May 08

Casey Blake retires

Giants at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Kershaw CXXIII: Kershmeatballs
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Clayton Kershaw, P

Former Dodger third baseman Casey Blake told the Des Moines Register he is retiring from baseball.

Blake told the Des Moines Register that he has been leaning toward retiring, but stopped short of a decision until now.

“My wife (Abbie) has been telling people I’m retired, but I’ve kind of been giving her a look,” said Blake, 38, who has played parts of 13 seasons in the majors with five teams before attempting to make the roster this season with Colorado.

“But I think I knew in my heart that I am (retiring), but I just haven’t announced it.” …

… “My career has to end at some point. … If I was going to play, it would probably only be one more year anyway.

“I just decided to shut it down. And I’m OK with the decision.”

Blake had a .768 OPS in 406 games with the Dodgers, hitting 10 home runs in 58 games down the stretch in 2008 and OPSing .832 in 2009, both playoff years for the Dodgers. Despite not becoming a full-timer in the majors until age 29, Blake ended his career with 167 home runs.

He was a quite likeable player in my view, and I wish him all the best.

It’s worth reminding people at this point that as far as his acquisition goes, the Dodgers did not use Carlos Santana as a throw-in to avoid paying extra cash to the Indians. It has been established that the Indians would not have done the trade with the Dodgers without getting Santana. Jonathan Meloan was the throw-in to save the Dodgers money.

Dec 21

Casey Blake signs with Rockies

It says something that the news is mentioned only in passing in this ESPN.com article on Colorado signing Michael Cuddyer, but former Dodger Casey Blake, remembered here, has agreed to terms on a deal with the Rockies.

Pending a physical, which is a little more than a formality given Blake’s health issues in 2011, Blake has a one-year, non-guaranteed deal worth $2 million, with another million in incentives. The modest deal reflects how hard it was for Blake to stay on the field.

Should the Dodgers have kept him? The likeable Blake did deliver in 239 plate appearances a .342 on-base percentage and .371 slugging percentage with a positive ultimate zone rating at third base, figures that new backup third baseman Adam Kennedy will be challenged to match. But much depends on whether the 38-year-old Blake’s physical condition stabilizes or worsens in 2012, something we have no idea about. In the end, it’s possible he could do well enough to cause some Dodger fans frustration, but the Dodgers probably aren’t going to worse off without Blake in 2012.

Update: Jeff Aberle of Purple Row is a big fan of the signing.

Oct 05

Remembering 2011: Casey Blake


Jesse Johnson/US PresswireCasey Blake

The setup: After an .832 OPS in his first full season as a Dodger in 2009, Blake played in 146 games in 2010 but fell to a .727 OPS. The Dodgers believed going into 2011 that Blake would need more regular rest to remain productive.

The closeup: Forget about rest: Blake hit the disabled list before Opening Day, setting the tone for an injury-riddled season. When he did play in April, he was actually red hot, with a .446 on-base percentage and .509 slugging percentage in 14 games, only to return to the DL before the month was over. When he was activated in late May, he started out 5 for 16, but then suffered through a rough June: .250 on-base percentage, .262 slugging. His third trip to injured reserve soon followed, taking him out for most of July. He was his average self in August (.720 OPS), but on September 1, he finally succumbed to ongoing and career-threatening neck issues and called it a season. He finished his whip-around year with a .713 OPS but played in only 63 games, hitting four home runs.

Coming attractions: For a ballplayer who didn’t become a major-league regular until he was 29, Blake has had a fine career: .336 on-base percentage, .442 slugging and 167 home runs while playing a solid third base. Whether he adds to it remains to be seen. The rumors of his impending retirement might be exaggerated, but how much the 38-year-old family man with five kids ages 10 and under wants to spend another year in the bigs destined to be a reserve is unclear. At a minimum, he became in his 3 1/2-year Dodger tenure one of the team’s top-five third basemen ever in Los Angeles.

Oct 04

Dodgers part ways with Blake, Garland

As expected, the Dodgers have paid $1.25 million to buy out Casey Blake’s $6 million contract option for 2012, while also declining Jon Garland’s $8 million option for next season (at a cost of $500,000). Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.

Both players become free agents and are eligible to sign with any team after the World Series ends, and with the Dodgers at any time. In fact, each has past experience of returning to the Dodgers as a free agent: Blake three years ago, Garland last year.

We’ve gotten mixed signals on Blake, from possible retirement to a potential willingness to come back as a reserve to the Dodgers on a cheaper contract. However, I’d be surprised if the Dodgers bid very enthusiastically on either Blake or Garland, both of whom spent much of 2011 injured, unless their salary quotes came way, way down.

Some might consider this the top story: The Dodgers also removed Eugenio Velez from their 40-man roster by outrighting him to Albuquerque. That takes him out of the team’s 2012 plans, but it doesn’t mean we won’t see him at Camelback Ranch for Spring Training next year.

* * *

  • Federal bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross has appointed a mediator to try to bridge the chasm between the Dodgers and Major League Baseball out of court. Good luck on that one.
  • Suspended list star Ronald Belisario is looking to rebuild his career, even if it’s not with the Dodgers or even in the U.S., according to this story on the Bravos de Margarita website (Google translation here) passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also has links to radio interviews with Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti and Charley Steiner.
Sep 01

Casey Blake signing off on Dodger career

My family has felt a special connection to Casey Blake. My two oldest children have run on the field before the game at Dodger Stadium, and each time it was the Bearded One who autographed their baseballs.

So even though their attention to the Dodgers is limited, it will be sad for me to break the news to them that Blake has apparently played his final game as a Dodger:

… Blake is having season-ending surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his neck.

Blake did not travel to Pittsburgh for the Dodgers’ game against the Pirates on Thursday, remaining in Los Angeles to have tests in advance of the operation Tuesday.

Blake has been bothered by the nerve and a cervical strain much of the season, and missed time with an elbow infection and back spasms. He hit .252 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 63 games.

He told the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez 12 days ago: “Obviously, this neck thing is pretty serious. I want to be able to move my neck when I’m 50.” …

The Dodgers were already planning on exercising their buyout of Blake’s 2012 option. Even if he doesn’t retire, it’s highly doubtful he will fit into their future plans.

Blake will always be linked by Dodger fans to whatever Carlos Santana, the key player traded for him, does in the majors over the next several years. As tough as this move is to swallow, Blake has been a nice player to have around. 

Playing steady defense, he had a .313 on-base percentage and .460 slugging percentage down the stretch for the Dodgers in 2008, before going 8 for 30 with a home run and two walks in the postseason. For his 406-game Dodger career, Blake had a .338 OBP and .431 slugging. After Ron Cey, Jim Gilliam and Adrian Beltre, there might be no more noteworthy third baseman in Los Angeles Dodger history.

Blake, who turned 38 last week, has played 1,265 games with a .778 OPS and 167 home runs.

May 19

Furcal has one more hurdle before returning from DL

Rafael Furcal, who has been on a rehabilitation assignment with Albuquerque for most of the past week, returned to Los Angeles today, but plans to activate him as soon as this weekend in Chicago are on hold for the moment. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com passes along word that Furcal banged his knee on a slide Tuesday, and though it doesn’t seem major, the Dodgers want to check it out (perhaps aware that nothing ever isn’t major with this team).

Meanwhile, Casey Blake is not ready to return from the disabled list either, Mattingly said.

“”I’m still hopeful with Fook,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly told Shelburne. “Stan (Conte) looked at it and he didn’t think it was anything too serious. He was actually encouraged. So we still have a chance to get Fooky back on the trip.

“Casey has gotten slowed down, I guess he’s got a little soreness in there. … We thought we’d get Fooky back on the trip, we were hopeful we’d get Casey back when we got home, and at that point we’re back kind of to where we want.”

Apr 29

Blake heads to DL, Loney sits, but Uribe back in lineup


Casey Blake has officially shuffled to the disabled list, with the Dodgers calling up Russ Mitchell to take his spot on the active roster. On the relatively bright side, Juan Uribe and Marcus Thames are healthy enough to make their first starts in some time, while James Loney rests against Padres lefty Clayton Richard in favor of Jerry Sands at first base.

Not resting against the lefty is Andre Ethier, who will try to extend his hitting streak to 25 games. Ethier is 6 for 29 with one walk against lefties this season. Lefty batters hit .228 against Richard last season and are 7 for 24 (.291) this season.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a nice feature on Ethier’s march, while Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats and Information shows that only once during the streak has there been suspense in the ninth inning. That was when Ethier doubled ahead of Matt Kemp’s walkoff homer to beat St. Louis.

* * *

Frank McCourt is doing another round of interviews today, this time in Los Angeles, so expect to see lots of coverage soon. In the meantime, I have to comment on this quote from nascent Dodger vice chairman Steve Soboroff in Bill Shaikin’s story in the Times earlier today.

“I guarantee you there is no owner or prospective owner in Los Angeles that has a better handle on the community than we do,” Soboroff told Shaikin.

Actually, I don’t have to comment. The words speak for themselves, don’t they?

* * *

For all the chaos surrounding the Dodgers, I’m going to argue that the Atlanta Braves have had a worse week — thanks to a couple of ex-Dodgers.

The Atlanta Braves placed pitching coach Roger McDowell on administrative leave Friday while they investigate allegations he made homophobic comments and crude gestures toward fans before a game in San Francisco last weekend.

The former major league reliever apologized in a statement, but the team barred him from the bench heading into a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

General manager Frank Wren said he hopes to have the investigation wrapped up by end of the weekend and added that any punishment would be coordinated with Major League Baseball.

The de facto suspension of McDowell came hours after the team announced it was looking into the arrest Thursday night of starting pitcher Derek Lowe on drunken-driving charges …

* * *

Fangraphs passes along a great Times photo from the Dodgers’ 1978 National League pennant celebration. Note, amid the jubilation, one fan trying to literally steal second, while another appears to fight with Bob Welch for the rosin bag.

Apr 22

The thin line between ebb and flow: Dodgers 5, Braves 3

I was prepared to write a pretty quick take on Thursday’s game, along the lines of how weird it is that Juan Uribe only seems to hit well when Matt Kemp doesn’t.

And then Kemp, who had struck out three times earlier in the game, went and hit … very, very well. 

Kemp’s two-run home run in the bottom of the 12th inning was his second walkoff shot in five days, beating the Braves, 5-3, and helping the Dodgers reach a split of their first 20 games this season despite being outscored 94-68 in the process.

Los Angeles will try for the fifth time this year for its first three-game winning streak of the year today in Chicago.

Kemp’s blast was his fourth of 2011, putting him on pace for 30-plus homers this season (along with 60-odd steals). It also helped him stay ahead in the team OPS lead ahead of Andre Ethier, who extended his hitting streak to 18 games with two hits, including a double ahead of Kemp’s home run.

Few could understand why the Braves didn’t walk Kemp intentionally in the 12th to face Uribe. Considering that Kemp’s run was meaningless, the only possible explanation was a flimsy one – that based on the previous 3 1/2 days, Atlanta thought Uribe was the most dangerous hitter. After starting the season 8 for 52, Uribe was 7 for 16 against the Braves, including his first home run of the season to tie Thursday’s game 1-1 in the sixth inning.

To each manager his own …

Casey Blake’s solo shot in the next inning put the Dodgers ahead and seemed to give Clayton Kershaw all he needed for the victory. Kershaw, who retired his first 10 batters and took a three-hitter into the ninth (in addition to a career-high two hits at the plate), came within one out of breezing to the finish line before he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. 

Don Mattingly went to the mound to talk to Kershaw, who had now thrown 119 pitches. Instead of going to Jonathan Broxton, Mattingly stayed with Kershaw. Given how Broxton has pitched lately, I know there was lots of support for this decision. I’m not sure I would have done differently while standing face-to-face with the pitcher, but from afar, the walk to load the bases might have been as far as I would have let Kershaw go. Mattingly had already tried letting Kershaw bail himself out of his own jam with a high pitch count in his last start, and Kershaw gave up a deep fly by David Freese and a three-run homer by Mr. Allen Craig of St. Louis.

My other concern is that Kershaw has now set a career high in pitches in two of his past three starts, throwing 340 pitches in 11 days.  

Kershaw got ahead in the count 0-2, then gave up a two-run single to former Dodger David Ross, but Jamey Carroll and Blake (3 for 6) bailed the pitcher out in the bottom of the ninth. Carroll walked, took second on a wild pitch and scored on Blake’s single.

Broxton, who relieved Kershaw after Ross’ hit, retired four of five batters he faced, and then Matt Guerrier pitched two shutout innings, surviving two two-out singles in the 11th before a 1-2-3 12th.

At which point, the game flowed back to Kemp …

* * *

Cubs at Dodgers, 11:20 a.m.

Apr 11

Broken thumb will send Rafael Furcal to disabled list


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesRafael Furcal hurt his thumb on this fifth-inning slide.

As noted below and reported by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Rafael Furcal hurt his thumb tonight sliding hand-first into third base. Following the game, it was revealed that the thumb is broken, and that Furcal will be out a minimum of four weeks and as many as six.

Dylan Hernandez of the Times said that Furcal was despondent enough to be “pondering retirement,” though we’ll assume for the time being that the depression was talking then. Here’s what Jackson wrote:

Furcal actually hinted at retirement, but that seemed to be nothing more than an emotional reaction to having received the bad news.

“I’m thinking about retiring if I can’t get back to being healthy,” said Furcal, who has a history of back injuries and missed a month each last season with injuries to his lower back and right thigh. “I was feeling so good with my back, and now I break my finger.”

With Furcal out for a lengthy period, Jamey Carroll would see the most time at shortstop, though the Dodgers have to be careful with the 37-year-old. With Casey Blake also ailing, that also means more playing time for Aaron Miles. An infielder will no doubt be called up if Furcal goes on the disabled list, but I’d guess Ivan De Jesus Jr. (who is on the 40-man roster). As alternatives, Justin Sellers or Juan Castro would get the call before the still-green Dee Gordon would. (Tonight, as Jerry Sands homered for the third-straight game and Jay Gibbons had three hits and a game-winning RBI, Gordon stole his fourth base of the season but also made his fourth error and struck out four times.)

Apr 11

Kershaw LXXXVI: Kershawlandaise sauce

I have several different thoughts percolating about the fan and security issues surrounding tonight’s Dodgers-Giants game, as well as today’s Dodger Stadium fundraiser for Bryan Stow. I know it’s my job to get them from percolation to full boil, but I didn’t quite get there. For now, let’s just keep it simple: I am thinking good thoughts for tonight.

In baseball news: Rafael Furcal is back in the lineup after a couple of days off because of wrist issues. But after resting Sunday, Casey Blake is also sitting out tonight’s game against San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com said that Blake’s left leg has been bothering him since Saturday’s game-ending collision with the Padres’ Chase Headley.

Additionally, the Dodgers have sent John Ely back to Albuquerque, paving the way for Jon Garland’s activation before Friday’s game. In the meantime, Jamie Hoffmann gets a callup. Here’s Jackson’s story.

Mar 21

Infield in flux

The Dodgers’ afternoon game today has been rained out.

Having been unable to get into a game for quite some time now, Casey Blake appears bound for the disabled list, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Blake has one hit and two walks this spring. He would likely be replaced at third base by Juan Uribe, with Jamey Carroll coming in to start at second base, but Carroll himself only has four singles and four walks in his own injury-marred spring.

Aaron Miles, Opening Day second baseman?

* * *

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.

Mar 18

Casey Blake remains sidelined, DL an increasing possibility

The Dodgers haven’t ruled out Casey Blake starting the season on the disabled list after all, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

Dodgers at Giants, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 16

State of the Opening Day roster: Update


Jake Roth/US PresswireDespite a 7.23 ERA last year with St. Louis, Mike MacDougal has taken advantage of Dodger injuries to carve out a chance at a roster spot.

On the last off day before the start of the season, this seems like a good time to check in on how the Dodger 25-man Opening Day roster is shaping up.

On track (18):

Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly

Relief pitchers (5): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen

Catchers (1): Rod Barajas

Infielders (4): James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (4): Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames

Likely (3):

1) Casey Blake, 3B: The latest news on Blake sounds about as good as one might have expected – inflammation with no evidence of a muscle strain.  So while anything could happen, we won’t assume that he’ll be on the disabled list March 31.

2) Mike MacDougal, RP: A 0.00 spring ERA, veteran’s moxie and all the positive things people are saying about him in the press make MacDougal this year’s most likely prize off the scrap heap.

3) Dioner Navarro, C: A.J. Ellis can still be optioned to the minors, so we’ll put him aside. Though Hector Gimenez presents an alternative, Navarro seems safe.

Roster spot battles (4):

Norm Hall/Getty ImagesAn .847 spring OPS has helped make Hector Gimenez a longshot as opposed to a no-shot.

1) Jay Gibbons vs. Xavier Paul vs. Trent Oeltjen, OF, vs. Hector Gimenez, C/1B: Gibbons’ spring has been a nightmare, to the extent that Tony Gwynn Jr. might already have passed him in the pecking order for playing time. Xavier Paul, seemingly healthy and performing better as the month goes on, is now adding to the pressure while the eyesight-plagued Gibbons tries to solve his vision problems. A third-party candidate is Trent Oeltjen, who has been hitting all spring – and we’ll even leave open the possibility that Gimenez could take this spot instead of a sixth outfielder.  Chances: Gibbons 45%, Paul 35%, Oeltjen 10%, Gimenez 10%.

2) Aaron Miles vs. Ivan De Jesus Jr. vs. Justin Sellers vs. Juan Castro, IF: A veteran has the automatic edge when you’re talking backup infielder, so it seems safe to knock out De Jesus and Sellers, neither of whom have seized the day. Miles has had a better spring than Castro and is also centuries younger. Castro has that Brad Ausmus-like zen quality that Ned Colletti admires, but Miles has sufficient experience to fill the role. Chances: Miles 80%, Castro 10%, De Jesus 5%, Sellers 5%.

3) + 4) Ron Mahay vs. Scott Elbert vs. Ramon Troncoso vs. Lance Cormier, RP, vs. John Ely vs. Tim Redding, SP, vs. position player: These two final spots seem very much up for grabs at this point, compounded by the uncertainty over whether the Dodgers will start the year with four or five starting pitchers, and whether they’ll start with 11 pitchers overall or 12.

If they keep a fifth starter, it’s still an open battle. Both Redding and Ely can be sent to the minors, though the difference is if Redding is placed on the major-league roster, he would then have to clear waivers before he could go to Albuquerque (once, say, Vicente Padilla or Jon Garland was healthy). The Dodgers can yank Ely up and down this year at will.

Both Ely and Redding started the spring excellently, then faltered (like every other Dodger starter in the past week). Ely is on the upside of his career but with something to prove; Redding is on the downside of his career with something to prove. My guess is that even if Ely wins the job, the Dodgers won’t want him to lose his rhythm by pitching in long relief during the opening days of the season – meaning he would start the season in the minors and then come up April 12 when he is needed. I’m not sure they’d have those reservations with Redding.

Among the lefthanders, Mahay finally had a decent inning Tuesday, though the four batters he faced had 19 career major-league homers. Still, it’s hard to imagine that, short of a 180-degree turnaround, the Dodgers are ready to rely on Elbert, who has walked nine of 20 batters he has faced this spring.

Troncoso has outpitched both lefties, though I’m not sure the Dodgers are convinced he’s all the way back from his 2010 struggles. If he were, he and MacDougal would exchange places. Lance Cormier has gotten little attention while throwing four innings and allowing seven hits while striking out one, but he remains in the running.

And then there’s the chance the Dodgers go with an 11-man staff and keep six guys on the bench. Gimenez, anyone?

If the Dodgers were making their final cuts today, I’d predict they keep two relievers at the outset and fly Ely to San Francisco on April 12. Chances: Troncoso 45%, Mahay 45%, Cormier 30%, Ely 30%, Redding 25%, position player 20%, Elbert 5%.