Mar 14

Jay Gibbons to have eye exams

The straightforward news of the day is that, as expected, Carlos Monasterios was optioned to the minors (while Wilkin De La Rosa was also reassigned to minor-league camp). But an issue that has been developing under the radar is the condition of Jay Gibbons.

Gibbons has two singles and a walk in 23 plate appearances this spring, a .221 OPS that by itself would be disappointing but also too small of a sample to really worry about. However, Dodger manager Don Mattingly told reporters today that Gibbons is having problems with depth perception and is going to miss the next couple of days of play for some extended testing on his eyes.

Mattingly said that so far, Gibbons has tried both contact lenses and glasses and neither has done the trick, so they’re trying to go back to find some contacts that will work.

With fellow left-handed hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. at least doing an imitation of a good outfielder (.387 on-base percentage, 6 for 6 on steals, quality defense), the Dodgers might well turn to a Gwynn-Marcus Thames platoon in the early going, with Gibbons serving as the fifth outfielder and as a backup first baseman — assuming his roster spot itself isn’t in jeopardy or that a trip to the disabled list doesn’t come.

It’s a tough break for Gibbons, who has had such a long journey back to the bigs.

The Dodger infield remains in flux as well, with Casey Blake now scheduled for an MRI, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports. The Dodgers remain optimistic, but we could see more lineups with Juan Uribe at third base and Jamey Carroll at second.

* * *

An article by Vin Scully — Inside the Dodgers passes it on. Read it with his voice in your head …

… One of the temptations we have today is like the song of the Lorelei, wrecking you on the rocks. So much is provided to you with statistics and information that you run the risk of looking down when a play is taking place. So you really have to be careful about that. Every game has somewhat of a story, an individual or maybe both of the pitchers. Someone is doing something that adds to the story. And then, of course, you can’t go overly dramatic in fourth game of the season with 158 games to go. But everything seems to fall into place in terms of the schedule, the game, where you are, the history of the teams. And they can get dull. Let’s face it – there are some games when nothing happens. And then it’s up to you to come up with a story or a historical aticidote to add a little spice to the telecast. …

* * *

Dodgers at Rangers, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 13

Face it: injury-prone players are, in fact, injury-prone

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesFinally, Matt Kemp masters the art of flying. All he had to do was listen to his coaches.

Royals 19, Dodgers 7

Giants 8, Dodgers 7

Casey Blake’s back tightness, though not considered major at this time, underscores the fact that you can’t keep older, injury-prone players like Blake and Rafael Furcal healthy just by keeping them rested. Blake has not been overexerting himself by any definition. These guys are just going to get hurt no matter what they do, and I see an argument once the season starts for not worrying about rest and getting all the production you can out of them until that next injury comes.

In any case, Tony Jackson has a piece at ESPNLosAngeles.com noting how much Juan Uribe will probably play at shortstop and third base this year.

Highlights:

  • Tony Gwynn Jr. went 3 for 3 against the Giants and stole his sixth base in as many tries.
  • Andre Ethier went 2 for 4 with a bases-loaded triple.
  • Trent Oeltjen went 2 for 2  vs. the Royals and hit a three-run homer off Denny Duffy.
  • Juan Uribe went 2 for 3 with a double.
  • Travis Schlichting, Jon Huber and prospect Allen Webster had shutout relief performances.
  • Trayvon Robinson tripled of Guillermo Mota.
  • The Dodger defense was charged with no errors in either game.

Lowlights:

  • Ted Lilly got blasted, ultimately getting charged with six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Royals. “I wasn’t locating,” Lilly told The Associated Press. I missed quite a bit down in the dirt with my fastball. They just weren’t cleanly thrown balls.”
  • Ron Mahay is doing all he can to give away his roster spot, allowing his third home run in four short appearances and surrendering four hits, four runs and a walk in two-thirds of an inning.
  • Ramon Troncoso also got knocked around: five outs, six baserunners, four runs.
  • Tim Redding surrendered four runs in four innings against the Giants.
  • Roman Colon gave up four San Francisco singles in the bottom of the ninth as the Dodgers gave up a 7-6 lead.

Sidelights:

  • Clayton Kershaw tells Ken Gurnick of MLB.com not to worry about the split fingernail on the middle finger of his pitching hand because he gets them “all the time.” Gee, now I feel much better.
  • In the same notebook, Gurnick notes that Hong-Chih Kuo is feeling more confident about his developing changeup that could go with his fastball and slider.
  • John Ely, we’re now told, resisted listening to Dodger coaches who tried to help him during his second-half collapse last season, writes Jim Peltz of the Times.
  • Major League Baseball’s new official historian, John Thorn, writes an overview in the New York Times on the current state of information of the origins of baseball.

* * *

White Sox at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Dodgers vs. Cubs (at Las Vegas), 1:05 p.m.

Mar 01

Matty being Matty

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has a long piece on the complicated individual that is Matt Kemp.

* * *

“Of the 23 Dodgers you could reasonably expect to make their final roster, only two are younger than 26,” writes Steve Dilbeck of the Times, adding that the average age of the team figures to be over 30.

* * *

In his morning press session with reporters in Arizona, Don Mattingly again discussed Casey Blake’s bunting ability as a reason to bat him No. 2 in the order. I’ve liked most of what I’ve seen and heard from Mattingly this year, but this apparent plan to use the bunt as an option from the No. 2 spot — perhaps as early as the first inning — does not appeal.

Mattingly also mentions Blake’s ability to handle the bat — I would point out that next to the oft-criticized Kemp, no Dodger struck out more than Blake in 2010. Blake’s 138 strikeouts were the sixth-most in Dodgers history.

* * *

Dodgers at Indians, 12:05 p.m.
Rafael Furcal, SS
Casey Blake, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Matt Kemp, CF
James Loney, 1B
Juan Uribe, 2B
Marcus Thames, DH
Rod Barajas, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., LF
(Chad Billingsley, P)

Feb 25

Rest didn’t help Casey Blake much in 2010


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireCasey Blake

One of the many mantras of the 2011 preseason has been the Dodgers’ determination to get more rest this year for Casey Blake, who turned 37 in August.

That made me curious as to whether Blake (whom Tony Jackson wrote about Thursday for ESPNLosAngeles.com) actually performed better when rested last year. And the short answer is, he didn’t.

I went through the 2010 game logs, and here’s how Blake performed.

Total: 146 games, 571 plate appearances, .320 OBP, .407 slugging percentage, .727 OPS.
No days off: 110 games, 425 plate appearances, .332 OBP, .397 slugging, .729 OPS.
One day off: 22 games, 91 plate appearances, .252 OBP, .342 slugging, .594 OPS
Two or more days off: 11 games, 47 plate appearances, .319 OBP, .410 slugging, .729 OPS
One or more day off: 33 games, 138 plate appearances, .275 OBP, .364 slugging, .639 OPS.
(The plate appearances don’t quite match up to his season total, because I left sacrifices out of the equation. Also keep in mind there were some games Blake played in without batting.)

First of all, I’m not going to pretend that a .727 OPS is what the Dodgers want out of their third baseman. But it’s hard to say that rest made it any better.

Given that Blake played so many games without no rest, there’s still the question of whether he would have been better down the stretch had he rested more early. Here’s his OPS by month: .833, .827, .692, .556, .812, .634. Did he burn out at mid-summer, then rally in August, then burn out again?  Or is it just a case of luck as much as anything? (Blake’s July batting average on balls in play was .207, August was .338.)

This data doesn’t take into account matchups or game conditions, and it’s certainly susceptible to small sample size issues. But at a minimum, it should make people think twice about how much days off actually helped Blake. Not that I’m suggesting that he play 162 games, but it’s fairly easy to posit a theory that frequent play keeps Blake’s batting eye honed in. Or, that rest just isn’t that much of an issue, and the Dodgers should just shrug their shoulders and play him when they have no better option.

How often will Juan Uribe at third base and someone like Jamey Carroll (.380 OBP vs. righties last year) at second base be a better combination? You tell me.

Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

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

Friend this …

Feb 07

The Dodgers according to Ned Colletti


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesNed Colletti is beginning his sixth season as Dodgers general manager. The team has averaged 86 regular-season victories during his tenure.

Ten days.

The Dodgers rose from the basement of the National League West in May to the best record in the league in June, then sat only two games out of first place in the division at the All-Star Break.

Yet as far as Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was concerned, it was almost a mirage. During an interview at his Dodger Stadium office last week, Colletti fully acknowledged that the Dodgers’ second-half fade, as much as he and everyone else tried to reverse it, came as disturbingly little surprise to him.

Ten days. In Colletti’s view, that’s how long the Dodgers played championship-quality baseball in 2010.

“I think the second half, in a lot of ways, was the result of the first half and the spring,” Colletti said. “I can’t say I had more than a 10-day period where I thought we were truly playing as well as we could play. In ’09, we had a pretty good defense, and we executed, played well in clutch situations, found a way to win games. We really hadn’t done that very much in the first half of the season. And I think it caught up with us in the second half.

“And what I did last year wasn’t acceptable. How I prepared for last year didn’t meet the results that I have for myself.”

The Dodgers will arrive to spring training later this month, in many ways, a different team than a year ago, starting with a greater emphasis on starting pitching that represents Colletti’s most visceral response to his roster concerns from 2010. At the same time, Colletti said the experience the returning core gained from last year’s disappointment has the potential to play a significant, positive role in 2011.

“They’re professional, and this is their livelihood,” he said. “And you believe there’s enough pride and adjustment and education from this past year. A lot of guys haven’t gone through what they’ve gone through in the past year. That will put them in the right place coming in to know it’s got to be better and it’s got to be more focused.

“Because they’ve (succeeded) before, I’m confident. But then, last year was what it was. I’m cautious by nature. I take nothing for granted, at any point in my life at any stage. So I don’t take it for granted that it’s just gonna happen. I think it has to be prepared in order to happen.

Translated, Colletti believes the talent is there but the effort, focus and confidence need to return. He said the offseason preparation “is done to some point, and when you get to camp now it’s going to be up to Don [Mattingly] and his staff to have certain procedures in place and certain accountability set forth. And I obviously have to support that, and they have to buy into it.”

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
Matt Kemp had homered once in 31 games prior to hitting one out in each of his final five games of 2010.

Comeback kids?
Despite leading Dodgers regulars on offense, Andre Ethier never fully seemed to recover from the pinky injury he suffered in May and fed doubts about his long-term ability to hit left-handed pitchers (.625 OPS against them in 2010, .681 for his career). James Loney went from decent before the All-Star Break (.803) to disastrous after (.616). Jonathan Broxton’s second-half collapse is as well-documented as anyone’s, and Matt Kemp … well, let’s just say his season could have been the inspiration for what made Linda Blair’s head spin in “The Exorcist.”

The question, Colletti agreed, is which of the players will hit a hurdle in their development in 2010, and which have hit a wall. And it’s a question that’s due for an answer. Mulligans that were handed out last year won’t be found so easily or at all in 2011.

“In the past, I’ve been more patient than open-minded,” Colletti said. “I think that one of the toughest characteristics you have to have in these jobs is patience because everybody expects everything to turn overnight. … It doesn’t work that way. Everybody’s human; these guys are all human. They take maturation, physical maturation, all kinds of processes.

“I won’t be able to be just completely patient with it [this year]. We’re not an old team, but we’re not a team overwhelmed with rookies, either. We have experience, and a lot of our players have been to the postseason at least twice and sometimes three times in the last five years. So it’s there, it’s really kind of going back to that point and being focused about it and passionate about it and tough-minded about it.”

It might surprise people to learn that Colletti seems particularly bullish about Kemp, the target of a radio critique by Colletti in April.

“I think probably from middle of August on, things became a little bit more focused for him,” Colletti said. “He and I had a conversation, probably in August, that was really a man-to-man, heart-to-heart, one-on-one conversation. And I was trying to take some of the weight off. I think he understands it; I think he understands what transpired last year. I think from my conversations this winter, from the last month of the season and this winter, I think he understands more than he did a year ago about himself and about the game, about preparation. So I think he’s got a chance to really have a great year.”

It’s possible Colletti might have said the same thing about Russell Martin, except Martin is no longer around. The circumstances of the Dodgers’ decision to let Martin go rather than offer him salary arbitration weren’t discussed, but Martin’s recent offseason comments about “distractions” that affected him led to a broader comment from Colletti about the difficulty of playing in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes, it’s commitment, prioritization and commitment,” Colletti said. “I read what Russell said, but I don’t know what the true context was or what his underlying thoughts were as to why he said it. … There are a lot of distractions in this city. There’s a lot of different things to be doing, a lot of places your mind can wander off to, but if you’re a professional baseball player, if you’re a Dodger, you’ve got to figure out life. … And it’s not easy to do it.”

Without going into many specifics, Colletti indicated that the ability to play in Los Angeles is a factor in some trades of young players he has made. He called Carlos Santana the prospect he regrets parting with “probably more than anybody” before he added that there were a couple of other guys he would have to wait and see on.

“Again, Los Angeles isn’t for everybody,” Colletti said. “Sometimes we make a move on a player because we know in this environment here, they’re not going to be very good in it.”

Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Jonathan Broxton issued 25 of his 28 walks last season after June 23.

Pitching paradoxes
As for Broxton, count Colletti among those who see his second-half crumble as an issue of confidence, rather than health problems that might have been caused by his 48-pitch tar-and-feathering against the Yankees last June.

“He never complained,” Colletti said. “And at the end, he wasn’t thrilled with it, but I said, ‘Jonathan, I need you to take a complete physical — your arm, your shoulder, your elbow.’ A week to go in the season. And he said, ‘I feel great. I don’t need to do it.’ And I said, ‘I need you to do it.’ So he said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and everything came back clean.”

Colletti is aware of the volatility of relief pitchers, comparing them to great goaltenders who can go through “a month or two where they can’t stop anything.” But this awareness cuts both ways. It leads Colletti to give relievers who have performed in the past long leashes, and it compels him to have as many alternatives on hand as he can, as seen through the acquisitions of set-up men Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth and oblique references to No. 6 starter Vicente Padilla’s potential to close games.

Again, however, Colletti believes that at rock bottom you can often find a trampoline. Look no further than Chad Billingsley, banished from the Dodgers’ starting rotation by the end of 2009 before rising anew last season.

“Most of our young players did not experience a lot of failure as young players, minor leagues [or] early in the big leagues,” Colletti said. “They really didn’t struggle. And when it finally hits you, and you do struggle for whatever reason and you’re doing it in front of 45,000 people in Los Angeles all the time, on television every day, that’s a tough time to struggle for the first time, for the really first time, and be able to come out of it.”

Interestingly, Colletti’s faith in failure recovery played a partial role in what many believe is the Dodgers’ greatest weakness heading into this season: the lack of a bona fide left fielder.

Angst in the outfield
This winter, the Dodgers didn’t bid on the two marquee outfield free agents, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, and you can safely conclude that was a reflection of their overall contract demands and the Dodgers’ budget. But when it came to alternatives, Colletti was wary of blocking two Dodgers outfield prospects who could each be major league ready a year from now, Trayvon Robinson and Jerry Sands, especially after the experience Robinson had in Jacksonville last summer.

“Robinson last year started off slow in Double-A, and we stayed with him and he figured it out,” Colletti said. “That to me was huge. Because he’s gonna have to figure that out. Because everybody struggles up here.”

There is the caveat that it’s not as if the current Dodgers never struggled in the majors or minors before 2010 – one could easily make the case that they did, but that their subsequent triumphs blotted out the memory. In any event, if he had found a signable veteran outfielder worthy of a multiyear deal, Colletti no doubt would have pulled the trigger. But he does feel optimistic over the long term about what he has.

“If I would have signed a left fielder for three years, who was again not one of those robust guys — I’m not sure there was a guy out there — then I’m really kind of blocking one of those two kids, and I’ve got faith in both of them,” he said. “Hopefully, not this year. Hopefully, it’s a year from now, but I have faith in both that they’ll be able to play and contribute. And actually I told them both that, too, in the fall — I told Trayvon way back in the summertime, ‘It’s important for me to know who you are and how you play. Because you know what, Manny’s not gonna be back next year. And I’ve got to make a decision whether I’m gonna go and tie up his spot for three or four years, or be patient and mix and match for a year and wait for you.’”

Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCasey Blake had an .895 OPS against lefties last year, .663 against righties.

In the interim, Colletti is under no illusion that he has gold in the third outfield slot, so the Dodgers will essentially play it by ear in the outfield, with Mattingly looking at matchup opportunities for Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Xavier Paul (if he makes the squad), and on an infrequent basis, Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll.

“Right now Matty’s the center fielder,” Colletti said. “Andre’s the right fielder. I want to see what Tony can do offensively. He’ll play as much as the offense allows him, I think … using the whole field, bunting more, figuring out ways to get on base, because his on-base percentage isn’t high even when he hits .270. See if he can become more disciplined at the plate, use his speed more to get on. I don’t expect power out of him. I don’t expect gap power out of him, but I would like to see him get on base a lot more, because if he does it perhaps changes the dynamics in the outfield.

“And in the meantime, I’ve got two guys that can hit, one from the left side and one from the right side — actually two from the left side with X. Paul and Gibbons, and then Thames. … And perhaps they’re five- or six-inning guys, and then you go defense later. But you’ve got two guys that might be able to hit 20 homers between them.”

Third base offers a secondary question for the Dodgers because, while Blake is sure to start against lefties and some righties, no one seems to be beating the drum for him to play 146 games like he did last season. With the Dodgers’ minor leagues fairly thin at second and third base, this time Colletti took the plunge on a multiyear stopgap in Juan Uribe.

“Our system’s produced a lot of guys,” Colletti said. “But except for really [Ivan] DeJesus, we don’t really have a second baseman that’s on the verge of being here. We have a shortstop coming probably in Dee Gordon and after him [Jake] Lemmerman, and right now third base is a bit of an open spot too — we had [Pedro] Baez in the Cal League last year. So Uribe, while the on-base percentage isn’t Moneyball-ish or whatever, the run production is still pretty good, in that he can play second, short or third, and we don’t have anybody that’s going to press him at third for a while, and really De Jesus is trying to transition to play second. I needed somebody I can run out there who’s a big league guy.”

Because of what he sees as a potential benefit to have Uribe play some at the hot corner, Colletti emphasized that De Jesus has a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup infielder. Obviously, someone like Carroll could also make several starts to allow Blake to rest.

In any case, Colletti is aware of how much a juggling act the Dodgers’ everyday lineup has become. Though he has in one sense traded last year’s lack of a fifth starter for this year’s lack of an everyday left fielder or third baseman, Colletti sees the two situations as apples and oranges.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Matt Guerrier, 31, has allowed 11.5 baserunners per nine innings in his career.

Never enough
“You really didn’t have in my mind many choices that were going to be able to play every day,” Colletti said. “We had to fix the pitching first, and we had to upgrade the bullpen if we could.

“You can’t finesse pitching. Maybe a day here or there, but you need to have it. And the list [of available pitchers], we were kind of picking near the top of the list, even though it isn’t sexy to say you signed Ted [Lilly] or Hiroki [Kuroda], it’s not necessarily ‘wow,’ but it’s solid. It gave us a little bit of depth. So we had to start there. The kid from Minnesota, Guerrier, is gonna be a good add for us. He’s pitched in a lot of big games; he’s always had positive results.

“It’s the most volatile group, but once [Joaquin] Benoit got three years and [$16.5 million], that’s what people expect to get … and if you really need a guy, sometimes you have to go the extra distance to go and get him.”

Add together the total commitments the Dodgers made to their free-agent signees of this past offseason, and you barely pass the total value of Adrian Beltre’s deal by itself, while falling short of the Crawford or Werth contracts. And like it or not, Colletti was not going to enter another season shy on pitching or dependent on unproven rookies such as James McDonald or Scott Elbert.

“I was apprehensive all winter long last year” Colletti said of the starting pitching. “I knew we were short going in; I knew we weren’t going to be able to rally it. In the spring, J-Mac and Scotty both struggled. We may have sent them both out early, in fact, because they couldn’t throw strikes; they were all over the board. So right from the beginning, I knew we were going to be short. I didn’t know how we were gonna mix and match, and we couldn’t afford an injury certainly.”

If there’s an ongoing concern on everyone’s minds, it’s how the Frank McCourt ownership crisis is affecting spending on the team on the field. You can argue that different owners might have allowed Colletti to sign one big-ticket free agent in addition to shoring up the pitching, but Colletti doesn’t contend that the divorce itself is having an impact on personnel.

He also makes the case, as McCourt did a year ago, that the Dodgers are aiming to spend more money to deepen their prospect population.

Farm aid
“We’ve had basically the same [major-league] payroll,” Colletti said. “Though we dipped a little bit last year, we’re coming back this year. It’s not really how much you have, it’s where you spend it. We do have to get better at international signings; we have to reinvest there. I think we’ve let Venezuela slip for a few years, and we’ve made some changes in the staffing.

“We’ve done a decent job in the D.R. [Dominican Republic] — not what we did 25 years ago, but with all due respect, 25 years ago there wasn’t 30 teams down there, either. So, it’s not like we could just cherry-pick the players we want like we probably did at the outset of the country opening up to having players signed. But we do have to get better at that to support our player development system. It’s been fruitful. Obviously, a lot of players are in the big leagues now that we drafted, but we have to keep flowing, and they have to keep getting better. I know we’ve hit a touchable lull right now and I think we’re probably a year or two away from having another group come forward.”

[+] EnlargeZach Lee

Chris Carlson/APLogan White escorts newly signed Zach Lee in his Dodger Stadium visit in August.

Colletti didn’t rule out the Dodgers’ top draft choice of 2010, Zach Lee — whose signing shocked most baseball observers — being part of the Dodgers’ graduating class of 2012. Amid the height of McCourt tensions, Lee received a $5.25 million signing bonus, a record for a Dodgers’ draft pick. The previous record-holder, Clayton Kershaw, reached the majors less than two calendar years after he was picked, and Lee could do the same.

“We really liked this kid,” Colletti said. “We really liked his makeup, his demeanor, his abilities, athleticism, his toughness. … Not only are the physical skills different than most kids you see, but the way his mind works is different … probably from playing at the highest levels at a couple of sports, including going to LSU for a summer and having that experience, which as long as he didn’t get hurt it didn’t bother me.”

Colletti’s hope is that the Dodgers’ minor league pitchers drafted in previous years allow Lee as much time as he needs to develop. There was an epidemic of setbacks among the farm system’s arms in 2010 — so many that if Colletti wants to see who can overcome hurdles, wish granted.

“It’s concerning to me,” he said. “Probably a lot of the guys that we could both probably name should be a year farther along than they are. They’ve all struggled with command. … Some are converted players, some weren’t pitchers necessarily in high school or college. So they’re still learning that.

Curing the epidemic
And to circle back to the beginning of our piece, in some ways, older players never stop learning and developing. Witness Colletti’s additional assessment of the contagion that struck the Dodgers’ offense in 2010:

“I think hitters sometimes without results start to get impatient, so they start to chase out of the zone,” he said. “They’re trying to build more offensive numbers in a quicker period of time and so they’re not as diligent to work the count, and all that stuff starts to compound through the course of it. … When people are starting to slump, sometimes it produces more guys that go in that direction than less. And that’s what started to happen. It started to spiral where one guy struggled and then two. And then the third guy saw the other two and then he struggled, and it continued to mount.”

Alex Gallardo/APDavey Lopes will switch to a Dodgers’ uniform for the first time since Game 6 of the 1981 World Series.

When you take Colletti’s view of what went wrong with the Dodgers last year and what’s needed to make it right, it makes sense that he sees one of the most promising offseason moves as one that even some jaded Dodgers fans embraced: the hiring of Davey Lopes as a coach.

“I’ve known him a long time and I’ve admired him,” Colletti said. “You know, I was with him in Chicago when he was still a player and I’ve certainly watched him from the other side of the field when he managed and when he was coaching. And I think what he brings here is — you’re talking about first — someone who was an iconic Dodger who understands Los Angeles and understands the Dodgers and was here during one of the greatest periods in our franchise’s history. That’s important.

“What he did in Philly with baserunning and defense and fine-tuning that position, the first-base coaching position, to make it a far more valuable position to the organization, is something we noticed. And I think he’s going to have a great impact on our club. I think there are some players that could turn their game up a notch with his instruction, with his thought process. I think, while it’s a coaching position, I think it’s a huge addition for this franchise.”

Will a new manager, new coaches, new players and new spirits be enough to right the Dodgers’ ship? It’s too soon to say, but if the Dodgers are to play more than 10 days of great baseball in 2011, Colletti will expect to see strong signs of it before Opening Day arrives.

Jun 28

Blake, Dodgers double up Giants, 4-2


Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Rafael Furcal runs down Pablo Sandoval to complete a 9-3-6 double play, one of five San Francisco hit into.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Casey Blake looks good rounding the bases on his eighth-inning homer.

After a Los Angeles record-tying five double plays – including a huge 9-3-6 twin killing with runners on first and third and none out in the seventh – kept the team by the bay at bay for seven innings, Casey Blake hit an enormous two-run homer to break a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning, and the Dodger bullpen held on so that everyone could exhale after a long day of suffering with a 4-2 victory.

Unsurprisingly, Chad Billingsley wobbled in the first inning of his first start in more than two weeks, but he ended up with a satisfactory six-inning outing, allowing two runs and seven baserunners on 98 pitches.

Blake’s homer was the first the Dodgers have hit to give themselves a lead after the seventh inning since a Matt Kemp blast ended a scoreless tie against Arizona in the 10th inning on June 1.

Hong-Chih Kuo allowed two baserunners in the ninth but closed it out for the Dodgers, who said that Jonathan Broxton will be rested until at least Wednesday.

With the victory, the Dodgers moved back into second place in the National League West, four games behind San Diego, which lost to Colorado.

* * *

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has a story tonight on Matt Kemp’s ongoing benching.

When asked whether Kemp would return to the lineup on Tuesday night against the Giants, Torre was non-committal.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re trying to get on a little bit of a run. If we had won [Sunday] night, it would have been three out of four. I think we have been playing a little better. Hopefully, we’re building something now, and we’ll see if we can get on a run.”

This rationale is just a ruse, considering that the Dodgers won the last game they played with Kemp starting and reaching base three times while making a fine running catch. Torre has decided to play the tough love card. Sounds like this one gets about a nine on the tension scale.

Jun 08

Casey Blake returns to action

Casey Blake returns to the Dodger starting lineup after missing four games with back spasms. Trainer Stan Conte gave the go-ahead.

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Memories of Kevin Malone has information on the Dodger draft picks that came after the third round:

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Scott Elbert had to miss his start for Albuquerque today because of a family matter. Bobby Blevins and his 5.80 ERA for Class A Inland Empire took his place and allowed one run in five innings. Last week’s Dodger hero, Travis Schlichting, gave up two runs in a 9-6 Isotopes loss.

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Former Dodgers Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young had the first hit and home run, respectively, off Steven Strasburg during his otherwise impressive major-league debut. Strasburg struck out six in his first three innings for Washington before giving up the two-run homer to Young in the fourth, and was still losing 2-1 in the sixth despite having 11 strikeouts and no walks.

But back-to-back homers by Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham in the bottom of the sixth put Strasburg in position to get the victory.

Stat of the Day places Strasburg’s debut in historic context. Through six innings, he had the most strikeouts without a walk in a major-league debut ever.

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Jerry Stephenson, the former Dodger scout and major-league pitcher, passed away from cancer at age 66. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes about Stephenson.

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.

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.

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.”

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  • 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.