Jul 08

The end of the line for Juan Uribe … or not?

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Bobby Abreu, LF
Juan Rivera, 1B
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B
Elian Herrera, RF
Luis Cruz, SS
Matt Treanor, C
Chris Capuano, P

I didn’t come up with the thought, but quickly I realized it made sense. Presuming that Matt Kemp comes off the disabled list before Friday’s post-All-Star opener against the Padres, Scott Van Slyke will return to Albuquerque. But when Andre Ethier comes off the disabled list, it might mean the end of Juan Uribe’s Dodger career.

Since a second-inning double June 20 at Oakland, Uribe is in the midst of an 0-for-27 slump, with three walks and nine strikeouts. That happens. The problem is that when he hasn’t been slumping … well, Uribe can hardly say he’s ever not been slumping as a Dodger.

If Uribe gets an at-bat today and makes an out, that will leave him with exactly 80 hits in 400 at-bats as a Dodger – a pristine .200 batting average. He has 25 walks and has been hit by more pitches (eight) than he has hit home runs (five). His OPS as a Dodger is .546.

That Uribe, who is still owed $8 million on his contract after this season ends, is still the Dodgers’ best defender at third base has been the lone remaining argument in his favor. However, that saving grace has been weakened by two emerging factors.  One is that Jerry Hairston Jr. has played capable defense at third while swinging a more reliable bat, and the other is that the injury to Dee Gordon has meant that Luis Cruz needs a spot on the Dodger roster.

Unless the Dodgers are willing to start giving Uribe time at shortstop – he played 21 2/3 innings there in 2011 after 103 games for the Giants at short in 2010 – Cruz is staying. That leaves a battle for the final roster spot between Uribe, Elian Herrera and Adam Kennedy.

The choice might seem obvious, but you can’t rule out the possibility of Herrera, who has minor-league options, going back to the Isotopes. He’s been 100 times more fun to watch than Uribe and his versatility is an asset, but once Kemp and Ethier are back in their starting roles, Mark Ellis is re-entrenched at second base and Bobby Abreu, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Juan Rivera are holding down left field, there’s going to be less call for Herrera to roam around the diamond. That’s not to say that he’s without a purpose, but with his own slump to a .326 on-base percentage and .335 slugging, the difference between him, Uribe and Kennedy (.315 OBP, .309 slugging) isn’t overwhelming.

Who will bat leadoff for the Dodgers when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier return?

Dee Gordon is injured, and Tony Gwynn Jr. won’t start often. That leaves Luis Cruz, Bobby Abreu, Jerry Hairston Jr., Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis.

Assuming Dodger manager Don Mattingly still can’t stomach the idea of his catcher leading off a game, I would say Abreu, Hairston and Mark Ellis all have a case. Something tells me, though, that we might see Cruz there as much as anyone.

By optioning Herrera, the Dodgers can put off making a final decision on Uribe or Kennedy, neither of whom can be sent down. The question is whether those decisions need any more putting off. Do the Dodgers see any hope left in Uribe? Before you answer, note that Andruw Jones has an .820 OPS in more than 1,000 plate appearances since the Dodgers got rid of him.

My instinct is to cut Uribe, but I wouldn’t call it an automatic decision. The defense is there, and once Ethier and Kemp are back, you don’t lose much by sending Herrera down and keeping Uribe as a defensive specialist who bats eighth, nor by just getting rid of Kennedy, who doesn’t give you defense or a bat (.617 OPS against right-handed pitching).

The best news is that the Dodgers might finally be healthy enough that they can even make the decision.

* * *

Mar 19

Kuo’s future again uncertain after release by Mariners

Hong-Chih Kuo’s future as a major-leaguer grew darker still today, when he was released by the Seattle Mariners with a 17.55 ERA in six appearances. If he clears waivers, he could end up with any team on a minor-league contract – including the Dodgers, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles notes.

The Dodgers “would be willing to listen if Kuo and his agent, Alan Chang, were to approach them, a team source said on condition of anonymity after Kuo was released on Monday by the Seattle Mariners, for whom he had struggled all spring,” Jackson wrote.

“I think (Kuo) just needs more time,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge told Greg Johns of MLB.com. “You’d see times when he’d find it, but he just wasn’t able to be consistent with it. And with where we are in camp and the decisions we have to make, he just wasn’t going to be part of the puzzle initially.”

* * *

  • Former Great Lakes Loons teammates Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Santana excelled for the Dodgers and Indians today in Cleveland’s 4-3 victory, notes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Kershaw allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings with five strikeouts (but still took the loss), while Santana hit a monster home run off Javy Guerra in the sixth.
  • Jerry Hairston made two more errors at shortstop and is now fielding .556 at the position this spring. Meanwhile, Justin Sellers went 3 for 4.
  • The Stanley Gold-Roy Disney ownership group was reinstated into the bidding for the Dodgers by a mediator, making the quartet of finalists a quintet, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.
  • Dodger Sims looks at different projection systems, including its own, and finds the Dodgers most likely to win between 78 and 82 games this season.
  • From the same source, vote on your favorite Dodgers in a tourney-style bracket here.
  • The Dodgers are one of 19 major-league teams to ban alcohol in their home clubhouse, reports Kevin Baxter of the Times.
  • With Kansas City Royals closer Joakim Soria headed for Tommy John surgery, more will probably be asked of Jonathan Broxton. Either Broxton or Greg Holland will inherit the Royals’ closer spot, writes Dick Kaegel of MLB.com.
  • Jamie Moyer’s bid to make the Colorado starting rotation at age 49 took a blow today when he allowed four runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings against Arizona’s Triple-A team, notes D.J. Short of Hardball Talk.
  • Here’s a nice interview by Alex Belth of Bronx Banter with Paul Haddad, author of High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fernandomania. More audio clips of Vinny, too!
Feb 13

The Emerald City prepares for Hong-Chih Kuo


On the heels of Alex Belth’s feature on Hiroki Kuroda came this piece by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times (via Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.) on new Mariner lefty Hong-Chih Kuo. In the picture that runs with Baker’s article, I can’t say Kuo doesn’t look smart in that Seattle uniform, but maybe I just miss him.

… Kuo had battled a yips problem in 2009, then became arguably the game’s top reliever in 2010 with the Dodgers. In the interim, he’d worked with famed sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman to curtail his throwing issues.

But Dorfman passed away last February at age 75. By April, the yips troubles were once agan starting to overwhelm Kuo. He returned after the first DL stint, struggled again, then went back on the DL in May. I asked Kuo whether Dorfman’s death made it tougher for him to bounce back, since he could no longer phone him up for instant advice.

“Yes, it was hard,” he told me. “But you still have to fix it. It can’t come from somebody else.”

Then, he looked at me and pumped his chest with his fist.

“It has to come from inside here,” he said. “It has to come from inside me.” …

Elsewhere …

  • Ken Gurnick produced a status report on the Dodgers heading into Spring Training for MLB.com.
  • In its latest behind-the-scenes offseason video, ESPN.com checks in on Clayton Kershaw.
  • Dodger Thoughts softball teamer Matt Worland blogged at length about Saturday’s tournament. Here is part one and part two.
  • James Loney doesn’t look so bad, or as bad, now that the quality of National League first basemen has declined, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Twice-baked Dodger pitcher Jon Garland (remembered by Dodger Thoughts here) has signed a minor-league deal with Cleveland. He earned a $5 million base salary from the Dodgers in 2011.
  • Bob Timmermann posted a great historical piece on the Sports Arena at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence. I’d call it a must-read for any local sports fan.
  • More history: Mary Mallory of the Daily Mirror looks back at Eaton’s Rancho, which one sat at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard, currently home to a McDonald’s.
  • A soundtrack for season two of Treme goes on sale April 17 (and has just been added to my wish list). Here’s a link to the season-one soundtrack.
Jan 29

The future of Hong-Chih Kuo

Been meaning to wonder aloud about Hong-Chih Kuo, who remains unsigned with February just around the corner. The Dodgers declined to offer salary arbitration to Kuo for obvious reasons following his massive struggles in 2011, but the memory of his 2010 dominance makes him a good guy to have at Spring Training on a low- or no-guarantee contract. A small item in this Nick Cafardo notebook in the Boston Globe (via MLB Trade Rumors) indicates that a few teams feel the same, and Kuo could be signing somewhere soon. Los Angeles? I don’t know …

Dec 12

Dodgers retain Loney, part ways with Kuo (for now)


Kyle Terada/US PresswireFarewell, new old friend.

As expected, the Dodgers have tendered 2012 contract offers to Clayton Kershaw, Andre Ethier and James Loney but not to Hong-Chih Kuo, who stood to make anywhere from $2.5 million to $3.5 million next season despite his uncertain condition.

The Dodgers can still pursue the much-admired Kuo as a free agent. We haven’t gotten particularly clear signals since the season ended as to whether Kuo would be inclined to return to Los Angeles at a discount.

For more … Remembering 2011: Hong-Chih Kuo

Oct 28

Sue Falsone to take larger training role with Dodgers

Sue Falsone became the first Major League Baseball female physical therapist in 2007 with the Dodgers, then shifted to a consultant role in February. Now, Stephania Bell of ESPN.com reports, the Dodgers have hired Falsone as their new head physical therapist/athletic trainer and will announce it next week. The move, Bell writes, will make Falsone “the first woman to serve as head athletic trainer or head physical therapist of a team in any of the four major professional sports leagues.”

Stan Conte, who has been the Dodgers’ director of medical services and head trainer for five seasons, is expected to remain with the Dodgers, though it’s not entirely clear what the delegation of responsibilities between him and Falsone will be. Assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk recently left the Dodgers for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Update: Bell sent me the following in an e-mail … “As far as her role with the Dodgers, I confirmed that she has always been a consultant since 2007, although between 2008-10 she did have an increased role and traveled with the team, which she did not do this year. But she has always been a consultant to them … until now where she will be formally hired.”

* * *

  • Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series had the Fall Classic’s best-ever single-game WPA (win probability added, a stat that measures how much a player’s performance contributes to a team’s victory, taking into account the situations in which a player bats)  – until Thursday, when David Freese topped him, according to Baseball-Reference Blog.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo’s “tale of perseverance” is recapped by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs.
  • Jim Mills writes at MLB.com about an exchange of letters in 1956 between Don Newcombe and Mills’ father, who defended Newcombe against racist name-callers in the stands in Philadelphia.
  • This might be the blog post of the year, from Sam Miller of the Orange County Register for The Score. Confession: My family ate Taco Bell last night.
Oct 26

Dodger TV rights hearing postponed, but to what end?

The rumors were flying today that the one-month postponement of the winner-take-all bankruptcy court hearing on Frank McCourt’s ability to prematurely sell the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights (what a mouthful that was) was actually a sign that a deal was being forged that would facilitate McCourt selling the franchise. (See ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times for more.)

What’s clear is that talks have been taking place, what’s unclear is whether there was any real momentum behind the talks. And so, there’s no way of knowing whether the next month might see the happy revelation of closure, or whether it will just be 30 more days tacked onto our painful waiting game.

Elsewhere …

  • Hong-Chih Kuo is going to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body (no, this isn’t a Halloween joke) in his left elbow. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Dodger training chief Stan Conte about the situation. Kuo is planning to try to pitch in 2012, but while he is certain to be made a free agent by the Dodgers, they’re still as good a bet as anyone to try to re-sign him to a discounted contract.
  • Maury Wills is the subject of a story in the Times that illustrates what a longshot he was to make the majors with this anecdote: In 1959, Topps chose not to pay Wills the grand total of $5 for the rights to have him on a baseball card.
  • How overdue are the Dodgers for a World Series compared to other teams? Check the list at Cy Morong’s Cybermetrics.
Oct 26

Remembering 2011: Hong-Chih Kuo


Kirby Lee/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo (29)

The setup: Coming off his spectacular 2010 (1.20 ERA, .211 opposing on-base percentage, 73 strikeouts in 60 innings and a career-high 56 games) and three years removed from his most recent surgery, Kuo was expected to be an integral, if not the most integral, component to the Dodger bullpen.

The closeup: It was a bruising season for Kuo.

He lasted fewer than three weeks before he landed on the disabled list April 16 with a lower back strain, related to problems we would learn had been with him since the season began. That, at the time, seemed to explain why Kuo had walked four in 2 2/3 innings of a shaky start to 2011. Kuo returned to active duty May 1, only to be charged with four runs on a walk, a hit batter and two singles in one-third of an inning that night, though three of those runners scored with Mike MacDougal on the mound. Kuo’s ERA soared to 15.00; it would never drop below 8.00 at any point in the remainder of the year.

Only 10 days later, on May 11, Kuo went back to the disabled list, but not for physical reasons. Officially sidelined by “anxiety disorder,” Kuo was the subject of a piece by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in late June:

… Kuo, who turns 30 next month, is one of the game’s top left-handed relievers when healthy. But he has undergone four elbow operations and battled the “yips” — an inability to throw the ball with accuracy — in 2009. In early May, during a series in Pittsburgh, he told Conte he no longer could pitch due to his anxiety.

Conte, after receiving permission from Kuo, spoke at length about the pitcher’s condition.

“The analogy I use is if you’re scared of small places, you’re claustrophobic and you’re scared of snakes. But you’re really good at catching those snakes, and they ask you every day to walk into a small, closed window-less room to grab them,” Conte said.

“They bite you. It hurts. But you’re the best in the world at doing it and they pay you a lot of money to do it. And every day it becomes worse and worse. It makes you believe you can’t do it, not for glory, not for fame, not for money.

“That’s how he was in Pittsburgh. He was like a guy in water who couldn’t float and begging to get out of the water. It was very emotional, the way he was begging us not to put him out there.” …

When Kuo came back on June 21, it still wasn’t with any sort of consistency, allowing at least one run or one inherited run in 14 of 31 appearances through the end of the season. He could still strike batters out at an incredible rate – 36 in 27 innings – but he couldn’t be relied upon to do so without putting a bunch on base.

In September, Kuo did have two games in which he pitched two shutout innings. The first, on September 2, earned him his only victory of the season. The second, on September 24, lowered his season ERA to exactly 9.00. Kuo, who had allowed 48 baserunners in 60 innings the year before, finished with 49 in 27 innings this time.

Coming attractions: Entering the offseason, Kuo figured to become a free agent based on the assumption that the Dodgers will not tender him a contract that would commit them to paying well over $2 million in 2012. Though Kuo himself speculated to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that he might retire, he was planning to pitch in a series of exhibition games against major-leaguers in his native Taiwan – only to come down with left-elbow discomfort, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.

If and when he’s ready to resume his major-league career, Kuo (like Hiroki Kuroda) might decide he’s only comfortable doing so with the Dodgers, who could re-sign him for a lower base salary after non-tendering him. It is a very uncertain future for Kuo in baseball to say the least, but I’ll always be struck by how Dodger fans, who can be a bitterly impatient lot when it comes to struggling players, always seemed to stand by Kuo no matter how bad it got. Signed by the organization in 1999 and a battler almost every day since, sidelined by the first of two Tommy John surgeries after his very first game in the minors in 2000, Kuo has earned tons of respect from this community.

Jun 27

Clayton Kershaw named NL Player of the Week

Deuces wild: Clayton Kershaw’s week consisted of two complete games, two runs and 22 strikeouts, and in so doing, he became the National League’s one and only player of the week.

Elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports had a nice piece on Hong-Chih Kuo’s battle with anxiety disorder.

… (Stan) Conte, after receiving permission from Kuo, spoke at length about the pitcher’s condition.

“The analogy I use is if you’re scared of small places, you’re claustrophobic and you’re scared of snakes. But you’re really good at catching those snakes, and they ask you every day to walk into a small, closed window-less room to grab them,” Conte said.

“They bite you. It hurts. But you’re the best in the world at doing it and they pay you a lot of money to do it. And every day it becomes worse and worse. It makes you believe you can’t do it, not for glory, not for fame, not for money. …

Jun 21

Kemp has 20-20 vision, Kuo looks perfect in Dodgers’ third-straight win

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireIn his first at-bat since returning to Los Angeles, A.J. Ellis drives in the Dodgers’ first run.

The third feel-good three-game winning streak for the Dodgers is here, with these highlights coming from a 6-1 victory over Detroit:

  • Hong-Chih Kuo returning to action for the first time since May 9 and throwing a nine-pitch perfect inning.
  • Matt Kemp stealing two bases to reach 20 homers and 20 steals in his 75th game this season.
  • A Dodger offense that gave Detroit starter Max Scherzer fits, with six runs on 11 baserunners in six innings.
  • A.J. Ellis reaching base twice in his first start since April, raising his season on-base percentage to .435.
  • Two times on base each as well for James Loney, Aaron Miles, Juan Uribe and Tony Gwynn Jr.
  • Andre Ethier hitting his seventh home run of the year, on a 3-0 pitch.
  • Back-to-back RBI doubles by Trent Oeltjen and Dee Gordon.
  • Chad Billingsley allowing one run in his first five innings, before running into trouble in the sixth.
  • Mike MacDougal overcoming us cynics by inducing a double play with the bases loaded in relief of Billingsley.
  • The Dodgers’ ERA this week: 0.33 so far, with one run, 12 hits and six walks against 28 strikeouts in 27 innings.
  • For the second night in a row, a Dodger pitcher (Blake Hawksworth) struck out the side in the ninth.
  • Up in San Francisco, the Giants giving up eight runs before getting their second out of the game in a 9-2 loss to Minnesota.

The Dodgers will go for their first three-game sweep of a series and four-game winning streak of the season Wednesday afternoon.

Jun 10

Oh, and just for kicks … Matt Kemp, Triple Crown candidate

NL Batting Average
.336 Joey Votto, CIN
.335 Andre Ethier, LAD
.335 Jose Reyes, NYM
.331 Lance Berkman, STL
.329 Matt Kemp, LAD

NL Home Runs
18 Matt Kemp, LAD
17 Prince Fielder, MIL
17 Jay Bruce, CIN
15 Lance Berkman, STL
14 Albert Pujols, STL

NL Runs Batted In
55 Prince Fielder, MIL
53 Matt Kemp, LAD
48 Ryan Howard, PHI
47 Jay Bruce, CIN
45 Lance Berkman, STL

The odds are slim – he’s at his hottest and still only leading in one category. But still, pretty impressive.

* * *

  • The saga of Vin Scully’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame continues. As Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News reports, Southern California native Glenn Mingay is leading an effort to raise $2,500 needed to restore Scully’s star to proper condition at Save Vin Scully’s Star.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball reviewed the Dodger draft. Summary: “You can see the money limits here, but this isn’t a total disaster. Reed, Maynard, and O’Sullivan are all interesting, and there’s a mixture of solid college performers and high-upside, high-risk bets as well. It could have been a lot worse. But it wasn’t good, and the development staff has a lot of work to do with these raw guys.”
  • Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen had encouraging rehab assignment debuts, writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but the forecast looks much more grim for Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland. “Padilla has a bulging disk in his neck, a recurrence of a condition that limited him to one start in six weeks last year,” reports Gurnick. “Garland has what has been described as shoulder inflammation, but sounds a lot more like a labrum or rotator cuff tear.”
  • Bill Plaschke of the Times talked to Kuo after his appearance and writes admiringly of the pitcher’s efforts, but says he still seems unsettled.
  • Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Albuquerque, but they have the right to refuse the assignments and become free agents (or retire, which some have speculated Castro will do). This makes moot the confusion over why the Dodgers designated Gibbons for assignment three days before optioning Jerry Sands, but the fact remains that the Dodgers no longer believe in Gibbons. “Gibby wasn’t giving us enough to basically have a guy that’s pretty much one-dimensional,” Don Mattingly told Dylan Hernandez of the Times. “He’s not going to steal a bag for you. You have to defend for him.”
  • Dee Gordon’s speed is the real deal, but the little guy is still going to need to improve his ability to hit line drives to succeed, argues Bill Petti of Beyond the Box Score.
  • Tough realities: The Times is killing my favorite blog of theirs, historical chronicle Daily Mirror, because of low readership (criminally low readership, I’d say). That site was a pure treasure trove, with the latest treat being a series of reprints of Jim Murray columns in this, the 50th anniversary of his Times debut. Larry Harnisch and Keith Thursby put huge amounts of time and energy into the Daily Mirror, and I just want to thank them.
May 25

Hong-Chih Kuo making progress

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has an update on Hong-Chih Kuo:

… (Kuo) appears to have regained his command while throwing off a mound at the team’s spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz.

“He has been throwing a lot,” Dodgers manager Ned Colletti said. “He is at about 90 percent intensity and having no problems with his command. We’ll see where we go from here.”

Colletti said Kuo eventually will face hitters in extended spring-training games, but that there is no target date for that to happen, nor is there a target date for Kuo to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment, which would be a necessary precursor to him coming off the disabled list and rejoining the Dodgers bullpen. …

Elsewhere …

May 11

With Kuo headed for disabled list, Kuroda’s shutout pitching lifts Dodgers


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo has struck out eight of the 27 batters he has faced this season, while allowing 12 baserunners.

As far as the result of tonight’s game goes – a 2-0 shutout of Pittsburgh – as long as Hiroki Kuroda is pitching shutout ball for seven innings, not even giving in when he wild-pitched the tying runs into scoring position in bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers will do just fine.  Now if Kuroda had committed the unforgivable sin of allowing two runs in his seven innings, it might have been another story …

But the bigger news of the day wasn’t the Dodgers’ doubling their win streak to two, or Andre Ethier extending his on-base streak to 35 games, or Jerry Sands’ RBI double following an intentional walk to Rod Barajas and his sub-.300 on-base percentage.

It was Hong-Chih Kuo being placed on the disabled list for the second time this season and sixth time in his career, for a period that is expected to be significantly longer than the 15-day minimum. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… The official reason for the move was anxiety disorder, something that wasn’t revealed by the club until 20 minutes before Wednesday night’s game with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, well after media access to the clubhouse and manager Don Mattingly was customarily cut off until postgame.

In announcing the move to the media earlier, Mattingly was conspicuously vague in describing what is wrong with Kuo.

“There isn’t much of the story I can really share with you today,” Mattingly said. “We’re just kind of waiting at this point for approval from Major League Baseball on the verbiage … that we want to basically talk about.” …

… Through Monday, Kuo had pitched three times in four days. For the season, he has an uncharacteristic 11.57 ERA in nine appearances and an even more uncharacteristic six walks in 4 2/3 innings, albeit with eight strikeouts. Kuo said Tuesday that he felt fine physically and that he wasn’t sure why he had been struggling so much with his command, and Mattingly said Tuesday that Kuo continued to tell team officials he felt fine physically.“When you’re talking about Kuo, he is basically always hurting,” Mattingly said Wednesday. “It’s just at what level. His elbow is always hurting. It never goes away, really. It’s just how much he can deal with. It is always there. … When I say he doesn’t complain, it means that in talking with [trainer] Stan [Conte], when he says he is good to go, that means he can deal with it. His ‘I’m OK to go’ is different than being 100 percent.

“But he isn’t good to go [now].”

Mattingly offered a definitive “no,” when asked if Kuo was retiring, but he was noncommittal on whether Kuo might pitch again anytime soon. …

Kuo’s career has always been living on a thin line, and my appreciation for how much he has contributed to the team knows few bounds. I’m betting we haven’t seen the last of him, but there’s just no telling when we’ll see him on the mound again.

Called up to replace Kuo is a man whose career hit a mighty big speed bump of its own last year, Scott Elbert. Elbert has got his strikeouts going, and will do as well as his control allows. Here’s more from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

… In 14 1/3 innings, Elbert has issued nine walks with 16 strikeouts. Seven of his eight earned runs allowed have come in two appearances.

He said his problems generally occurred when he was asked to pitch a second inning of relief.

“Mentally, I was prepared for one inning, which was my fault,” he said. “I should be prepared for anything.”

Elbert has had six previous Major League callups, but he said this one is different.

“I feel more relaxed,” he said. “It’s something that comes with maturity and nature, if that’s what it means to be special,” he said. “I’m not a new face to them. I’m not working to try to do too much. Let them hit it and put it in play. I’ve grown up a little bit. A lot of it is seeing my two kids and having patience with them.

“I just have to be myself and not worry what anybody else things about me. It’s part of growing up.” …

The Dodgers still might be forced to make another bullpen promotion, if Blake Hawksworth can’t make a quick recovery from his groin injury (an MRI, reports Jackson, showed nothing serious).

May 09

Ned Colletti has not repeated Bradley-for-Ethier magic

The trade of Milton Bradley (and Antonio Perez) for Andre Ethier has often been cited as a great, maybe even the greatest, achievement by Ned Colletti as a Dodger general manager. What was impressive about the yield is that everyone knew that Colletti was under orders from up top (with the support of much of the Dodger fanbase, it should be said) to unload Bradley, after the outfielder reached the point of no return in his tumultuous two years with the Dodgers. It was the kind of trade that could easily have netted a prospect that would never sniff the majors.

The news comes up again because Bradley, who has generated a .649 OPS and lots of angst in his two seasons with Seattle, has been designated for assignment by the Mariners, possibly signaling the end of his major-league career.

My purpose is not to talk about Bradley, who has been discussed here at great length, but just point out how rare it has been that Colletti has ever tried to repeat the method of this trade — exchanging a veteran in his 20s, at or near his peak value, for prospects that could contribute down the road. (Bradley was 27 and coming off a .835 OPS season when Colletti traded him for Ethier in December 2005.)

Looking quickly at the Dodgers’ transaction logs on Baseball-Reference.com, I can’t find one similar deal in the Colletti era. The closest might be the trade of Juan Pierre for John Ely and Jon Link before the 2010 season, but Pierre was already 32 and into his decline phase when the trade occurred. If you want to make a case to include this, I won’t stop you, but I’m not sure it qualifies.

It might come as no surprise that a team that regularly contends for the playoffs, like the Dodgers have under Colletti, has arguably not made a single boffo trade for a highly regarded prospect — even one who could have as much near-term impact as Ethier, who was in the majors months after the trade. But it’s interesting. We used to wonder whether Colletti would use any of the Dodgers’ exciting young players to get a proven veteran — will he ever again use a proven veteran to get any exciting young players? It did work for him before.

* * *

Bud Selig spoke to ESPN 1050 AM radio in New York about the Dodgers today:

… Selig was asked why he approved the deal that sold the Dodgers to McCourt in 2004 in the first place. Ironically, Fox had held controlling interest of the club beforehand.

“I’ll tell you what happened. There’s a lot of history here, which a lot of people don’t seem to understand,” Selig said. “There were two other bidders. Fox was anxious to get rid of the team. They were all really anxious. I’ll tell you what happened. There were a couple of groups: A group led by Dave Checketts and another group. And for whatever reason, they weren’t around at the end, so Fox sold the club to the McCourts and presented them to us. So this idea that we ought to examine ourselves, there was nobody else. We have a long relationship with Fox. There were no other bidders.” …

Selig said that MLB has added former Pittsburgh Pirates COO Richard Freeman to its team monitoring the Dodgers.

* * *

Dodger minor-leaguer Dee Gordon can be seen scoring from first base with Roadrunner speed on a sacrifice bunt and an error, in this video posted by Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. Albuquerque Isotopes play-by-play man Robert Portnoy has the call.

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From the In Case You Missed It file: the torpedoes have been damned, and back-to-back outings for Hong-Chih Kuo have been approved. Hope for the best …

May 01

Kuo activated, Jansen sent to Chattanooga


Harry How/Getty ImagesAaron Miles and the Dodgers will try to get back on their feet today

The first part of the headline is the most important: The Dodgers get Hong-Chih Kuo back after a minor-league rehab appearance Friday (his third) in which he allowed no runs or walks and struck out two. But the more curious aspect is the second part, in which the Dodgers optioned reliever Kenley Jansen to Triple-A rather than cut loose back-of-the-bullpen reliever Lance Cormier. (Update: The Dodgers later issued a correction saying that Jansen has gone down to Double-A Chattanooga.)

Jansen has had two certifiably terrible outings, one April 2, the other April 19. But in has past three games, covering 4 2/3 innings, Jansen has allowed no hits, walked two and struck out nine. That makes Jansen the Dodgers’ most effective reliever over the past week.

If this small sample size were all that Jansen had going for him, that’d be one thing, but the two bad outings in April are much more of an aberration in the Jansen oeuvre than what he’s done recently. Jansen’s career numbers remain strong: 2.90 ERA, 49 baserunners vs. 63 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers want Jansen to develop a secondary pitch, and that the Dodgers value Cormier’s role as a mop-up man, which is as damned with faint praise as you get. So what this boils down to is the Dodgers breaking more eggs in their bullpen, in the hopes that they’ll bake a better cake in the long term. It’s not the end of the world, but Jansen will be missed.

As long as Cormier’s sticking around, can I suggest again that the Dodgers use the right-handed Cormier more against left-handed batters, a group he continues to have the most success against?

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