Apr 11

Dodgers surrender another lead to end 2-4 road trip

“Slacks” did his part.

In a performance best seen to be appreciated, Charlie Haeger knucklestruck 12 batters in six innings, walked four and had as many hits allowed as wild pitches (three). He gave up a three-run homer to Jorge Cantu in the fourth after walking two batters with a 4-0 Dodger lead, but that inning was the only one when he really struggled, and he overall pitched well enough to win. Rob Neyer of ESPN.com pointed out that in his fifth career start, the 26-year-old Haeger equaled the career strikeout high of 43-year-old Tim Wakefield.

But a bobbled-and-dropped fly ball by an on-the-run Matt Kemp opened the door for the Marlins to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, and then Jeff Weaver, pitching for the fifth time in six games, picked the wrong time to allow his first runs of the season, giving up a two-run double to Cantu that Florida didn’t waste, with the Marlins holding on for a 6-5 victory.

The Dodgers put runners on first and third in both the eighth and ninth innings, but pinch-hitter Andre Ethier grounded out to end the eighth, and Kemp struck out before James Loney grounded out to end the ninth. Kemp and Loney were both 2 for 5 on the day.

Ronnie Belliard had another three-hit start for the Dodgers and also made two outstanding plays at third base. A.J. Ellis made his first start of 2010 for the Dodgers and produced a boxscore line of 0 0 0 2, thanks to a squeeze bunt, walk and sacrifice fly.

And so the Dodgers head home after a 2-4 season-opening road trip in which they gave up the winning run in the seventh, ninth and 10th innings – all three games that Jonathan Broxton missed. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported that Hong-Chih Kuo threw a side session today and could be activated during the Dodgers’ upcoming homestand, after at least one minor-league rehab assignment. The Dodgers, averaging 6.0 runs per game despite Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez combining for six starts this year, could use some good news out of that bullpen.

Apr 10

A.J. Ellis replaces injured Brad Ausmus on roster


Keith Srakocic/AP
Brad Ausmus

Russell Martin’s unexpectedly quick recovery from Spring Training injury kept the Dodgers from having a catching tandem tonight of A.J. Ellis and Lucas May or J.D. Closser.

Ellis, who turned 29 Friday, has been recalled from Albuquerque to join the 25-man roster in place of Brad Ausmus, who has gone on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a pinched nerve in his back. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details:

… Ausmus said that while the injury originates in his back, it presents itself in the form of numbness all the way down his left leg, from his hip to his foot. The injury isn’t related to a chronic lower-back problem Ausmus has experienced sporadically during his career, an issue that flared up again during spring training and caused him to be shut down for a week.

“The other day, when I was catching in Pittsburgh, about the eighth inning my hip started giving me some problems,” he said. “I was hoping it was just a case of not having caught that much after missing a week of spring training. But over the next 18 hours, during any prolonged sitting or lying down, I would get a shooting pain down my left leg.”

Ausmus said he had trouble sitting on the team bus to the airport after Thursday’s game and on the charter flight to Fort Lauderdale, then had trouble sleeping that night. He woke up Friday morning feeling what he described as “pins and needles” in his foot.

The decision to place Ausmus on the DL actually was made before Friday night’s game, but it was kept quiet so the Florida Marlins wouldn’t know that Russell Martin was the Dodgers’ only catcher. Ellis was scratched from Albuquerque’s game at Oklahoma City during batting practice, but he wasn’t able to get a flight until the following morning.

Ausmus, who will turn 41 on Wednesday, said he was disappointed that he didn’t finish his career without a DL stint, but that he understood why it had to happen now.

“I’m pretty much at, or really close to, the end of my career, although who knows when it’s going to end?” he said. “I was hoping to avoid it my entire career, but this time, there wasn’t much chance of that. [Trainer] Stan [Conte] and [manager] Joe [Torre] knew there was too much risk involved in putting me into a game and that they would have to have somebody else here. The only way to do that was to put me on the DL.’” …

Joe Torre told reporters this afternoon that Ellis would start Sunday’s day game – the fourth start of his career and the second that has ever come before the month of September. Ellis will be catching knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, whom he caught in Albuquerque about nine times last season (if my quick scan of the minor-league game logs of Fangraphs is correct.)

Torre also said that Andre Ethier (a ripe old 28 years old today) won’t start this weekend but might come off the bench, and that he is a possibility for the starting lineup at Tuesday’s home opener. Manny Ramirez also will be held out of the starting lineup Sunday.

* * *

  • Josh Lindblom gets his first start for Albuquerque at 5:05 p.m.
  • Tim Wallach’s son Brett threw five no-hit innings Friday in his first start for Great Lakes, while 2009 first-round pick Aaron Miller struck out 10 in his five innings for Inland Empire.
  • Blue Heaven posted some fun Dodger-related videos from this year and yesteryear.
  • Pedro!
Mar 24

Russell Martin and the Dodgers tempt fate

Mark Duncan/APRussell Martin played his only exhibition game of 2010 on March 5.

Ignoring my counsel – peanut gallery as it might be – the Dodgers aren’t hesitating to get Russell Martin back into action. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Martin will catch in a minor-league game Thursday, and that Opening Day is now a real possibility for him.

The only reason this sounds plausible to me is that I am willing to believe A.J. Ellis just can’t get a break. But we’ll see how Martin fares.

  • Jackson also reports that an MRI on Hong-Chih Kuo showed no new damage. (I guess the old damage was still there.) Kuo played soft toss after the MRI.
  • Hiroki Kuroda faced 19 Oakland A’s batters tonight and got 16 of them out in a shutout performance.
  • Between his contract still not being official and his fairly unimpressive Spring Training (certainly less impressive than Blake DeWitt or Jamey Carroll), I’m still not quite ready to consider Ronnie Belliard a roster lock yet. Odds are still in his favor, as the memory of his late-season hotitude still lingers. But when you have an aging player who didn’t do much for most of 2009, and a plethora of second basemen, there’s still room for release.
  • Pablo Torre of SI.com posted a story about the Dodgers that questioned their rotation depth (“arguably the thinnest in the division”) while making all positive assumptions about NL West rival pitchers Jeff Francis, Chris Young and Brandon Webb, and ignoring all the other teams’ problems in the back of their rotations. Just check out what’s going on in Arizona, for example. It’s not going to be all golden for the Dodgers, but can we not use the same standard evaluating them as the other teams?
  • Lenny Harris was released from the hospital today, five days after his emergency bypass surgery, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Robert Culp, you will always be so cool in my eyes.
Mar 08

A.J. Ellis’ alarm goes off (as imagined by me)


US Presswire
A.J. Ellis

I’m up. I’m awake.

I’m the starting catcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dodgers at Giants,
12:05 p.m.

Today’s Lineup
Rafael Furcal, SS
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Manny Ramirez, DH
James Loney, 1B
Casey Blake, 3B
Blake DeWitt, 2B
Reed Johnson, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
(Chad Billingsley, P)

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Russell Martin, it seems, will probably be out past Opening Day – though these things are unpredictable.  The fans and the media are assuming the worst, but you never know when good fortune will blindside them.

And it would be good fortune if Martin made it back by Opening Day.  He is the best catcher in the organization, despite all the bloom off his rose. He’s still the man. It’s best for the team if he’s healthy, and what’s best for the team matters to me most.

But this morning, and the next morning, and however many mornings after that, it’s me.  Even when Brad Ausmus’ name is written in the lineup, it’s me. Until Martin comes back, or unless the Dodgers get someone else – and I believe ‘em when they say they’re not planning on doing that – it’s me.

It’s me.

I’m turning 29 on April 9 – four days after Opening Day. I’m gonna be 30 in a year. That’s old, man.  I signed with the Dodgers almost seven years ago, drafted in the 18th round from Austin Peay. Seven years in the pros, and I’m the guy they say has one hit in the majors.  I’m the guy they say can draw a walk – but only in the minors. In the majors, this is how it’s supposed to go: They don’t fear my power, and they strike me out every time.

I can call a good game, but the fans won’t care about that if I don’t hit. They say the fans appreciate a good attitude, but that appreciation wears off. People are a little ticked off with Martin, because he was a disappointment last year and because they think he’s bulked himself right onto the injury list. But if I don’t hit, Martin will be forgiven. And I’ll be back in the minors before I’m 30 – maybe for good.

It’s all pretty overwhelming – the increased responsibility combined with the increased expectations. The stakes are the biggest they’ve ever been. Here I am in the spotlight – for once – and there’s going to be at least one moment when I want to slink backstage again. People say I can’t be the guy, and maybe they’re right.

But I get to try. My whole life, dreaming of this moment. And now it’s here. I get to try to be the man.

One game at a time, one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time, I get to try.

That’s pretty awesome.