Feb 29

When you walk through the garden …

Rarely have I been retweeted more than I was Tuesday when I passed along this link to The Wire wind-up toys.

Now, unwind with these notes …

  • Don Mattingly confirmed to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. that he has no plans to bat A.J. Ellis second, citing his lack of speed in front of Matt Kemp. Unfortunately, the alternative candidates’ lack of on-base percentage in front of Kemp seems not to have entered into Mattingly’s thinking.
  • Mattingly also hinted that Juan Rivera would start 2012 as the Dodgers’ regular left fielder with occasional days off. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com added that Jerry Sands is still in the mix to be a platoon partner for Andre Ethier and James Loney.
  • Dodger relief prospect Shawn Tolleson was interviewed by John Parker of MiLB.com.
  • The Dodgers have the National League’s second-easiest early season schedule, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Nine of their first 34 games are against teams with winning records in 2011.
  • Here’s the full list, 200-deep, of Dodger prospect rankings from Brandon Lennox at True Blue L.A. Henry Heredia, this is your moment.
  • Gold Glove or not, Andre Ethier’s ranking in David Pinto’s PMR list for right fielders at Baseball Musings probably won’t surprise you. Matt Kemp in center field? You tell me what you think.
  • Trayvon Robinson is trying to reestablish himself after his hot start with Seattle turned into a rough finish, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
  • Tuesday in Jon SooHoo: two pics that fostered polar opposite reactions for me, Jerry Sands bunting and Matt Kemp skywalking.
  • Not surprisingly, initial reaction to the new book from Dirk Hayhurst, Out of My League, is positive. Examples: Andrew T. Fisher of Purple Row and Keith Olbermann at Baseball Nerd.
  • The statement from Ryan Braun sample-taker Dino Laurenzi is eloquently written.
  • Coming March 15-17 is a SABR Analytics conference in Arizona. Not coming at the same time is the Notalytics Conference in South Dakota, but I sure wish it were.
  • Emmett Ashford, the majors’ first African-American umpire, was given an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, Chapman College, according to Terry Cannon of the Baseball Reliquary.
  • Giancarlo Stanton: the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton.
  • Harvard-Westlake’s Lucas Giolito hit 100 miles per hour while pitching a one-hitter for the Wolverines on Tuesday, writes Eric Sondhiemer of the Times.
  • Perfect for Leap Day: The Dodgers had the 29th-best offseason of all major-league teams, according to The Platoon Advantage.
  • KCRW’s Which Way L.A. now has its own blog.
  • Jonathan Abrams and Grantland published a vivid oral history of the 2004 Pacers-Pistons fight that spread into the stands.
  • Longtime Times columnist Steve Harvey is back writing “Only in L.A.,” host Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed announced. The first new edition is here.
  • Watch former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob break a world-distance record for throwing a paper airplane at ESPN.com.
  • Farewell, Monkees and Brady Bunch star Davy Jones. I was a childhood fan of both. Here, from Variety, is the 1965 ad soliciting auditions for The Monkees
Nov 12

Remembering 2011: A.J. Ellis


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireA.J. Ellis (36)

The setup: In fits and starts through 2010, his final season before turning 30, Ellis got his first extended time on the Dodger roster, backing up Russell Martin after Brad Ausmus was hurt and then sharing catching duties with Ausmus and  Rod Barajas after the season-ending injury to Martin in July. He struggled at first before going 3 for 3 on August 22 against Cincinnati, a game that kicked off a season-ending stretch in which he went 18 for 39 with three doubles and eight walks for a 1.101 OPS. Nonetheless, the offseason signings of Barajas and then, most painfully, Dioner Navarro set the stage for Ellis to return to Triple-A for the fourth year in a row.

The closeup: Because of an early injury to Navarro, Ellis began 2011 on the Opening Day roster after all, but played in only six games (with a .421 on-base percentage in 19 plate appearances) before reaching his intended destination of Albuquerque. In Triple-A, he proved nearly half-impossible to get out – for 2011 with the Isotopes, he had a .467 on-base percentage in 248 plate appearances. When Barajas went down with a midseason injury, Ellis came back, started hot, but went 2 for 17 with two walks in six July starts over eight days, and headed back to Triple-A.

On August 23, the Dodgers decided they had had enough of Navarro, and recalled Ellis for the remainder of the year. In his first game back, Ellis hit his first major-league home run along with an RBI single in a Dodger victory that seemingly buried the St. Louis Cardinals’ postseason hopes. (Things change.) Ellis hit his second homer 10 days later and once again finished the year strong, with a .976 OPS over his final five weeks.

Overall in 2011 with the Dodgers, Ellis had a .392 on-base percentage and .376 slugging percentage in 103 plate appearances, while throwing out four of 15 runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: For the first time, Ellis has a position on the Dodger Opening Day roster dedicated to him, as well he should – a catcher with a career .360 OBP in 244 plate appearances should be no worse than a backup. As things stand now, Ellis would share time with rookie Tim Federowicz, but it’s impossible to believe the Dodgers won’t acquire another catcher that would allow them to put Federowicz in the minors to start the 2012 season if they desired. The question, then, is how much time that catcher-to-be-named-later would take away from Ellis – a little or a lot.

Oct 07

Ned Colletti talks about 2012

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti gave a long interview to Jim Bowden for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Some highlights:

…Matt Kemp is a priority, and I plan on getting with his agent, Dave Stewart, and will work diligently in trying to work out a long-term deal with Matt. There is some urgency because he’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season if they don’t sign him long term now. Clayton Kershaw’s situation is not as urgent because he’s only first-time arbitration eligible and won’t be a free agent until after the 2014 season. That doesn’t mean we won’t have conversations and listen, and if we can make a deal that makes sense, we will be open to it — but not with the same urgency as Kemp.

… We will entertain signing (Andre Ethier) as well, but he’s coming off an injury and a subpar season. … I am not inclined to trade any player that is a key player to our major league club right now, and he fits that category.

… We really need a middle-of-the-lineup impact bat, which would be a very key component to us winning next year. We need to figure out second base. Carroll and Miles are free agents. Right now we have the two young players in Sellers and Ivan DeJesus that we might let compete for that job next year. We need to figure out left field as well, but we’re leaning towards Jerry Sands, especially after the way he finished this season with us. Behind the plate, we’ll probably let Tim Federowicz and A.J. Ellis handle the duties. They are both good catch-and-throw receivers. If Federowicz can hit .240 with some power, he can be an everyday catcher.

… And finally, although we’re pleased with our deep young bullpen, we’d still be open to signing another veteran reliever, but that would be a low priority based on our other team needs.

… We have a need in the middle of our lineup, and if we could do the right deal with a player in terms of duration and money, we would be willing to do it. We have flexibility if we keep catcher, second base, shortstop and left field as non-arbitration eligible players like we have now, then it is definitely possible that we could afford to spend the money on a significant middle-of-the-order bat.

… Kuroda has bought a house in Los Angeles and both of his daughters go to school here. He is an extremely loyal person to both the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles and really doesn’t want to play anywhere else. We hope he decides to stay here because he’s a very important part of our rotation and clubhouse.

… Our best prospects in our system right now are mostly pitching prospects, led by Zach Lee, who pitched at the Midwest league this past season but has a chance to be special. Allen Webster and Shawn Tolleson are two other top pitching prospects. Tolleson was our minor league pitcher of the year and a close friend of Clayton Kershaw. Steve Ames is another bullpen arm that we could see as early as next season. Chris Lee, our first round pick from Stanford, of course, is also special, and we’re going to try to develop him as a starter.

… We’re a lot closer to winning than people realize. If we had gotten just the typical offensive contributions this year from James Loney, Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe, who knows how many games we could have won. But injuries and subpar seasons are just part of the game. If we can make a few key moves this offseason and solve some of the question marks on this team that we’ve just been talking about, I really believe this club can finish in first in 2012.

There’s more, so be sure to read the whole interview, as well as Tony Jackson’s five key offseason questions and Ramona Shelburne’s own interview with Colletti.

Also, don’t miss the Kamenetzky Brothers’ podcast with “Breaking Bad” star and longtime Dodger fan Bryan Cranston.

Sep 20

Lee’s surge complicates road to Cy Young for Kershaw


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireClayton Kershaw is set to finish his season with starts tonight and then Sunday in San Diego.

How heated is the National League Cy Young competition? The top four candidates — Roy Halladay, Ian Kennedy, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee (in alphabetical order) — have a combined September ERA of 1.46.

Kennedy continued his late bid for recognition by pitching eight innings of one-hit ball with 12 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory for Arizona, which built its lead to 5 1/2 games in the NL West, while Halladay gave up a sliver of ground by allowing four runs in a 4-3 Phillies loss to St. Louis.

Kershaw and Lee — both red-hot of late, both scheduled to start tonight — have the opportunity to affirm themselves as the two top finalists for the award. In particular, if Kershaw bests Tim Lincecum for a fourth time in 2011 tonight, that’s going to be memorable.

For the first time, I’m starting to think that Halladay and Lee being teammates could hurt the award chances of both. Up until very recently, I’ve felt that the award was Halladay’s to lose, given that he pitches for the best team in the NL and that he’s pitched so well — his numbers are virtually equal to Kershaw’s (see chart below), with a slightly lower strikeout rate but better control, and higher wins above replacement.

However, Lee’s amazing stretch run —a 0.56 ERA in 64 2/3 innings since August 1 — has helped him catch up to the leaders and throw more confusion into the race. If you’re a voter who wants to honor the Phillies in some way with this award (given that the MVP race doesn’t really offer that opportunity), whom do you pick?

Now, if you watched “Modern Family” win bunches of Emmys on Sunday despite multiple nominations in those categories, you learned that teammates don’t always bring each other down. Still, as much as Lee presents another rival to Kershaw, he could also aid the Dodger by stealing votes from Halladay.

Voters who treasure wins may lean toward Kennedy, who certainly has been no slouch. But if Kershaw ends up with 20 wins himself, I think you can remove that category as a path to Kennedy leapfrogging the Dodger lefty.

In fact, much has been made lately of Kershaw possibly winning the pitcher’s triple crown: wins, ERA and strikeouts. My guess is that if he does, he will collect the Cy Young (though for me, the win totals are essentially irrelevant).

But let’s put it this way: If Kershaw doesn’t finish first in the balloting, there will be no crime. Halladay and Lee have been every bit as fierce as Kershaw. It’s been a superb year for all of them.

Top National League Cy Young Award candidates
(bold text signifies leader among contenders)

IP W-L ERA Sept. ERA ERA+ WAR (B-R.com) WAR (Fangraphs) WHIP K/9 K/BB
Roy Halladay 227 2/3 18-6 2.41 2.03 160 7.1 8.0 1.045 8.58 6.38
Cole Hamels 206 14-9 2.80 4.18 138 5.1 5.0 0.981 8.13 4.54
Ian Kennedy 216 20-4 2.88 1.88 137 5.3 4.9 1.083 8.08 3.66
Clayton Kershaw 218 2/3 19-5 2.30 0.90 161 6.4 6.8 0.983 9.71 4.63
Cliff Lee 219 2/3 16-7 2.38 0.72 162 6.7 6.5 1.015 9.14 5.31

* * *

  • By the way, this caught me by surprise, but Kershaw is no longer leading the NL in strikeouts per nine innings. Zack Greinke of Milwaukee is on top.
  • Chad Moriyama has a mammoth analysis of James Loney that you need to read, in which Moriyama analyzes both Loney’s stats and his swing. Conclusions:

    … What fans want to hear is that Loney has simply flipped a switch and will now pull 35% of balls and put up an OPS near .900 going forward. While I wish my analysis could guarantee that, it’s simply not a feasible conclusion to reach.

    What is clear though is that Loney has changed his approach and swing over the last two months in a way that has drastically affected his hit distribution and production. As such, the possibility does exist that his numbers could improve significantly in 2012 if the changes he has made carry over on a consistent basis.

    That said, all of my findings are subject to the usual sample size critiques, which is precisely why nothing about this is a sure thing. However, I have shown that Loney’s change under Hansen has absolutely happened, and looking at the free agent list at first base for 2012, unless the Dodgers can get Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or Lance Berkman, I’d rather give Loney another shot if he comes at a reasonable salary (4-6 million?) even though I had previously preferred signing Carlos Pena (probably more expensive).

    When talking about baseball players, hope is part of what makes the game so fun to follow, but it can also be a dangerous thing, especially when that hope is invested in a 27-year-old first baseman with a .749 OPS/103 OPS+ over four full seasons. Still though, as of now, I’m more willing to take a chance on Loney than ever before.

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a really nice feature centering on A.J. Ellis that will only make you root for him more.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times looks at the increasingly favorable comparisons of Kershaw with Sandy Koufax.
  • Jonathan Broxton had his elbow surgery Monday, with “a bone spur and associated loose bodies” being removed.
  • Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com has an update on ailing catcher Gary Garter.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors compiles the $100 million free agent contracts in baseball history.
  • David Pinto of Baseball Musings reminds us that batting order is less about stats and more about egos.
  • Patrick Dubuque at Notgraphs has a fun essay on the impulse for a fielder to throw his glove at a ball.
Sep 05

In short term, Ellis has proven himself

A.J. Ellis has a .405 on-base percentage this season and, in 216 plate appearances, a .360 OBP in his career.

On a ballclub that has struggled with on-base skills (even considering the recent offensive surge), we’re past the point of considering whether Ellis belongs. He deserves a spot on the team until he proves otherwise, not the other way around.

Ellis has thrown out 27 percent of opposing basestealers in his career (13 of 48) with one career error and two career passed balls in 511 1/3 innings behind the plate.

* * *

Meanwhile, a comparison:

Martin has played more and been more effective defensively, but offensively, Barajas’ power has been an asset this year. Barajas would have to be willing to take a paycut to return to the Dodgers in 2012 – perhaps he will.

* * *

Tim Federowicz has a .431 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage with six homers in 83 at-bats since coming to Albuquerque in the Trayvon Robinson trade. Expect the Dodgers to call up the 24-year-old in the next couple of days.

Aug 24

Never-jealous Ellis can relish without embellish in latest Dodger romp


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesA.J. Ellis on his first official trot.

Since there’s no way you can’t be rooting for A.J. Ellis, there’s no way you can’t be a happy camper today.

Less than a day after bidding farewell to Albuquerque — quite possibly for the last time after spending most of the past three seasons there — the 30-year-old Ellis hit his first major-league home run, the icing on the Sara Lee of the Dodgers’ 9-4 victory over St. Louis.

The Dodgers swept the three-game series from the Cardinals and, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, at this moment are the same distance out of first place as St. Louis in their respective divisions.

The day after washable-tattooing the Cardinals with 13 runs, Los Angeles stamped it up again with a six-run third inning in which the first eight batters reached base. Matt Kemp’s two-run single (RBI No. 96 and 97) put the Dodgers ahead to stay, 2-1, and the hits just kept coming after that, including an RBI single from Ellis.

Ellis’ home run — the third by a Dodger catcher in two days — came in the fifth inning, in his 200th career plate appearance. Juan Rivera hit a two-run homer in the seventh.

The 22 runs in two games were the most by the Dodgers since they rolled 23 on the Reds on April 20-21 last year. All eight Dodger starting position players had hits — James Loney’s two singles and a double gave him 17 total bases in his past 17 at-bats — while pinch-hitter Eugenio Velez extended his major-league hitless streak to 27 at-bats this year and 36 overall.

Hiroki Kuroda allowed a first-inning run, shut out the Cardinals for his next five innings, then allowed a two-run homer to Gerald Laird (scoring a 4-for-4 Skip Schumaker) in the seventh. Kuroda finished his seven innings with eight hits allowed, one walk and four strikeouts.

In 12 starts from June 1 through August 8, Kuroda had 24 runs of support. He has matched that in his past three starts.

Aug 23

Dodgers replace Navarro with Ellis

Choosing not to wait until rosters expand September 1, the Dodgers have designated catcher Dioner Navarro for assignment and recalled A.J. Ellis from Triple-A Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.

Navarro had a .276 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage in 202 plate appearances for the Dodgers, throwing out 14 of 55 basestealers (25.4 percent). His performance had actually improved in recent weeks, with Navarro posting a .337 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances since Independence Day, and three times this year (on June 19, July 9 and July 20) he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger victory.

But overall, Navarro failed to justify the $1 million contract he signed Dec. 14, an attempt by general manager Ned Colletti to buy low on a 27-year-old one-time All-Star who had a .569 OPS from 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.

The transaction gives the Dodgers an opportunity to take another extended look at Ellis – though his credentials as a low-power, high-OBP threat seem well-established. Ellis has a .364 OBP in the majors this year and a .467 OBP with Albuquerque.

Barring any offseason moves, Ellis and Tim Federowicz (recently acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade) are leading candidates to split catcher time in the Dodger starting lineup next year, though Barajas could return as a free agent if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut from his $3.25 million salary. Barajas has a .699 OPS and, remarkably, is second on the Dodgers in home runs with 12.

Navarro could return to the Dodgers in September if no team picks him up, but it seems more likely now that Federowicz will get his first taste of the majors then.

* * *

  • Not a lot of middle-of-the-order bats will be available this offseason, writes Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
  • St. Louis reacts, mostly negatively, to Tony LaRussa’s Monday managerial machinations. See here in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • How did “Moneyball”  stay alive? Mark Harris writes about the film’s tale of survival for New York Magazine.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey enjoyed being in the St. Louis press box Monday.
Jun 21

Kemp has 20-20 vision, Kuo looks perfect in Dodgers’ third-straight win

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireIn his first at-bat since returning to Los Angeles, A.J. Ellis drives in the Dodgers’ first run.

The third feel-good three-game winning streak for the Dodgers is here, with these highlights coming from a 6-1 victory over Detroit:

  • Hong-Chih Kuo returning to action for the first time since May 9 and throwing a nine-pitch perfect inning.
  • Matt Kemp stealing two bases to reach 20 homers and 20 steals in his 75th game this season.
  • A Dodger offense that gave Detroit starter Max Scherzer fits, with six runs on 11 baserunners in six innings.
  • A.J. Ellis reaching base twice in his first start since April, raising his season on-base percentage to .435.
  • Two times on base each as well for James Loney, Aaron Miles, Juan Uribe and Tony Gwynn Jr.
  • Andre Ethier hitting his seventh home run of the year, on a 3-0 pitch.
  • Back-to-back RBI doubles by Trent Oeltjen and Dee Gordon.
  • Chad Billingsley allowing one run in his first five innings, before running into trouble in the sixth.
  • Mike MacDougal overcoming us cynics by inducing a double play with the bases loaded in relief of Billingsley.
  • The Dodgers’ ERA this week: 0.33 so far, with one run, 12 hits and six walks against 28 strikeouts in 27 innings.
  • For the second night in a row, a Dodger pitcher (Blake Hawksworth) struck out the side in the ninth.
  • Up in San Francisco, the Giants giving up eight runs before getting their second out of the game in a 9-2 loss to Minnesota.

The Dodgers will go for their first three-game sweep of a series and four-game winning streak of the season Wednesday afternoon.

Apr 25

Dodgers activate Navarro, option Ellis

When Dioner Navarro went on the disabled list near the end of Spring Training, A.J. Ellis did all you expect A.J. Ellis to do: 19 plate appearances, four singles, four walks (.421 on-base percentage), no extra-base hits.

For that, the Dodgers put Ellis on the Wolverine up to Annandale today, while Navarro comes off the disabled list to start earning that million bucks. He’ll back up starting catcher Rod Barajas.

Meanwhile, Juan Uribe is still nursing his sore quad, and Casey Blake is getting a day off after playing seven days in a row (10 for 27, two homers, six walks, 10 runs), so today’s Dodger lineup features both Aaron Miles and Ivan De Jesus Jr.

As Steve Dilbeck of the Times notes, the Dodgers’ offensive resurgence of the past week coincided with facing, for the most part, less-than-elite pitchers. Florida poses a tougher challenge this week, although the Dodgers will miss Josh Johnson (1.06 ERA, 22 baserunners, 33 strikeouts in 34 innings).

Florida is one of only four teams in the National League that are more than a game over .500. The Dodgers are one of seven teams within a game of .500.

For your pregame enjoyment: Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven passes along this look at Jackie Robinson’s 1938 Muir High School yearbook.

Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Aug 05

Why Russell Martin won’t be so easy to replace


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin

You won’t have trouble finding people who think Russell Martin’s potential season-ending hip injury is no big deal. “He wasn’t hitting anyway, so who cares?”

Here’s why it’s a big deal, to both Martin and the Dodgers.

For all the decline Martin has had since his All-Star days not so long ago, the 27-year-old still brings a healthy on-base percentage to the table. This year, for example, Martin’s OBP is .347. He’s no Ted Williams, but that places him in the top 12 of major-league catchers with at least 150 plate appearances this year and fifth among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. In other words, barely a handful of teams in the majors could match the Dodgers for catcher OBP.

With the Dodgers, Martin is sixth in OBP if you include semi-regulars Manny Ramirez and Jamey Carroll and the departed Blake DeWitt. Without that trio, Martin jumps up to third, behind Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal - and of course, Furcal’s status today is at least a bit uncertain. On a team struggling to piece together runs, Martin helped keep an inning alive more than most. And he was always there, until now.

The tandem of Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis probably can’t match Martin’s on-base production. Ausmus’ .343 OBP in limited duty last season was his highest since 2005 in Houston. Ellis can do better than the .246 OBP he has had in his short major-league career – he has hung consistently over .400 in the minors – but it’s a leap to suggest that he can jump to one of the highest catcher OBPs in baseball.

If that’s a drop-off, the decline of power in Martin’s absence might be more of a dive. Yes, Martin’s power has disappeared, his slugging percentage falling from .469 in 2007 to .330 in 2009-10. But that’s still higher than the .311 slugging Ausmus has had since turning 34 seven years ago. Meanwhile, Ellis has had a sub-.400 slugging percentage with zero homers in 100 games at Albuquerque over the past two seasons – so forget about him showing any power in Los Angeles. Whatever you think of Martin’s power, these guys are worse.

Some might be prepared to give Ausmus and Ellis points for defense, and maybe they’re right. But Martin, who was ripped for his work behind the plate in 2009, showed something closer to his Gold Glove form this year in my subjective opinion, including a much-improved throwing arm. He has thrown out a career-high 39 percent of runners trying to steal. The Dodgers are tied for 11th in baseball in fewest stolen bases allowed, with 10 of the 55 coming on Ellis’ watch in only 133 2/3 innings behind the plat (one every 13.3 innings) compared to 43 in 791 1/3 for Martin (one every 17 innings).

The chances of the Dodgers finding someone outside the organization to replace Martin this season are slim to none considering the available options – which, keep in mind, would come at a cost – and frankly, it’s not like it will get easy in the offseason.

All that being said, you really do have to wonder whether Martin will be back with the Dodgers in 2011. Despite what is perceived to be a poor 2010 season that has now been marred by health concerns, the arbitration-eligible Martin can expect a raise to about $6.5 million in salary for next year. (If that seems unfair to you, remember that he got paid $1,187,500 for 2006-08 combined.) Even a hale and hearty Dodger front office might balk at that figure for a catcher with Martin’s productivity concerns.

Now, the Dodgers might look at the options and negotiate a deal with Martin – the team rarely takes cases to arbitration, after all. But it’s very possible that Martin and the Dodgers will be going their separate ways to fend for themselves.

What a sad, unexpected ending that would be. Inside of two years ago, Martin was so important to the Dodgers in my mind that he was the only active player to get a separate chapter in my book – a great catcher, and a great Dodger. Even though he hasn’t been the same the past two years, this might be the end of an era, and it shouldn’t pass without notice.

Jul 21

Dodgers option A.J. Ellis, bring up … huh?

A.J. Ellis went back to Albuquerque, as expected.

Jack Taschner came from Albuquerque. That was not expected.

The 32-year-old lefty had a 6.05 ERA for Pittsburgh this year, then was cast off.  He landed with the Isotopes, for whom he has allowed four homers and seven hits in 10 innings, striking out four.

To be fair, he has allowed one run in his past seven innings. Still, it appears the Dodgers are just messing with us now.

Update: Joe Torre told reporters that James McDonald is in the bullpen and that Saturday’s starter is to be determined – most likely John Ely or Carlos Monasterios. One and done for Jimmy.

Torre also said the following about Tuesday’s denouement: “It’s on us to protest, and the people who were supposed to protest weren’t in the dugout. It was a screw-up all the way around.”

Jun 07

Torre thinks Blake will avoid disabled list, Martin rests again

Casey Blake, who hasn’t played since Thursday’s 14-inning game, might be available to pinch-hit tonight, Joe Torre told reporters today. Torre now believes Blake will avoid a trip to the disabled list.

A.J. Ellis is starting for the second consecutive day in place of Russell Martin. Torre said Martin was ready to play, but Torre felt that he could use the extra rest. This is the first time since June 30-July 1, 2009 that Martin has missed consecutive starts.

Jun 07

Ellis joins the one-run fun bunch


Kirby Lee/US PresswireAyyyyyyyy, Jayyyyyyyy!

A.J. Ellis’ 11th-inning single to left gave the Dodgers’ their Dodgers’ sixth win in their past eight games – all by one run, four by walkoff hit and three in extra innings. In going 6-2, the Dodgers have been outscored by one run.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com recaps Ellis’ heroic finish, which came after a long day.

Ellis has only six hits on the season, five singles and a double, but also has seven RBI.

* * *

  • John Ely’s homerless streak to start his career ended at 196 batters, and his second homerless streak ended at two batters, as the Braves touched him for nine hits in addition to two walks. “I threw some fastballs that came back over the plate,” Ely told Jackson. “Good hitters don’t miss pitches over the plate. I can’t be missing over the plate that much, and today, I missed a couple of times.”
  • Casey Blake showed some improvement, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times, and might avoid the disabled list. Nick Green cleared waivers and is back in Albuquerque in case the Dodgers want him to return.
  • Russell Martin, who scored the winning run after pinch-walking Sunday, almost ended up back at third base earlier in the game. Blake DeWitt had to be checked out after seeming to hurt himself on a slide, and the Dodgers had already used Ronnie Belliard as a pinch-hitter. With Blake out, that left Martin as the remaining infielder. But DeWitt stayed in the game and ultimately sacrificed Martin into scoring position in the 11th.
  • Here’s video of Jose Lima, Jr. throwing out the honorary first pitch on the day they honored his late father. Miguel A. Melendez has more details in the Daily News.
  • The Dodgers expect to activate George Sherrill from the disabled list Tuesday. Sherrill had back-to-back scoreless relief appearances this weekend. It would seem to me that Charlie Haeger is on a thinner bubble to stay on the team than Justin Miller, who has thrown 6 1/3 shutout innings since joining the team with two hits, one walk … and three hit batters. I’d also imagine it’s going to be a lot easier for Haeger to clear waivers at this point. There’s always the possibility of someone taking a trip to the disabled list, of course.
  • The enigma that is Ramon Troncoso is examined by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. And frankly, Petriello doesn’t see much of an enigma, but rather a pitcher who was due for a decline only in part because of Joe Torre’s frequent use of him.
  • There was a rogue fan at Dodger Stadium causing serious problems for Tim Hudson, writes The Associated Press.

    The two-time All-Star was about to make his third pitch of the eighth inning to Matt Kemp when he was distracted by someone in the crowd who had an object that was reflecting the sun right into his eyes.

    “One was a purse handle, one was a mirror, and some of the people up there were playing games up there,” (Braves manager Bobby) Cox said. “And these seats, the way they’re painted, you can’t see the ball off the bat in a day game at times. So that’s dangerous enough — along with somebody messing with mirrors to try to reflect light into your eyes.”

    The game was held up about 5 minutes until stadium security could identify the fan in question, and Kemp singled on Hudson’s next delivery. At that point, Eric O’Flaherty relieved. Kemp advanced to third on Garret Anderson’s bunt and DeWitt’s grounder, but Ellis was robbed of a bloop single on a diving catch by center fielder Melky Cabrera.

    “It kind of stinks that [the fan] screwed with the flow of the game, but you’re going to have occasions where people are idiots,” Hudson said. “I was probably just out there for one hitter, anyway, because we had O’Flaherty warming up. We were at the point of the game where we had to start going with matchups, because one run was probably going to win or lose the game.”

  • Since I wrote about them going 5 for 95 to start their season, Dodger pitchers went 3 for 7 this weekend. Ely’s 30-foot single Sunday was his first as a pro.
  • While my favorite baseball movie is “The Bad News Bears,” Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods today describes the greatness he sees in “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.”
  • Kyle Russell didn’t play for Inland Empire on Sunday, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus thinks it might be because he’s getting promoted to AA Chattanooga. Russell has a 1.140 OPS and 16 homers in 198 at-bats.
  • After getting more than halfway to Orel Hershiser’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings, Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez gave up a two-run homer in the eighth inning Sunday to reset his clock. Well, there’s always Bob Gibson – Jimenez’s ERA remains an unbelievable 0.93.
  • For those of you following the Dodgers’ playoff rivals in the East, Crashburn Alley and Phillies Nation are discussing whether the Phillies should release Raul Ibanez.
  • Another Phillies note, but much more fun: From Stat of the Day, Jamie Moyer has faced 20 players already in the Hall of Fame, and counting.
  • The Major League Baseball draft starts today – but in its new format, not until 4 p.m. and only with the first round and mini-supplemental round, before continuing Tuesday and Wednesday. The Dodgers’ first pick is 28th overall.