May 18

Fractured fairy tales: Andre Ethier to the disabled list


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Xavier Paul

After three days of hoping and mulling, the Dodgers have placed Andre Ethier on the disabled list with his fractured right pinky-tip (news via an e-mail from the Dodger PR staff), and called up outfielder Xavier Paul from Albuquerque.

Paul has an .808 OPS in 47 career major-league plate appearances. For the Isotopes, he came back from a one-day absence Sunday to go 3 for 5 Monday, raising his minor-league OPS this season to 1.030.

Ethier leads the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, adjusted OPS, total bases, home runs (tied) and RBI.

Elsewhere …

  • More questions about the McCourts are raised by Jon Weinbach of AOL Fanhouse and Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce. If you like the words “slush fund,” this one’s for you.
  • On this day in 1960, the Dodgers released Boy of Summer hero Carl Furillo, and it did not go smoothly. “I’d like to play,” said Ol’ Skoonj. “But right now my only plans are to go fishing … and see my lawyer.” Details from Keith Thursby at the Daily Mirror.
  • Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts argues that baseball analysts (hey, there’s that phrase again) should not lump infield flies with other batted balls for BABIP (batting average on balls in play) purposes. Lederer also finds that Clayton Kershaw has been No. 2 in baseball in 2009 and 2010 on strikeouts-plus-popouts per batter faced.
  • Trivia time: Former Dodger Takashi Saito has baseball’s fourth-longest streak of consecutive games (251) to start his career without allowing four runs, according to Stat of the Day. Now in his fifth season, Saito has never let it happen. Tom Niedenfuer (380) is fourth on the all-time list, and George Sherrill is 16th.
  • Former major-leaguer Morgan Ensberg uses a Houston Chronicle sports story to explain why athletes are reluctant to speak frankly to reporters.
  • Want to chat about tonight’s “Lost”? Here’s where to go – down below.

Update: From the Dodger press notes – “Last night, the Dodgers allowed three or fewer runs for the eighth straight game, the first time they have done so while winning all eight contests since June 10-18, 2003. The run also ties the longest such streak for any team managed by Joe Torre in his 29 seasons as a big-league manager. Torre’s 1998 Yankees pulled off this feat from June 2-10 of that year in the midst of a nine-game winning streak and on their way to 114 wins. The Dodgers had a 10-game winning streak while allowing three runs or less from April 20-30, 1980. … Los Angeles hurlers have held the opposition without an extra base in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 5-6, 2008.”

May 12

Diamondbacks walk but can’t hide: Ramirez blast lifts Dodgers, 6-3


Ross D. Franklin/AP
Manny Ramirez follows through, literally and figuratively.

A year ago, Andre Ethier was being told he couldn’t hit at all unless Manny Ramirez was batting behind him.

Tonight, the Arizona Diamondbacks told Ethier that they were so scared of how well he can hit, they’d rather face Ramirez.

It was an awe-wow moment that punctuated the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory over Arizona Wednesday, yet not at all shocking considering Ethier’s unbelievable season – and it was hardly a slight against Ramirez, who brought a 1.064 OPS for 2010 into the at-bat. But with runners on second and third with two out in the top of the seventh inning, and the Dodgers leading 3-2, Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson simply didn’t feel he could mess around with Ethier, who boosted his Triple Crown numbers earlier in the game with a two-run homer.

The logic was simple: Walking the left-handed Ethier eliminated the platoon advantage for the Dodgers and created a force at every base for Ramirez, who turns 38 at the end of the month. But still, here it was, the bases being loaded on purpose for one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters (still) – only because the Dodgers have come up with a player 10 years younger and even more dangerous.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Edwin Jackson wipes his forehead after loading the bases ahead of Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning.

Jackson shouldn’t have even been in the situation. He had pitched well overall, allowing three runs on nine baserunners in 6 2/3 innings and striking out eight before the intentional walk. He had already thrown 114 pitches when Ethier came up.  But the Arizona bullpen has been such dogmeat that Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch decided he didn’t have a better hope against Ramirez with the bases loaded than the gassed Jackson.

Ramirez fouled off two pitches to fall behind 0-2 in the count, but on the next pitch, he cannoned a ball high off the center-field wall, 407 feet away, easily a grand slam in Dodger Stadium but a mere three-run double tonight. The smash blasted  Jackson’s valiant effort into ruins, and gave the Dodgers a most exuberant and comfortable four-run lead.

The moment stole the spotlight from what I think we can call a vintage Hiroki Kuroda performance. Kuroda’s first four pitches of the game were low and outside, but he didn’t walk a man after that in 7 1/3 innings, while allowing three runs on six hits and striking out nine. The third run – the run that would have tied the game were it not for Ethier and Ramirez – came across on a sacrifice fly off Hong-Chih Kuo in the eighth, after walks by Ronald Belsiario and Kuo loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. But nothing more came across.

Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t been needed in the series up to now, fell short of a 1-2-3 inning for the sixth time in his past seven chances but got the save, interspersing a single and walk with three strikeouts, giving him 22 in 12 2/3 innings this year.

The Dodgers won their ninth in their past 12 games, reached the .500 mark (17-17) for the first time since they were 7-7 on April 21 and moved within two games of second-place San Francisco. And another threshold in Andre Ethier’s mammoth season was crossed.

May 07

Andre Ethier just plain rocks


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Andre Ethier connects for his walkoff grand slam Thursday.

Andre Ethier’s walking off right into the stuff of legend, the kind of thing people will remember decades from now, the kind of thing you want to appreciate even when times aren’t great.

Ethier has converted 25 percent of his 44 walkoff opportunities, the highest percentage in baseball since 2006 (minumum 20 opportunities), according to David Pinto of Baseball Musings.

By comparison, Pinto writes, Adrian Gonzalez of San Diego has had 59 walkoff opportunities in that time and converted two, and Florida’s Hanley Ramirez is 0 for 50.

Stat of the Day notes that Ethier’s 11 walkoff hits since 2008 are twice as many as anyone else in baseball. Five of Ethier’s past six have been homers.

Ethier remains a Triple Crown contender in the early going, tied for the National League lead in homers and tops in RBI, but despite what has been written elsewhere, he still doesn’t lead the league in batting average. Washington’s Ivan Rodriguez is 31 for 77 (.403) with 84 total plate appearances. Washington has played 28 games, so he needs 87 PA to qualify for the league lead. If you give him three more outs, as the rules would dictate at the end of the season, Rodriguez would be 31 for 80 – .388 – ahead of Ethier’s .377. Ethier still leads the NL in slugging percentage and OPS.

By the way, what is Ivan Rodriguez doing leading the NL in batting average?

* * *

Quote of the mornin’ comes from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, in the wake of key contributions by John Ely and Xavier Paul in Thursday’s victory: “Maybe instead of sending more rookies down, the Dodgers should be calling more of them up.”

May 06

Party at Ely-sian Park: Dodgers 7, Brewers 3


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
John Ely

With a near-perfect changeup offsetting a fastball that sat in the high 80s, John Ely simply dazzled in his second major-league start, which the Dodgers won, 7-3.*

For the first six innings, Ely, who turns 24 in a week, put the fun in efficiency, requiring only 80 pitches to shut out Milwaukee on two singles and no walks while striking out seven. He retired 16 batters in a row after allowing a second-inning hit to Casey McGehee. His only three-ball counts in the first six innings came against Jim Edmonds, who struck out each time (and one other).

The Brewers pecked away at Ely in the seventh, fouling off 11 of his 28 pitches to scratch across their only run. It remains to be seen whether Ely can survive with that fastball, but if he can keep pairing it up with that change while attacking the strike zone, there’s potential. And if nothing else, he was a sight for sore eyes and arms tonight.

The Dodgers earlier indicated that Ely would head back to the minor leagues after today’s performance to make room for Jeff Weaver coming off the disabled list, but it’s almost unfathomable that the team would do so with its starting pitching in the disarray it has been in. Keeping Ely would require the Dodgers to shed Ramon Ortiz – if somehow the Dodgers can’t wrap their head around letting him go, then Ely will rejoin Albuquerque inside of 24 hours.

I’m looking at that last paragraph again. Keeping a 24-year-old pitcher with a plus changeup who threw six shutout innings would require the Dodgers to let go of 37-year-old Ramon Ortiz. This is kind of like the $100 question on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

*Footnote: The Dodgers won after Jonathan Broxton blew the save on a walkoff grand slam by Andre Ethier in the bottom of the ninth.

May 03

Dodger Cogs and Dogs: Edition 3


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Xavier Paul congratulates Andre Ethier for the first of two home runs Sunday.

The third edition of Dodgers Cogs and Dogs was the hardest, in large part because now the injured players have become a bit more relevant than Brad Ausmus. The absences of Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and Vicente Padilla, among others, complicated matters and made me revisit what exactly I was ranking. The answer: most valuable Dodgers this season to date, though if a little “what have you done for me lately” creeps in here and there, you’ll have to forgive me.

I also factored in what a player’s responsibility has been, which is why, for example, Carlos Monasterios’ sizzling ERA doesn’t place him higher.

Anyway, it’s all in good fun, at least until you get near the bottom …

5/03 . 4/19 . 4/12 . Player Comment
1 2 11 Andre Ethier Holy cow, our little “Can he beat out Juan Pierre?” has become a monster, leading the NL in OPS.
2 3 1 Hiroki Kuroda Showing what he can do when healthy, averaging seven innings per start.
3 1 5 Matt Kemp Despite the mental whiplash of last week, a major key to the team.
4 4 9 Manny Ramirez Here’s where rankings start to get tricky, but Manny superb in limited minutes.
5 6 13 Jonathan Broxton Takes the 0.00 ERA into May.
6 10 20 Clayton Kershaw Walks are crazy, but a 3.07 ERA over five starts helps.
7 8 4 Rafael Furcal Only once in his career has injured Furcal had better adjusted OPS than current 116 – in ’08, of course.
8 9 24 James Loney Is the Mark Grace version of Loney on his way?
9 11 12 Ramon Troncoso Holding himself and bullpen together: In 16 games this year, 17 baserunners allowed over 14 innings.
10 5 2 Russell Martin Slumping but still above-average this year.
11 7 6 Casey Blake See Martin.
12 12 10 Chad Billingsley Season numbers lag, but in last two starts averaging six IP, 2.25 ERA, 91.5 pitches per game.
14 13 7 Ronnie Belliard Team’s top bat off the bench so far.
15 14 14 Blake DeWitt With .408 OBP, will Joe Torre turn to him as No. 2 hitter?
16 18 21 Carlos Monasterios Despite 1.84 ERA, 18 baserunners vs. eight strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
17 20 8 Reed Johnson Playing as advertised, including .940 OPS vs. lefties/.571 vs. righties.
18 21 18 Jamey Carroll On base in 13 of last 26 PA, raising season OBP to .404.
19 NR NR Xavier Paul .933 OPS in 15 AB since starting call-up 0 for 5.
20 15 25 Vicente Padilla 7.06 ERA, 9.6 K/9. He’ll be the uncertain arm for the stretch run again?
21 17 15 Jeff Weaver Last pitched April 21. When he returns this week, workload should be tamer.
22 19 19 A.J. Ellis Still eminently adequate backup catcher.
23 24 17 Ramon Ortiz Future of extremely inconsistent Ortiz could depend on how Ely does in next start.
24 23 23 Brad Ausmus Now trails Ellis in 2010 hits by two, but leads in career hits by 1,562.
25 16 3 Charlie Haeger 9.49 ERA since April 14 – desperately needs to string some good innings together.
26 NR NR John Ely If nothing else, the kid knows how to play leapfrog.
27 26 26 George Sherrill Just when you think you’re back in, they pull you back out.
28 25 NR Jon Link Savior after his first game, sinner after his second.
29 27 22 Russ Ortiz Highlight: Pitched two shutout innings to preserve tie in Pittsburgh on second game of season.
30 22 16 Garret Anderson Adjusted OPS of (-1)! His .156 OBP, .214 slugging below lowest expectations. HR in Cin. only hit in past 26 AB.
May 02

Heroes aplenty as Dodgers romp over Pirates

The magnificent Andre Ethier is the Dodger cover boy these days, a fact you’ll see reflected in Monday’s edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs. Either homered in his third straight game – homered twice today, in fact – and has an OPS this year of 1.161. But in a quick post summing up today’s 9-3 romp over Pittsburgh, a big tip of the hat must go to two others.

Hiroki Kuroda cruised for eight innings, allowing one run on a walk, four singles and a double over 98 pitches to lower his 2010 ERA to 2.08. Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt had his first career four-hit game, capped by a two-run double that lifted his season on-base percentage over .400 and his OPS to .767.

Kuroda seemed well-positioned to give the Dodgers their first complete game of the season, but Joe Torre brought in George Sherrill to close it out – leading to the day’s one sour moment. Sherrill allowed two runs on three hits and a walk and was bailed out by Ronald Belisario, who got the final out to end the game.

Either had an RBI single in addition to his two-run homer in the fifth and solo shot in the eighth. Matt Kemp singled, doubled, walked, scored three runs and made a diving catch in center. (He was also caught stealing for the sixth time this year on a close play). Ronnie Belliard made a great over-the-shoulder catch while playing third base. James Loney had a double and two singles to raise his home batting average to .500 (19 for 38), and reserves Xavier Paul and Jamey Carroll each had two hits.

The Dodgers are now 7-3 at home, 4-11 on the road.

Apr 25

Vin Scully traveled in mysterious ways


Above, Ken Levine passes along a fun promo for Vin Scully’s 1967 Rose Parade co-hosting gig with the bewitching Elizabeth Montgomery.   We know Scully’s voice can cut through time and space, but this is ridiculous!

In contrast, while I share the Left Field Pavilion’s disappointment at how many non-Dodger events are included in this MLB Network tribute to Scully, it’s all worth it for the pictures of Scully hitchhiking. Yes, hitchhiking.

  • The somewhat press-shy Andre Ethier gave a fairly lengthy interview to Steve Greenberg of SportingNews.com.
  • Red-hot Jerry Sands of the Dodgers’ Class A team in Great Lakes is profiled by Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News. Sands hit two homers Saturday to up his season batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage to .443/.500/.967.
  • John Lindsey Watch: In Albuquerque’s 6-2 victory over Omaha on Saturday, Lindsey homered and singled in five at-bats, which meant his season batting average and on-base percentage fell to .500 and .548. His slugging percentage did tick up to .821.
  • By comparison, Isotopes third baseman Russ Mitchell went 3 for 5 and is up to a .359 OBP and .446 slugging.
  • Ivan DeJesus, Jr. had been struggling at Albuqerque, so his 3 for 5 came in handy. His overall 2010 offense still remains down in the .277/.323 dumps.
Apr 17

Dodgers have a monster mash – but Tim Lincecum awaits


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Hello … is it me you’re looking for?

Andre Ethier is just mashing the ball. And it’s not just Friday in the Dodgers 10-8 victory over the Giants. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Ethier has hit 25 home runs in his past 81 home games. Sons of Steve Garvey has a photo essay showing just how incredible Ethier’s night was.

And Matt Kemp is just mashing the ball, too. He has homered in four consecutive games and five of his past six.

James Loney doesn’t have a home run yet, but he is mashing the ball in his own way. Loney is 12 for his last 25, raising his batting average from .167 to .327 and making him one of seven Dodger regulars hitting over .300.

And for a night, opponents stopped mashing the ball against Vicente Padilla. With the Dodger bullpen in a shambles, Padilla picked a good time to give the Dodgers his best outing of the season. But Vin Scully and KCAL noticed Padilla rubbing his pitching arm pretty vigorously just before the fifth inning – the inning in which he lost his no-hitter and was hit pretty hard. Though Padilla lasted seven innings, we’ll have to see if what Scully saw had any significance.

The Dodgers came within one run of matching their team record (since moving to Los Angeles) for most runs in the first 10 games of a season (68). At the same time, they also reached their third-highest total of runs allowed in the first 10 games of a season (60).

* * *

Manny Ramirez came out of the game after three innings because of calf tightness, but Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Joe Torre said Ramirez would have stayed in the game if the Dodgers hadn’t been up by seven.

Of course, there were no guarantees the Dodgers would hold such a lead. And the fact that Russ Ortiz again could not finish an easy assignment is the last straw. Ortiz needs to be released.

When you take a flyer on a pitcher who hasn’t pitched well in years, the sole (if questionable) purpose is to try to see if there’s a chance he has solved his problems or even has one hot streak left in him. When you can see that he’s just as bad as he’s always been, there is nothing to hold out for. There is no situation in which Ortiz is a reliable pitcher, and the Dodgers should not wait any longer on him.

If Hong-Chih Kuo is about to be activated, that’s a simple exchange. But if Kuo has a setback, the Dodgers still need to jettison Ortiz.

* * *

  • It’s a tall order, but the Dodgers will try to “outlast” Tim Lincecum in today’s game, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. It’s similar to how they were able to get a late victory against Arizona on Thursday – if they can make the great starter throw a lot of pitches, they can at least give themselves a chance against the bullpen.
  • The fifth-inning Padilla pitch that hit Aaron Rowand left him with two small fractures in his cheekbone and a concussion, writes D.J. Short of Hardball Talk.
  • Joe Torre recalls that when he was managing the Mets in 1977, the team almost traded Tom Seaver to the Dodgers for a package of players that included minor-leaguer Pedro Guerrero, writes Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News.
  • John Ely pitched six two-run innings for Albuquerque last night.
  • Dee Gordon went 3 for 6 for Chattanooga and now has a .448 on-base percentage. Trayvon Robinson had a single, double and homer.
  • Will Savage, the 25-year-old from West Hills, pitched six innings without allowing an earned run while striking out eight for Great Lakes. In 12 2/3 innings this year, Savage has allowed two earned runs and five unearned runs.
Apr 15

Dodgers unlose! Dodgers unlose!


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Matt Kemp is wide-eyed after hitting a game-tying homer in the seventh inning.

The other team blew the leads. The Dodgers didn’t blow the leads. The other team did.

Oh, sure, the Dodgers blew two ties, at 0-0 and 3-3, but still – progress.

Bullpen (except for Jonathan Broxton) still shaky. Fielding still shaky. But still … progress.

So that I’m not up all night, just a little stream of consciousness to wrap things up …

Hiroki Kuroda gave up 10 hits but didn’t walk anyone over seven innings, while striking out seven. That’s practically a perfect game compared to what we’ve seen lately.

Matt Kemp had trouble with another fly ball defensively but homered for this third game in a row to tie the score in the seventh – he now has 13 RBI in nine games. He drove in pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard, who is a crazy 8-for-14 to start the season.

Dan Haren mostly stymied the Dodgers, but needed 121 pitches to get 19 outs, and that extra work cost him by requiring Arizona to go its bullpen sooner. The third pitch by Aaron Heilman was Kemp’s two-run homer.

Justin Upton then hit his second tiebreaking homer in two nights, a monster blast halfway up the left-field pavilion off Jeff Weaver, to give Arizona a 4-3 lead. Upton also made a bigtime catch of a Garret Anderson drive to the top of the right-field wall in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the lead.

Arizona added a slop run in the ninth, but the Dodgers rallied with two in the bottom of the inning to tie, thanks at the end to a blooper-reel throw by Stephen Drew that allowed Manny Ramirez to score the tying run.

Broxton dominated in the top of the 10th, and then the Dodgers won it on a leadoff single by Blake DeWitt, an intentional walk to Kemp and then, ho hum, a walkoff hit by Andre Ethier.

Here’s a list, passed along by Mark A. Simon of ESPN.com from mikemav.com, of the Dodgers’ all-time walkoff hit leaders since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958:

14 Dusty Baker
12 Manny Mota
11 Ron Cey
11 Davey Lopes
10 Andre Ethier
10 Steve Garvey

The final tally for Russell Martin in the series: three games, 571 pitches caught.

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo struck out two in a 1-2-3 rehab inning for Inland Empire, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. He completed his 20-pitch assignment in the bullpen.

Matt Magill of Great Lakes struck out seven, walked none and allowed two doubles and a single in a scoreless five innings tonight. This year, the 20-year-old from Simi Valley has struck out 12 in nine shutout innings.

Dee Gordon went 2 for 4 for Chattanooga and has a 1.006 OPS on the season.

Apr 13

One take, baby – one take

So after today’s game, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and I got together at the Dodger Stadium Downtown Overlook to talk shop.  Welcome to Low Expectations Video Theater, where it’s all unscripted, there are no reshoots and anything can happen. Is there an explosion? Well, there isn’t not not an explosion.

Job 1: Work on my squinting.

  • A statue of Chick Hearn is headed for the front of Staples Center, writes Steve Springer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. This is sure to get people talking about a Vin Scully statue at Dodger Stadium.
  • Quote of the Day comes from Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw, via Jackson: “I would rather we win because of me than in spite of me.” Arash Markazi of the site has more.
  • Jackson reports that George Sherrill’s next appearance might be moved earlier in the game as he works through his troubles.
  • Andre Ethier talks about his ankle to Dylan Hernandez of the Times the way Jack Walsh talked about his popularity with the Chicago police department.
  • Brad Ausmus is very worried that his latest back problems might end his career six months early, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Dodgers’ four home runs today were a Los Angeles home opener record.
  • The starting outfield of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Ethier homered in the same game for the second time since they’ve been a unit.
  • One other scoreboard oddity I forgot to mention today: A new feature (as new as a ripoff of ’80s David Letterman can be) in which Tommy Lasorda throws things off a Dodger Stadium ledge and the audience votes on whether those things will break. Believe it or not, if you throw a TV from a great height, it won’t bounce.
  • Carlos Monasterios should have pitched today, argue Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, which has added an “Ortiz DFA-O-Meter” to its upper-right corner.
  • James McDonald tonight: six innings, 11 baserunners, three runs, eight strikeouts.
  • John Lindsey Watch: 2 for 2 off the bench to raise his on-base percentage to .654 and slugging to .864.
  • Nick Staskin of Phillies Nation isn’t happy that fans there have begun to boo Cole Hamels. I can relate.
Apr 13

Kershaw LIII: Kershawme Opener


John Cordes/Icon SMI
Andre Ethier blasted two homers and drove in four runs in the Dodgers’ home opener a year ago today.

They were overshadowed by Orlando Hudson producing the first Dodger cycle in 39 years, but there were plenty of heroes that made last year’s Dodger opener a laugher in the best kind of way for the fans. Every Dodger starter had at least one hit, Andre Ethier homered twice, Chad Billingsley scattered four singles and a double over seven innings while striking out 11 – heck, even Will Ohman pitched a shutout inning. All against the Giants. The good times rolled on through April’s record streak of consecutive home victories to start a season.

Things are a bit cloudier a year later, with the Dodgers 3 1/2 games behind the Giants in the National League West before the home crowd has even seen a regular-season pitch. But Monday’s gray skies have cleared up, just as Albert Peterson predicted. Let’s go have some fun!

* * *

  • Joe Torre-managed teams have won 12 consecutive home openers, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Stephen has more Dodger home opener details here.
  • In the comments of that thread, BHSportsGuy lists the 15 Dodger pitchers credited with a win since Clayton Kershaw’s last on July 18.
  • Via Twitter, Stephen points to a nice feature by Tom Krasovic on Dick Enberg, reborn as a Padres play-by-play announcer. Related: Rob Neyer of ESPN.com heard Enberg say that he tried to write a screenplay about legendary spy/catcher Moe Berg.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone took a close look at the Dodger defense.
  • Padres pitcher Chris Young went on the disabled list, where he’ll find Arizona catcher Miguel Montero and might soon be joined by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Juan Castro is the Phillies’ current replacement for Rollins.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods gets some nice Huffington Post exposure in writing about the anniversary of Mark Fidrych’s death and the connection with his childhood.
  • Blue Heaven passes along a March 6, 1948 letter from Branch Rickey to Walter O’Malley (written from Spring Training at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic) calling for a trade of Eddie Stanky “even if we were getting nothing for him at all,” to create  an opening in the Brooklyn infield. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Stanky was traded within 24 hours with a player to be named later to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later, Bama Rowell, Ray Sanders and $40,000. (A month later, the Dodgers completed the trade by selling Sanders back to Boston for $60,000.)
  • Four-hit nights for Dodger minor leaguers on Monday: Xavier Paul had three singles and a homer for Albuquerque, Dee Gordon had three doubles, a single and an error for Chattanooga and Jerry Sands had two doubles and two singles for Great Lakes. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus writes that after an 0-for-6 start in AA, Gordon has six hits (including four doubles) in his past seven at-bats.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach is having a Sherrill of a time in his first two games of the year.
  • Matt Hiserman, son of Times assistant sports editor Mike Hiserman and a college pitcher for the University of San Francisco, has come back inside of two months from a liner to the head that landed him in intensive care for four days, writes Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • The crackdown on Dodger Stadium pregame tailgating was scheduled to begin at dawn in Elysian Park, according to Zach Behrens of LAist (via L.A. Observed, which also points to a David Kipen piece talking about the origins of the Dodgers’ “LA” logo.).
  • How much of a difference does payroll make in baseball? Tom Tango writes at TMI: “If you spend at the league average (Payroll Index = 100 percent), your chance of making the playoffs is 27 percent. If you spend at double the league average (Payroll Index = 200 percent), your chances are 77 percent. And if you spend at half the league average, your chances dwindle to almost 0.”
  • Bob Timmermann wrote movingly about his grandmother, Ella Kimberling, for L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
  • Quick entertainment notes from my day job: 1) Definitive details on Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS, 2) DirecTV will broadcast all five seasons of “The Wire” commercial-free, 3) Three major new hits (“The Good Wife,” “Modern Family” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” premiered within 25 hours of each other.
  • Leaving you with this: Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters is thinking of hanging up his blog if he has to hang up his spikes. While I certainly hope he signs with another team, reading his latest post will serve as a reminder that no matter what, he should keep writing.
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 10

Andre and Kobe: Walkoff heroes


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US Presswire, Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Andre Ethier celebrates his 13th-inning game-winning home run Sept. 15 vs. Pittsburgh, his sixth walkoff hit of 2009; Kobe Bryant revels in the first of his seven 2009-10 game-winners, Dec. 4 vs. Miami.

Which do you prefer?

Andre Ethier played 160 games last year. Plenty of chances to be a game-ending hero, right? There’s no clock. He might have more than one chance in a game to be a walkoff wonder. The 0:00 can come when he says so.

But he can’t even control whether he’ll be able to get anywhere close to the ball in the final moment. He might be five batters away. And if he is up, who knows what kind of pitch he gets to hit? The bigger a threat he seems, the less likely he is going to be given anything to swing at. It’s curving away from him at 75 miles per hour; it’s trying to blow past him at 95. It’s still hitting a small ball with a stick of wood in the most pressure-packed of circumstances.

In a way, it still seems like a fluke – but the job got done and done and done and done and done and done.

Then there’s Kobe Bryant, who did it again Tuesday. No problem getting him the ball – it’s not like the opponent can intentionally walk him. Everyone knows it’s coming to him. But that’s the thing – everyone knows. The defense can try to smother him. He can pass it, but except for the occasional Derek Fisher or Robert Horry in his life, so often it seems the other guys don’t know what to do with the ball when the clock’s ticking down.

There aren’t too many layups in baseball, but on the other hand, there’s no double- or triple-teaming, either.

In the end, I think there’s something more magical about the baseball walkoff hero – and something more real about the basketball walkoff hero.

Either way, what Andre Ethier did last season is amazing. What Kobe Bryant is doing this season is amazing. The ball sailing toward the stands. The ball drilled to the hoop. The trot around the bases. The exultation on the hardwood. The dogpile at home plate. The strut to the locker room.

The crowd going wild. The crowd going wild! Wow and wow.