May 01

Monasterios provides relief as Dodger starter, 5-1


Gus Ruelas/AP
Carlos Monasterios allowed three baserunners in each of the first two innings, but just one run.

Fluke or find? Carlos Monasterios continues to make the question an intriguing one.

From a town called Obscurity come the man who continues to make it across the tightrope when the Dodgers need him to, Monasterios this time pitching four innings of one-run ball – while also keying a game-changing three-run third inning with his first career hit – in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh tonight.

Gus Ruelas/AP
Andrew McCutchen can only watch Andre Ethier’s third-inning drive go beyond his reach.

Working with a 75-pitch limit, Monasterios didn’t avoid trouble, giving up three hits (including a first-inning Andrew McCutchen home run) and a walk while hitting two batters in the first two innings, but he held strong in adversity. And in his final two innings, he retired six of seven batters.

In the bottom of the third, Monasterios and Russell Martin singled ahead of Andre Ethier’s three-run homer that gave the Dodgers a lead they didn’t come close to surrendering.

Ramon Ortiz succeeded Monasterios and was even more impressive, striking out five in three innings while allowing two baserunners, and Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a perfect eighth. I haven’t gotten to the Ramon Troncoso story yet, but inexplicably the righty pitched a one-hit ninth in his 16th appearance in 24 games – a 108-game pace. Yeah, this is worth exploring.

In the meantime, the Dodger bullpen, counting the nine innings tonight, has allowed one run in its past 14 2/3 innings.

Ethier and James Loney each added two doubles, and Reed Johnson had a double and a single.

May 01

Dodger outfield prospect Andrew Lambo suspended for 50 games


Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Lambo, shown here with Chattanooga in 2009, has been considered a potential starting Dodger left-fielder by 2012.

Andrew Lambo, ranked No. 3 among Dodger prospects in the 2010 Maple Street Press Dodger annual, was suspended for 50 games for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The violation was for a second positive test for a “drug of abuse,” rather than a performance-enhancing substance, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who adds more details.

Lambo, a 21-year-old in his second season playing for AA Chatanooga this year, had an on-base percentage of .390 and slugging percentage of .566 (the latter fifth-best in the Southern League). He transferred from Reseda’s Cleveland High School to Newbury Park High School because of a marijuana-related incident.

Jackson also has other notes about the team here.

* * *

I’m just getting back into the swing of things after my anniversary sojourn.  Tonight’s game is basically all hands on deck for the bullpen, started by reliever Carlos Monasterios. Ramon Ortiz figures to get some action assuming Monasterios doesn’t last five innings, although Charlie Haeger, whose Dodger future is an open question and whose next start has not been officially scheduled, could also get a call before the front end of the relief corps gets into it. It would be nice if Dodger manager Joe Torre was willing to use a key reliever early in the game, if necessary, to keep it close.

It’s an interesting test for Monasterios, but Dodger fans do need to keep expectations in line. (After the past week, I suspect that won’t be a problem.)

As for who starts in Vicente Padilla’s place next, James McDonald made a push after returning from the broken-fingernail disabled list with five no-hit innings (two walks, five strikeouts) against Round Rock on Friday. Keep in mind that the Express are among the poorer-hitting Pacific Coast League teams.

Apr 24

Dodgers win in extras but lose Vicente Padilla


Nick Wass/AP
Carlos Monasterios, right, gets a high-five from Russell Martin, center, and Matt Kemp after the Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 4-3 in 13 innings Saturday. Monasterios isn’t going anywhere for a while after his 2 2/3 extra innings of shutout ball.

See what happens when you get two out of three cogs working?

The Dodger defense help cause the team to play four extra innings Saturday, but this time the bullpen was up to the task while the offense did just enough. With Carlos Monasterios getting the final eight outs, the Dodgers defeated Washington in 13, 4-3.

The glow was tempered a bit with the news that Vicente Padilla was going on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm problems – the third Dodger to go on the DL this week. Reliever Jon Link has been recalled, but the Dodgers will make another roster move by Tuesday for a starter to take Padilla’s turn in the rotation. But there was a glow nevertheless.

Clayton Kershaw (3.13 ERA in 2010) allowed 11 baserunners in six innings but went to the showers with a 3-2 lead thanks to Casey Blake’s second home run. However, a Russell Martin throwing error – the 20th of the Dodgers’ 17-game season to date – led to an eighth-inning entrance by Jonathan Broxton, who allowed the game-tying, unearned run (charged to Ramon Troncoso). Rafael Furcal’s error an inning earlier also caused trouble; the Dodgers used four pitchers to get six outs in the sixth and seventh.

But the Dodger bullpen provided five scoreless innings at a most welcome time, with Broxton pitching the ninth, George Sherrill retiring all four batters he faced and then Monasterios (his ERA shrinking to 2.08) providing the final 2 2/3 innings to end it.

It wasn’t without one more scare. Monasterios entered the bottom of the 13th with the one-run lead after Russell Martin (0 for 5 with the big error at that point) singled in Furcal, who had singled and stolen his eighth base in nine attempts this year (second in the National League). Monasterios allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Ivan Rodriguez and then a double to the right-field corner by Nyler Morgan. A faster player would have scored, but Rodriguez held at third – and then was thrown out at the plate by inches by Blake on the Nationals’ next at-bat.

Cristian Guzman then popped out to end it. Monsasterios had come through. The Dodgers had come through. Even though Washington had gotten a runner to at least second base in each of the first nine innings, the Dodgers won.

From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

Monasterios, 24, generally keeps his emotions in check on the field but was jumping up and down in the infield like a Little Leaguer when he got Guzman to fly to left and end the game.

“That’s the correct way, no?” Monasterios asked. “I’m very excited and happy to be on this team right now. This experience will give me a lot of self confidence.”

Shades of Pedro Astacio …

Blake went 3 for 5 with the three RBI from his two homers, and Furcal, Matt Kemp and James Loney each had two hits. (Furcal also had a walk.)

With James McDonald on the AAA disabled list because of a broken nail (“Why tonight?”), the leading candidates to take the Tuesday start are John Ely, Scott Elbert and Josh Towers. Ely and Towers would require a 40-man roster spot, which the Dodgers have to spare if they move Brad Ausmus or Cory Wade from the 15- to the 60-day DL. Ely has the best numbers of the three: a 3.00 ERA over three starts covering 18 innings, though he has allowed 16 hits and eight walks against 12 strikeouts, and he’d be on five days’ rest for Tuesday. McDonald could be activated from the DL next week, but would the Dodgers use him after the layoff he has had?

Elbert, who last pitched for Albuquerque five days ago and was scheduled as recently as Friday to pitch today, was replaced by Seth Etherton, so one might have concluded he’ll get the call despite allowing 13 runs in eight innings over his past two starts. (He pitched six shutout innings in his first start of the year.) But Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out that Elbert is with his wife for the birth of their second child, so who knows?

Also keep in mind, with the possibility of a rainout Sunday or Monday, the Dodgers might be able to postpone addressing this problem. Anyway, enjoy today’s glow – a nice alternative to what could have been another dastardly disappointment.

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.
Mar 22

Russ Ortiz continues to vex with his good spring

Goodness, could it really be Russ Ortiz?

The name that is anathema to a rational choice for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, Ortiz produced the coveted four-inning save today in the Dodgers’ 8-4 split-squad victory over Milwaukee, allowing one run on four baserunners while striking out three.

He did so on a day that Carlos Monasterios faltered, giving up three runs in the first two of his four innings today in the other split-squad game, a 4-2 loss to the Angels.

Paul Connors/AP
Clayton being Clayton: Kershaw had the same number of hits allowed and wild pitches Monday.

Monasterios still doesn’t look like a pitcher the Dodgers want to let go of, but Ortiz again asserted himself in a battle for a roster spot. And since Monasterios is much more likely to be a reliever than a starter, it remains possible that Ortiz could be in the rotation despite his poor performance in recent years.

The contenders for the final three or four spots on the Dodger pitching staff: Monasterios, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Eric Stults, Charlie Haeger, Jeff Weaver and Josh Towers. Monasterios, Stults and Haeger are the three who cannot be sent to the minors, meaning that the others are probably battling for a single slot.

Meanwhile, poor fielding helped sabotage Clayton Kershaw’s first inning against Milwaukee, but the young lefty ended up going a solid five innings, striking out six while allowing one earned run.

For the first time since July 18, there was a W next to Kershaw’s name in a boxscore. And an S (not to be confused with Superman’s) emblazoned on Ortiz.

Jamey Carroll went 3 for 4 with a walk, raising his Spring Training on-base percentage to .474.

* * *

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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 08

Notes before bedtime

Casey Blake left today’s game early because of back soreness, while bullpen candidate Cory Wade will be out for two weeks following a cortisone shot to treat his problematic right shoulder. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Joe Torre had praise today for rookies Josh Lindblom and Carlos Monasterios. Torre said Monasterios “has a good changeup – he seems to keep the ball down.”

* * *

  • Listen to the mellow sounds of the Dodgers’ first home run of the spring.
  • At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the McCourts tried to hire Clarence Darrow or William Jennings Bryan. (Forgive me for thinking about an “Inherit the Windbags” headline, just for a moment.)
  • The 1975 Dodger starting rotation is by one measure the most dominant of the past half-century, finds Steve Lombardi of Stat of the Day. Led by Andy Messersmith, Doug Rau, Don Sutton and Burt Hooton and supported by Rick Rhoden and Al Downing, the group had 124 starts with a Game Score of at least 50.
  • Josh Suchon is doing play-by-play of the Dodgers’ Spring Training game Tuesday, broadcast live on Prime Ticket and tape-delayed on MLB Network, before going on the Taiwan trip. His KABC AM 790 colleague Ken Levine will do Wednesday’s game.  (Levine’s post has great anecdotes about past exhibition broadcasts).
  • Blue Heaven finds on auction a scorecard from the first baseball game at Brooklyn’s Washington Park, May 5, 1884.
  • Josh Wilker. ‘Nuf said.