Apr 09

Dodgers, Kuroda win despite ongoing defensive concerns


Doug Benc/Getty Images
Hiroki Kuroda didn’t allow an earned run over eight innings in his first start of the season.

Stuck in a shutout duel for five innings and looking like he might be a hard-luck loser after six, Hiroki Kuroda emerged triumphant and then some.

Kuroda went eight innings in his first start of the season without allowing an earned run, by far the star in the Dodgers’ 7-3 victory that evened their season record at 2-2.

Doug Penc/Getty Images

John Baker’s blooper fell for a double after Blake DeWitt nearly collided with Reed Johnson in the second inning Friday. Hiroki Kuroda struck out two of the next three batters to get out of the inning.

The 35-year-old righthander, whose 2009 season ended mired in injuries, allowed four singles, a bloop double and a walk (intentional) while striking out seven. Kuroda tallied his eight innings in 100 pitches, and with better defense behind him might easily have pitched a shutout.

The near-collision in the second inning between Reed Johnson and Blake DeWitt that led to the only extra-base hit off Kuroda, the error by Casey Blake in the fifth and the throwing error by Russell Martin (leading to an unearned run) were among the defensive lapses that kept Kuroda from an even more efficent outing. The mistakes could be said to be just three of those things that happen at a baseball game. But as much as people have focused on DeWitt as a defensive worry, it’s pretty easy to point to half the eight defensive positions – second, third, left and right – and say the Dodgers have limited range there, compounded by the sometimes erratic play by Rafael Furcal at short and Martin behind the plate.

Even the best make mistakes. Gold Glove winner Matt Kemp and first-base artist James Loney aren’t perfect, and perfection isn’t expected. But the Dodgers are going to have to outscore or outpitch their defense a lot this year.

Fortunately for them tonight, they were up to the task, thanks to Kuroda and an offense that scored seven times in the final three innings. Furcal was 3 for 4 with a walk tonight and had two of the Dodgers’ five doubles.

The night ended after Jonathan Broxton made sure Russ Ortiz’s ERA didn’t go unpunished after Ortiz loaded the bases on a single and two walks in the bottom of the ninth. Broxton gave up a two-run double to Wes Helms before striking out the final two batters of the game.

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Notes from Tony Jackson:

  • Andre Ethier remains day-to-day with a sore ankle, and figures to pinch-hit before he returns to the starting lineup.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo has a bullpen session scheduled for Sunday, which hopefully will greenlight his return from the disabled list within the next week.
  • Dodger Thoughts hero Pedro Guerrero visited the clubhouse and former teammates Rick Monday, Rick Honeycutt and Mariano Duncan today.

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Scott Elbert had a whale of a first start tonight for Albuquerque. He pitched six shutout innings, allowing two hits, walking five and striking out 10 –  somehow needing only 96 pitches to do all that. Elbert, who twice pitched out of one-out jams with runners on second and third, left with a 1-0 lead, but Brent Leach couldn’t hold it and the Isotopes lost, 4-3.

Mar 25

Vicente Padilla named Dodgers’ Opening Day starter


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Vicente Padilla

It doesn’t matter much, and I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I find it bizarre that the Dodgers have chosen Vicente Padilla to start on Opening Day April 5.

It’s not needed to set up Clayton Kershaw to start the home opener eight days later. And in all my years watching baseball, I can’t think of a rationale that would make Padilla the choice over Hiroki Kuroda or Chad Billingsley, both of whom have been with the team longer, contributed more to the team in the past year and have their own sentimental reasons for getting the nod. In particular, I would have thought Kuroda’s comeback from a frightening injury would have given him the honor.

A one-month hot stretch by Padilla shouldn’t trump those factors. Frankly, it’s a decision that cries out to be mocked, despite its insignificance in the grand scheme of things. And heaven knows, lots of people enjoy new reasons to mock the Dodgers.

That doesn’t mean Padilla won’t go out and throw shutout ball — after all, that’s what he did for six innings in his last appearance in Pittsburgh, nearly five years ago. But it still just doesn’t feel right to me. Whatever reasons there were to choose Padilla, there were better reasons not to.

Mar 24

Russell Martin and the Dodgers tempt fate

Mark Duncan/APRussell Martin played his only exhibition game of 2010 on March 5.

Ignoring my counsel – peanut gallery as it might be – the Dodgers aren’t hesitating to get Russell Martin back into action. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Martin will catch in a minor-league game Thursday, and that Opening Day is now a real possibility for him.

The only reason this sounds plausible to me is that I am willing to believe A.J. Ellis just can’t get a break. But we’ll see how Martin fares.

  • Jackson also reports that an MRI on Hong-Chih Kuo showed no new damage. (I guess the old damage was still there.) Kuo played soft toss after the MRI.
  • Hiroki Kuroda faced 19 Oakland A’s batters tonight and got 16 of them out in a shutout performance.
  • Between his contract still not being official and his fairly unimpressive Spring Training (certainly less impressive than Blake DeWitt or Jamey Carroll), I’m still not quite ready to consider Ronnie Belliard a roster lock yet. Odds are still in his favor, as the memory of his late-season hotitude still lingers. But when you have an aging player who didn’t do much for most of 2009, and a plethora of second basemen, there’s still room for release.
  • Pablo Torre of SI.com posted a story about the Dodgers that questioned their rotation depth (“arguably the thinnest in the division”) while making all positive assumptions about NL West rival pitchers Jeff Francis, Chris Young and Brandon Webb, and ignoring all the other teams’ problems in the back of their rotations. Just check out what’s going on in Arizona, for example. It’s not going to be all golden for the Dodgers, but can we not use the same standard evaluating them as the other teams?
  • Lenny Harris was released from the hospital today, five days after his emergency bypass surgery, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Robert Culp, you will always be so cool in my eyes.
Feb 15

Hiroki Kuroda (hopefully) recovering

Tucked away near the bottom of this Spring Training preview from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com is a report that the disk injury that sidelined Hiroki Kuroda during the National League Division Series was still an issue at least part of this offseason.

There really isn’t a major injury rehab to follow, now that Jason Schmidt can’t be kicked around anymore. But there is Hiroki Kuroda, in the last year of his contract and coming off a season in which he won eight games and nearly lost his career when he was drilled on the head by a comebacker.

Kuroda could be a key to the rotation and the club was concerned when word came from Japan that he still had neck pain associated with a bulging disk, presumably a side effect of the liner off his head. But Kuroda said aggressive acupuncture treatment provided relief and he’s been throwing for more than a month.

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  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has a lengthy look at the McCourt divorce situation. Josh Fisher analyzes the piece at Dodger Divorce.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that the Dodgers had above-average pinch-hitting in 2009 despite having more of a platoon disadvantage (righty vs. righty or lefty vs. lefty) than any other NL team.
  • Dodger Thoughts has always hoped for the end of “Suck!” chants at Dodger Stadium, so I heartily agree with this post by Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Blog.
  • John Wooden had a baseball kaffeeklatsch last month with Vin Scully, Joe Torre, Mike Scioscia and others, writes Jay Paris of the North County Times.
  • Ernie Harwell recalls “the voice of the turtle” and other stories from Spring Training in the 1940s-60s (via Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk).