May 25

Dempster’s Revenge: Cubs shut out Dodgers (again)


Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
In his past 15 innings against the Dodgers, Ryan Dempster has allowed four runners to reach second base and none to score.

Ryan Dempster would rather have the first game of the 2008 National League Division Series back, but he’s doing well with consolation prizes.

Since giving up the NLDS-changing grand slam in October 2008, Dempster has pitched twice for the Cubs against the Dodgers – May 30 last year and tonight – and done nothing less than throw 15 consecutive scoreless innings against the Dodgers, who lost their second straight game after winning 12 of 13, 3-0.

Dempster went eight innings this time around, allowing three hits and walking one while striking out seven. Russell Martin (single), Manny Ramirez (single and walk) and Casey Blake (single) were the only baserunners for the Dodgers, whose final 16 hitters were retired by Dempster and Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.

Rafael Furcal had a miserable return from the disabled list, going 0 for 4 with two errors, each of which led to an unearned run. The first was a failed backhand pickup on a Ryan Theriot grounder leading off the bottom of the sixth, with Theriot coming around to score on a Derrek Lee single to break a scoreless duel between Dempster and Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw lowered his ERA for the season to 2.90 with six innings of four-hit, two-walk, four-strikeout ball, but was charged with the loss.

Furcal then threw in the dirt after fielding a Starlin Castro grounder starting the bottom of the eighth, and Lee (3 for 3 with a walk) homered off reliever Ramon Troncoso – who told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com hours before that he had figured out the flaw in his delivery that caused him to give up three other homers last week – to give the Cubs breathing room.

In his past four starts covering 28 1/3 innings, Kershaw’s ERA is 0.64.

Update: Rafael Furcal wasn’t the only one who goofed Tuesday. I managed to miss another start Ryan Dempster made against the Dodgers last year – August 23. Thanks to commenter DodgerKramer for alerting me. Dempster allowed no earned runs in seven innings that outing, meaning that his streak of innings without allowing an earned run against the Dodgers is actually 22.

May 25

Kershaw LXI: Kershawrms and the Man


Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire
Clayton Kershaw is averaging 105 pitches per game in nine starts this season. Chad Billingsley averaged 110 in his first nine starts of 2009.

Clayton Kershaw, 22, threw 3,020 pitches last season and, with 942 under his belt in 2010, is on pace for approximately 3,600 this season. In fact, he has an extremely viable chance of throwing the most pitches of anyone in the majors age 23 or under since 2000.

The top 10 names on the list are Felix Hernandez, Scott Kazmir, Matt Cain, Ryan Dempster (tonight’s Cubs starter), Dontrelle Willis, Barry Zito, Randy Wolf, Ben Sheets, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Mark Prior is 13th on the list, and Chad Billingsley’s 2008 season is 17th.

It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, because trouble comes to pitchers with all kinds of histories. But FYI …

Name Pitches Year Trouble?
Hernandez 3633 2009  
Kazmir 3608 2007 2009
Cain 3606 2008  
Dempster 3606 2000 2001
Willis 3555 2005 2007
Zito 3538 2001 2004 or 2007?
Wolf 3528 2000 mid-2004
Sheets 3510 2002 mid-2003
Buehrle 3510 2002  
Zambrano 3471 2004 2010

* * *

Watch what happens when Dempster throws a changeup tonight. Opponents are 1 for 27 against his changeup this season, but the Dodgers are batting .305 against them, according to John Fisher of ESPN Stats and Information.

Including his 2008 playoff grand slam, James Loney has hit five consecutive fly balls off Dempster. The other four were caught. Loney’s last regular-season hit off Dempster was in 2007.

* * *

Kyle Russell has been on a tear for Class A Inland Empire, with six homers in his past six games. For the season, the 6-foot-5 outfielder has an on-base percentage of .431 and slugging percentage of .652. Writes Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus: “Drafted as a college senior, he turns 24 in June so it’s time to move him up, and scouts still aren’t convinced that he can hit enough at the upper levels, as evidenced by his 53 whiffs in 164 at-bats. One way or another, it’s time to find out.” A move could be tied into a promotion for the endlessly hot Jerry Sands, who is at .457/.758 for Low A Great Lakes.

May 10

A fine time for a shutout

Clayton Kershaw’s 30th pitch of the first inning Sunday was a laser that on first glance looked too high and too inside to prevent him from walking in a run and unleashing another torrent of dread for the Dodgers. But home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called it a strike, and on replay it appeared it was the right call.

Another right call: Having faith in Kershaw, who went from the tightrope to the autobahn in the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory over Colorado and Ubaldo Jimenez.

After loading the bases in the first on a single and two walks, Kershaw allowed only two more baserunners  in his next seven scoreless innings, striking out nine. The Rockies didn’t once hit the ball to the outfield, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes, until an eighth-inning flyout by Clint Barmes. Kershaw didn’t get first-pitch strikes on about half the batters he faced, but Colorado still couldn’t figure him out.

Kershaw’s shutout ball enabled the Dodgers to outlast Jimenez, who had thrown 104 pitches through seven innings and presumably could have continued if he hadn’t been pinch-hit for with one out in the top of the eighth. Russell Martin took advantage of the Rockies’ move to reliever Matt Daley with a hard home run to left. That run provided some comfort when a 50-foot single by Ryan Spilborghs in the ninth inning put runners on first and second against Jonathan Broxton. Ian Stewart swung at the next pitch, a fastball clocked at 95, but got under it, leaving Andre Ethier to stock the can of corn on the shelf and let the Dodgers come home victorious.

Ethier, of all people, struck out in all three of his at-bats against Jimenez, but the Dodgers for once won without his contributions.

The Dodgers’ first run of the game was brought home by Blake DeWitt, who had his sixth double in his past 12 games after having no extra-base hits in his first 14 games.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on the game.

* * *

Wild one in Albuquerque on Sunday. James McDonald started and allowed two runs over his first six innings, striking out six, then was pulled after allowing a walk and two singles to start the seventh. Jon Link relieved and allowed one inherited run to score while being charged with five others. The Isotopes still won, 15-12, thanks in part to a 4-for-4 (plus a walk) day from Chin-Lung Hu and a triple and homer from Jamie Hoffmann. Hu’s OPS crossed the .600 threshold and now sits at .618.

It is widely expected that John Ely will be recalled from Albuquerque to start Tuesday’s game. After being sent down Friday, the Dodgers needed to place a pitcher on the disabled list to allow Ely’s recall inside of 10 days. Sunday, the Dodgers began making a public case that Charlie Haeger has right heel problems. You do the math.

May 09

Colorado didn’t trade for an ace … they got dealt one


AP
Ubaldo Jimenez and Clayton Kershaw face off at Dodger Stadium today.

Colorado’s starting pitcher today is an ace. He’s 6-0 with an 0.87 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 41 1/13 innings against 43 baserunners.

But the Rockies didn’t trade for Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez came up through the Colorado farm system. He showed promise in half a season at age 23, was solid at age 24, excellent at age 25 and now, except for complete games, is putting up Fernando Valenzuela-like numbers at age 26.

Here are the stats for Jimenez and Dodger starters Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley at last year’s All-Star break:

Pitcher Innings per start ERA BR/9 K/9
Jimenez 6.4 3.81 12.3 7.9
Kershaw 5.5 3.16 11.6 8.9
Billingsley 6.6 3.38 11.5 8.5

Even allowing for the fact that Jimenez pitches half his games at Coors Field, could anyone have reasonably concluded that 10 months later, he would have an ERA more than 4.00 lower than Kershaw and Billingsley? That Billingsley wouldn’t be every bit as good as Jimenez or better, or that Kershaw wouldn’t be right on their tails?

While I understand – really, I do – why it’s expected that the Dodgers should use their resources to acquire more talent than their division rivals, right now the main difference between the front of the Colorado and Los Angeles starting rotations has nothing to do with that. The difference is that the 22-year-old Kershaw is still getting on track and the 25-year-old Billingsley got sidetracked, while at age 26, Jimenez has moved onto the fast track.

Apr 18

Just a wee taste of ’88: Kershaw, Ramirez lead Dodgers over Giants


Getty Images
Clayton Kershaw went seven innings allowing only one run, and Manny Ramirez made that hurt go away.

If Clayton Kershaw and Manny Ramirez were nothing more than a poor man’s Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson, it still made for a rich afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw left Sunday’s game in the eighth inning after issuing his fourth walk of the game – an inning after Juan Uribe’s homer broke a scoreless tie – but he certainly pitched well enough to win, striking out nine. Two of his walks came after he crossed the 100-pitch mark. At age 22, Kershaw has walked at least four men in 21 of his 54 starts (39 percent), compared with Hershiser’s 71 of 466 (15 percent), but if you can put that annoying fact aside, you’re still left with a pretty swell pitcher with a career ERA of 3.40.

And then there’s Ramirez, who is this century’s go-to guy for lame home runs (in the good sense). On the heels (in the cliched sense) of his injured-hand Bobbleslam last summer, and right after Garret Anderson’s pinch-walk ended a superb performance by Barry Zito, Ramirez blasted a Sergio Romo pitch in the left-field seats to rally the Dodgers from their 1-0 deficit. Ramirez noticeably favored one leg in his trot around the bases, but though it didn’t have calf the drama of Gibson’s gimpy gem, it was a sight for sore Dodger eyes. (Video of the homer can be found at MLB.com.)

Jonathan Broxton retired the side in order in the ninth to close out the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory. Broxton has retired 17 of the 19 batters he has faced this season (including the past 14), striking out nine.

Several people, including Vin Scully, called today’s game the best of the young Dodger season, though some of that good feeling would have been tested had the Dodgers been shut out for the second afternoon in a row.

* * *

  • Hong-Chih Kuo looks good to go. He retired the side today on six pitches today in his second minor-league rehab appearance. If he survives that outing and Monday’s plane flight to Cincinnati, Kuo should be on the active roster for the Dodgers’ next game on Tuesday.
  • Prentice Redman knocked out three home runs by the fifth inning of Albuquerque’s 11-5 victory over Omaha. Redman raised his batting average to an even .400, on-base percentage to .447 and slugging percentage to .943.
  • John Lindsey watch: 3 for 3, raising his numbers to .538/.591/.897.
  • James McDonald left his start after one inning today because of a broken fingernail.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach allowed six runs in his first 3 2/3 innings this season, but has pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-walk shutout ball since.
  • In 6 2/3 innings this season for Inland Empire, Kenley Jansen has allowed no runs, four hits and zero walks while striking out 10.
  • For the second straight game, Great Lakes’ 23-year-old righty Josh Wall allowed one earned run over five innings, this time striking out eight.
Apr 13

One take, baby – one take

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

Job 1: Work on my squinting.

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

Kershaw LIII: Kershawme Opener


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

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

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

* * *

  • Joe Torre-managed teams have won 12 consecutive home openers, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Stephen has more Dodger home opener details here.
  • In the comments of that thread, BHSportsGuy lists the 15 Dodger pitchers credited with a win since Clayton Kershaw’s last on July 18.
  • Via Twitter, Stephen points to a nice feature by Tom Krasovic on Dick Enberg, reborn as a Padres play-by-play announcer. Related: Rob Neyer of ESPN.com heard Enberg say that he tried to write a screenplay about legendary spy/catcher Moe Berg.
  • Memories of Kevin Malone took a close look at the Dodger defense.
  • Padres pitcher Chris Young went on the disabled list, where he’ll find Arizona catcher Miguel Montero and might soon be joined by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Juan Castro is the Phillies’ current replacement for Rollins.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods gets some nice Huffington Post exposure in writing about the anniversary of Mark Fidrych’s death and the connection with his childhood.
  • Blue Heaven passes along a March 6, 1948 letter from Branch Rickey to Walter O’Malley (written from Spring Training at Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic) calling for a trade of Eddie Stanky “even if we were getting nothing for him at all,” to create  an opening in the Brooklyn infield. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Stanky was traded within 24 hours with a player to be named later to the Boston Braves for a player to be named later, Bama Rowell, Ray Sanders and $40,000. (A month later, the Dodgers completed the trade by selling Sanders back to Boston for $60,000.)
  • Four-hit nights for Dodger minor leaguers on Monday: Xavier Paul had three singles and a homer for Albuquerque, Dee Gordon had three doubles, a single and an error for Chattanooga and Jerry Sands had two doubles and two singles for Great Lakes. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus writes that after an 0-for-6 start in AA, Gordon has six hits (including four doubles) in his past seven at-bats.
  • Isotopes reliever Brent Leach is having a Sherrill of a time in his first two games of the year.
  • Matt Hiserman, son of Times assistant sports editor Mike Hiserman and a college pitcher for the University of San Francisco, has come back inside of two months from a liner to the head that landed him in intensive care for four days, writes Eric Sondheimer of the Times.
  • The crackdown on Dodger Stadium pregame tailgating was scheduled to begin at dawn in Elysian Park, according to Zach Behrens of LAist (via L.A. Observed, which also points to a David Kipen piece talking about the origins of the Dodgers’ “LA” logo.).
  • How much of a difference does payroll make in baseball? Tom Tango writes at TMI: “If you spend at the league average (Payroll Index = 100 percent), your chance of making the playoffs is 27 percent. If you spend at double the league average (Payroll Index = 200 percent), your chances are 77 percent. And if you spend at half the league average, your chances dwindle to almost 0.”
  • Bob Timmermann wrote movingly about his grandmother, Ella Kimberling, for L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence.
  • Quick entertainment notes from my day job: 1) Definitive details on Conan O’Brien’s move to TBS, 2) DirecTV will broadcast all five seasons of “The Wire” commercial-free, 3) Three major new hits (“The Good Wife,” “Modern Family” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” premiered within 25 hours of each other.
  • Leaving you with this: Brian Akin of Dear (Tommy) John Letters is thinking of hanging up his blog if he has to hang up his spikes. While I certainly hope he signs with another team, reading his latest post will serve as a reminder that no matter what, he should keep writing.
Apr 07

This game’ll make you feel a hundred years old


Gene J. Puskar/AP
Russell Martin is the glum in an emotional contrast sandwich.

I mean, my grandmother could have walked the pitcher twice.

I promised myself at the birthday dinner tonight that I wasn’t going to let anything Dodger-related interfere with my enjoyment of the night, but that came after Clayton Kershaw (who had already walked the leadoff man before giving up a three-run home run to Pirates outfielder Wilver Jones) free-passed Pittsburgh pitcher Russ Ohlendorf in two consecutive at-bats.

Just to give you some insight into my offline personality, I really let Kershaw have it when Ball 8 came to Ohlendorf as I pulled into my driveway to grab my family for dinner. I spare you folks the rage – just not my steering wheel, which bore the brunt of my shouts.

It was the 33rd time in 53 seasons since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles that an opposing pitcher drew at least two walks. Kershaw was the culprit the last time it happened – July 1 against Jason Hammel of Colorado (in a 1-0 Dodger victory).

Hey, it’s an old gripe for me. My third post ever on Dodger Thoughts was frustration about a ridiculous walk. But throwing strikes just isn’t automatic yet for Kershaw. We’ll keep waiting, but all that talk about Kershaw being the completely together pitcher and Chad Billingsley being the mental dyspeptic seems a bit silly now, at least until Thursday morning.

Conversely, Joe Torre’s decision to leave his best reliever in the bullpen during a game that was tied from the fifth until the 10th inning – that’s also an old gripe for me, for which there are no excuses unless the guy is physically unavailable  – but it came after Grandma Sue’s dinner started, so I can’t comment about it. And I didn’t even see Blake DeWitt’s error in the 10th inning, which came around the time we were blowing out the candles on the 100 cake.

In fact, there was lots about this game that was just crappy, but I saw Russell Martin’s homer and I heard my grandmother say she was excited about her birthday, so that wins.  Some things are just more important. (New dad Ramon Troncoso understands. “I want to be with her every second,” Troncoso told Dylan Hernandez of the Times.)

So for now, you just get the photo of Martin above. And if you want more details about tonight’s game, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has lots of them – really a thorough report. But I promise that if the Dodgers go down Thursday, I’ll hit you with something gripy. Not doomsdayish, but certainly enough to commemorate an opening three-game sweep by the Pirates.

Good thoughts, everyone …

* * *

  • Forbes values the Dodgers at $727 million, the fourth-highest figure in baseball – details in this story from The Associated Press.
  • Manny Ramirez told T.J. Simers of the Times that he likes Jamie McCourt more than Frank.
    Update: Man, I really, really zoned out while reading Simers late Thursday. Sheesh. Anyway, disregard the sentence above.
Mar 28

Clayton Kershaw: The ‘Enemy’ is our friend


Paul Connors/AP
Clayton Kershaw

It was only two Marches ago that Clayton Kershaw emerged from the theoretical to the tangible with his “Public Enemy No. 1″ to strike out Sean Casey in an otherwise forgettable Spring Training game. Just two years.

Now, Kershaw is a ripe old 22 years old, and most of the debate about him is whether he’ll be great or merely good. And so today, as Kershaw cruises through six innings of his final March outing, striking out seven and walking just one while allowing one run on 99 pitches, Dodger fans don’t need to marvel. They just nod and smile. “Yeah, we know.”

In two blink-of-an-eye years, Spring Training is no longer a proving ground for Kershaw. It’s merely a workout room, a waystation for bigger and hopefully better things.

Update: The latest on Kershaw’s improved repertoire, from Dylan Hernandez of the Times:

Clayton Kershaw couldn’t throw his curveball for strikes in the first couple of innings Sunday, something that would have spelled trouble at an earlier stage of his career.

But his fastball was working. So was his slider. And changeup.

According to a chart kept by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Kershaw threw seven of eight changeups for strikes and recorded three outs with the pitch. Seven of his nine sliders were thrown for strikes.

Relying on the two relatively new weapons in his arsenal, Kershaw was able to bide time until his curveball started dropping into strike zone. He exited his final Cactus League start having held the Cincinnati Reds to one run, six hits and one walk over six innings. …

* * *

  • There’s a little tiff brewing, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, between the Dodgers and Doug Mientkiewicz, who wants the team to release him before their Friday deadline so that he can have a better shot at getting a spot with another team. The Irony Committee has issued an approval on the fact that the reason the Dodgers want to hang on to Mientkiewicz as long as they can relates to the possibility of their first-choice lefty pinch hitter, Garret Anderson, suffering a major injury like Mientkiewicz incurred last April. He provided the example of the need to not grant his wish.
  • Working on his second consecutive day, Ramon Ortiz struck out two of the three batters he faced, passing probably the last test (other than waking up healthy Monday) for him to make the team.
  • Chad Gaudin signed with the A’s, ending speculation the Dodgers might go for him.
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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Feb 23

Potential postponement of McCourt trial further clouds 2010

When you get right down to it, I just want baseball to be about baseball.

And so the news today from Bill Shaikin of the Times that the McCourt divorce trial will quite possibly be delayed past its scheduled May 24 start, that it won’t necessarily be resolved before season’s end, is depressing.

My inclination would be just to shut it out — wake me up when the trial ends — but doing what I do, I can’t shut it out. The stature of the story is so large that it just takes over. Matt Kemp could hit three home runs in a game this summer, but if there’s another divorce court revelation, that becomes the news, because it affects The Fate of the Franchise.

Last year, we were blindsided by Manny Ramirez’s suspension. Thank goodness we didn’t know it was coming, because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the team’s hot start otherwise. But no matter how well things go this year for the Dodgers, we know that dreary news about the ownership is lurking. And if things go poorly for the Dodgers, forget about it. It’s going to be a very grumpy year. Cloudy with a chance of screwballs.

Dodger fans are an impatient lot in general these days, waiting for another World Series title like prisoners in an LAX flight delay. The McCourt saga takes those fans and sticks a smelly seatmate next to them who won’t stop talking. Everything that’s bad will be made worse; everything that’s good will be temporary.

I can picture the thrilling moments; I can picture myself enjoying them. But then, around the corner, I see the latest McCourt news, and people getting twisted in knots over it.

All I can say is, don’t go looking for reasons to be cynical or bitter about the Dodgers. They’ll find you. No matter how low the McCourts go, try to let yourself enjoy the games. Whoever owns the Dodgers, don’t let them own you. It’s baseball.

* * *

Ken Gurnick’s preseason feature for MLB.com on Clayton Kershaw is a good one. There are the requisite Spring Training bromides from Kershaw — in addition to an announcement of his engagement to Texas A&M senior Ellen Melson — but also some nuts-and-bolts talk from the young lefty as well as pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

… For his part, Kershaw knows that he’s fully responsible for his high pitch counts.

“What I want to do is learn how to minimize my pitches. The way to do that is by fastball command, that’s huge for me,” he said. “I worked on that a lot this offseason by making my bullpen [sessions] as game-like as possible. Last year my bullpens were just practice, to make sure my arm felt right.

“This year the focus is on game situations so my fastball command is something I can always rely on when my other pitches aren’t going great. I need to throw breaking pitches over for strikes. Even though I’m not a master of the changeup by any means, that pitch can really get you out of there with as few pitches as possible. If I minimize my pitches, there won’t be a focus on how many pitches I’ve thrown.” …

The article indicates that some of the pitch count restriction on Kershaw will be loosened this year. That’s fine to an extent, but the thing to keep in mind is that despite an additional year under his belt, he’s still only going to be 22 in the 2010 season. His arm is still too young to leave completely unprotected.

“That came up in the staff meeting,” pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “I’m not saying we’ll take the gloves off, but at the same time, we feel much better about how he bounced back and stayed strong and consistent through last season. We’re in a situation where we feel we can loosen the reins a little bit and slowly increase him.”

A year ago, by the way, Kershaw hosted a baseball camp that helped raise funds for a trip by his fiancee and her family to help Zambian orphans.

* * *

  • Every member of the Dodgers’ 40-man roster has reported early except for the three Rs: Ronald Belisario, Rafael Furcal and Ronnie Belliard, according to Gurnick.
  • The Dodgers will play three March exhibition games in Taiwan instead of two, Gurnick confirmed.
  • Congrats to Jeff Weaver, who will miss some training camp for new dad duty (and dooty). Dylan Hernandez of the Times adds that Weaver said he will opt out of his contract with the Dodgers rather than accept a minor-league assignment.
  • Some fun promotions are on tap for the coming season, including a Vin Scully poster. The younger generation of Dodgers is also featured prominently in several giveaways.
  • I’ve been meaning to talk about the ticket sales news from Monday, but in case I don’t get to it, here’s a link to the official release.
  • From 50 years ago today, here’s a snapshot of pitchers including Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax kicking off Spring Training, offered by Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror.
  • A slideshow of the key players in the McCourt divorce drama was provided by Lawrence Delevingne of Business Insider Law Review (link via Rob McMillin’s 6-4-2).
  • Finally, I just wanted to pass along this Variety blog post of no significance: “Series I dream about: George Costanza on ‘Big Love.’”
Feb 16

Clayton Kershaw: Two opposing views of the future

“Is It Unreasonable to Expect Great Things From Clayton Kershaw?” by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness

… despite our high expectations for a player so young, it’s not as though Kershaw is blazing a completely new trail, here. Young players can succeed, if they have the talent and opportunity, and I think it’s clear that Kershaw has both.

“Is Clayton Kershaw Already Declining?” by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs (via ESPN Insider)

… Unlike hitters, who tend to gain power as they age, pitchers lose it. In the past 30 years, 11 pitchers have rang up at least 180 strikeouts in a single season when they were 22 or younger. The list is not full of guys on their way to Cooperstown. Instead, it stands as a sobering reminder of just how great starts to a career can go very, very wrong. …