May 06

It could be 1979 all over again


Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Second baseman Davey Lopes hit 28 homers in 1979 and stole 44 bases (in 48 attempts), all for a team that lost 83 games.

More stark stats: No Los Angeles Dodger team that started the season 11-16 or worse after 27 games has finished above .500, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. That got me thinking about the Dodgers’ 1979 team again.

From Dodger Thoughts, February 1 (my first day at ESPN):

The year after the Dodgers lost two consecutive World Series in 1977-78, they were in last place at the All-Star break. …

The 1979 Dodgers, who seemed to have everything going for them entering the season except the departure of Tommy John, lost 31 of 41 games leading into the All-Star Game, digging themselves a hole so deep that not even a league-leading 43 victories after the break could save them. …

If the Dodgers falter (in 2010), it will undoubtedly be seen through the prism of the McCourts’ divorce, with everyone pointing out how the Dodgers didn’t get the reinforcements they needed. But not getting enough reinforcements is a historical pattern for the Dodgers. No Dodger team, in Brooklyn or Los Angeles, has ever made the postseason three years in a row. None. The 2010 Dodgers have a chance to be the first (not to mention a chance to be the first to win a World Series in 22 years). Their season will ride a thin line between ecstasy and disappointment.

There probably aren’t any Dodger followers, including myself, that don’t wish the team had more talent entering the 2010 season, that don’t wonder if an opportunity to get over the top is being squandered. You always want your odds to be the best they can be. But they never are.

May 06

Dodgers can only wonder, ‘What next?’


Getty Images
Stat o’ the Day: Just 27 games into the Dodgers’ 2010 season, Ramon Troncoso has already pitched in 11 losses.

It may be early, but the fans are going wild – and not in a good way.

Wednesday’s 11-3 loss to Milwaukee marked the one-month anniversary of a Dodger season that began with an 11-5 loss to Pittsburgh. Two days shy of one year since Manny Ramirez’s suspension, it’s remarkable to think back and realize: The Dodger community was probably in better spirits that sorry day than now.

The wreckage of the Dodgers’ start to 2010 fits perfectly with the narrative that began in the offseason, which foretold that the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt would have a domino effect that would leave the franchise in ruins. And while this isn’t exactly Carthage, it is last place in the National League West in May.

A different ownership situation might have bred a different start to the season, it’s true. No, a pair of happily married McCourts would not have turned the 2009-10 Dodger offseason into a wheeling-and-dealing free-for-all – not after reaching the National League Championship Series two straight years, certainly not after the Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones debacles of recent offseasons. But Frank and Jamie surely wouldn’t have made fewer moves if they were still going steady.

But what’s sad about the 2010 Dodgers is that the doleful divorce has been only one of many, many, many other things that have gone wrong this season. Here begins “Lament: Why Even in Their Worst Nightmares, the Dodgers Couldn’t Fathom Being This Bad.”

Chapter the First: A Rotation Off Its Axis

Harry How/Getty Images
Mixed bag: The last 23 batters Chad Billingsley faced Wednesday did not score; the first four did.

Consider, if you will, that the Dodger starting rotation at the end of the 2009 season was made up of Randy Wolf (having something of a career year), a wounded Hiroki Kuroda, a staggering Chad Billingsley, a green Clayton Kershaw, and Vicente Padilla having, well, two great weeks.

Though spring training 2010 began with Wolf in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform, there was every reason to believe that at least 60 percent of that bunch would be better than they were – in contrast to Wolf, who you’d reasonably expect to decline after everything imaginable went right for him at age 33. And in fact, that’s exactly what happened with Kuroda, who has a 2.08 ERA while averaging 6.9 innings per start this year.

But though they have had their moments, Billingsley and Kershaw haven’t exactly been the equivalent of, say, Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez, who has pitched 41 1/3 innings with a 0.87 ERA and 44 strikeouts. The growing pains are still evident – more painfully in the case of Billingsley, who is only six months younger than the cherry-picked Jimenez, but more fable-busting for Kershaw, who was supposed to be the guy with the head on his shoulders but instead has walked a mind-boggling seven batters per nine innings in ’09. Both still have bright futures, but the need for more consistency remains. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has more on Billingsley.)

Then there was Padilla, who had two fine starts in the postseason but otherwise had been a forgettable pitcher for most of the past five years or more. The Dodgers chose him in January over Jon Garland, a pitcher they thought enough of five months earlier that they traded infield prospect Tony Abreu for him. The 30-year-old Garland, who signed with San Diego for a guaranteed $5.9 million (including a potential 2011 $600,000 club buyout), has an ERA of 2.06 (adjusted ERA 184) over 35 innings in six starts. The 32-year-old Padilla, who signed with the Dodgers for a guaranteed $5.025 million plus incentives, has pulled a mini-Schmidt: 21 2/3 innings, 6.65 ERA (61 ERA+) and an indefinite stay on the disabled list. This wasn’t the divorce or the budget talking. The Dodgers made a pretty simple either-or choice, and at least to this point, they chose wrong. (And did so even with the character issues that are supposedly so important to Dodger general manager Ned Colletti being in Garland’s favor.)

The fifth spot in the Dodger starting rotation had a number of candidates, though ideally there should only have been two: James McDonald and Scott Elbert. McDonald was the 2008 and 2009 Dodger Minor League Pitcher of the Year who had a rough start in 2010 before finishing the year strong. Elbert is considered by many to be an even brighter prospect. However, neither came close to making any kind of case in spring training that they belonged in the rotation – though they were given little opportunity while manager Joe Torre quickly turned his focus to pitchers who had no more minor-league options, like perennial also-ran Eric Stults and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, along with a cascade of scrapheap veterans like the Ortiz Unbrothers, Ramon and Russ. Honestly, it was reasonable to suspect that someone from McDonald, Elbert and frenemies could give the Dodgers inconsistent but useful enough output in the back of the rotation – and the Dodgers have certainly had their share of luck in this area in recent years – but it hasn’t come close to happening. That in turn made the Dodgers particularly ill-prepared, at least at this point, for an injury to one of their front four starters, even Padilla.

This brings us back to the four pitchers most talked about this Dodger offseason. One was Wolf, who had a 4.91 ERA after three starts this season but has since allowed two runs in his past 14 innings. Two was John Lackey, who signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Red Sox and has a 3.89 ERA. Lackey figured to be a B version of the former Dodger with the famous seven-year contract itch, Kevin Brown – not quite as expensive but not quite as good and arguably every bit as likely to get injured for part of his contract. Lackey raises a good question: Do you pay big money for a pitcher even knowing that one of those years he’s likely to spend on the DL? I would have said no – and perhaps that’s ultimately a question for the accountants – but given the Dodgers’ current pitching desperation, many people would probably be inclined to say yes.

Pitchers three and four are Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, the most-discussed trade targets of the past year. Whatever efforts the Dodgers made to acquire them, the organization has ultimately had to bet that what they had in Kershaw and Billingsley (among other young players) in the long term would be worth more than what they would get out of Lee and Halladay in the short term – not a bad bet, but strictly as of May 2010, a losing bet.

So there you have it. We’ve discussed close to a dozen starting pitchers, and of that group, only Kuroda has given the Dodgers a happy beginning to 2010. Some of the misfortune the Dodgers brought upon themselves; some of it has been ill-fated – but when you add it all up, it’s almost a clean sweep for Murphy’s Law over Los Angeles.

Chapter the Second: The Blahpen

Kathy Willens/AP
George Sherrill: 0.65 ERA as a Dodger in 2009, 9.00 in 2010.

When your best reliever (Jonathan Broxton) hasn’t even pitched nine innings all year, when your next-best bullpen success story is a Rule 5 draftee (Carlos Monasterios) who remains on the roster, things have gone horribly wrong.

Maybe it all started with Ronald Belisario, for virtually all of spring training trapped in a distant land like a passenger crashing with Oceanic 815, his absence shifting the balance of the bullpen when the season began ever-so-slightly yet ever-so-significantly. His MIA act, accompanied by another ill-timed injury to lefty mesmerizer Hong-Chih Kuo and an almost complete reversal-of-fortune by 2009’s stellar set-up man, George Sherrill, turned a key Dodger strength into a disaster area. In the Dodgers’ first 15 games of 2010, the bullpen lost five – that alone made a huge difference between the Dodgers being 11-16 this morning as opposed to 16-11, of being 5 1/2 games out of first place as opposed to just half a game. And that doesn’t even count games like Wednesday’s, in which the bullpen was handed a one-run deficit and let it multiply by 800%.

What did the Dodgers do wrong with their relievers? Not a lot. Yeah, if money were no object, they could have outbid the Angels for a guy like Fernando Rodney, who signed for an exorbitant amount of money for a reliever: two years, $11 million. Or they could have spent $50,000 on a chaperone for Belisario. Beyond that, what they assembled was battle-tested and looked like one of the best bullpens in baseball. It just hasn’t worked out that way.

Chapter the Third: Defenestrate the defense

Danny Moloshok/AP
Charged with 10 errors last year, Casey Blake has made half that many this year.

Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced that a change by the official scorer gave James Loney a throwing error for a play that occurred against the Reds nearly two weeks before. It kind of fit: The Dodger defense has been so poor this year that it can pick up errors without even playing.

The defense had actually been on a modest streak of errorless games recently until Wednesday night against the Brewers, when Casey Blake threw in the dirt in the seventh inning of what at the time was a one-run game. Before the night was over, the team botched a rundown play and Blake made another error, his fifth in 24 games.

It felt very familiar. For most of the year, the defense has been toxic. The expected weak spots, such as Ramirez in left field, haven’t even been the story. There have been mistakes all over the field, to the extent that Matt Kemp’s 2009 Gold Glove in center field is being examined for “Dewey Defeats Truman” inaccuracies.

The defense broke the levee on the already cracking Dodger pitching, helping spoil what really was a true onslaught by the Dodger offense in the opening days of the year. The Dodgers averaged 6.5 runs in those first 15 games, but lost eight of them. And yet at seven of eight positions, this was the same defense that the Dodgers took to the NL playoffs last year. The mere aging of players Blake and Ramirez doesn’t begin to explain it. Did the Dodgers not prepare properly in spring training? Who knows? But this was another walk off the cliff that at least in part appeared out of nowhere.

Chapter the Fourth: Yes, Everyone Gets Injuries

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Manny Ramirez has a 1.159 OPS – but only 52 plate appearances.

… so we won’t cry too long over the Dodgers’ sick bay.  Losing Kuo was one thing, losing Jeff Weaver was barely anything, but losing Padilla was a problematic thing, and then Ramirez and Rafael Furcal going out almost simultaneously was a big thing. No one expected either Ramirez or Furcal to play 162 games, but in a better Dodger world, they would have at least made it through April. Heck, Ramirez made it into May last year before he was unceremoniously sidelined by what turned up in the lab.

In any case, it’s fair to say that the Dodgers knew in advance they would need a bench this year – and it’s no secret that Colletti has always liked to have depth. But again, some choices that had nothing to do with the divorce have gone awry. For example, on December 16, Jamey Carroll (36 in February) signed with the Dodgers for nearly $4 million over two years. Two weeks later, Kelly Johnson (28 in February) signed a cheaper contract in overall value with Arizona: one year, $2.35 million. Carroll has a .383 on-base percentage but just one extra-base hit. Johnson was just named NL Player of the Month after going 25 for 80 with eight doubles and nine home runs – a .404 on-base percentage and .750 slugging percentage.

Brad Ausmus and Garret Anderson have been wasted signings, albeit relatively inexpensive ones. You’re never going to get ’em all right, and you can certainly argue that so far, Ronnie Belliard has been worth the $825,000 he lost weight to earn from the Dodgers, while Reed Johnson has been what you’d expect him to be. But those are the few breaks the Dodgers have caught, in a first month that exposed another nagging worry sooner than they would have hoped.

Chapter the Fifth: Five months to go

Wednesday, Billingsley gave up four runs in the first inning – then pitched five shutout innings and could have come out battling for a win in the seventh inning had Carroll, well, been able to hit his first three-run homer in 2,574 career plate appearances. Yep, this is when you bring out the unseemly disclaimer: It’s still early.

I haven’t even wanted to mention that the 2009 Colorado Rockies started with an 11-16 record at this time last year, exactly where the Dodgers are today – and then lost 12 of their next 19 before bouncing back with a months-long hot streak that scared the pajamas off every NL rival going into the playoffs. When John Ely, who was something like the Dodgers’ No. 14 starter entering spring training, is the guy you’re counting on for the second week in a row to prevent a series sweep, it’s not auspicious. If Kuroda goes down at some point this year, the Dodgers could give their 91-loss 2005 a run for its worthless money. But yes, it’s still early.

Maybe with happier owners, the Dodgers sign Wolf. Mainly with different owners, the Dodgers splurge for Lackey. Maybe there’s a parallel universe where the Dodgers make the big trade for Lee or convince Halladay that the West Coast ain’t so bad. But the Dodger problems in 2010 have been much more than the loss of one veteran pitcher.

And that’s with some things that people expected to go wrong not doing so at all. Kuroda wasn’t done as a pitcher. Ramirez wasn’t done as a hitter. Broxton has not been scarred by Jimmy Rollins’ game-winning double in the 2009 NLCS. Andre Ethier hasn’t regressed – he’s an early contender for the Triple Crown. James Loney is showing signs of life.

For that matter, Juan Pierre, the supposedly reborn savior from 2009 who was sent to the White Sox for 2010, is batting .226, with seven walks and 15 steals in 19 attempts but no extra-base hits.

It’s still early – but whether it’s early enough for a turnaround or just early in a miserable year, I don’t know. Even for a team playing ball both on the field and in divorce court, so much can change between May and October. After all, look at what’s happened to the Dodgers between October and May.

May 05

You traded Bob Welch for what?


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The Dodgers traded 31-year-old Bob Welch (pictured above in 1983) after a 1987 season in which he had a 3.22 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 251 2/3 innings.

Former Dodger general manager Fred Claire was interviewed at length by Albert Lyu of FullCountPitch.com about how the 1988 World Series championship Dodgers were constructed. It’s a good read – including news that the Dodgers had seriously contemplated a Pedro Guerrero-for-Kirk Gibson trade before Gibson became a free agent.

I can’t help wondering what the reaction would have been on Dodger Thoughts to the news that Bob Welch and two relievers had been sent away for Alfredo Griffin, Jay Howell and Jesse Orosco.

  • Joe Torre told reporters today Charlie Haeger would start for the Dodgers on Saturday. Carlos Monasterios is in the bullpen for now. When Jeff Weaver is activated, John Ely might be optioned to the minors no matter how well he does in his start Thursday.
  • Torre said that Manny Ramirez would be activated from the disabled list Saturday.
  • Doug Mientkiewicz signed a minor-league contract with Florida, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • If you have a 3D TV and subscribe to DirecTV, your first chance to see a live major-league game in 3D at home is now looking like the Yankees at Mariners on July 10, according to Stuart Levine of Variety.
  • Ernie Harwell’s passing Tuesday means this is a good time to see, if you haven’t, Elizabeth Merrill’s ESPN.com piece on Harwell saying goodbye.
May 04

Kershaw LVII: Kershawwww, freak out!


Elsa/Getty Images
New Dodger backup infielder Nick Green had an .804 OPS last year with Boston through June 21, then a .494 after.

Bob Timmermann has a great interview with Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods about his new book at Native Intelligence.

Blue Heaven passes along a great overhead shot of the Dodgers’ 1942 Spring Training site in Daytona Beach, Florida.

May 04

Farewell, Ernie Harwell

The legendary Ernie Harwell, the former Dodger and longtime Tiger broadcaster, passed away today at age 92. He was scheduled to be awarded the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting by Fordham University on Wednesday.

We’ll miss you, Ernie.

May 04

Rafael Furcal officially heads to disabled list


Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Rafael Furcal

The Dodgers officially placed Rafael Furcal on the disabled list and chose to call up Nick Green instead of Chin-Lung Hu to take his place on the roster, according to their daily press notes. Furcal will be eligible to come off the DL on May 13. Cory Wade was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Green on the 40-man roster.

Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness argues why Hu should have gotten the call.

May 04

James McDonald tries to make the case for a callup

John Ely is expected to start Thursday for the Dodgers, but is James McDonald ready to reclaim his roster spot? McDonald, who entered the season as a potential member of the starting rotation, is back from his fingernail-induced hiatus and takes a 3.57 ERA into his start today for Albuquerque against Memphis at 5:05 p.m.

McDonald has 16 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings for the Isotopes, but has allowed 25 baserunners despite his five innings of no-hit ball last week. On the other hand, outside of the one-inning start that sent him to the DL, McDonald has allowed four runs and 20 baserunners in 16 2/3 innings (2.16 ERA). The 25-year-old’s career major-league ERA is 3.65.

May 03

Play ball …

My wife gave me the most extraordinary anniversary present. It was a 96-page, hardcover photo album (with accompanying text) celebrating our courtship and first 10 years of marriage and nearly eight years as parents. For a guy who finds self-pity less than a hop, skip and jump away, it was like being handed my very own “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The words she wrote were obviously sentimental and loving, but they didn’t hide the struggles we’ve had or the disappointments we have encountered. Sometimes we make bad choices; sometimes we aren’t good enough. Sometimes we do everything right, but it just isn’t meant to be. Marriage isn’t one World Series championship after another, and within it there are frustrations large and small.

But in the most mundane moments can come the most diabolically precious memories.

When I paged through that photo album and saw so many dagger-to-my-heart images piled on top of each other, I was staggered. And it was amazing how many of them occurred on the most uneventful days, days that had no meaning other than bringing smiles to our faces then, and now, and in the future. It’s a book of tear-dropped happiness, not a book of triumphs.

When we’re up against it, when the dreams and peace of mind are deferred, we have to remind ourselves (some days I’m better than this than others) that the little things add up. It isn’t done fairly, and the calculus isn’t comprehensible. But we have to remember. I have to remember. Otherwise, when the time comes, I’ll go straight into missing them without having appreciated them.

May 03

Former Dodger Dave Roberts in treatment for lymphoma


Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Before being sent to postseason glory in Boston, Dave Roberts stole 33 bases in 34 attempts as a Dodger in 2004.

Dave Roberts, who ranks 10th in Los Angeles Dodger history in stolen bases, is suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Still only 37, Roberts has had two rounds of chemo and says his prognosis is good.

With Roberts, the question always comes up about why he was traded by the Dodgers. The Dodgers entered the 2004 stretch run with an overload of outfielders: Steve Finley, Jayson Werth, Milton Bradley, Juan Encarnacion and Shawn Green. Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta basically did Roberts a favor by sending him somewhere where he wouldn’t be buried on the bench, but DePodesta was quoted later as saying it was a trade he truly regretted.

Roberts’ last season was in 2008, and he now works for the Padres as a special assistant.

Elsewhere, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has posted the most in-depth feature in my memory on all-time Dodger Thoughts favorite Pedro Guerrero. Guerrero dug quite a hole for himself off the field, so it’s nice to see some hopeful news about him.

May 03

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 3


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Xavier Paul congratulates Andre Ethier for the first of two home runs Sunday.

The third edition of Dodgers Cogs and Dogs was the hardest, in large part because now the injured players have become a bit more relevant than Brad Ausmus. The absences of Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Vicente Padilla, among others, complicated matters and made me revisit what exactly I was ranking. The answer: most valuable Dodgers this season to date, though if a little “what have you done for me lately” creeps in here and there, you’ll have to forgive me.

I also factored in what a player’s responsibility has been, which is why, for example, Carlos Monasterios’ sizzling ERA doesn’t place him higher.

Anyway, it’s all in good fun, at least until you get near the bottom …

5/03 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 2 11 Andre Ethier Holy cow, our little “Can he beat out Juan Pierre?” has become a monster, leading the NL in OPS.
2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Showing what he can do when healthy, averaging seven innings per start.
3 1 5 Matt Kemp Despite the mental whiplash of last week, a major key to the team.
4 4 9 Manny Ramirez Here’s where rankings start to get tricky, but Manny superb in limited minutes.
5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton Takes the 0.00 ERA into May.
6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw Walks are crazy, but a 3.07 ERA over five starts helps.
7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Only once in his career has injured Furcal had better adjusted OPS than current 116 – in ’08, of course.
8 9 24 James Loney Is the Mark Grace version of Loney on his way?
9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso Holding himself and bullpen together: In 16 games this year, 17 baserunners allowed over 14 innings.
10 5 2 Russell Martin Slumping but still above-average this year.
11 7 6 Casey Blake See Martin.
12 12 10 Chad Billingsley Season numbers lag, but in last two starts averaging six IP, 2.25 ERA, 91.5 pitches per game.
14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Team’s top bat off the bench so far.
15 14 14 Blake DeWitt With .408 OBP, will Joe Torre turn to him as No. 2 hitter?
16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios Despite 1.84 ERA, 18 baserunners vs. eight strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
17 20 8 Reed Johnson Playing as advertised, including .940 OPS vs. lefties/.571 vs. righties.
18 21 18 Jamey Carroll On base in 13 of last 26 PA, raising season OBP to .404.
19 NR NR Xavier Paul .933 OPS in 15 AB since starting call-up 0 for 5.
20 15 25 Vicente Padilla 7.06 ERA, 9.6 K/9. He’ll be the uncertain arm for the stretch run again?
21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Last pitched April 21. When he returns this week, workload should be tamer.
22 19 19 A.J. Ellis Still eminently adequate backup catcher.
23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Future of extremely inconsistent Ortiz could depend on how Ely does in next start.
24 23 23 Brad Ausmus Now trails Ellis in 2010 hits by two, but leads in career hits by 1,562.
25 16 3 Charlie Haeger 9.49 ERA since April 14 – desperately needs to string some good innings together.
26 NR NR John Ely If nothing else, the kid knows how to play leapfrog.
27 26 26 George Sherrill Just when you think you’re back in, they pull you back out.
28 25 NR Jon Link Savior after his first game, sinner after his second.
29 27 22 Russ Ortiz Highlight: Pitched two shutout innings to preserve tie in Pittsburgh on second game of season.
30 22 16 Garret Anderson Adjusted OPS of (-1)! His .156 OBP, .214 slugging below lowest expectations. HR in Cin. only hit in past 26 AB.
May 02

Heroes aplenty as Dodgers romp over Pirates

The magnificent Andre Ethier is the Dodger cover boy these days, a fact you’ll see reflected in Monday’s edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs. Either homered in his third straight game – homered twice today, in fact – and has an OPS this year of 1.161. But in a quick post summing up today’s 9-3 romp over Pittsburgh, a big tip of the hat must go to two others.

Hiroki Kuroda cruised for eight innings, allowing one run on a walk, four singles and a double over 98 pitches to lower his 2010 ERA to 2.08. Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt had his first career four-hit game, capped by a two-run double that lifted his season on-base percentage over .400 and his OPS to .767.

Kuroda seemed well-positioned to give the Dodgers their first complete game of the season, but Joe Torre brought in George Sherrill to close it out – leading to the day’s one sour moment. Sherrill allowed two runs on three hits and a walk and was bailed out by Ronald Belisario, who got the final out to end the game.

Either had an RBI single in addition to his two-run homer in the fifth and solo shot in the eighth. Matt Kemp singled, doubled, walked, scored three runs and made a diving catch in center. (He was also caught stealing for the sixth time this year on a close play). Ronnie Belliard made a great over-the-shoulder catch while playing third base. James Loney had a double and two singles to raise his home batting average to .500 (19 for 38), and reserves Xavier Paul and Jamey Carroll each had two hits.

The Dodgers are now 7-3 at home, 4-11 on the road.

May 02

Dodgers-Pirates in tiebreaker tilt

It’s May 2 – the last day of the year that the Dodgers will play the Pirates unless they meet in the National League playoffs! With the 2010 season series tied, 3-3, this one’s for all the marbles.

Hiroki Kuroda has two victories and a 4.19 ERA in 14 career daytime starts.

  • Logan White insists to Bill Shaikin of the Times that the Dodgers are being prudent with player development spending, not parsimonious.
  • Lucy is quite lucid about the Dodgers’ struggles, at It’s Time for Dodgers Baseblog (via Blue Heaven). Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness provided inspiration.
  • Also from Blue Heaven: Roy Campanella, Ralph Branca, Phil Rizzuto and Tommy Henrich are featured on the cover of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
  • Saturday at Albuquerque, Isotopes starter Josh Lindblom held Round Rock to one run over four innings, then gave up five hits in a four-run fifth. Lindblom allowed 10 hits in all while striking out seven, all in 94 pitches. Albuquerque lost, 12-7.
  • While Jon Link gave up another two runs at Albuquerque, Justin Miller pitched a shutout sixth and has an ERA of 2.13 with 13 strikeouts and 13 baserunners in 12 2/3 innings.
  • Chris Withrow allowed one earned run over six innings in Chattanooga’s 4-2 loss to Tennessee. Withrow allowed three hits and three walks while striking out six. Afer giving up seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in his previous outing, Withrow lowered his ERA to 7.04.
  • Trayvon Robinson, who has been struggling this season at AA, had his second two-hit game (single and triple) in a row for the Lookouts to raise his OPS to .747.
  • Inland Empire outfielder Kyle Russell also singled and tripled in the ’66ers 8-5 defeat. Russell is on-basing .431 and slugging .598 in 102 plate appearances, with 25 strikeouts. Russell will be 24 in June.
  • Blake Smith, a 2009 second-round pick, hit two homers for Great Lakes in an 8-6 win. Brett Wallach alllowed four runs in his poorest start of the season, his ERA rising to 2.81.
  • Did you know Angel Berroa was now farming for the Giants?

Update: Joe Torre told reporters today that he did not expect Vicente Padilla back before June. Thursday’s starter has not been decided. Torre added that Manny Ramirez and Jeff Weaver will begin rehab assignments Tuesday in San Bernadino.

May 01

Monasterios provides relief as Dodger starter, 5-1


Gus Ruelas/AP
Carlos Monasterios allowed three baserunners in each of the first two innings, but just one run.

Fluke or find? Carlos Monasterios continues to make the question an intriguing one.

From a town called Obscurity come the man who continues to make it across the tightrope when the Dodgers need him to, Monasterios this time pitching four innings of one-run ball – while also keying a game-changing three-run third inning with his first career hit – in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh tonight.

Gus Ruelas/AP
Andrew McCutchen can only watch Andre Ethier’s third-inning drive go beyond his reach.

Working with a 75-pitch limit, Monasterios didn’t avoid trouble, giving up three hits (including a first-inning Andrew McCutchen home run) and a walk while hitting two batters in the first two innings, but he held strong in adversity. And in his final two innings, he retired six of seven batters.

In the bottom of the third, Monasterios and Russell Martin singled ahead of Andre Ethier’s three-run homer that gave the Dodgers a lead they didn’t come close to surrendering.

Ramon Ortiz succeeded Monasterios and was even more impressive, striking out five in three innings while allowing two baserunners, and Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a perfect eighth. I haven’t gotten to the Ramon Troncoso story yet, but inexplicably the righty pitched a one-hit ninth in his 16th appearance in 24 games – a 108-game pace. Yeah, this is worth exploring.

In the meantime, the Dodger bullpen, counting the nine innings tonight, has allowed one run in its past 14 2/3 innings.

Ethier and James Loney each added two doubles, and Reed Johnson had a double and a single.

May 01

Dodger outfield prospect Andrew Lambo suspended for 50 games


Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Lambo, shown here with Chattanooga in 2009, has been considered a potential starting Dodger left-fielder by 2012.

Andrew Lambo, ranked No. 3 among Dodger prospects in the 2010 Maple Street Press Dodger annual, was suspended for 50 games for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The violation was for a second positive test for a “drug of abuse,” rather than a performance-enhancing substance, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who adds more details.

Lambo, a 21-year-old in his second season playing for AA Chatanooga this year, had an on-base percentage of .390 and slugging percentage of .566 (the latter fifth-best in the Southern League). He transferred from Reseda’s Cleveland High School to Newbury Park High School because of a marijuana-related incident.

Jackson also has other notes about the team here.

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I’m just getting back into the swing of things after my anniversary sojourn.  Tonight’s game is basically all hands on deck for the bullpen, started by reliever Carlos Monasterios. Ramon Ortiz figures to get some action assuming Monasterios doesn’t last five innings, although Charlie Haeger, whose Dodger future is an open question and whose next start has not been officially scheduled, could also get a call before the front end of the relief corps gets into it. It would be nice if Dodger manager Joe Torre was willing to use a key reliever early in the game, if necessary, to keep it close.

It’s an interesting test for Monasterios, but Dodger fans do need to keep expectations in line. (After the past week, I suspect that won’t be a problem.)

As for who starts in Vicente Padilla’s place next, James McDonald made a push after returning from the broken-fingernail disabled list with five no-hit innings (two walks, five strikeouts) against Round Rock on Friday. Keep in mind that the Express are among the poorer-hitting Pacific Coast League teams.