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 27

Chicken soup for the soul: Ethier lifts Dodgers, 2-0


Gregory Bull/APAndre Ethier breaks a scoreless tie in the seventh inning with a two-run, pinch-hit single.

Too sick to start Tuesday’s game in San Diego, Andre Ethier made the Padres feel ill in their showdown with the Dodgers.

Ethier, a late scratch from the starting lineup with the flu, came off the bench in the seventh inning to deliver a two-run single – all the medicine the Dodgers needed to come away with a 2-0 victory.

Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland each pitched shutout ball through six innings, though both starting pitchers had one inning of major tightrope-walking in that time. In the bottom of the fourth, three singles loaded the bases before Billingsley retired the next three batters on a groundout, popout and strikeout. In the top of the sixth, with runners on first and second, Garland nabbed Rafael Furcal, Xavier Paul and Matt Kemp on 3-2 pitches.

But the pivotal moment came in the seventh inning, when Blake DeWitt (on an 0-2 pitch) and Garret Anderson singled with two out. Padres manager Bud Black forced the Dodgers hand, walking Russell Martin (1 for 2) intentionally. That caused Joe Torre to have the flu-stricken Ethier pinch-hit for Billingsley, even though the righty had thrown only 84 pitches. (Billingsley lowered his ERA to 4.00 on the season by extending his scoreless inning string to 15 tonight – remarkably, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed one earned run in their past 43 innings.)

It was an echo of Friday’s game, when Torre pinch-hit for Vicente Padilla despite a low pitch count. But this time, with Garland left in to pitch despite lefty Joe Thatcher warming in the bullpen, Ethier grounded a 1-1 pitch hard, just past a diving Everth Cabrera, driving home the first two runs of the game.

That put the game in the hands of the Dodger bullpen, starting with Hong-Chih Kuo. Despite being interrupted by a single and a Casey Blake error, Kuo struck out the side. After throwing 20 pitches that inning, Kuo came out in the eighth to face Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez and struck him out on three pitches. He faced Chase Headley, and struck him out on three pitches. He threw two more strikes to Yorvit Torrealba before finally missing, and then gave up a single. On his season-high 34th pitch, Kuo got Will Venable to ground out, taking the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Jonathan Broxton breezed through the first two hitters on three pitches. That brought up his nemesis, Matt Stairs, with a .597 OPS this season. Broxton missed with his first three pitches, but came back to strike Stairs out and bounce off the mound with the save.

First step. The Dodgers were held to two runs or less for the eight time in 12 games since the All-Star break, but they closed their gap in the National League West to five games. Los Angeles remained 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the NL wild card.

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.

Jul 22

Carlos Monasterios to start Saturday


Courtesy Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010 Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt hang on before Wednesday’s game.

Carlos Monasterios will start Saturday, Joe Torre told reporters today. I’m not sure what makes Monasterios, who staggered through his last few starts, a better option than James McDonald, but I’ve decided not to fret over it for now.

Torre also said that Hong-Chih Kuo has been “lobbying” to pitch on back-to-back days, which helps explain why, for better or worse, he warmed up Wednesday. That being said, Kuo might be rested tonight, but Jonathan Broxton is available.

Reed Johnson’s back has not improved enough for the Dodgers to say when he’ll be activated from the disabled list.

* * *

Dodger Stadium organist Nancy Bea Hefley will have increased playing time Friday as part of the team’s “55 since ’55″ promotion, and Dodgerfan.net will provide on-the-scene coverage. Looking forward to it!

* * *

Tonight, the Dodgers will play their 857th consecutive home game since their last rainout, on April 17, 2000, breaking their previous record of 856 set from April 26, 1988–April 10, 1999.

Also, tonight’s matchup of Hiroki Kuroda and Hisanori Takahashi is the sixth between Japanese-born starting pitchers in MLB history.

* * *

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Chris Dickerson

Thought this was an interesting piece by Dave Campbell of The Associated Press (posted on Farther Off the Wall): Reds outfielder Chris Dickerson is trying to make baseball more green through an organization he co-founded with Jack Cassel, Players for the Planet.

… There is a certain insular, indulgent culture in the sports world that can create hurdles for social causes like this to take hold. Sometimes, they’re masked as mere symbolic gestures and goodwill-generating promotions for teams. The sheer enormity of stadiums makes it difficult to keep carbon footprints small. Players can get caught up in the big-league lifestyle.

“It’s hard to get just any athlete and even then, they’re like, ‘I love what you’re doing, but I can’t really endorse it because I’m driving a big truck and I have a huge house,’” Dickerson said. “So some of the things these athletes do aren’t necessarily a green lifestyle. They like the idea, but they’re not necessarily that green. I think that’s why a lot of them are hesitant to be part of it.”

Dickerson praised the use of solar power at Fenway Park in Boston and Progressive Field in Cleveland as progressive ideas he’d like to see replicated more throughout the majors. He pointed to supportive e-mails and letters he has received as examples of momentum. He also insisted real change can be accomplished in easy steps.

“That’s the message we’re trying to get across: It doesn’t have to be a huge shift in your daily lifestyle,” Dickerson said. “It’s little things like getting a recycle bin, turning off all the lights when you leave your house, trying to cut down on your air conditioning, using compact fluorescent light bulbs.”

Dickerson even has a sign above his locker that says, “Trees are for hugging.” …

Jul 13

Count it for Broxton and the NL: 3-1


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Brian McCann shake on it.

Coast to coast, Jonathan Broxton naysayers revved their engines as he came out to save for the National League against the American League in tonight’s All-Star game.

And coast to coast Broxton silenced them, at least until the fall.

Whether Broxton truly stripped away any of the cynics’ ammunition in preserving the NL’s 3-1 victory – the NL’s first victory since 1996 – is doubtful. If the Dodgers are fortunate enough to play in October, the doubters will surely return, because past success has never slowed the cynics before.

But considering the alternative, Team Broxton will take it.

“It felt awesome,” a smiling Broxton told Fox’s Eric Karros after the game.

Employed as closer by the manager who profited from Broxton’s twin NLCS disappointments, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel, Broxton raised the stakes with his first pitch, lined to right field by David Ortiz. That brought up former Dodger Adrian Beltre, in his first All-Star game. Broxton blew Beltre away on three fastballs between 97 and 99 miles per hour.

Broxton then started John Buck off with three balls that missed, followed by two fastballs for strikes. Buck hit the next pitch as a blooper to right, and it looked like the NL would be victimized by their maligned outfield defense. But Marlon Byrd fielded the ball on a bounce and quickly and alertly fired to Rafael Furcal covering second base for a 9-6 forceout – a huge play that wiped out what would have been an unlucky hit.

Ian Kinsler then hit a high fly to center field, which Chris Young of Arizona gloved for the final out. And Broxton could wear the All-Star S across his big chest.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Hong-Chih Kuo

Short of a blown save for Broxton, a Kuworst-case scenario seemed to be ripening for Dodger fans midgame, when Hong-Chih Kuo walked the leadoff American League batter in the fifth inning, made a throwing error that put runners at first and third and then surrendered a deep sacrifice fly that scored the game’s first run.

But Brian McCann provided the relief (if sadly reminding us that we used to think Russell Martin was a better-hitting catcher not too long ago) with a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning, taking Kuo off the hook.

McCann also relieved himself, if you will, from an earlier disappointment. In the top of the fifth, Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier (1 for 2) had a chance to be a hero when he lined a single to right field with David Wright on second base. But the ball was hit too hard for Wright to be sent home. Corey Hart struck out, and McCann then flied out to strand the two runners.

Kuo faced four batters and retired two, throwing 18 pitches. Furcal walked in his only plate appearance, before getting in position to complete the key play of the game in the ninth.

Jul 13

Another Yankee titan passes

Farewell, George Steinbrenner. Friday at Yankee Stadium, they’ll be mourning both Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. That’s going to be quite a night.

The great Alex Belth has a remembrance of George Steinbrenner at SI.com.

* * *

  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the fun story of Hong-Chih Kuo interviewing All-Star Dodgers about Hong-Chih Kuo.
  • Manny Ramirez went 0 for 9 with five strikeouts in three rehab games with Inland Empire, but hey …
  • Joe Torre on Matt Kemp, to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus: “Everyone thought I was punishing Matt, but it was just clear to me that he was pressing and needed to take a few days to clear his head and get his confidence back. There are no statistics to tell you how a guy is feeling on the inside, but I don’t think there was any question that Matt wasn’t in the right frame of mind. We all want to be perfect, and sometimes Matt has a hard time coming to grips with the fact that nobody is perfect. He holds everything inside and always tells you everything is all right, but it can’t always be all right and it wasn’t all right with him. However, I see him being back to the old Matt Kemp now. He’s playing with confidence again and that’s only going to make us an even better team for the second half of the season.”
  • The trade market for starting pitching gets a thorough analysis from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. The options probably won’t bowl you over. Meanwhile, I contributed a very short, on-the-fly comment about Ted Lilly to View From the Bleachers, saying that I wouldn’t want the Dodgers to give up much for him.
  • Baseball-Reference.com looks at the Hall of Fame case for Kevin Brown. The ultimate conclusion seems to be “no,” but the “yes” case might surprise you.

Update: Meant to mention this above: Alex Rodriguez has an acting role in the upcoming Mila Kunis-Justin Timberlake film, “Friends With Benefits,” reports Tatiana Siegel of Variety. My understanding is that he’s not playing himself.

Jun 29

Trade Don Drysdale!


AP
Don Drysdale, March 1959

Fifty years ago, this was the hot trade rumor of the day, according to Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror: Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider to the Yankees for Tony Kubek, Elston Howard, Ryne Duren and Johnny James. Buzzie Bavasi shot it down. (The link  also takes you to a feature on baseball stats godfather Allan Roth.)

Hodges and Snider were near the end of their careers, but Drysdale was only 23. He was coming off a 3.46 ERA in the 1959 title season, but he ran into a slump, posting a 7.11 ERA in 31 2/3 innings over seven appearances (six starts), only one of them a quality start.

Don Drysdale a Yankee. Gosh, it must’ve seemed like such a good idea to dump the kid at the time. All I need to find is one article calling him a head case or mental midget and my year will be complete.

  • Matt Kemp will return to the Dodger starting lineup tonight, Joe Torre told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Testimonials for Don Mattingly come in this article by Gideon Rubin for the Daily News from former teammate Dave Righetti and current Dodger Jeff Weaver. “There’s one thing that he’s about, and that’s hard work,” Weaver said. “He communicates well, and the guys respect him.”
  • Ten managerial candidates to consider have been conveniently offered by John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus. Mattingly is on the list, along with Alex Cora’s brother Joey, former Dodger Ron Roenicke  and one-time Dodger candidate (before Paul DePodesta was fired) Torey Luvullo.
  • Lucas May singled, doubled and homered twice for Albuquerque on Monday.
  • Carlos Monasterios has taken a walk on the rehab trail. He allowed five runs (four earned) on nine baserunners while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings. Three of the runs came on a first-inning homer. “I thought Monasterios threw the ball pretty well,” Isotopes manager Tim Wallach told Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner. “The home run he gave up in the first was probably a bit of an Albuquerque home run.”
  • James McDonald will return to the Albuquerque active roster Thursday, Jackson reports.
  • I make the case for Hong-Chih Kuo’s inclusion on the National League All-Star Team at Rob Neyer’s Sweet Spot blog at ESPN.com.
  • How do you solve a problem like George Sherrill? Ask Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Joe Posnanski is looking for your nominations for top sports books.

Update: Adrian Beltre tells Alex Speier of WEEI the story of how he became an underage signee of the Dodgers, and the fallout that ensued. (via MLB Trade Rumors)

Jun 26

Fun for the whole family: Dodgers 9, Yankees 4


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Rafael Furcal had three hits, three runs and a dazzler at shortstop.

On a night they had 11 hits and drew 10 walks, there were many moments of pleasure for the Dodgers in tonight’s 9-4 victory. For example, the Dodgers took a haymaker in the top of the first inning when Hiroki Kuroda struggled with control and gave up two walks and a home run to the first three batters, but Rafael Furcal got the Dodgers off the mat. It was just a simple single to left, but it started to take the sting out right away.

Furcal also ended the night with an exclamation point, making a full-flung diving stop of Robinson Cano’s grounder up the middle, bouncing to his feet and firing to first in time to end the game.

In between, Manny Ramirez reached base four times, and James Loney drove in four runs.

But when I think of everything that happened tonight, what gave me the most pleasure was Hong-Chih Kuo. With the tying runs on base and one out in the top of the sixth inning, Kuo blew away Derek Jeter on strikes and then got Jorge Posada to fly out. Then in the seventh, Kuo came back and retired Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Cano. Five Yankees, 18 pitches, no contest. Kuo showed the nation how great his stuff is, and it felt sweet.

The Dodgers have evened it up with the Yankees, and go for bragging rights Sunday with Clayton Kershaw.

* * *

Message to Fox: There’s a line between an acceptable amount of in-game interviews and an excessive amount. And it’s not a fine line. It’s a line that can be seen from Saturn. You guys crossed it. This is not a latenight talk show – it’s a baseball game.

* * *

From Vin Scully at John Wooden’s public memorial today:

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives. The triumph of life is to live hopefully, kindly, cheerful, reverent and to keep the heart unwrinkled. The coach kept his heart unwrinkled. He was truly triumphant.”

Jun 16

Dodgers win a close rout, 6-2


Al Behrman/AP
Dude – nice work.

Clayton Kershaw didn’t walk anyone in the first inning. Or the second, the third, the fourth or the fifth.

In the bottom of the sixth, the first moment he pitched when the game wasn’t close, he walked the leadoff batter.

Pitching is such a mystery, isn’t it? And so is baseball, for that matter.

For a game the Dodgers just about ran away with and eventually won, 6-2, there were more than a few tense moments. The Dodgers would get up, but never too far up. They’d be in peril, then escape like Bugs Bunny.

They’d break a 0-0 tie with two runs in the fifth inning on yet another James Loney double, but strand runners on second and third with one out. They’d give up a fourth-inning single with a runner on second, only for Manny Ramirez to throw the guy out at home. They’d enter that bottom of the sixth with a 5-0 lead, but would escape the none-out, bases-loaded inning only thanks to a controversial, two-ejection strikeout.

The bottom of the eighth might have been most vexing of all. With a 5-1 lead, Joe Torre had Clayton Kershaw bat for himself in the top of the inning despite being past the 100-pitch mark, then removed him from the game following a one-out error by Blake DeWitt. Two relievers and two baserunners later (including a Hong-Chih Kuo walk to load the bases), the Dodgers used a line-drive double play, Rafael Furcal unassisted, to amscray.

In the ninth, with the Dodgers up 6-1, Kuo gave up his first run since April 22 on the first homer he allowed since Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, before getting the final out on a lunging catch by Matt Kemp, but that was a pocket full of posies compared to what had preceded. And so on a night that Andre Ethier singled twice and hit a three-run homer, that Loney had two more hits to raise his OPS to .810, that Manny Ramirez homered for the third time in seven games, that Kershaw lowered his ERA to 2.96 with 7 1/3 innings of seven-hit, seven-strikeout, one-run and yes, one-mystery-walk pitching, the Dodgers ran away with the victory … and hid. So close to disappointment, instead it’s two straight victories over the NL Central leaders and, once again, the best record in the National League. They’ll take it.

* * *

Happiness is a married bullpen catcher: A love story involving former Dodger Jason Phillips, culminating in a bullpen wedding ceremony, told by Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times (via Baseball Think Factory).

Apr 03

Dodgers’ Opening Day roster almost set

With Jeff Weaver, Ramon Ortiz and Garret Anderson added to the Opening Day roster Friday, the Dodgers have 23 of their 25.

Starting pitchers (5): Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Charlie Haeger

Relief pitchers (5): Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso, Jeff Weaver, Ramon Ortiz

Starting lineup (8): Russell Martin, James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier

Bench (5): Jamey Carroll, Ronnie Belliard, Brad Ausmus, Reed Johnson, Garret Anderson

Carlos Monasterios is all but a lock for a sixth bullpen spot, bringing the team to 24.

A.J. Ellis would sub in for either Martin or Ausmus should a last-minute health issue flare up, but otherwise is headed to Albuquerque, where Chin-Lung Hu (who made an ugly error to allow the winning run to score in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Angels) and Xavier Paul will be among his teammates.

Luis Ayala and Justin Miller were sent to the minors Friday.

Barring a last-minute recovery by Hong-Chih Kuo, that leaves pitcher Russ Ortiz and infielder-turned-utility man Nick Green contending for the title of Mr. Irrevelant – the 25th man that no one actually wants to see in a game. (I’d be pretty happy to see Kuo on the roster, even if he’s only pitching once every week to 10 days, over Ortiz or Green.)

Normally, you’d expect a Joe Torre-managed Dodger team to go with at least 12 pitchers. But Torre seems curious about the possibility of knuckleballer Haeger serving as the seventh reliever in between starts, so it’s plausible that Ortiz would start the season in the minors. The Dodgers would then go with 11 pitchers until Ronald Belisario or Kuo were ready to be activated.

On the other hand, today’s start of Carroll at shortstop indicates that Torre is still entertaining the possibility of him being Rafael Furcal’s backup at that position.

In any case, I think we have to face up to the fact that Ortiz will be in a Dodger uniform at some point this season. I had predicted that he would be this year’s Shawn Estes, but he’s looking more like this year’s Weaver or Eric Milton.

For comparison, here are the changes (that we can be reasonably sure of) from the 2009 Opening Day roster:

Starting pitchers: Padilla and Haeger replace Randy Wolf and James McDonald.

Relief pitchers: Sherrill, Weaver, Ramon Ortiz and Monasterios replace Kuo, Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman and Cory Wade.

Starting lineup: DeWitt replaces Orlando Hudson.

Bench: Johnson, Anderson, Carroll and Belliard replace Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz and DeWitt.

Two members of the 2009 Opening Day bullpen, Wade and Ohman, ended up being non-factors for 2010 before April was done.

Mar 29

Torre: Dodgers likely to start season with 11 pitchers

Joe Torre told reporters today that the Dodgers would probably start the season with 11 pitchers and then go to 12. That would allow the team to keep Blake DeWitt as a starting second baseman and Nick Green as backup shortstop.

“I’ll let you know the fifth starter in L.A.,” Torre said. “It’s not because I’m unsure, but because we’ve got work to do with the other guys. We’re looking at 11 pitchers now to start. I think we’re still determining who the 11 will be. I think 12 will be the number for most of the year. We’re going to need a fifth starter four times in April.”

As I’ve written before, I don’t agree with the need to keep Green but I’m far from surprised by it, because the Dodgers essentially did the same thing last year in saving a spot for Juan Castro almost the entire season.

I also suspect that the decision to go with 11  pitchers is a response to the probability of both Ronald Belsiario and Hong-Chih Kuo missing Opening Day. The competition for the bullpen isn’t quite as tight.

At this point, I would bet heavily on these 10 pitchers being on the Opening Day roster: Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Charlie Haeger, Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz. The remaining competition, I believe, is for the 11th spot.

* * *

  • Hiroki Kuroda had a breezy seven innings in a minor-league game today, allowing one run (a solo homer) on two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 91 pitches. Russell Martin, looking more and more like the Opening Day catcher, caught all seven innings.
  • Josh Lindblom won the 2010 Jim and Dearie Mulvey Award for being the top rookie at Spring Training.
  • It’s a Dodger Divorce day, with Josh Fisher providing numerous updates on today’s spousal support hearing.
  • Mike Petriello has a fun wrap-up of his trip to Camelback Ranch at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Of the 19 pitchers in baseball last year who had RBIs after the seventh inning, according to Stat of the Day, four were Dodgers. Can you name them?
  • If you haven’t already, be sure to make your 2010 Dodgers prediction in the thread below.
Mar 26

Hong-Chih Kuo closer to the disabled list


Mark Duncan/AP
Hong-Chih Kuo, shown here March 2, last pitched in a game for the Dodgers on March 19.

Another spot in the bullpen is on the verge of opening with the news from Dodger manager Joe Torre that reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has been shut down and likely will be on the disabled list when Opening Day comes, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

With Ronald Belisario AWOL, that leaves a core of four starters (Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla) and three relievers (Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso) and either four or five open spots on the pitching staff. If nothing else, Carlos Monasterios is pretty much a lock at this point to make the team.

* * *

Russell Martin will rest Saturday after a busy Friday in which he caught six innings, batted six times and scored from first on a double (in a minor-league game).

* * *

Giants pitcherum Tim Lincecum is also playing catchup, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com.

… Lincecum allowed only one run in four innings in the Giants’ 5-3 Cactus League victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, but allowed six hits and walked two — though he did strike out seven.

The Giants ace said afterward that he’s “85 percent sure with my body of what I’m doing out there and confidence-wise. Hopefully that last tuneup job will help.” He admitted that he’s progressing “a little slower than I wanted to.”

Lincecum’s final exhibition outing before he starts the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston won’t be a high-profile appearance. Though his next scheduled turn would arrive next Wednesday, when the Giants play their Cactus League finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he’s virtually certain to pitch a Minor League exhibition or intrasquad game instead.

This would serve a dual purpose. It would prevent the Dodgers from getting a studied look at Lincecum before the regular season, and it would enable the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner to address his pitching flaws in a relaxed atmosphere. …

* * *

On weekends, my 5-year-old son sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor of my 7-year-old daughter’s room. Tonight, my daughter wanted to switch. Because of the way they were behaving before bedtime, I declined her request.

Later, my daughter went up to my son:
D: “I envy you.”
S: “What does that spell?”
D: “I envy you.”
S: “WHAT DOES THAT SPELL?!”

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.
Mar 23

Another day on the Hong-Chih Kuoller coaster

Hong-Chih Kuo hasn’t thrown since Friday and received treatment today, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Hopefully, it’s just precautionary …

Chad Billingsley became more and more pleased with his mechanics in an 84-pitch, six-inning outing in a minor league game. Gurnick and The Associated Press have details. And Gurnick has a vow from James McDonald to come back strong from his demotion to the minors.

Your top story tonight, however, is this feature on Dodger photographer Jon SooHoo by Chris and Alex Volk at DodgerFan.net.