Apr 01

Arizona could be waiting a long time for Brandon Webb

San Gabriel Valley News/Zuma Press/Icon SMI
The entire 2009 season for Brandon Webb (seen here at Camelback Ranch last March) consisted of four innings pitched and six runs allowed April 6.

Brandon Webb’s 2010 is starting to look more and more like Jason Schmidt’s 2008 or 2009.

Jack Magruder of FoxSportsArizona.com reports that Webb isn’t expected back from his 2009 surgery until at least May, and that it wouldn’t be surprising if he were still recovering into August.

Because they don’t need a fifth starter until April 17, the Diamondbacks will open the season with four.

More National League injury woes: Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero will all begin the 2010 season on the disabled list.

* * *

  • The most in-depth profile of Manny Ramirez this year comes from Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • The Dodgers released Brian Barton from the organization, and R.J. Anderson of Fangraphs writes about what a shame that is.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone posted its latest Dodger prospect rankings.
  • UCLA’s baseball team, now 21-0, puts its undefeated season on the line tonight against … Stanford! Game time at Jackie Robinson Stadium is 6 p.m.
  • I don’t know what it is, but every year or so Sons of Steve Garvey all but corners the market on interesting content. Juan Pierre’s Tragic Awesomeness isn’t far behind from a columnist’s perspective.
Apr 01

The heroes of my youth

When you think back to being a kid, who were the stars that meant the most to you? They weren’t actually all stars, were they?

The heroes of my youth, the people in sports and culture who affected me, influenced me and changed me … it’s no April Fool’s joke, but no one in their right or wrong mind would have the same group.  A mix of legends and larks – some off the wall, some on – all making for good stories.

Some were special for obvious reasons, some only because they arrived in my consciousness at just the right time, just when I needed someone to emulate, or celebrate, or maybe just smile about. They arrived just when I was ready to love them. And I think I do love them. I don’t think I’d be writing about them today if I didn’t love them.

Here is a tribute to some of those who, for different reasons, made a lifelong impression on me as a kid growing up in Los Angeles:

Happy Hairston: In 1972, my final year of living in the first house I knew, the Lakers were having a little bit of a winning streak. For the first time that I can recall, I played basketball with my older brother in the driveway. I was 4 going on 5; he was 8 going on 9. We would pretend to be the Lakers, and he would be Gail Goodrich and tell me that I was Happy Hairston. Even at that young age, I had the sense that I was getting the second-fiddle player – something told me that a basketball player named Happy couldn’t be that good, and might even be a dwarf. But he wasn’t bad, and most importantly, he was my guy. My first sports identity.

George Long/WireImage/Getty Images

* * *

Kent McCord: My earliest “What do you want to be when you grow up” was a policeman. Then, I decided I wanted to be a TV star. Then I saw Adam-12, and I realized I could become both. Even at such a young age, I learned the names of the actors. Kent McCord wins in a tossup over Martin Milner.  (It’s funny how times change – my 7 1/2-year-old daughter still hasn’t seen a primetime show because of all the kiddie options available to her, but I was soaking them up on my own TV before my fifth birthday.)

* * *

Hank Aaron: On vacation at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, when I wasn’t riding horses, avoiding cactii, wearing a bolo tie (John Wooden got it from me) and getting covered in dust, I was chalking up the earliest baseball memory that sticks with me to this day: being in front of a TV set with a bunch of other dude ranchers when Henry Louis Aaron hit his 715th home run. I don’t remember it well – it’s more of a still frame shot in my mind – and deep down, I fear my sister will read this and tell me I’ve got the details all wrong, but all I know is I’ve been seeing that scene in my memory forever. (Below is Vin Scully’s marvelous call.)

* * *

Dr. George Fischbeck: Lots of different things work into this one. At the end of a field trip to a museum early in grade school, I came home with a book, “The World of Weather and Climate.” Around the same time, I started going beyond the comic section of the newspaper and into the weather page. And then there was night after night of watching Channel 7 Eyewitness News on our 5-inch black-and-white kitchen TV, with Jerry Dunphy, Christine Lund, Fast Eddie Alexander, Stu Nahan … and Dr. George, the Captain Kangaroo of weathermen. My brother, sister and I even wrote a song one December, “We Wish You a Merry Fischbeck.” Not only did he introduce me to barometric pressure, he also hosted Saturday night, pre-prime-time half-hour shows, including one burned into my brain that introduced me to the Hindenberg. Oh, the humidity! TV cop had been replaced in my ambitions. I was going to be a TV weatherman.

* * *

James Harris: I just liked him at first because he was good. He was the quarterback the night I truly became a sports fan – August 9, 1975, a preseason 35-7 slaughter by the Rams over the Cowboys at the Coliseum, where for the first time I was truly captivated by the game in front of me. (And they say exhibitions don’t matter!) That I later learned that Harris was a relative pioneer as a black quarterback only enhanced my childhood passion for him. I even had a brief fascination with Grambling. I went from weather to sports, and almost never left.

Nate Fine/Getty Images

* * *

Lawrence McCutcheon: Lawrence of Los Angeles. I still have the T-shirt I wore 35 years ago – I even had my 5-year-old son try it on … carefully … a few weeks back. One 1,000-yard season after another. The first great player that I discovered for myself. O.J. Simpson and Franco Harris were more famous, but they weren’t mine. Lawrence was my first Pedro Guerrero – an underappreciated heavy-hitter.

Martin Mills/Getty Images

* * *

Spider Sabich: Later immortalized (if I may use the term ironically) in news and then on “Saturday Night Live” as the skier who was “accidentally shot” by Claudine Longet, Sabich was in a ski film that we watched during our beginner days at June Mountain in the mid-’70s.  A race announcer said that Sabich had broken his neck. Then there was a pause.  And then, the announcer said – as if he needed time to think about it – that Sabich would be unable to continue racing that day. My brother and I thought that pause was just hysterical. Poor Spider.

* * *

Manny Mota: This one really needs no explanation. Suffice it to say, Mota might have been my first sports folk hero.

Diamond Images/Getty Images

* * *

Bob Cousy: The sports books I read as a kid had a profound effect on me. I checked a Cousy biography out of the school library, not really knowing anything about him – honestly, I’m not sure I had even heard of him. I might have just checked it out because there was a basketball player on the cover. Reading about the hours and hours of practice he put in as a schoolboy, I got my first introduction to the idea of working at becoming a great athlete – up to that point, I think I assumed sports heroes were born great. For a brief time, I allowed myself to believe that if I worked at it, I could become great – and though that turned out not to be true, I can’t say that ethic has hurt me.

* * *

The Superstars: It was an exhibition … but you couldn’t have told me it didn’t matter. The Superstars on ABC in the mid-’70s were huge to my brother and me. We would watch religiously and stage elaborate recreations. Just thinking of the Obstacle Course makes me sigh … I mean, this was even bigger to me than Battle of the Network Stars.

* * *

Reggie Smith: Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell should maybe be on this list, but again, the underappreciated tend to win out for me. And on those 1970s Dodger teams, Smith was underappreciated. I used to think “cool” meant the Fonz and the Sweathogs. Then I realized “cool” meant Reggie Smith. The Yankees could have their Reg-gie, Reg-gie – I liked ours.

Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

* * *

Lynn Swann: In the first Super Bowl I can remember watching live on TV, my life was forever changed by Swann’s tip-to-himself catch of a Terry Bradshaw bomb in a key moment of the Steelers’ victory over the Cowboys. No other football play in my life did I reenact more.

* * *

Ron LeFlore: The roots of this story go to LeVar Burton’s portrayal of LeFlore in “One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story,” a TV movie. A baseball player who came … from jail? Rock my world.

* * *

Slick Watts and Curly Neal: For reasons that I can’t explain, if you were a bald basketball player with incredible skills, you had me transfixed.

* * *

Don Chaney: I couldn’t shoot when I first started in grade-school pickup games. My first summer at John Wooden Basketball Camp, when I was 9, my coach actually had me stay in the backcourt while our team was on offense. Thank goodness for the Lakers acquiring Chaney, which introduced to me the concept of the defensive specialist. Now that was something I could aspire to. Now that blocked shot I had at basketball camp on a one-on-one fast break wasn’t just a random event – it was the start of something big. Of course I was fooling myself just as much, but you can still credit most of my understanding that there was more to basketball than scoring to Don Chaney.

* * *

Franz Klammer: “Into the bear turn!” To this day, Klammer winning the gold at Innsbruck is the greatest ski run I’ve ever seen.

* * *

Wes Unseld: One day I decided either I needed a new favorite basketball player, or I wanted to adopt someone who wasn’t a Laker – I forget which, but either way it was just for fun. So I took the boxscores of that morning’s sports section, closed my eyes and stuck a finger down on the name Unseld. I can’t remember the point total next to it, but it probably said 2. And the next day, maybe it said 5. At first, I was disappointed that I had landed on someone who didn’t even score as much as Happy Hairston, but eventually I learned what a great defender and rebounder he was. Wes Unseld was all right in my book.

* * *

Abraham Lincoln: Okay, it’s not exactly profound to include Lincoln, but he makes the list because his geared-for-kids biography was a primary example of the right book making someone larger than life accessible to me. I can’t tell you how many times I re-read that book. It three-dimensionalized him.

* * *

Magic Johnson: Another of my favorite sports stories from kidhood comes from John Wooden Basketball Camp. Each session, Wooden would hold a Q&A with the campers. In the summer of ’79, shortly after the NBA draft, one of the campers asked Wooden which new first-round draft pick would be better for the Lakers: Brad Holland or Earvin Johnson. Wooden avoided the easy choice – Holland, the UCLA graduate – and went out on a limb to choose Magic. And then Magic hugged Kareem, and everyone in Los Angeles had a new best friend.

* * *

Pedro Guerrero: I can remember when Guerrero played second base for the Dodgers. That’s how solid my Guerrero cred is. I can tell you how he batted .625 in his first season. I can explain to you the Bill James argument for why he should have been the 1981 World Series MVP – by himself – and tell you all about the glorious summer of 1985. I will stand no aspersions cast at Pedro Guerrero.

AP

* * *

Ken Coleman: The Red Sox announcer wrote a book, “So You Think You Want to Be a Sportscaster.” As it happens, I did think I wanted to be a sportscaster. And I read Coleman’s book inside and out, up, down and sideways, and began trying to broadcast games in my bedroom. And then I turned to writing.

* * *

Steven Bochco: Along with Michael Kozoll, Bochco was the man behind “Hill Street Blues,” the television love of my life. Turned onto it by my brother, I watched it every Thursday, rooting for it to survive its terrible ratings. When my brother went off to college in 1981, I recorded every episode, watched them, then watched them again in late-night marathons with my brother on winter and spring vacations. But strangely, it never occurred to me as a kid to write for television as a grownup, and I think you can blame my overall obsession with sports for that. I spent more time dreaming of making a leaping catch at the wall or a turnaround three-pointer at the buzzer than writing for the greatest show of my generation.

* * *

R.J. Reynolds: Hmm, I think I’ve said a thing or two about R.J. in the past.

* * *

Vin Scully: Around the time I realized I was never going to be a pro athlete, there was Vinny to give my life purpose. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel that to this day, he exists as a role model, as well as the greatest broadcasting voice I’ll ever know.

Mar 31

You thought Jason Repko battled injuries? You have no idea …


Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Jason Repko

One of the highlights of the Maple Street Press 2010 Dodgers Annual was the feature by Albuquerque Isotopes broadcaster Robert Portnoy on cup-of-coffee men Jason Repko and Mitch Jones. In particular, you really come to understand how brutal the injuries were that Repko faced early in his professional career. They sapped his greatest potential away.

Just for starters in 2000: right hamstring blown out, two tendons torn away from the bone in his right leg, stress fracture in his back. As Portnoy writes:

… While the hamstring healed, the back did not. Repko wore a form-fitting brace for eight weeks, immobilizing him from his armpits to his hips. Still considered the number four Dodger prospect entering 2001, Repko played in constant pain and batted just .220 over 88 games at Low A Wilmington.

After the season, doctors told him the fracture remained in the L-5 vertebrae. Then they told him something shocking: Break the same vertebrae on the other side.

“They told me it was putting stress on the other side,” Repko said. “They said, ‘If you can handle playing with it, dive hard and slide hard and see if you can get it on the other side — it’ll be easier to fix.'”

In the Instructional League that fall, Repko did just that, fracturing the other side rounding third base. The options were spinal fusion, which would hurt rotation and flexibility, or a return to the brade, with promise of better results. Opting for the brace, Repko healed well, and he has learned to manage a resulting condition known as spondylothesis.

“The vertebrae will slip forward and the back will go into spasm, because there is more flexibility in there,” Repko said. “I can’t lie on my stomach and I don’t slide head first much anymore, but I’ve only had two or three spasms the last three years.” …

The guy didn’t have what it took to stick in the majors for the Dodgers, but he truly battled. Today, more than 10 years after the Dodgers drafted him, he heads off on waivers.

* * *

  • Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White has certainly opened up in the past couple of weeks. Following the recent two-part series on Baseball Prospectus, White talks at length with Mark Timmons of L.A. Dodger Talk. It’s a great interview, full of insights and really needs to be read by all Dodger fans.
  • The McCourt ownership trial has been set to start August 30, placing it right in the stretch run of the 2010 season. I have to admit, for the time being I’ve had my fill of the innuendo and speculation, and don’t have much to say about it.
  • George Sherrill is taking a week off from game action to try to iron out some mechanical issues, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com — so expectations about him at the start of the regular season should be guarded.
  • Blake DeWitt is the subject of a feature by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Mar 30

Dodgers expected to say ‘Sayonara’ to the underappreciated Eric Stults


Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
Eric Stults was banished from the Dodger starting rotation in 2008 despite a 3.18 ERA.

Whenever you think of players who were judged for what they weren’t instead of what they were, you can think of Eric Stults, whose eight years in the Dodger organization were poised to end today with an expected sale to a Japanese team. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more details).

Stults didn’t have overwhelming stuff, and he couldn’t put together a string of lengthy starts. In his 24-start major-league career, beginning with his first appearance in September 2006, Stults never had three consecutive appearances of at least six innings.

But in Stults’ defense, the Dodgers never gave him much time to develop any kind of consistency. Until 2009, the most major-league starts he ever made in a single month was three. The worst instance of this was in 2008, when a 28-year-old Stults came into Colorado with a 2.67 ERA over five starts, averaging six innings per start. But given an 11-0 lead, Stults couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. In Colorado. With that one ill-fated game, Stults didn’t make another appearance in a Dodger uniform for more than two months. Does that make any sense at all?

Last year, Stults got his most consistent usage with the Dodgers, and he responded with a 3.82 ERA over seven consecutive starts, averaging 5 1/3 innings — more than adequate for the Dodger rotation at that point. But in that seventh start, he hurt his thumb diving on a fielding play. He and the Dodgers then made the mistake of having him pitch with his bad hand in Colorado, where he gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Another bad outing followed, and Stults was moved to the disabled list. He only made one more appearance for the Dodgers the rest of the season.

Stults is replaceable. But it’s disheartening the way the Dodgers treated his good starts as a fluke while simultaneously praying for fluke good starts in others. None of the remaining candidates for the Dodgers’ fifth rotation spot have the credentials from recent years that Stults has.

In the second game of his career, Stults threw six innings of one-run ball at Shea Stadium in a key September game. He shut down the Rockies on two runs over seven innings while striking out nine in 2007. He shut out the White Sox in 2008 and the Giants in 2009. Whatever his shortcomings, that’s the guy I’ll remember.

Mar 29

Torre: Dodgers likely to start season with 11 pitchers

Joe Torre told reporters today that the Dodgers would probably start the season with 11 pitchers and then go to 12. That would allow the team to keep Blake DeWitt as a starting second baseman and Nick Green as backup shortstop.

“I’ll let you know the fifth starter in L.A.,” Torre said. “It’s not because I’m unsure, but because we’ve got work to do with the other guys. We’re looking at 11 pitchers now to start. I think we’re still determining who the 11 will be. I think 12 will be the number for most of the year. We’re going to need a fifth starter four times in April.”

As I’ve written before, I don’t agree with the need to keep Green but I’m far from surprised by it, because the Dodgers essentially did the same thing last year in saving a spot for Juan Castro almost the entire season.

I also suspect that the decision to go with 11  pitchers is a response to the probability of both Ronald Belsiario and Hong-Chih Kuo missing Opening Day. The competition for the bullpen isn’t quite as tight.

At this point, I would bet heavily on these 10 pitchers being on the Opening Day roster: Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Charlie Haeger, Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz. The remaining competition, I believe, is for the 11th spot.

* * *

  • Hiroki Kuroda had a breezy seven innings in a minor-league game today, allowing one run (a solo homer) on two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 91 pitches. Russell Martin, looking more and more like the Opening Day catcher, caught all seven innings.
  • Josh Lindblom won the 2010 Jim and Dearie Mulvey Award for being the top rookie at Spring Training.
  • It’s a Dodger Divorce day, with Josh Fisher providing numerous updates on today’s spousal support hearing.
  • Mike Petriello has a fun wrap-up of his trip to Camelback Ranch at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Of the 19 pitchers in baseball last year who had RBIs after the seventh inning, according to Stat of the Day, four were Dodgers. Can you name them?
  • If you haven’t already, be sure to make your 2010 Dodgers prediction in the thread below.
Mar 29

Looking back on 2010: The Dodger Thoughts reader predictions thread

For the fifth year in a row, I’m asking Dodger Thoughts readers to summarize the upcoming season before it happens.

The Dodgers went xx-xx in 2010 because ______________.

(And, yes, if you need an extra x, take it.)

Last year, we had a dead-on prediction from the second person offering one.  Here’s Dodger Thoughts reader KG16 on March 30: “Always the optimist when it comes to sports, I’ll say the Dodgers have a breakout season and finish 95-67, and good enough for home field through the NL playoffs.”

The rest of his comment was not quite as accurate – “I’ll also predict that the NL gets home field in the World Series because of All Star game home runs by Manny and Russ, along with three shutout innings to start the game by Billingsley and a perfect seventh by Kershaw.” – but forgivable under the circumstances.

Also picking a 95-67 record was commenter Unlazy4sports.

Several people picked a breakout season for Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, but no one had “50-game suspension for Manny Ramirez” in the pool. More than a few talked about midseason acquisition Roy Halladay …

Mar 28

Clayton Kershaw: The ‘Enemy’ is our friend


Paul Connors/AP
Clayton Kershaw

It was only two Marches ago that Clayton Kershaw emerged from the theoretical to the tangible with his “Public Enemy No. 1” to strike out Sean Casey in an otherwise forgettable Spring Training game. Just two years.

Now, Kershaw is a ripe old 22 years old, and most of the debate about him is whether he’ll be great or merely good. And so today, as Kershaw cruises through six innings of his final March outing, striking out seven and walking just one while allowing one run on 99 pitches, Dodger fans don’t need to marvel. They just nod and smile. “Yeah, we know.”

In two blink-of-an-eye years, Spring Training is no longer a proving ground for Kershaw. It’s merely a workout room, a waystation for bigger and hopefully better things.

Update: The latest on Kershaw’s improved repertoire, from Dylan Hernandez of the Times:

Clayton Kershaw couldn’t throw his curveball for strikes in the first couple of innings Sunday, something that would have spelled trouble at an earlier stage of his career.

But his fastball was working. So was his slider. And changeup.

According to a chart kept by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw threw seven of eight changeups for strikes and recorded three outs with the pitch. Seven of his nine sliders were thrown for strikes.

Relying on the two relatively new weapons in his arsenal, Kershaw was able to bide time until his curveball started dropping into strike zone. He exited his final Cactus League start having held the Cincinnati Reds to one run, six hits and one walk over six innings. …

* * *

  • There’s a little tiff brewing, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, between the Dodgers and Doug Mientkiewicz, who wants the team to release him before their Friday deadline so that he can have a better shot at getting a spot with another team. The Irony Committee has issued an approval on the fact that the reason the Dodgers want to hang on to Mientkiewicz as long as they can relates to the possibility of their first-choice lefty pinch hitter, Garret Anderson, suffering a major injury like Mientkiewicz incurred last April. He provided the example of the need to not grant his wish.
  • Working on his second consecutive day, Ramon Ortiz struck out two of the three batters he faced, passing probably the last test (other than waking up healthy Monday) for him to make the team.
  • Chad Gaudin signed with the A’s, ending speculation the Dodgers might go for him.
Mar 28

Look who’s talking

  • Ronald Belisario said he did nothing wrong to cause his visa delays, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Dubious – and even if it’s true, his communication with the Dodgers still should have been better. I still wonder if something more was going on. Anyway, expect the Dodgers to activate him by April 25 at the latest.
  • Russell Martin is scheduled to catch seven innings and bat seven times against the Indians’ AAA team today, according to the Dodger press notes.
  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News has a nice piece today describing the dog days of Spring Training.
  • The first of a two-part interview with Logan White has been posted by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus. Some really good stuff in there. Sample:

    “Another thing I do is keep a private log of certain types of arm actions – the success rates of them. Certain types of deliveries – their success and failure rates. The same with hitters. There are certain things that we will either like or stay away from based on our own statistics of how those have been working over the past 10 or 15 years. I’ve kept these since I was an area scout. Let’s say for example that a guy is a slinger or he has a bad wrist wrap. How many guys have that who have been drafted and signed, that I’ve seen, and have actually made it? And how far? Things like that. I’ve kept pretty good records and I haven’t publicized them, not even to my own staff, but I do utilize that kind of stuff.”

  • How much playing time do you think each Dodger will get this year? Submit your predictions with Tangotiger.
Mar 27

Never fear, Ronald Belisario is here

Tony Jackson chronicles Ronald Belisario finally arriving at Camelback Ranch.

…Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng said Belisario can be kept on the restricted list for up to 30 days after being placed there on Friday, meaning he has to be either activated or waived — he is out of minor league options — by April 25.

Belisario is expected to dress in the major league clubhouse until the team breaks camp on Wednesday, but his activity will take place in minor league camp.

“We have to see what kind of shape he is in,” Ng said. “After determining that, then he will probably be on the other side.”

Other than saying hello to a couple of reporters in the parking lot, Belisario declined to speak with reporters until Sunday morning. …

Colletti was asked minutes before Belisario’s arrival whether the pitcher’s strange behavior might signify a deeper problem.

“It certainly makes you wonder,” he said. “But he is obviously a talent.” …

* * *

  • Following up on the tea leaves, which I posted on the fly from my cellphone and couldn’t comment on: It sure seemed as if Joe Torre was hinting at the possibility that Blake DeWitt would go to the minors for roster reasons. (And no, I wouldn’t agree with any decision that would send DeWitt down to preserve Nick Green.)  I wouldn’t assume DeWitt won’t start at second base, but I wouldn’t quite lock it in, either.
  • And, when Charlie Haeger and Florida (site of the Dodgers’ fifth-starter debut) were mentioned in the same sentence, you got the feeling that Torre was liking the idea of Haeger in the rotation, and today’s 5 1/3 shutout innings probably made him like it just a little more. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness arrived at Camelback this weekend and posted a first-hand account of Haeger today.
  • Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsGuy wrote a worthy piece for True Blue L.A. about the effect of the divorce litigation on the Dodgers.
  • UCLA baseball is now a mesmerizing 20-0.
  • A few months before his 60-homer 1927 season began, Babe Ruth was arrested in Long Beach – and Steve Harvey of the Times tells the story.
Mar 27

Big and low tea leaves

Joe Torre quotes to reporters this morning:

“Blake and Ethier are going to Las Vegas. Ellis and DeWitt will both be there too. We’ll make a statement on second base in a few days. DeWitt couldn’t have done anymore that is within his control, he’s done everything he possibly could have done and come through with high marks.

“Physically guys are ready, mentally it’s tough to remind yourself these games are important. We still have decisions to make not just at second base but the pitching staff as well.

“Haeger could go five or six today, we’re not concerned about building up his endurance. He’s done a good job and handled everything we’ve thrown at him. He can dominate a game when that thing’s working. He talked with Charlie Hough about how to pitch in certain environments. Florida should be fine, he said he enjoys pitching indoors too.

“We’ve got to figure out our starters and figure it out from there. You have Sherrill, Broxton, and Troncoso. Kuo is a question mark, he probably won’t be ready for the season. We’ve got a lot of options.  Sherrill is looking at some video for those who are wondering. They thought he was doing some mechanical stuff that he doesn’t normally do.

“I had a talk with Doug Mientkiewicz yesterday and told him it doesn’t look like he’ll make the team with Anderson around. I told him I’d love to have him around, but he’ll take a day to think about his options. He was understanding of the decision, he likes being here but he wants to be in the big leagues.”

Mar 27

A bitter end

Coming shortly after the struggle was chronicled on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, here’s a very detailed article on Mike Penner/Christine Daniels by Christopher Goffard of the Times.

* * *

At Baseball Analysts, Stan Opdyke (Dodger Thoughts commenter Stan from Tacoma) tells the story of Pat Rispole, who preserved a multitude of old radio baseball broadcasts. Opdyke also provides highlights from some of those games.

Mar 26

Hong-Chih Kuo closer to the disabled list


Mark Duncan/AP
Hong-Chih Kuo, shown here March 2, last pitched in a game for the Dodgers on March 19.

Another spot in the bullpen is on the verge of opening with the news from Dodger manager Joe Torre that reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has been shut down and likely will be on the disabled list when Opening Day comes, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

With Ronald Belisario AWOL, that leaves a core of four starters (Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla) and three relievers (Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso) and either four or five open spots on the pitching staff. If nothing else, Carlos Monasterios is pretty much a lock at this point to make the team.

* * *

Russell Martin will rest Saturday after a busy Friday in which he caught six innings, batted six times and scored from first on a double (in a minor-league game).

* * *

Giants pitcherum Tim Lincecum is also playing catchup, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com.

… Lincecum allowed only one run in four innings in the Giants’ 5-3 Cactus League victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, but allowed six hits and walked two — though he did strike out seven.

The Giants ace said afterward that he’s “85 percent sure with my body of what I’m doing out there and confidence-wise. Hopefully that last tuneup job will help.” He admitted that he’s progressing “a little slower than I wanted to.”

Lincecum’s final exhibition outing before he starts the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston won’t be a high-profile appearance. Though his next scheduled turn would arrive next Wednesday, when the Giants play their Cactus League finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he’s virtually certain to pitch a Minor League exhibition or intrasquad game instead.

This would serve a dual purpose. It would prevent the Dodgers from getting a studied look at Lincecum before the regular season, and it would enable the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner to address his pitching flaws in a relaxed atmosphere. …

* * *

On weekends, my 5-year-old son sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor of my 7-year-old daughter’s room. Tonight, my daughter wanted to switch. Because of the way they were behaving before bedtime, I declined her request.

Later, my daughter went up to my son:
D: “I envy you.”
S: “What does that spell?”
D: “I envy you.”
S: “WHAT DOES THAT SPELL?!”

Mar 26

Ronald Belisario: What happened?


Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Ronald Belisario pitching in Game 2 of the 2009 National League Championship Series.

Ronald Belisario has been ruled out for the Opening Day roster by Joe Torre, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Most of what I read about Belisario chides him for blowing this opportunity and letting down the Dodgers and their fans. But absent a rational explanation for what has happened, I still can’t help thinking that the bigger issue is a serious problem that we should be concerned with instead of critical of.

That might make me sound soft, and if he’s being a flake just to be a flake, I’ll adjust my reaction accordingly. But I’m just having trouble imagining why Belisario would willfully self-sabotage. Right now, I’m still in the position of hoping Belisario makes it back, mentally as well as internationally.

* * *

  • I’m scheduled to be a guest on KSPN 710 AM at 1:40 p.m., interviewed by Andrew Siciliano and Mychal Thompson. (That link will also take you to Molly Knight’s interview with the pair from Thursday.
  • In case you missed it, Ronnie Belliard made weight and is now an official 2010 Dodger, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America joins the groundswell of praise for prospect Allen Webster, a fave of Dodger Thoughts and Maple Street Press Annual prospect expert CanuckDodger.
  • Steven Goldman, writing at ESPN’s TMI blog, wonders if the failure of Joba Chamberlain to make the Yankee starting rotation will represent a tipping point for over-protecting young arms.
  • Forty years ago today: “Next Stop for Steve Garvey Is Third Base at Dodger Stadium” (via the Daily Mirror).
  • The Pawnee Parks and Recreation Summer Catalog is a must-peruse.
Mar 26

Russ Ortiz might shine briefly but won’t endure


Mark Duncan/AP
Russ Ortiz

Last year, Russ Ortiz had as many as four consecutive good starts. When he’s hot, he’s hot. When he’s not … well, that’s most of the time.

Here’s a chart of every start he has made since 2005.

Date IP ER   Date IP ER   Date IP ER
4/5/05 6 3   9/11/05 3 5   8/10/07 5 2
4/10/05 5 1   9/18/05 5 2   8/15/07 5 3
4/16/05 6 4   9/24/05 4 5   8/20/07 4 4
4/21/05 7 2   4/7/06 6 3   4/16/09 4 2/3 3
4/26/05 6 2   4/13/06 4 1/3 4   4/21/09 5 3
5/2/05 3 2/3 7   4/18/06 2 1/3 0   4/26/09 5 2
5/7/05 4 1/3 3   4/23/06 1 2/3 4   5/7/09 2 1/3 3
5/12/05 6 2   6/6/06 5 3   6/11/09 5 1/3 0
5/18/05 5 1/3 4   6/11/06 3 1/3 7   6/17/09 6 3
5/24/05 6 4   7/1/06 4 1/3 3   6/23/09 7 2
5/29/05 3 1/3 5   7/6/06 5 6   6/28/09 7 1/3 2
6/4/05 7 4   7/18/06 2 2/3 3   7/4/09 5 2/3 8
6/10/05 7 3   7/21/06 0 6   7/9/09 3 4
6/15/05 5 1/3 7   8/7/06 3 6   7/19/09 6 2
8/13/05 6 5   4/7/07 5 3   7/25/09 4 1/3 6
8/19/05 2 2/3 6   4/13/07 8 2/3 5   7/30/09 2 1/3 9
8/24/05 4 8   4/20/07 7 2        
8/29/05 5 2/3 3   4/26/07 5 1/3 3   Total 260 210
9/4/05 6 2/3 3   5/1/07 3 1/3 8   Average 4.8 3.9
Mar 25

Who will shock the world (or at least Dodger fans)?


Mark Duncan/AP
Could Justin Miller make a surprise appearance on the Opening Day roster?

Here are 25 remaining Opening Day roster variables, in no particular order …

1) Hong-Chih Kuo: Arm is dangerous?
2) Russell Martin: All work leads to no play?
3) Ronald Belisario: Seeking writ of habeas corpus?
4) Eric Stults: Stays or goes?
5) Ramon Troncoso: Soft spring portends hard times?
6) Carlos Monasterios: Does he pass Go and collect $400,000?
7) Charlie Haeger: Knuckling under or over?
8) Justin Miller: Inky dinky do?
9) Blake DeWitt: Options work against him?
10) Luis Ayala: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here?
11) Russ Ortiz: Still at the end of every hard-earned day people find some reason to believe?
12) Ramon Ortiz: First among Ortizii?
13) Josh Towers: From Taiwan, With Love?
14) Nick Green: I got well for this?
15) Brad Ausmus: Too old and infirm? “My body lies over the notion.”
16) Chin-Lung Hu: Good enough to ride your bench?
17) A.J. Ellis: Waiting for Guh! D’oh!
18) Doug Mientkiewicz: Am I still a Torre fave?
19) Garret Anderson: Better late than never, or worse?
20) Chad Gaudin: Outside looking in?
21) Josh Lindblom: Young gun?
22) Ronnie Belliard: Weight, weight, don’t tell me?
23) Jeff Weaver: What, last year wasn’t good enough?
24) Vicente Padilla: Forearm stiffness?
25) Field: Will all the other roster locks stay healthy?