Nov 15

Kuroda deal is done for $12 million

Hiroki Kuroda has officially returned to the Dodgers for 2011, receiving an $8 million base salary plus a $4 million signing bonus that will be paid out over the following two years. Not only did the Dodgers not make a multiyear commitment, but Kuroda isn’t even really getting a raise despite having his best year with the Dodgers in 2010. Kuroda made $13 million in 2010, the final year of a three-year contract that averaged $11.8 million. Take this with a grain of salt for a guy earning eight figures, but this one wasn’t all about money. He could have gotten a bigger deal elsewhere.

“When we ended the season, we had really two guys (who were) bonafide major-league starters signed in Chad (Billingsley and Clayton (Kershaw),” Dodger general manager Ned Colletti said in a conference call. “We needed to upgrade the rotation, certainly needed to add to it. We did it with the signing of Ted (Lilly), and getting Hiroki back was another great move for us.

“We were interested in doing something maybe with an option for another year, but our appetite was one year as well. It fit with what he was looking to do and it fit with what we were looking to do.”

Colletti said it was uncertain whether the Dodgers would sign a fifth veteran starting pitcher – amid other concerns about the position players – but that the team would certainly explore it.

“Too soon to tell,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of oars in the water, a lot of different things going on. … (Signing Kuroda) doesn’t close the door on anybody, but I can’t be specific on any free agents.”

Colletti said that the deal came together rather easily. He talked to Kuroda’s U.S. agent, Steve Hilliard, with a week to go in the regular season, and then to Kuroda on the final day of the season, telling him “just let us know when you know what you want to do.”

About two weeks later, Hilliard said Kuroda wanted to come back for one more season, and the deal came together relatively easily.

“I think when you know what you want to do, and you have the opportunity to do it, some people want to procrastinate and drag it out, other people are comfortable with what they want to do,” Colletti said.

“I think he had a good experience here in L.A. I think he liked being a Dodger. I think his family liked the idea of coming back. … As it was potentially a good fit three years ago, I think he looked back on it and felt it still would be.”

On other topics, Colletti said that he has had three or four informal conversations with Joe Torre, but is waiting for Torre to spell out “what he wants to do and when he wants to do it” with regards to whether he will return to the Dodgers in some capacity.

Colletti wrapped up by saying he expects to formally announce the 2011 Dodger coaching staff in the next couple of days. “We’ve got a pretty good feel for it, there’s just some other details we’ve gotta tie up,” he said.

Nov 13

Reports: Kuroda close to returning to Dodgers on one-year deal

From the Dept. of Pleasant Surprises, Hiroki Kuroda is on the verge of returning to the Dodgers.

Negating earlier fears that Kuroda would want a multiyear contract that would take him out of the Dodgers’ spending range, we have since been learning that Kuroda wants to take a short-term approach to his future in the U.S., and is close to signing a one-year contract believed to be worth $12 million, albeit according to anonymous sources.

This signing would solidify the front four of the Dodger starting rotation. That still leaves other areas for the Dodgers to focus on: the remaining uncertainty in the outfield, the infield, at catching, at pitching. So much uncertainty, in fact, that it still seems clear to me that the Dodgers’ 2011 fortunes still heavily depend on rebound seasons from players already in-house.

Kuroda, who suffered through an injury-plagued 2009, was someone who had such a rebound season in 2010. Hopefully, he’s still got even more bounce for the 2011 Dodgers.

  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times has some tidbits. Among them: The Mattingly family requested the Dodgers trade minor-leaguer Preston to get him a fresh start. Also, Cosmo Kramer could be a batboy.
  • Joe Posnanski writes movingly (no shock there) about his father, Bruce Springsteen and “The Promise.”
Sep 29

Unscratch that: Kershaw to start Friday as Kuroda calls it a year

Is the opposite of being “shut down” being “shut up?” If so, the Dodgers shut up Clayton Kershaw.

Shut up …

Los Angeles shifted rotation gears again, deciding today that it would be Hiroki Kuroda taking the rest of the year off. Kershaw will now make a final start Friday, on six days’ rest, followed by Chad Billingsley on Saturday and Ted Lilly in the season finale Sunday.

I’m going to Friday’s game, so I’ll be happy to see Kershaw pitch in that sense. But I think the Dodgers were right with their initial instincts, and that they might as well throw John Ely out there Friday rather than make Kershaw get back on the horse.

  • Dee Gordon is so skinny — how skinny is he? — Dee Gordon is so skinny that Bryan Smith of Fangraphs has serious questions about how good the Dodger prospect can become, especially if he doesn’t walk as much as a Brett Butler, steal like Tim Raines or play defense like Ozzie Smith.
  • “Wilson Valdez grounds into double plays the way Weezer puts out new albums nowadays,” writes Michael Baumann of Phillies Nation, “often, indiscriminately, and sometimes with disastrous results.” Valdez is only the second player in the past 40 years or so to reach 20 GIDP in under 375 plate appearances. With a runner on first base and under two outs, Valdez has 20 GIDP and 18 hits.
  • John Lindsey’s callup made Jerry Crasnick’s ESPN.com list of top inspirational moments this season.
Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million – a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit – committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Sep 06

Since they aren’t needed elsewhere, three cheers for John Lindsey!

Let’s start with Sunday’s best story: John Lindsey is finally a major leaguer. From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Lindsey, 33, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A first baseman who has played more seasons in the minors without earning a call-up to the majors than any current player, was among five players the Dodgers promoted Sunday afternoon.

Lindsey will be joined by third baseman Russ Mitchell, who is also making his major league debut, infielder Chin Lung Hu, and pitchers Jon Link and John Ely.

For Lindsey, set to join the team Monday, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. He’s spent nearly half his adult life in the minor leagues, since the Colorado Rockies took him in the 13th round of the 1995 draft.

He’s had a career season in 2010, batting .354 with 25 home runs for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

“Oh man, the second [Isotopes manager Tim Wallach] told me my whole brain kind of shut down. I was hearing what he was saying, but I couldn’t even believe it,” Lindsey said.

“He went to shake my hand and I had to hug him because my legs were so weak.”

Lindsey said Wallach had initially tried to fool him by asking him to come into his office, then slamming the door.

“I think he was trying to mess with me, but [hitting coach] Johnny Moses was in the corner, trying to keep a straight face the whole time, but he couldn’t stop smiling,” Lindsey said.

“Wally told me it was the happiest day as a manager he’s ever had. I walked out of that office and hugged all my teammates, called my wife, and I haven’t stopped smiling or pacing around the clubhouse since.

“I probably won’t sleep the next three or four days.” …

Sometimes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s that you get to play the game.

Says Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.: Lindsey, who is 33 years, 219 days old today, will be the oldest non-Japanese Dodger to make his MLB debut since Pete Wojey (34 years, 213 days) on July 2, 1954.

* * *

As for Sunday’s results – yes, the team looking to make a miracle comeback in the standings suffered a blow. Arizona fell to Houston, 3-2, missing a chance to close within 12 games of the fourth-place Dodgers, who lost to San Francisco, 3-0.

The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch non-last place is 12. Los Angeles has clinched the tiebreaker against Arizona by winning the season series, so even though six of the Dodgers’ final nine games are against the Diamondbacks, the odds remain in the Dodgers’ favor.

Oh, as for the other races? Can’t say the Dodgers are doing much there.

The Padres are the first team to stay in first place despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1932 Pittsburgh Pirates, and looking to be the first team to make the playoffs despite a 10-game losing streak since the 1982 Atlanta Braves, according to Stat of the Day. That was the year that the Dodgers took advantage of the Braves’ slump to regain the National League West lead, only to run into a most bitter ending. This year is looking bitter in a different way.

Greg Zakwin wraps up Sunday’s Ack-loss at Memories of Kevin Malone: “(Andre) Ethier, Jamey Carroll, and Matt Kemp struck out a combined eight times. Five baserunners. Thirteen strikeouts in total against just a single, solitary walk drawn. Just a single extra-base hit. No Dodger reached base more than once. Pitiful is a word that seems to perfectly describe the offensive side of things since the All-Star Break.”

Hiroki Kuroda made his sixth straight start of at least seven innings, with a 2.47 ERA and .179 opponents batting average in that time, according to the Dodger press notes. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com notes that it was the sixth time this year that Kuroda has been on the wrong end of a shutout. As Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes, opportunities to watch Kuroda in a Dodger uniform might be dwindling to a precious few.

* * *

  • Al Wolf of the Times (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror) predicted in 1960 what the team’s 1962 Dodger Stadium opener would be like. His conclusion: “As broadcaster Vince Scully said in his dulcet tones: ‘Wotta show! Wotta show! Come on out tomorrow night, those of you who missed it. But if you can’t be with us, plunk down a dollar in your pay TV set and watch it that way. Or better yet, put in two bucks and see it all in living color.’”
  • Fred Claire, who acquired Tim Wallach for the Dodgers on Christmas Eve 1992, puts his support at MLB.com for the Wallach for Manager campaign, though not with the Dodgers specifically. Claire, of course, was the Dodger general manager throughout Mike Scioscia’s post-playing Dodger career. His departure preceded Scioscia’s by about a year.
  • Four of the Dodgers in Sunday’s game – Carroll, Ryan Theriot, Ethier and Reed Johnson – finished with a .289 batting average.
Aug 30

Kuroda no-hit miss still a feel-good experience


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda

You know, it might have been enough of a silver lining just to be celebrate Hiroki Kuroda’s first hit of the season, coming in his 46th at-bat.

But we were five outs away from something even more transcendent – the cathartic thrill of celebrating a Kuroda no-hitter – before Shane Victorino’s one-out single to right field in the top of the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ game against the Phillies tonight.

Part of the thrill would have been feeling that the no-hitter could hardly have happened to a nicer Dodger.

Kuroda walked two, hit a batter, struck out six and raised his season batting average to .022 before the first H went up against him. He struck out a seventh batter, and then Hong-Chih Kuo relieved him with two out in the eighth, inducing a first-pitch force-out from Mike Sweeney. Kuo then pitched a perfect ninth to wrap up the combined one-hitter, a 3-0 Dodger victory.

“The funny thing is, decisions will be made, games will be won or lost, we’ll all think we know more than we did – and then we’ll still be blindsided by something new, as Dodger fans always have been,” I wrote two days ago. Kuroda almost singlehandedly proved that. And although he fell short, to quote from the movie “Diner,” it’s a smile.

Aug 25

Would the Dodgers trade Hiroki Kuroda?

While everyone waits for the inevitable word of Manny Ramirez being placed on waivers to facilitate his possible departure (most likely to the Chicago White Sox, it appears at this juncture), the greater intrigue remains about what might happen with Dodgers that have actually been productive.

Let’s create a hypothetical using tonight’s scheduled Dodger starter, Hiroki Kuroda. A rumor hit Wednesday that the Dodgers placed Kuroda on waivers. That rumor hasn’t been corroborated, and in fact, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com today that he “hadn’t thought about” Kuroda and wasn’t even aware of whether the righty was on waivers. So who knows?

As with Ramirez, placing Kuroda on waivers wouldn’t mean the Dodgers would automatically lose Kuroda. It’s a procedural move that just creates the possibility of a deal. But in the case of Kuroda, who is having his most fit and fine season in the majors, the return might be bigger than it would for Ramirez.

If Kuroda has in fact been placed on waivers, there would be a 48-hour time limitfor a team to acquire his rights (or the window to negotiate a new contract with him). If no new contract is negotiated, Kuroda’s impending free agent status wouldn’t be affected, except in the sense that a trade would allow him to become familiar with a non-Dodger environment.

With the Dodgers closing to within 6 1/2 games of the National League wild-card lead Wednesday – still a long ways out, but not obliterated beyond recognition – I’d say the chances of a Kuroda trade are small. Ned Colletti has said it will take a lot for him to give up on this year’s team. But if he gets offered a lot … who knows?

Aug 13

Kuo, Dotel to share Dodger closing duties for now

Reacting to Jonathan Broxton’s slump, the Dodgers have moved Hong-Chih Kuo into the primary closer role, and Octavio Dotel will close on days that Kuo can’t, Joe Torre told reporters today. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Kuo is not available tonight (neither is Kenley Jansen), so Dotel is the man if the Dodgers have a ninth-inning lead. Broxton is available depending on the game situation.

Torre also said that Manny Ramirez is finally making progress … but then added that a rehab assignment might or might not start in the middle of next week. Rafael Furcal is probably not going to be activated from the disabled list when he becomes eligible Wednesday.

* * *

Hiroki Kuroda has fared much better against the National League East and Central divisions than he has against teams from the NL West, according to Stats LLC (via the Dodger press notes). His lifetime ERA against the NL West is 5.05 (.294 opponents’ batting average); against the rest of the league, it’s 2.57 (.220).

Odd.

* * *

Justin Havens of ESPN’s Stats and Analysis group sent along some stats about Matt Kemp that won’t surprise you: on-base percentage down from .352 last year to .319 this year, for example. Strikeout rate up from 22.9 percent to 27.4 percent. His fielding woes have been well-documented, and his Wins Above Replacement figure has fallen from 5.1 in 2009 to 0.6 so far in 2010.

I was curious about how much batting average on balls in play might account for the OBP dip, and found that his BABIP has dropped from .345 to .314 – or .031, almost exactly the same amount as the .033 OBP drop. And then I looked at Kemp’s walk rate, and this is what surprised me the most.

2009: .078 walks per plate appearance
2010: .078 walks per plate appearance

That’s sort of remarkable, amid all the chaos around Kemp’s 2010 season, that he’s walking at the same rate. The BABIP really accounts for much of Kemp’s falloff at the plate.

Anyway, as far as this regression thing with Kemp goes, do people remember that we’ve been through it before? Kemp’s 2008 season was a disappointment relative to the promise laid out in 2007.

* * *

Hot dogs at Dodger Stadium? There will be on August 21 if the weather heats up on Bark in the Park night.

Sounds fun, but why do I think something is bound to go wrong? Must be the worrywart in me.

Jul 22

Back-to-back: 2-0, 2-0

Wednesday it was Chad Billingsley and Casey Blake; tonight it was Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Kemp – with a Hong-Chih Kuo cherry on top, and perhaps that’s the biggest news of the evening.

After pitching two innings Tuesday and warming up Wednesday, Kuo pitched the ninth inning tonight for the save – further suggesting that the protective gloves have come off the precious reliever. It might not be quite accurate to say the Dodgers are going for broke, but it’s definitely a different mentality than we’ve seen for the past year and a half. Actually, maybe it is accurate to say they’re going for broke, figuratively if not literally.

Earlier today, Joe Torre talked about the bullpen situation with Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Before signing off this short post, a quick tip of the cap not only to Kuroda for his eight standout shutout innings and Kemp for his RBI double and solo homer, but to Russell Martin, who threw out two runners stealing tonight in a tight game.

* * *

Bill Shaikin of the Times has some new and interesting Dodger attendance analysis. Check it out.

Jun 20

Your 2010-11 offseason headlines today

Dodgers look for pitcher to replace free agent Kuroda
36-year-old priced himself out of range with standout campaign

Matt Kemp vows to focus on fundamentals in repairing five-tool kit

Casey Blake returning, but Dodgers seek more production at third

Something disturbing about a McCourt or two

Who will fill the Manny Ramirez void?

L.A. reports numerous cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome
2011 Dodger interleague schedule released

First crack in the core: Broxton enters final season before free agency

Despite Kershaw, Dodger World Series hopes are dimming

* * *

What can you say? This weekend in Boston, the Dodgers hit when they couldn’t pitch and pitched when they couldn’t hit, getting swept with tonight’s 2-0 loss. Andre Ethier went 0 for 12. The team has lost seven out of nine, its worst stretch since April, dropping Los Angeles into third place in the National League West.

Kemp and Ethier will rebound – look at what Ramirez has been doing lately as a guide. But watching Kuroda, who went seven innings and arguably allowed only one earned run in another outstanding 2010 performance, made me think how much I’ll miss him after this season. And this is not a campaign to re-sign him, because just like Randy Wolf and Derek Lowe before him, Kuroda’s next contract after Dodger success might not make any sense. But I’ve just really enjoyed having him on the team.

The sweep in Boston is pretty insignificant – a moment in a 162-game season. None of the recent losses to American League teams tell us much about the Dodgers’ ability to win the NL, and I think we all pretty much would have agreed before Friday that the Dodgers would be the underdog in any World Series if they got that far. But after this season, win or lose, the Dodgers are going to have a great many questions. They might find answers for some of them, but there’s a level of uncertainty that makes me really want to see this year’s team step up.

Jun 15

Rain on the parade: Did Kuroda make a risky return?


Al Behrman/AP
It was a long night, but Hiroki Kuroda struck out eight in five shutout innings with no walks.

After a rain delay of more than two hours, Hiroki Kuroda came back out to pitch the fifth inning for the Dodgers tonight in Cincinnati.

I have no expertise to be able to discuss if this was a risk or not. All I know is that in my roughly 35 years of following baseball, this kind of thing is almost never done because of the fear it will bring injury to the pitcher. But on the day they announced Chad Billingsley was going on the disabled list, the Dodgers did it.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to gain:

1) The 23rd win in the United States for Kuroda, who had thrown four one-hit shutout innings while striking out seven.
2) Possibly a better chance of winning tonight’s game, because Kuroda is better than the Dodgers’ middle relievers.
3) A little more rest for the bullpen, which figures to be taxed between now and Sunday.
4) Status as pioneers in the You Can Bring Back Starting Pitchers After Rain Delays Movement.

Here’s what the Dodgers stood to lose:

1) The game, if Kuroda couldn’t regain his effectiveness after the break. He loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth before getting the final out.
2) The sanity of Dodger fans.
3) Shine off Torre’s reputation.
4) Kuroda.

The Dodgers might have made the right decision. I don’t know. I do know that most people would say it was a bad bet, and I’m curious why they made it.

Jun 03

Dodgers can’t quite bounce back, fall 4-3


Danny Moloshok/AP
Manny Ramirez’s failure to come up with this sinking drive by Atlanta pitcher Kris Medlen in the sixth inning allowed what proved to be the winning run to score.

Well, the Dodger offense indeed was slumping. Shut out for the first seven innings tonight by Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, the Dodgers had only two runs to show for their past 31 innings.

Still, they almost extended their winning streak. Almost.

Danny Moloshok/AP
Takashi Saito’s Dodger Stadium homecoming was nearly perfect, until his leg gave way.

Down 4-0 and held to three runners in the first seven innings by 24-year-old Atlanta righty Kris Medlen, the Dodgers picked and poked their way back into it in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs on singles by James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard, a throwing error by the Braves (which DeWitt barely converted into a run with a devilish hand-touch of home), and an RBI groundout by Rafael Furcal. But after Matt Kemp walked, mojo-free Andre Ethier struck out on a 2-2 fastball.

And then control of the game turned to our truly old friend, 40-year-old Takashi Saito, pitching against the Dodgers for the first time in his career. In the ninth, Saito retired Manny Ramirez and Loney, then got to 0-2 on Martin … when he had to leave the game with an apparent left hamstring injury. After a delay of several minutes, Jonny Venters came in and threw one pitch to strike out Martin and walk away with Saito’s save of a 4-3 Atlanta victory.

It was a disappointing night for Los Angeles, but not quite the bad taste that a shutout would have left. And the Lakers’ NBA Finals Game 1 victory will certainly provide some cover and consolation.

Hiroki Kuroda is also slumping now, by the way. His performance tonight wasn’t terrible – three earned runs in six innings – but the seven hits and four walks against two strikeouts hint at how sloppy it was. In his past two starts (the previous one an even more uncomfortable outing in Colorado), Kuroda has allowed 11 runs (eight earned) on 23 baserunners in 10 innings with three strikeouts. Yikes.

But this all, I believe, will pass. Perhaps around the time that the Dodger bullpen, which hasn’t allowed an earned run in its past 20 innings (according to the Dodger press notes), cracks.

* * *

  • Jeff Weaver entered the game in the top of the seventh, only to depart with trainer Stan Conte without throwing an official pitch. No details immediately available.
  • Casey Blake is day-to-day with back spasms, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Spurred to investigate the situation by questioners during his online chat today, Jackson found that minor-league pitcher Josh Lindblom is being converted back to relief. “When he gets back, we’re probably going to transition him back to the bullpen,” assistant general manager for player development DeJon Watson told Jackson. “I think he is better suited to the bullpen. It’s just his delivery and his stuff, and I think this will give him a chance to help our big league club at some point this year. We just want to get him back to where he was at the end of last year.”
  • Pitching rehab outings for Inland Empire tonight, Vicente Padilla threw 37 pitches, allowing one hit and striking out five in three innings, while George Sherrill struck out two in an eight-pitch inning of relief.
  • Vin Scully will make a rare trip East in two weeks, broadcasting the Dodgers’ game at Fenway Park for Prime Ticket on June 18, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Lucky us.
May 12

Diamondbacks walk but can’t hide: Ramirez blast lifts Dodgers, 6-3


Ross D. Franklin/AP
Manny Ramirez follows through, literally and figuratively.

A year ago, Andre Ethier was being told he couldn’t hit at all unless Manny Ramirez was batting behind him.

Tonight, the Arizona Diamondbacks told Ethier that they were so scared of how well he can hit, they’d rather face Ramirez.

It was an awe-wow moment that punctuated the Dodgers’ 6-3 victory over Arizona Wednesday, yet not at all shocking considering Ethier’s unbelievable season – and it was hardly a slight against Ramirez, who brought a 1.064 OPS for 2010 into the at-bat. But with runners on second and third with two out in the top of the seventh inning, and the Dodgers leading 3-2, Diamondbacks pitcher Edwin Jackson simply didn’t feel he could mess around with Ethier, who boosted his Triple Crown numbers earlier in the game with a two-run homer.

The logic was simple: Walking the left-handed Ethier eliminated the platoon advantage for the Dodgers and created a force at every base for Ramirez, who turns 38 at the end of the month. But still, here it was, the bases being loaded on purpose for one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters (still) – only because the Dodgers have come up with a player 10 years younger and even more dangerous.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Edwin Jackson wipes his forehead after loading the bases ahead of Manny Ramirez in the seventh inning.

Jackson shouldn’t have even been in the situation. He had pitched well overall, allowing three runs on nine baserunners in 6 2/3 innings and striking out eight before the intentional walk. He had already thrown 114 pitches when Ethier came up.  But the Arizona bullpen has been such dogmeat that Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch decided he didn’t have a better hope against Ramirez with the bases loaded than the gassed Jackson.

Ramirez fouled off two pitches to fall behind 0-2 in the count, but on the next pitch, he cannoned a ball high off the center-field wall, 407 feet away, easily a grand slam in Dodger Stadium but a mere three-run double tonight. The smash blasted  Jackson’s valiant effort into ruins, and gave the Dodgers a most exuberant and comfortable four-run lead.

The moment stole the spotlight from what I think we can call a vintage Hiroki Kuroda performance. Kuroda’s first four pitches of the game were low and outside, but he didn’t walk a man after that in 7 1/3 innings, while allowing three runs on six hits and striking out nine. The third run – the run that would have tied the game were it not for Ethier and Ramirez – came across on a sacrifice fly off Hong-Chih Kuo in the eighth, after walks by Ronald Belsiario and Kuo loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate. But nothing more came across.

Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t been needed in the series up to now, fell short of a 1-2-3 inning for the sixth time in his past seven chances but got the save, interspersing a single and walk with three strikeouts, giving him 22 in 12 2/3 innings this year.

The Dodgers won their ninth in their past 12 games, reached the .500 mark (17-17) for the first time since they were 7-7 on April 21 and moved within two games of second-place San Francisco. And another threshold in Andre Ethier’s mammoth season was crossed.

May 02

Heroes aplenty as Dodgers romp over Pirates

The magnificent Andre Ethier is the Dodger cover boy these days, a fact you’ll see reflected in Monday’s edition of Dodger Cogs and Dogs. Either homered in his third straight game – homered twice today, in fact – and has an OPS this year of 1.161. But in a quick post summing up today’s 9-3 romp over Pittsburgh, a big tip of the hat must go to two others.

Hiroki Kuroda cruised for eight innings, allowing one run on a walk, four singles and a double over 98 pitches to lower his 2010 ERA to 2.08. Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt had his first career four-hit game, capped by a two-run double that lifted his season on-base percentage over .400 and his OPS to .767.

Kuroda seemed well-positioned to give the Dodgers their first complete game of the season, but Joe Torre brought in George Sherrill to close it out – leading to the day’s one sour moment. Sherrill allowed two runs on three hits and a walk and was bailed out by Ronald Belisario, who got the final out to end the game.

Either had an RBI single in addition to his two-run homer in the fifth and solo shot in the eighth. Matt Kemp singled, doubled, walked, scored three runs and made a diving catch in center. (He was also caught stealing for the sixth time this year on a close play). Ronnie Belliard made a great over-the-shoulder catch while playing third base. James Loney had a double and two singles to raise his home batting average to .500 (19 for 38), and reserves Xavier Paul and Jamey Carroll each had two hits.

The Dodgers are now 7-3 at home, 4-11 on the road.

Apr 15

Dodgers unlose! Dodgers unlose!


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Matt Kemp is wide-eyed after hitting a game-tying homer in the seventh inning.

The other team blew the leads. The Dodgers didn’t blow the leads. The other team did.

Oh, sure, the Dodgers blew two ties, at 0-0 and 3-3, but still – progress.

Bullpen (except for Jonathan Broxton) still shaky. Fielding still shaky. But still … progress.

So that I’m not up all night, just a little stream of consciousness to wrap things up …

Hiroki Kuroda gave up 10 hits but didn’t walk anyone over seven innings, while striking out seven. That’s practically a perfect game compared to what we’ve seen lately.

Matt Kemp had trouble with another fly ball defensively but homered for this third game in a row to tie the score in the seventh – he now has 13 RBI in nine games. He drove in pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard, who is a crazy 8-for-14 to start the season.

Dan Haren mostly stymied the Dodgers, but needed 121 pitches to get 19 outs, and that extra work cost him by requiring Arizona to go its bullpen sooner. The third pitch by Aaron Heilman was Kemp’s two-run homer.

Justin Upton then hit his second tiebreaking homer in two nights, a monster blast halfway up the left-field pavilion off Jeff Weaver, to give Arizona a 4-3 lead. Upton also made a bigtime catch of a Garret Anderson drive to the top of the right-field wall in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the lead.

Arizona added a slop run in the ninth, but the Dodgers rallied with two in the bottom of the inning to tie, thanks at the end to a blooper-reel throw by Stephen Drew that allowed Manny Ramirez to score the tying run.

Broxton dominated in the top of the 10th, and then the Dodgers won it on a leadoff single by Blake DeWitt, an intentional walk to Kemp and then, ho hum, a walkoff hit by Andre Ethier.

Here’s a list, passed along by Mark A. Simon of ESPN.com from mikemav.com, of the Dodgers’ all-time walkoff hit leaders since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958:

14 Dusty Baker
12 Manny Mota
11 Ron Cey
11 Davey Lopes
10 Andre Ethier
10 Steve Garvey

The final tally for Russell Martin in the series: three games, 571 pitches caught.

* * *

Hong-Chih Kuo struck out two in a 1-2-3 rehab inning for Inland Empire, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. He completed his 20-pitch assignment in the bullpen.

Matt Magill of Great Lakes struck out seven, walked none and allowed two doubles and a single in a scoreless five innings tonight. This year, the 20-year-old from Simi Valley has struck out 12 in nine shutout innings.

Dee Gordon went 2 for 4 for Chattanooga and has a 1.006 OPS on the season.