May 19

Mark Ellis returns, Federowicz sent down

Tim Federowicz has been sent down to Albuquerque to make room for the return from the disabled list of Mark Ellis.

The Dodgers are 6-13 since Ellis’ last start for the team.

Ted Lilly is expected to come off the disabled list this week. He will either take the spot in the starting rotation of today’s starter, Matt Magill, or will go to the bullpen. Javy Guerra is probably heading back to Albuquerque soon, if not to make room for Lilly then for Scott Elbert, whose return is also fairly imminent.

Things look bleak again for the Dodgers after a short respite, but Chris Capuano’s appearance Saturday was briefly encouraging, even if there’s a hint of health concern again for the lefty, according to The Associated Press.

… Capuano said he told Mattingly after his last at-bat in the eighth inning to be prepared to pull him out of the game because he had lingering problems with a strained calf.

“It wasn’t affecting pitch execution out there,” Capuano said. “It just feels a little tired. I’ve got an extra day before the next start. With treatment and stuff we should be able to get that ready.” …

Dodgers at Braves, 10:30 a.m.

Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Nick Punto, SS
Matt Magill, P


Apr 01

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2013!

I’m in the press box today, taking a day off work to freelance a piece for Sports on Earth that you’ll see tonight. In the meantime, here are some notes from Don Mattingly’s pregame session:

• Everyone seems at ease with Chris Capuano in the bullpen for now, but neither Aaron Harang nor Don Mattingly seem sold on Harang’s presence there.

“Aaron is a little bit for me someone who we’ll have to learn (about) as we go,” Mattingly said. “He’ll be a bit more of a challenge, in terms of how long it takes him to get going, how long it takes him to get loose. … I’m a little more concerned with Aaron than I am with Cap to be honest.

It didn’t sound as if Harang had really even bought into the program at this point.

“Maybe he hadn’t quite accepted it,” Mattingly said. “Now reality has hit, and we need to get down to brass tacks.”

• Mattingly likes Paco Rodriguez, the young reliever who last year became the first from the 2012 draft class to reach the majors, and he likes him not only as a guy to focus on left-handed batters.

“This guy can get righties out, too,” Mattingly said. “He’s a strike-thrower. … All our lefties for me can get lefties and righties out.”

• There is no medical watch on Carl Crawford beyond simple common sense.

“At this point, I think Carl is off the (medical) list,” Mattingly said. “That being said, we know he’s coming off major elbow surgery, and we have to pay attention.”

Mattingly also made the case that concern over Crawford’s throwing arm – never a strength of his game, the manager acknowledged – is a bit overblown.

“He’s more of a speed guy,” Mattingly said. “He gets to it quick and gets rid of it quick.  … (But) it ain’t like he can’t throw. We think he’s going to continue to get better.”

Mattingly added that Skip Schumacher “throws as good as anybody (the Dodgers have) in the outfield” and he would be the primary defensive replacement should the team feel it needs a better arm in the late innings.

• Dylan Hernandez of the Times asked Mattingly, “How did Ted Lilly react when you told him he was injured.” Mattingly smiled somewhat sheepishly for several seconds, then said, “Ned (Colletti) took care of the DL, so I’ll leave that there.”

•  ”Voila,” Mattingly said at one point in the pregame. On principle, I’m not providing the context, allowing you to imagine him as a magician.

Giants at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Kershaw CL: Kershawn the Waterfront

Dodgers starting lineup
Carl Crawford, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

Jul 15

Billingsley scratched from today’s start

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Juan Uribe, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

News in today’s lineup:

  • A morning change pushed Chris Capuano into today’s start in place of Chad Billingsley, who has an as-yet undisclosed injury, according to Alex Angert of MLB.com. Jimmy Bramlett of LAist tweets that Billingsley will have an MRI on his elbow.

    “According to Donnie, Bills has had soreness in his elbow the last several starts but thought it was just normal wear,” Bramlett adds.

    The Dodgers say that Nathan Eovaldi will start Monday; Tuesday is TBD.

  • Matt Kemp is getting a rest day to protect his rehabilitated hamstring.
  • Juan Uribe is getting his first start at shortstop since May 4, 2011.
Jun 24

June 24 game chat

Dodgers at Angels, 12:35 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Elian Herrera, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, DH
Juan Rivera, LF
James Loney, 1B
Adam Kennedy, 2B
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Matt Treanor, C
(Aaron Harang, P)

Travis Jones, a 23-year-old minor-league catcher released by Kansas City, has signed with the Dodgers, who are converting him to pitching. Jones pitched a shutout inning for the Rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers on Friday.

* * *

Daron Sutton, the son of Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton, has been removed from the Arizona Diamondbacks’ broadcast booth indefinitely, according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com.

* * *

Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano, duelin’ and dealin’ lefties …

Jun 23

Dodger Defcon ratings

Starting today, I’m making periodic contributions to the CityThink blog at Los Angeles Magazine. My first piece looks at the state of the Dodgers from a War Games perspective. Check it out …

Good teams have bad weeks, and one bad week like the Dodgers are having (with four losses in a row, including Friday’s 8-5 come-from-ahead defeat against the Angels) doesn’t ruin a season. At the same time, people have feared all along that the Dodgers are a team living on the brink of destruction in a dangerous baseball world.

In the spirit of War Games, here’s a snapshot of which Dodger problems are tic-tac-toe and which are global thermonuclear war …

Read the rest at CityThink …

May 12

Dodgers sign Aaron Miles to minor-league deal

Rockies at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Aaron Harang, P

I’ve made a few references to Aaron Miles this year, wondering why, with all the issues the Dodgers have had at third base, the Dodgers didn’t take him for another spin. Not that Miles was a problem-solver – but compared with Adam Kennedy or Justin Sellers, it just seemed odd that he wasn’t invited to the party. He came to the plate a whopping 490 times for the Dodgers last year.

Well, here it is. Dylan Hernandez of the Times reports that Miles has signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers and has begun working out at the team’s Arizona facility. Miles “misplayed the free-agent market,” Hernandez wrote, implying that his contract demands were too high after a .314 on-base percentage and .360 slugging percentage in 2011. Miles hit .231 after July 1.

In Friday’s game, the Dodgers never trailed and won, 7-3. Chris Capuano turned in another striking performance, extending his scoreless inning streak to what would have been the 25-inning mark before allowing a seventh-inning home run to Michael Cuddyer.

Mark Ellis was the Dodgers’ early hitting star with a home run and two-run double, and Andre Ethier came a triple shy of the cycle. Juan Uribe joined Ellis in hitting 2012 home run No. 1, while James Loney reached base three times and Matt Treanor had two singles.

Ellis has a .472 on-base percentage and .533 slugging percentage in 37 plate appearances this month. For the year, he is 10th in the National League in OBP (not counting A.J. Ellis, whose day off Friday left him two plate appearances short of the minimum), and he has yet to make an error.

Pitching with a 7-1 lead in the ninth, seldom-used Todd Coffey faced five batters and allowed three hits and a hard-hit sacrifice fly that Ethier caught with perhaps the best defensive play of his career, sliding into the wall in the corner of right field. Coffey has now allowed 13 baserunners in 3 1/3 innings this season.

There was some fear that Ethier might be hurt, but he professed to be fine.

“I just banged up my toe a little bit,” he told Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.. “I was trying to avoid hitting my knee. I tried to kick the wall to avoid sliding into it.”

MIke MacDougal, by the way, is not coming back to the Dodgers. MacDougal “has cleared waivers and rejected an outright assignment to the minors,” according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “The Dodgers thusly have requested unconditional release waivers on him, meaning MacDougal’s time with the club is over.”

Matt Kemp, who was recovering from hamstring issues earlier this week, has gone hitless in consecutive starts for the first time this season. (Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has more on Kemp.) In May, Kemp is 7 for 28 with a double, triple and seven walks (.746 OPS) – and is no longer the hottest player in baseball. That would be Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, who in his past five games is 11 for 21 with four walks, a double and eight home runs. Shawn Green of the Dodgers was the last to hit more homers in such a short span.

May 06

The return of the Cool-a-Coo?

Dodgers at Cubs, 11:20 a.m.
Matt Kemp is resting a tight left hamstring but is available to pinch-hit, according to pregame reports. Kemp has started 123 consecutive games, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., and played in 392 in a row.

However, the start of today’s game is delayed by rain. 

Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, LF
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
James Loney, 1B
A.J. Ellis, C
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Aaron Harang, P

Apparently, a Cool-a-Coo resurrection is possible after all.

All my research had shown that Cool-a-Coos, the greatest dessert treat in sports history, had disappeared when the company had gone out of business, but according to Bill Shaikin of the Times, they’re being manufactured by a small company under the name of “Mr. Cool.”

If it’s the real deal, then the Dodgers absolutely need to bring them back as soon as possible. And please, don’t try to sell me on the Its-It. It’s not the same thing.

Elsewhere …

  • Looking ahead: After today’s game, the Dodgers have four consecutive series against their four National League West rivals. Three of those series are at home.
  • According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Information), Chris Capuano had an 0-1 count on 20 of 26 batters he faced Saturday.
  • Teams are starting to shift against Matt Kemp, writes Christina Kahrl for ESPNLosAngeles.com – taking into account his tendency not to pull the ball.
  • John C. McGinley will play Red Barber in the upcoming Jackie Robinson movie 42, writes Dave McNary of Variety.
  • Tommy John surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and Luis Tiant have been elected to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals. They finished in the top three by receiving at least 33 percent of votes. Just missing election this year were Lefty O’Doul (32%), Dizzy Dean (30%), Manny Mota (29%), Don Zimmer (29%), Steve Bilko (27%), Charlie Finley (25%), and Glenn Burke (24%). Induction day is July 15.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times becomes the latest to wonder why Jerry Hairston Jr. wouldn’t be the Dodgers’ regular third baseman even when Juan Uribe is healthy. The argument is that Hairston would wear down – the response would be whether Uribe isn’t already worn down.
  • Alex Castellanos and Scott Van Slyke were named Triple-A all-stars for the month of April by Baseball America.
  • Wrightly or wrongly, third baseman David Wright, an obvious trade target for the Dodgers, is likely to remain a Met, writes Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
  • The Cubs have designated Blake DeWitt (.305 OPS) for assignment.
  • A shoutout to Scott of venerable Rancho Park Pharmacy, thanks to Scott mentioning these words last week when I picked up my prescription: “R.J. Reynolds.”

 

May 05

Capuano shining bright for Dodgers

It’s some consolation that while he’s making me look silly, Chris Capuano is doing the same to opposing hitters.

In February, I called Capuano a shaky bet, and while there’s still a long way to go this season, he’s been plenty steady so far, lowering his ERA to 2.21 with seven innings of shutout ball today as the Dodgers took a 5-0 lead into the ninth inning at Chicago.

Capuano has struck out 36 in 36 2/3 innings while allowing only 42 baserunners and three home runs, numbers that even surpass what Hiroki Kuroda did in his first six starts a year ago. Against the Cubs, Capuano struck out seven in seven innings while giving up three singles and two walks, and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning that was keyed by a Dodger error.

My concern over Capuano was that he hadn’t pitched a full-season of above-average baseball since 2006, despite the healthy strikeout rates he has posted in his career, including the period after his surgery. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t be good, but I felt this was a case where the negatives were likely to outweigh his positives.

That’s why I’m still hedging my bets about what he’ll do over the course of this season (and next), but it’d be wrong for me not to celebrate how strong he has been for the Dodgers so far. Capuano has improved with every game and is now working on a streak of 18 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Let’s face it: You can complain about things that haven’t gone the Dodgers’ way, but Ted Lilly and Capuano combining to go 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA? That’s gold, Jerry.

Capuano also hit a big two-run double in the second inning, joining Bobby Abreu and Dee Gordon in backboning the Dodger offense today. Matts Treanor and Kemp added sacrifices of the fly kind.

Capuano left after throwing 100 pitches, 70 for strikes. Adding to the joy, Ronald Belisario made his first official appearance as a Dodger in more than a year, notching a perfect eighth inning on 11 pitches with one strikeout.

Update: Jamey Wright allowed a run in the ninth on a bloop single, defensive indifference and another single, but finished off the 5-1 victory.

Feb 25

The shaky bet on Chris Capuano


It’s nice to add a weapon to your decision-making, but there’s always the question of how you use it.

The signing of Chris Capuano (shown above pitching a two-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts against the Braves last August) has been framed as evidence of the Dodgers placing more faith in sabermetrics, according to this article by Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.

… The Dodgers signed Capuano to a two-year, $10 million free agent deal after newly hired front-office number-cruncher Alex Tamin determined that the lefty fly-ball pitcher was a double fit in the club’s tight payroll and spacious ballpark. …

… Doubters will say his effectiveness tailed off after the second time through the lineup and only 14 of his 31 outings were quality starts. The Dodgers will counter that improvement in his strikeout stats mirror the improvement that led to his finest season of 2005.

His career stats in NL ballparks isn’t pretty: 4-9 with a 12.93 ERA and 11 homers in 86 1/3 innings. Last year it improved to 1-2, 2.89 and one homer in 18 2/3 innings. (Note: I think something went wrong with the stats in this paragraph.)

“My feeling is that the last couple years, you can notice the metrics are a lot like ’05 and ’06 when I had my best years,” Capuano said. “What that told me confirmed what I was feeling, I feel as strong or better as when I was 25. …

The problem I see with this analysis is that you need look no further than Ted Lilly to see its limitations. Lilly, also a lefty fly-ball pitcher, has continued to give up prodigious numbers of home runs in a Dodger uniform – 41 in 269 1/3 innings, even if he did allow none in his final six starts in 2011.

Lilly’s adjusted ERA with Chicago was 122 in 3 1/2 seasons and 115 before he was traded to the Dodgers in mid-2010. With the Dodgers, it has been 98, including 94 last year. Lilly is 36 now, and unlike with Hiroki Kuroda, you can basically say the aging process is showing and that Dodger Stadium isn’t capable of stopping it.

Capuano is 33, which, coincidentally, is the age Lilly was when he unexpectedly had by far the best season of his career in adjusted ERA, 144. But unless you believe that 33 is a magic age, this may not work out well.

Yes, Capuano has been recovering from surgery and struck out 168 in 186 innings for the Mets last year – that does seem significant. But his adjusted ERA was 82, and in his entire career it has never been higher than 113. When he’s not striking out guys, he’s getting hit – hard. And it was only getting worse in 2011: In the second half of the season, he struck out 81 in 83 1/3 innings … with 14 homers allowed and a 5.08 ERA.

And what’s supposed to happen on the road, where Capuano pitches half his games, where he had a 5.42 ERA and allowed 17 homers in 84 2/3 innings? That’s a homer inside of every five innings.

At $10 million guaranteed over two years, do the stats really show that the Dodgers have gotten a good deal?

Sure, Capuano should pitch better in Dodger Stadium than elsewhere – but he needs to pitch better, because – guess what – the guy in the other uniform is going to pitch better, too. And that’s against a Dodger offense that, shall we say, could be challenged.

That’s what I’m afraid the Dodgers haven’t taken into account. Dodger fans will certainly hope for the best, and as a No. 5 starter expectations should be kept in check anyway, but if he’s still deserving of a spot in the starting rotation by July, that might be a surprise.

Dec 04

Manny happy returns?

Wrapping up the last week and starting a new one chock full of bullet points …

  • Manny Ramirez is moving forward with plans to get himself back in the majors for 2012, but would probably to need to still serve 50 games as a suspended player, writes Buster Olney of ESPN the Magazine. Ramirez, who turns 40 on May 30, went 1 for 17 with the Rays in 2011 before his season abruptly ended. He could show what shape he’s in with a nonroster invite to some team’s Spring Training.
  • The Dodgers are taking applicants to fill the position of vice president of public relations (link via AZ Snakepit). The Dodgers aren’t holding off until the ownership switch to make the hire: Public relations wait for no one.
  • Clayton Kershaw was interviewed by Molly Knight for ESPN the Magazine.
  • Baseball America’s annual Dodger prospects top 10 has Zach Lee on top, followed by Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and then the first position player, outfielder Alfredo Silverio. Looking at the article, you know what cracks me up? The fifth-highest amateur signing bonus in Dodger history still belongs to 2000 draftee Ben Diggins.
  • I think it’s worth a reminder that Lee could be in the majors before the 2012 season is over, though it probably wouldn’t be until 2013 that he begins making any kind of impact. He’s about a half-season behind the development of Kershaw, whose debut came in May 2008, 23 months after the Dodgers signed him. Lee, who had a 3.47 ERA with 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.22 WHIP in 2011 for Single-A Great Lakes, should hit Double-A in 2012 at age 20, the same age Kershaw was (though he’s not at the same performance level as Kershaw, who had 12.4 K/9 with Great Lakes).
  • When the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine to manage, I joked on Twitter that his ESPN broadcast partners Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman could join him on the coaching staff. Well, in the case of Hershiser, the Red Sox are in fact interested in him as a pitching coach, writes Sean McAdam of Red Sox Talk – assuming Hershiser’s pursuit of Doger ownership doesn’t get in the way.
  • Some vintage Tommy Lasorda cursing is available in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Ross Newhan calls the theory a “longshot,” but he explains the substance behind why some think Frank McCourt could renege on his commitment to sell the Dodgers.
  • More Newhan, on Magic Johnson’s entrance into the Dodger ownership race:

    … In announcing his intention to bid for the Dodgers with usual flair and enthusiasm, Johnson said he would try to build the Dodgers in the Showtime mold of his star-driven Laker teams, recruiting prominent players and paying the price for free agents.

    This is an area that Kasten and others may want to advise Johnson that it would be better to low key. Many of the 29 other owners who will eventually vote on the McCourt successor may not be happy to hear that Magic intends to pay any cost to restore Dodger prominence, driving up salaries in the process. …

  • Two views of the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano signing: Eric Seidman of Fangraphs doesn’t hate it, while Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com thinks it pretty grim.
  • DodgerTalk alum Ken Levine said he will do more Seattle Mariners radio broadcasts next year.
  • Russell Martin is expected to return to the Yankees in 2012, writes Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Ken Arneson has an interesting piece on why the opening of a Giants Dugout Store in Walnut Creek is meaningful to the rest of the baseball world.
Dec 02

Dodgers reportedly to sign Capuano


Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesChris Capuano

The Hiroki Kuroda era has all but ended in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers agreeing to terms with 33-year-old lefthander Chris Capuano on a two-year contract worth a total of $10 million, according to Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN.

Capuano should be replacing the Jon Garland spot in the Dodger rotation, which in turn became the Rubby De La Rosa and Nathan Eovaldi slot. But all recent signs from Ned Colletti have indicated that the Dodgers don’t have the budget to sign two free-agent pitchers, which would mean that Capuano would replace Kuroda, with Eovaldi competing with your Dana Eveland types for the No. 5 spot.

The only reason I’m not sure about this is the possibility of Capuano and Kuroda salaries being weighted to future years to fit them both into the 2012 payroll.

Capuano is more than three years younger than Kuroda, and though he is bouncing back after missing 2008 and 2009 because of Tommy John surgery, he is not of Kuroda’s caliber, even given the likelihood of Kuroda declining in 2012 at age 37. Capuano’s career-best adjusted ERA of 113, achieved five years ago, ranks below Kuroda’s average for his major-league career.

The bright side for Capuano is that he struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings in 2011 with the Mets, but that went with 256 baserunners and 27 homers allowed in 198 innings. His ERA was 4.55; his fielding-independent ERA was 4.04. In 31 starts last season, he had 14 quality starts.