hit the ball to the outfield, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes, until an eighth-inning flyout by Clint Barmes. Kershaw didn’t get first-pitch strikes on about half the batters he faced, but Colorado still couldn’t figure him out.

Kershaw’s shutout ball enabled the Dodgers to outlast Jimenez, who had thrown 104 pitches through seven innings and presumably could have continued if he hadn’t been pinch-hit for with one out in the top of the eighth. Russell Martin took advantage of the Rockies’ move to reliever Matt Daley with a hard home run to left. That run provided some comfort when a 50-foot single by Ryan Spilborghs in the ninth inning put runners on first and second against Jonathan Broxton. Ian Stewart swung at the next pitch, a fastball clocked at 95, but got under it, leaving Andre Ethier to stock the can of corn on the shelf and let the Dodgers come home victorious.

Ethier, of all people, struck out in all three of his at-bats against Jimenez, but the Dodgers for once won without his contributions.

The Dodgers’ first run of the game was brought home by Blake DeWitt, who had his sixth double in his past 12 games after having no extra-base hits in his first 14 games.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on the game.

* * *

Wild one in Albuquerque on Sunday. James McDonald started and allowed two runs over his first six innings, striking out six, then was pulled after allowing a walk and two singles to start the seventh. Jon Link relieved and allowed one inherited run to score while being charged with five others. The Isotopes still won, 15-12, thanks in part to a 4-for-4 (plus a walk) day from Chin-Lung Hu and a triple and homer from Jamie Hoffmann. Hu’s OPS crossed the .600 threshold and now sits at .618.

It is widely expected that John Ely will be recalled from Albuquerque to start Tuesday’s game. After being sent down Friday, the Dodgers needed to place a pitcher on the disabled list to allow Ely’s recall inside of 10 days. Sunday, the Dodgers began making a public case that Charlie Haeger has right heel problems. You do the math.