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.

* * *

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.

Apr 28

Riding in the tunnel …

.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the lowdown on Ned Colletti’s critical comments of the Dodgers’ play. (Dodgers Blog has Kemp’s response.) I’ll agree with Colletti that Matt Kemp’s basestealing and defense have been a disappointment that we’d all like to see corrected, but if you’re going to start throwing out pointed comments about the effect of his new contract, you might at least balance it with the fact his hitting has been MVP-caliber. The Dodgers are not losing because of Matt Kemp.

Jackson adds, as many of you might already have suspected, that Charlie Haeger’s roster spot is in jeopardy after another unsatisfactory outing. Not sure what move the Dodgers would make, but Saturday might bring a decision.

* * *

On April 29, 2000, I stood at one end of a room and a woman walked toward me from the other end of the room. And then we made vows, and we walked out of that room together, married.  I’m not sure what’s more amazing – that it ever happened, or all that has come in the nine years and 364 days since. It feels unreal. It’s been very real – family life can be bliss and it can be hard. But thinking about it feels unreal. It’s a ride I don’t want to get off.

So I’m off to celebrate – you’ll next see me here Friday or Saturday.  There will game chats, so stick around and think good thoughts about the Dodgers, when you can.

Apr 27

Mets give Dodgers the full Flushing, 10-5

Kathy Willens/AP
James Loney can’t believe tonight’s strike three call against him – nor the downward slide of the Dodger season.

So far in 2010, these Dodgers have been something – as in, it’s always something.

With their 10-5 loss to the Mets in the second game of today’s doubleheader, the Dodgers now have the worst record in the National League – tied at 8-12 with Atlanta and Pittsburgh, which won the season-opening series between the two teams.

Not for lack of effort, the team has simply found a way to lose. The Dodgers aren’t loafing, but they’re not executing – not enough of them for long enough. You could say there were turning points today, if you could also say there are turning points when you’re sitting in a dunk booth.

I don’t think the Dodgers take the field defeated, but they’ve left me feeling that way. Lately, wins feel like aberrations.

They get bad breaks – the lowdown called strike three on James Loney with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the fourth tonight made the Dodger first baseman angrier than most of you have probably ever seen. But everyone gets bad breaks.

They get hurt – three Dodgers to the disabled list in the past week, and now Rafael Furcal’s health is back in doubt, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. You can’t win if you can’t stay healthy.

They’re out of sync – pitching, defense and hitting almost never working at once.

Wednesday marks the end of a nine-game roadtrip that has already yielded six losses. We’ll see if home cooking this weekend helps fix things; we’ll see if the Dodgers are getting their bad fortune out of the way early. Time and potential are on the Dodgers’ side. The question is whether reality is.

Apr 27

Dodgers lose 4-0, just torturing their fans now


Frank Franklin II/AP
Johan Santana was on the wild side for New York today, but he got the job done.

And so the reversal is fully in motion. The Dodgers get their third consecutive quality start, this time from Hiroki Kuroda. But the offense is shutout for the second straight time, and Los Angeles falls in the first game of their doubleheader today against the Mets, 4-0.

It wasn’t a cruise for Mets lefty Johan Santana. He needed 115 pitches to battle through six innings, including a second inning when he walked the bases loaded, but twice used Kuroda as an escape out of a jam and left the game unscored upon.

On one level, Kuroda outpitched Santana, needing only 87 pitches over six innings, but a wild pitch got the first run in for the Mets in the second, and Jason Bay’s first homer of the season (in the fourth) brought in the insurance.

I was hoping that with such a low pitch count, Kuroda would stay in the game (and sacrifice) with one out and one on in the top of the seventh, but Joe Torre had Garret Anderson pinch-hit. The  Dodgers didn’t score, and rookie Jon Link came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh, allowing the first three men to reach. The Dodgers then brought in Ramon Troncoso; why you would make Troncoso available but not use him to start the inning, I don’t know. Anyway, the Mets scored two runs to double the Dodger deficit.

You’re never confident against Santana, but you know, you’re starting Hiroki Kuroda, and then he’s pitching well, Santana looks fallible, and suddenly the game looks completely winnable. But then a different reality blindsides you.

On to Game 2 …

* * *

For your between-game reading (via Baseball Musings): former Dodger minor leaguer Matt White isn’t a billionaire after all, but he’s still looking good for his post-baseball life, according to this story (which I’m having trouble really originated on the Granite Transformations blog, but that’s the only place I could find it).

Apr 27

Beware the great pitching matchup


Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Citi Field fans wait out a rain delay during the sixth inning of the game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

Spontaneously delivered to us by Coach Nature, Hiroki Kuroda vs. Johan Santana is a pretty great matchup for the first game of today’s doubleheader. But the Dodger press notes point out that the last time the Dodgers played a straight doubleheader in New York, on August 14, 1990, the Game 1 matchup was Dwight Gooden vs. Ramon Martinez. Final score of that one? Mets 9, Dodgers 8, with both starting pitchers allowing seven runs.

Howard Johnson was right … on with a three-run homer in the first inning, giving the Mets a lead they never quite relinquished despite three hits and four RBI by Dodger leadoff-hitting third baseman Lenny Harris.

* * *

Vicente Padilla has an irritated radial nerve in his right forearm. The Dodgers say they have not set a timetable for his return; True Blue L.A. has more details about the injury, including a reference point with Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza, who spent 16 days on the disabled list with it in 2008 but came back strong.

Apr 26

Dodgers rained out — doubleheader Tuesday

The Dodgers have been rained out at New York tonight, with a doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday beginning at 1 p.m.

Hiroki Kuroda will start one game; the second will be either by Charlie Haeger or a minor-leaguer. (Unless Haeger starts both games!) John Ely was scratched from his Albuquerque start tonight, so he is most likely to make his major-league debut either Tuesday or Wednesday.

By the way, we don’t know how long Vicente Padilla will be out, but here’s a bad sign: He told Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine, “In the past I’ve been able to throw through this, but I can’t even do that. Never had pain this bad before.”

In other notes …

  • Is it time for the Dodgers to hire Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone as pitching coach? You be the judge.
  • You don’t usually see negative information in the Dodger press notes … so this shows hard the Dodger fielding travails have been to ignore: “The Dodgers made two errors Saturday for the eighth time this season and have now made 20 miscues on the season. In 2009, the Dodgers committed their 20th error on May 25 and didn’t make two errors in a game eight times until September 4. The club’s 20 errors lead the Major Leagues.”
  • Former Dodger exec Charles Steinberg has officially become MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s senior adviser for public affairs, reports Chuck Schilken of the Fabulous Forum.

Update: Kuroda vs. Johan Santana in Game 1; Haeger vs. Oliver Perez in Game 2.