Mar 19

Vin Scully in good condition after fall

Those of you who went to bed at a proper hour avoided a scare late Thursday: Vin Scully was hospitalized after a fall at his home. Word came relatively quickly, however, that it was not serious, though he was hospitalized as a precaution.

Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Vin Scully

The news is still unnerving for obvious reasons, and recalls the passing of legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn – unbelievably, more than seven years ago –  being precipitated by a couple of falls. Scully said in a statement that he is still planning to broadcast his first game of the year Sunday from Camelback Ranch.

“I just spoke with him,” Dodger vice president of communications Josh Rawitch added at 11:30 p.m. last night, “and he told me that he was in bed this evening and simply got up too quickly and fell and bumped his head. For precautionary reasons, he went to the hospital and will stay overnight for observation but he fully expects to be at Camelback Ranch this weekend for the the telecast on Sunday.”

Vin: Just don’t rush it if you need the rest.

P.S. Assuming all is okay, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News is hosting a Q&A with Scully, for which you can e-mail your questions now.

Mar 18

Joe Torre pleased with Chad Billingsley’s latest outing

It was just another Spring Training game — well, one that featured a record Cactus League crowd of 13,391 and a busy four innings for Manny Ramirez — but no harm in noting that everyone was feeling positive about the progress of Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Chad Billingsley retired his first 13 batters September 2 vs. Arizona, then allowed four runs.

“I thought he was very good,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said after the game. “Close to 15 pitches an inning — that’ s not too bad, you know, considering he walked the first guy. I was very, very pleased with his performance today.”

Staked with a 75-pitch limit today, Billingsley stretched it to cover 4 2/3 innings, in which he struck out four and allowed one run on six baserunners.

“I worked on everything I needed to work on,” Billingsley said. “Rhythm, tempo — everything felt a lot better out there today. Great sign. Curveball was a little off today, but as far as everything else, everything else was pretty good.”

Ramirez more than made up for the lack of drama surrounding Billingsley’s performance. At the plate, Ramirez hit a two-run homer and grounded into a double play. In his first game in left field of the season, Ramirez was reportedly slow on a ball that went for a second-inning ground-rule double by Chad Tracy, who scored the game’s only run of Billingsley, but then Ramirez made a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth inning on a drive by Tyler Colvin.

Overall, Torre was also pleased with what he saw from Ramirez.

“Timing-wise, he’s hitting line drives,” Torre said, “and he’s much more balanced than he was last year.”

Jon Link got the final out in the fifth inning for Billingsley and the Dodgers. Charlie Haeger gave up a run in two innings, while Jeff Weaver pitched a shutout eighth. Backup outfielder Reed Johnson had a three-run homer late in the game, while Blake DeWitt and Garret Anderson each had two hits.

Update: Here’s Ramirez’s catch.


Courtesy Los Angeles Dodgers (via Twitpic)
Mar 18

Manny Ramirez tries out his glove, Jamey Carroll cool with his


Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Manny Ramirez catches a fly ball at San Francisco on Aug. 12.

Manny Ramirez gets his first start of 2010 in left field today. I hope he did more pregame stretching today than I did Sunday.

* * *

In his pregame chat with reporters, Dodger manager Joe Torre indicated he was comfortable with Jamey Carroll as the backup shortstop, which would free up the Chin-Lung Hu/Nick Green/whoever roster spot for someone else.

Torre also said the following about Blake DeWitt:

“He hasn’t had the opportunity to turn a double play all spring. I’d like to see that happen. He seems to be fine, he’s swinging the bat real well. He’s not going to play second defensively as well as Hudson or Belliard, but he’s not shy about going after the ball. He’s a good kid and has a good feel for the game. ”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com predicts that Torre will soon name Clayton Kershaw the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter. Jackson is doing a live chat at 12 noon.

Mar 17

Carlos Monasterios: One surprise fits all

The funny thing about Carlos Monasterios’ emergence as a legitimate roster contender (based on his eight shutout innings this spring) is how little shock there is about it. It’s like being tipped off about a surprise party.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
With even less upper-level experience than Fernando Valenzuela had in the minors, Carlos Monasterios won’t be a full-time starting pitcher in 2010 – but he could still contribute.

By now, we’re all used to unexpected faces on the Opening Day roster, from well-known retreads like Wilson Alvarez  to out-of-nowheres like Takashi Saito. Ronald Belsiario’s 2009 season removed the last vestige of shock-and-huh? from our consciousness. You never know who’s going to be great, but throw enough arms out there, and you’ve got a good chance of finding someone.

Now, the Dodgers do make it look a lot easier than it really is – otherwise every team in baseball would have had Saitos and Belisarios in the past few years. It could be a remarkable run of luck, but why not give credit to the scouts for finding studs among the duds? After all, it was the same scout – Ron Rizzi – who recommended both Belisario last year and Monasterios this year.

Unlike some of the wild-card arms contending for a roster spot, Monasterios at least brings a strikeout pitch, fanning 7.6 batters per nine innings in the minors last season. But Monasterios, who turns 24 Sunday, has only thrown 183 2/3 innings the past two seasons and only 7 1/3 innings above A ball – he’s got less experience than Fernando Valenzuela had in 1980 before his Dodger callup – so let’s be clear. Under no circumstances is Carlos Monasterios going to grab a permanent spot in the Dodger starting rotation in 2010.

At best (underscore that, because it’s still only March), you’re talking spot starter and middle reliever. But that would still be a pretty impressive reward for a $50,000 acquisition fee. An unbelievable coup – yet par for the course for the Dodgers if it happens.

“He’s got a nice presence out there,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said of Monasterios. “He’s got a really good off-speed pitch; he’s very aggressive. I like what I see. He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Eric Stults remains the leading candidate for the starting rotation based the Dodgers’ inability to send him to the minors. Monasterios could be in a direct battle with Charlie Haeger for the final spot on the staff (or there could be room for both depending on what happens with Belisario or Hong-Chih Kuo), while pitchers like Ramon Ortiz begin the season in the minors, waiting for the first calamity.

“Stults and Haeger haven’t done anything to hurt their chances,” Torre said.

Belisario’s DUI case has been resolved, according to Jim Peltz of the Times. Peltz talked to Belisario’s lawyer J. Michael Flanagan, who said Belisario was fined $1,000 after charges against him were reduced to reckless driving. That should mean that Belisario’s arrival in the States will be sooner rather than later, though everyone remains in wait-and-see-and-wonder mode.

As for Kuo, he had an encouragingly successful bullpen session, his first since before elbow pain made him a scratch in Sunday’s Taiwan game, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

* * *

Last call for the Dodger Thoughts March Madness group. Password is “Kershaw.”

Mar 17

James McDonald headed for bullpen


Chris McGrath/Getty Images
James McDonald

This probably won’t come as much of  a surprise, but Dodger manager Joe Torre told reporters this morning that James McDonald “looks like more of a bullpen guy.”

I don’t know yet if Torre means that about McDonald in April, or forever.  But you get the sense that we’ll see McDonald limited to shorter stints in the near future at least, and that he won’t be starting the year in the Albuquerque rotation with Scott Elbert.

No longterm decision on McDonald should be based on the first two weeks of Spring Training games, or for that matter his four career major-league starts. But you start to wonder if the Long Beach native will ever get a full opportunity to prove himself as a starter, or whether, like Jonathan Broxton (who was a very effective starting pitcher over 50 games in the minors), it has simply been decided that McDonald’s skill set doesn’t translate into a big-league rotation.

* * *

  • The Dodgers sent Russ Mitchell, Juan Perez and Prentice Redman to minor-league camp.
  • Former Dodger and current Rangers manager Ron Washington will be part of a media tempest after he admitted to testing positive for cocaine use last year.
  • The Rockies have an ample supply of health concerns, according to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus. Here’s his rundown of Arizona as well, while David Pinto of Baseball Musings points specifically to problems in the Colorado bullpen.
  • In surprising news, the Nationals released outfielder Elijah Dukes.
Mar 17

Drysdale, Argentina


Courtesy of Dodger Thoughts commenter WBB
WBB photographed this “on a recent drive from Olavarría (Buenos Aires province) to Santiago de Chile. The town of Drysdale is midway between the Buenos Aires towns of Carlos Tejedor and General Villegas (birthplace of Manuel Puig, author of “Kiss of the Spider Woman”), on Ruta 226.”



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Mar 16

Remembering Willie Davis


Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images
Willie Davis in Chicago in 1969, the year of his 31-game hitting streak. Walter Alston can be seen in the background.

Ben Platt of MLB.com covered today’s memorial for Willie Davis at Dodger Stadium. The Associated Press also has a report.

* * *

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a wonderful feature on Jamie Jarrin.

Mar 16

Absence without malice: Cory Wade now sidelined by surgery


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Cory Wade’s 2009 season still looked bright when he bailed Hiroki Kuroda out of a bases loaded jam in his first appearance of the year April 6, but things began going south soon after.

It says something about the disappearance of Cory Wade from the radar that I didn’t rush to blog about his impending shoulder surgery. Okay, it also says something about my crazy schedule, but you get the idea.

Initial estimates are that Wade will be out for three months, though it’s too soon to say whether that’s too long or too short a guess.  In any case, we’re talking about a guy who’s still only 26 years old. Hopefully they can solve whatever’s bothering him and get him back closer to the form that made him such a critical part of the Dodger bullpen in 2008.

* * *

POTUS potables: Great reaction piece by Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce to Jamie McCourt’s Oval Office ambitions.

… My first instinct on this is that it’s being blown out of proportion. This is probably just the daydream of a very wealthy woman. We all get carried away. It’s just that most of us don’t have the power to make people indulge us and create action plans for carrying out our whims. And, it’s quite safe to say, our delusions of grandeur rarely reach as far as attaining the highest office in the world.

What bothers me more about the current situation is Jamie’s attempt to spin all the negative publicity into a the-world-is-against-me stance. She’s repeatedly talked about how she doesn’t want the litigation playing out in the public arena. …

… So, if you’re following along at home: Jamie actively and intentionally put herself in the public eye as an owner of the Dodgers. You’ll remember that among the perks she’s seeking compensation for are professional makeup and table sponsorship funds for her many community and charity appearances. When the attention was positive and served her own ends–altruistic or otherwise–she sought the public eye.

Now that the attention is not so kind, she portrays her plight as the unfortunate acquisition of “unwanted celebrity.” This is either naive or outright manipulative. Jamie has a habit of wanting things both ways; she wanted to be protected from creditors’ claims in case the businesses failed, but now seeks half the businesses’ worth. She desired attention–was paid to draw attention–when coverage was positive, but claims to be the victim of “unwanted celebrity” now that coverage isn’t so rosy. …


Mar 15

The Ramon Ortiz tease

Fifteen Dodger pitchers have Spring Training ERAs of 0.00, so it’s not exactly a rare feat at this stage of 2010. But it’s fair to tip one’s hat to Ramon Ortiz, who has extended his scoreless string to nine innings (with seven baserunners and 11 strikeouts) after throwing four shutout frames today in the Dodgers’ 4-0 victory over the Angels.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Ramon Ortiz allowed two baserunners in four innings today, while striking out five.

It doesn’t mean that Ortiz will end 2010 a better pitcher than Scott Elbert, who had some soreness about as soon as Spring Training began and was optioned to the minors today with a 20.25 ERA. But it does mean that Ortiz has made himself a very real part of the No. 5 starter conversation, along with fellow 0.00ers Eric Stults, Russ Ortiz and Carlos Monasterios.

I emphasize the word “conversation” because we are still three weeks away from Opening Day, which means we’re still at the talking stage as opposed to the decision stage. The Ortizii also operate at a disadvantage to Stults, Monasterios and Charlie Haeger, all of whom the Dodgers would lose if they’re not on the April 5 roster. As I wrote last month, neither Ortiz (combined age: 73) has had a major-league ERA below 5.00 since 2004. So this isn’t just a question of turning over a new leaf – did they upend the entire tree?

Predictably, there’s all kinds of talk of Ramon Ortiz succeeding by adjusting to his limitations, as seen here in Tom Singer’s MLB.com article this afternoon. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Ortiz benefited by learning  to throw a curveball in Japan in 2008.  I’m not ruling it all out – nor am I ruling out the possibility that Ortiz will leapfrog the others and earn a spot on the staff in April. I just happen to still have major doubts that we’ll be waxing positive about Ortiz in September.

* * *

When Spring Training began, there were at least two spots on the pitching staff open for competition. But now there could be as many as five – if Ronald Belisario begins the year on the restricted list, if Hong-Chih Kuo begins the year on the disabled list and if the team goes with a 12-man staff. (At this point, my bets would be: yes, no, yes.)

There are at least 10 remaining candidates: Ortiz, Ortiz, Stults, Haeger, Monasterios, Jon Link, James McDonald, Josh Towers, Justin Miller and Jeff Weaver. Too soon to say what will happen, but the most intriguing decision might be whether McDonald will be in the Dodger bullpen or the Isotopes starting rotation, alongside Elbert.

* * *

  • Trayvon Robinson Saturday, Brian Cavazos-Galvez Sunday and Angelo Songco today – all hitting no-doubter home runs.  I can’t remember a Spring Training when the Dodgers got homers in three consecutive games from players 22-and-under – two of them not even out of A ball yet. Fun.
  • Argenis Reyes, Brent Leach, Travis Schlichting and Ivan De Jesus, Jr. were sent to the minors this afternoon.
  • Doug Mientkiewicz has a .421 on-base percentage in Spring Training after going 2 for 3 today; Garret Anderson is at .400 (2 for 5 in two games).
  • There will be a memorial service for Willie Davis on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, according to The Associated Press.
  • Now that “Sugar” is making the rounds on cable and DVD – Josh Wilker wrote about it today at Cardboard Gods – it’s time for any of you who ignored my recommendation to see it to go see it already!
  • Update: What do Jamie McCourt and Leslie Knope have in common? The ambition to be President of the United States, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.
Mar 15

Scott Elbert, Eric Gagne sent down

Scott Elbert and Eric Gagne are among the players the Dodgers have sent to minor-league camp, the team announced this morning.

Others, in case you hadn’t heard, are Kenley Jansen, John Lindsey, Michael Restovich and Scott Dohmann.

In addition, the Dodger career of Rule 5 draftee Armando Zerpa is over – he has been sent back to Boston.

Though nothing’s been decided yet, Joe Torre told reporters this morning that Ronald Belisario was “a longshot” to be on the Dodgers Opening Day roster.

Mar 14

Age is just a number … that tells you how old you are

It wasn’t just Garret Anderson making his 2010 debut today.

This morning, I played my first game of softball in more than a year, and had a great time despite the realization that my Strat-o-Matic card has gone from a CF 1e2 (+2) to a CF 3e6 (+3). And don’t even ask about my baserunning rating.

I could really feel the passage of time, both in the physical limitations and the instinctive ones. Things normally intuitive – the way I’d close in on a ball, for example – I had to think about. And considering that almost all my exercise is fingers on a keyboard, it was inevitable that I would tweak something. Sure enough, the first time I raced for a ball to my left, I got a twinge in my right rear bumper, so I was towing that leg the rest of the game.

With more frequent play, I’d get a second wind, but infrequency is my sandlot in life.

Nevertheless, I went 2-for-6 with three hard-hit outs and made a few solid plays. And it was a great day to be out on the grass again.

* * *

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming …

  • In the past 10 innings of Dodger baseball, I’ve had the unexpected TV pleasure of seeing prospects Trayvon Robinson and Brian Cavazos-Galvez hit towering homers. Oh, and Matt Kemp too.
  • Perhaps the top rising pitching prospect in the Dodger minor-league system, Chris Withrow, played his first Spring Training game with the big club today and struck out all three batters he faced. Details from Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A.
  • An error in the field and a pickoff on the bases today might have slowed the Blake DeWitt Starting Lineup Express just a tad, but even if it arrives, Dodger manager Joe Torre indicated he’s still inclined to give both Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll some starts, according to this Ken Gurinck story at MLB.com. “Again, if it happens to be DeWitt, we’ll certainly make sure that Carroll and Belliard have to be part of the equation somewhat,” Torre said.
  • Dodger assistant general manager and director of player development De Jon Watson talked about Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and Dee Gordon with David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus.
  • To his credit, Dodger postgame radio host Ken Levine talked openly about a TV broadcast gone awry last week.
  • Don’t forget to join the Dodger Thoughts March Madness pool. Password is “Kershaw.”
Mar 14

Dodgers flying high (and flying home) after 11-1 victory in Taiwan

With a latenight freelance assignment to work on and a link to an online feed from Taiwan, I was primed to watch my first full Dodger game of the year. And would that they could all be this much fun in 2010 …

With Manny Ramirez, James Loney and prodigal son Chin-Lung Hu each getting three hits, the Dodger Globetrotters routed the Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Stars, 11-1.

The 22-year-old Trayvon Robinson scored three runs, the third on a towering ninth-inning homer to dead center field. Xavier Paul and Michael Restovich had two hits, and Lucas May and Angel Berroa each had booming doubles.

Jamey Carroll went 0 for 5, but more relevantly played error-free ball at shortstop and was the middleman on a 3-6-3 double play with Loney.

Josh Towers allowed one run over three innings, and was followed by Josh Lindblom, whose three shutout innings were highlighted by the best Spring Training curveball for strike three I’ve seen since Clayton Kershaw’s Public Enemy No. 1.

We also got a glimpse of converted catcher Kenley Jansen on the mound; Jansen struck out one in a perfect eighth inning. Jon Link gave up two hits but closed out the game in the ninth, striking out two.

Happy trails, Taiwan …

Update (from The Associated Press): “Four players were sent down after the game in the Dodgers’ first cuts of the spring. Non-roster players Brian Barton, Francisco Felix and Gabriel Gutierrez were reassigned to minor league camp. Pitcher Kenley Jansen was optioned from the major league roster.”

Mar 13

The happiest team on Earth


Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Meadowlark Lemon

So in the comments this afternoon, I started thinking about what it would be like if the Dodgers made this roadshow they’re currently on in Taiwan a permanent thing. I don’t mean an overseas trip every year. I mean turning the Dodgers into a modern-day baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters – the L.A. Dodgers Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings –  crossing the globe on a 200-game roadtrip.

Oh sure, the team would never win a World Series again – but on the other hand, they’d really be playing a World Series. Tommy Lasorda managing, Don Rickles as his bench coach, Manny Ramirez signed to a 10-year entertainment services contract that lasts until he’s 48, Rickey Henderson brought in as designated runner and team emcee, Clayton Kershaw mixing fastballs with snowballs, Matt Kemp as the next Meadowlark Lemon, James Loney as Curly Neal, Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax each taking an inning via hologram, and just when you think they might lose, Andre Ethier ending every night with a walkoff homerun that he hits blindfolded.

A squad of baseball clown evangelists – traveling around the world, raising money and goodwill where it’s needed, pocketing it where it’s not, each game better than the last. All the team’s cares whisked away in a confetti-filled barrel of fun, a pregame “Sweet Georgia Brown” and a 200-0 record.

Yeah, I know: What about real competition? To that I say, don’t take me so seriously. Just think about the good times …