Jul 11

Adrian’s head


What’s the deal with Adrian Beltre and people trying to touch his head? Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation investigates in the clip above.

Elsewhere …

  • Chasing October, a book by David Plaut that focuses on the 1962 pennant race between the Dodgers and Giants, is getting a three-part review by Scott Andes of Lasorda’s Lair.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers his midseason report card on the Dodger position players.
  • James McDonald’s rise to prominence could be the result of increased use of his slider, writes Ben Duorino of Fangraphs. (Wasn’t the slider the key to Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young season?)
  • ESPN Sweet Spot bloggers preview the second half of the season for National League teams. Oh, and here’s the American League.
  • Matt Kemp is having a post-ESPYs bash tonight to benefit “Kemp’s Kids,” which provides support to underprivileged youth, writes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Meanwhile, Lyle Spencer of MLB.com writes about Kemp’s visit to the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City.
  • Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at starting pitchers potentially on the trade market.
  • Farewell, Kenny Heitz.
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 29

The Jay Gibbons saga is just depressing

Whatever your 2011 expectations for Jay Gibbons were, you’ve got to feel for the man. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Gibbons is expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list because of lingering problems with the vision in his left eye, an issue Gibbons thought he had resolved when he returned two weeks ago from a visit to a San Francisco doctor who gave him a better-fitting contact lens.

Gibbons said upon his return from that trip that his vision in his everyday life was dramatically better. But he said Monday that wasn’t the case in the batter’s box, because he couldn’t pick up the spin on breaking balls.

“My vision was great coming back, but I had no depth perception,” Gibbons said before Monday night’s Cactus League game, a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels before 19,415 at Dodger Stadium. “I went up there in spring training with very little chance. Those pitchers are pretty good. Once they figure out you can’t see, they cut you up pretty quickly.”

Gibbons, who lives in the Los Angeles area, plans to see another doctor here on Tuesday — “about the fifth different guy I’ve gone to,” he said — in hopes of trying yet another contact lens. His original problem was that the lens kept popping out, the result of some flattening of his cornea that is a normal result of the PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery he underwent last fall as a follow-up to the lasik procedure he had in 2004.

He came back from San Francisco with a lens that had a lower base curve so it clung more securely to his eye. But he now says his vision at the plate was less clear than it had been before. …

OK, it’s not a total tragedy: Gibbons’ $650,000 salary for 2011 became guaranteed Monday. And when a door closes for one guy, it opens for someone else. But you’d still like to see a player go down swinging, instead of not seeing.

* * *

Almost-a-Dodger Eric Chavez will be on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster (with Russell Martin and Andruw Jones), but once-a-Dodger Ronnie Belliard will not, reports Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com:

It was hardly surprising — Chavez had a terrific spring, outhitting everyone on the team for average, even the red-hot Alex Rodriguez, and showed he could still play an excellent third base and a serviceable first base — but certainly inspiring for a player hampered by multiple back and shoulder injuries over the past five seasons, and potentially a steal for the Yankees, who waited as long as possible to be sure Chavez would make it through camp in one piece.

“That one’s pretty evident with the spring that he had,” manager Joe Girardi said in announcing Chavez had made the team. “We feel that he’s healthy and we feel that it’s a good bat on a day that we rest Alex or Tex [Mark Teixeira]. I’m really pleased with what he did. …

They also released Ronnie Belliard, which came as no surprise to anyone, since he came in overweight, almost immediately strained a calf muscle which cost him nearly two weeks, and batted .136 after his return to action. …

* * *

Up in Oakland, Andy LaRoche is still waiting to hear if he grabbed a spot with the A’s. LaRoche had a .987 OPS and team-high four homers this spring, playing four infield positions. In Arizona, Tony Abreu has reportedly been placed on waivers. Pittsburgh’s James McDonald, who has thrown only 6 2/3 innings this spring, might miss the start of the season with a left side injury.

Nov 28

In starting rotation, sometimes questions beat answers


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesFor 4 1/2 seasons, the Dodgers never knew what they were going to get in Odalis Perez.

In the wake of the Jon Garland signing, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looked at the most commonly used starting pitchers by the Dodgers since 2000, and in the process found that the Dodgers “have had five pitchers each start 30 games in a season just twice in their 127-year franchise history (1977 and 1993), and they have only had four pitchers start 30 games eight other times.”

Good stuff, but I was interested in something else, too. Given my surprise to find our starting rotation settled on paper before the end of November, I was curious how often in recent years the Dodgers had appeared to enter the season in better shape in their starting five than they’re in right now – and how they fared in those seasons.

Looking back at the 2000s (playoff teams in bold):

  • 2010: Charlie Haeger won a beleaguered fifth starter competition. The current 2011 rotation, with Garland as the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, looks better.
  • 2009: Rookies Kershaw and James McDonald looked promising on paper, but most people would probably take the 2011 quintet, with Kershaw two years older.
  • 2008: Brad Penny was coming off a 3.03 ERA in 2007, Chad Billingsley was rising and Derek Lowe in the final year of his contract, while Kuroda was untested in the U.S. and Kershaw hadn’t arrived. In fact, it was the rotating arms in the No. 5 spot (a shaky Esteban Loaiza, a green Hong-Chih Kuo) that helped hasten Kershaw’s debut.  The Dodger rotation heading into 2008 was probably better than the 2011 group – until Friday.
  • 2007: This was the year newcomers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf (the first time around) were supposed to anchor the Dodger staff, joining Lowe, Penny and Billingsley. This was an exciting group – until Schmidt and Wolf combined for 24 starts and a 5.05 ERA.
  • 2006: Lowe, Penny … Odalis Perez (coming off a poor 2005) … Brett Tomko and Jae Seo.  A little bit of wishful thinking, here.
  • 2005: New free agent Lowe, Perez (coming off a strong 2004) and Jeff Weaver for the front three. The Dodgers knew they’d be dealing with filler at the No. 5 spot, and with Penny coming back late from his 2004 injury, they were duct-taping No. 4 as well, ultimately starting April with the likes of Elmer Dessens and Scott Erickson.
  • 2004: The Dodgers’ first playoff trip of the century began with Hideo Nomo, Perez, Weaver and Kaz Ishii – not a bad front four if you thought the 25-year-old Perez would regain his 2002 form. The other three had ERAs below 4.00 the year before. The fifth starter left in TBD status until the job was seized by Jose Lima, who had a memorable year through and into the playoffs (after having thrown 503 2/3 innings with a 6.18 ERA since 2000), while Ishii ended up struggling and Nomo fell apart.
  • 2003: Kevin Brown was coming off an injury-plagued 2002, but there was still hope for him (rightfully so) to lead a staff that also included a resurgent Nomo, Ishii and Perez (3.00 ERA in 2002). Darren Dreifort, attempting a comeback after going more than 20 months between games, got the first chance at the No. 5 start, but the Dodgers also had Andy Ashby (3.91 ERA in ’02) as a No. 6 starter. So there was depth, but also an understanding that the depth could be needed immediately.
  • 2002: Lots of new blood to join Brown and Ashby: Nomo (returning as a free agent from Boston), Perez (acquired with Brian Jordan in January’s Gary Sheffield trade) and Ishii (signing his first U.S. contract on February 28) – not to mention Omar Daal, another returning former Dodger who came in an offseason trade from Philadelphia but began the year in the bullpen. By the time Spring Training started, the staff was deep – one of the reasons second-year manager Jim Tracy experimented with converting a guy who had made 24 starts in 2001 into a reliever: Eric Gagne.
  • 2001: In his last year before becoming a free agent, Chan Ho Park was the Opening Day starter for the Dodgers, followed by Gagne, Dreifort, Ashby and – in place of Brown, who was limited by injuries – Luke Prokopec. Either Gagne or Prokopec were to be the No. 5 starters on paper, after making some waves in 2000. You might laugh now, but there was reason to think this could be a pretty decent starting rotation.
  • 2000: You had Brown, Park and Dreifort, all coming off solid 2000 seasons. Then you had Carlos Perez, who had a 7.43 ERA in 1999. And rounding out the fivesome, you had the last gasp of Orel Hershiser, who had a 4.58 ERA with the Mets at age 40 the year before. It did not go well for this rotation.

In terms of Dodger starting rotations that had proven talent in all five slots since 2000, you’d have to look at 2007 and 2002 as the leading lights, with honorable mention to 2003. Neither of these teams, of course, reached the playoffs (though the ’02 team won 92 games), while the Dodgers’ past four playoff teams all had question marks in at least one spot in the starting rotation entering the season.

Nov 18

De Jesus working his way back into relevance

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has taken a journey down into the Dodger farm system, returning with a couple of stories: a feature on Ivan De Jesus Jr., along with updates on seven other minor-leaguers. Here’s the opening to the DeJesus story:

One look at Ivan De Jesus Jr.’s numbers in the Arizona Fall League, which concludes Thursday, could yield the reasonable conclusion that the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers infield prospect is ready for the major leagues. One look at what he did in the Pacific Coast League this season could make you wonder why he didn’t receive a September call-up to a team that by September really didn’t have much to lose. …

In other news …

  • The desultory trade of James McDonald and Andrew Lambo has led the Dodgers to Double-A outfielder-infielder Anthony Jackson, namesake of ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dodger beat writer. The Dodgers have confirmed that Jackson has become the player to be named later coming from Colorado in September’s Octavio Dotel deal, Dotel having been acquired earlier this summer for McDonald and Lambo.

    Jackson is 26 years old and had a .676 OPS for Tulsa last season. The next time anyone wants to throw Dave Roberts-for-Henri Stanley in Paul DePodesta’s face, send ‘em this.

  • Retired catcher Brad Ausmus has taken his celebrated brain to the Padres, where he will be a special assistant in baseball operations.
  • Former Dodger reliever Cory Wade has signed a minor-league deal with Tampa Bay, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, while Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. passes along the news that veteran Justin Miller has signed a minor-league deal with Seattle. We’ll always have April-September 2008, Cory.
  • Gary Wills has a nice piece on a man of admired/worshipped, Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau, in the New York Review of Books (link via Bronx Banter).
  • Franklin Avenue’s fifth-annual Great Los Angeles Walk is set for Saturday, rain or shine. This year’s version marks a return to the event’s roots — traversing Wilshire Boulevard from downtown to its end in Santa Monica.
Sep 18

Dodgers traded James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for player to be named later …

… plus the 18 2/3 innings they got in between from Octavio Dotel, who went to Colorado in another trade today. That would be the Dodgers cutting their losses. Dotel will help the Rockies try to make the playoffs but is ineligible for the postseason because the trade happened after August 31.

Sep 14

McDonaldmania in Pittsburgh


Kathy Kmonicek/APJames McDonald pitched eight shutout innings for the Pirates on Monday.

It’s not like he’s got the upside of Carlos Santana, but will you look at what James McDonald is doing for Pittsburgh?

McDonald has a 3.49 ERA in eight starts with the Pirates. That includes five runs he allowed in the seventh inning of a game in which Pittsburgh couldn’t come to his rescue in time; otherwise his ERA with the team would be 2.59, with more than eight strikeouts per nine innings.

The most telling stat in the above paragraph? Eight starts. That’s three more than McDonald had in his Dodger career, and they’ve all come right in a row. Even if McDonald had a disappointing start, Pittsburgh put him right out there again.

Now, perhaps that’s a luxury that the Pirates can afford that the Dodgers felt they couldn’t. And maybe McDonald needed the so-called change of scenery — although I think that’s more often a mythical benefit than a real one. Maybe this is just McDonald’s version of Elymania, a hot streak whose end is around the corner.

The fact remains, the Dodgers parted with their two-time minor league pitcher of the year and an effective member of their 2009 bullpen, earning a minimum salary, in order to acquire Octavio Dotel. They nurtured McDonald through eight years in the organization, and then gave up too soon.

* * *

Ramona Shelburne, on a roll, continues reaping the rewards of her investment of time in the Albuquerque Isotopes with this ESPNLosAngeles.com feature on Dodger managerial candidate Tim Wallach. The Wallach bandwagon has enough momentum that it’s going to be quite jarring if he doesn’t get the job.

* * *

Update: Jack Moore of Fangraphs says McDonald’s peripheral stats compare well with David Price of Tampa Bay.

Jul 31

A second trade: James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for Octavio Dotel

Octavio Dotel, 36 years old with 52 baserunners allowed in 40 innings for Pittsburgh this season against 48 strikeouts, comes to Los Angeles as the Dodgers give up on James McDonald and minor-league outfielder Andrew Lambo.

Dotel has had a brief resurgence since mid-June, so the Dodgers will try to ride that wave and hope this isn’t another Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez.

In a way, the Dodgers are copying the Padres’ formula – trying to smother the opposition with pitching options, and hope the offense scores just enough to make it worthwhile. It’s a plan that could work, especially if Manny Ramirez comes back and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier step things up. I’m just not in love with the guys they acquired this week to try to make it happen.

* * *

In other news, Andre Ethier is away from the team for the birth of his second child.

Jul 19

File another one under defeat for Dodgers, 5-2


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesBuster Posey is safe at home with San Francisco’s second run of the game.

Madison Bumgarner has the same last name that James Garner was born with, which is enough to make me wish that Jim Rockford would solve the Dodgers’ criminal woes. Or that at least there might be an appearance by an angel.

Instead, the Dodgers dropped their fifth straight game, 5-2 to San Francisco. The Dodgers fell six games behind San Diego in the National League West and 2 1/2 behind Cincinnati for the NL wild card.

In his first major-league appearance of 2010, James McDonald looked good in a 1-2-3 first inning and escaped a bases-loaded, none-out jam of his own creation in the second inning. But then came two runs with two out in the third, and then more painfully, a two-run homer by No. 8 hitter Nate Schierholtz in the fourth that gave the offensively challenged Giants a 4-0 lead behind their talented rookie Bumgarner. McDonald finished the night allowing 11 baserunners in his five innings.

Starting the bottom of the sixth, NL batting average leader Rafael Furcal moved into fifth place on the team in homers with his seventh of the season. Jamey Carroll singled, and two outs later, James Loney walked, sending the tying run to the plate and Bumgarner to the dugout. But the Dodgers didn’t tie the game, settling for a gift run thanks to a wild pitch by Guillermo Mota and a fielder’s choice grounder by Matt Kemp (3 for 4) on which Carroll was ruled (incorrectly, it appeared) to have touched home before Loney was tagged out.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers got another look at the game when two-out walks to Garret Anderson and Carroll sandwiched a Furcal single. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt came in to pitch to Ethier, who hasn’t done a whole lot with them all year. Ethier grounded to first.

San Francisco got an eighth-inning insurance run on what might have been another umpire mistake, a bases-loaded sacrifice fly on which other baserunners might have passed each other.

One more chance came for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth when Russell Martin and Furcal each got their third hits of the night, putting two runners on and the tying run at the plate with one out. Blake DeWitt struck out after taking a close 2-0 pitch for a strike.

That brought up Ethier, and it had been, what, a couple months since his most recent waving of walkoff magic. Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched carefully, walking Ethier to load the bases. But Wilson then struck out his sometimes-nemesis Casey Blake on three pitches.

There was no Rockford in Mudville tonight.

McDonald’s turn in the rotation comes next Saturday afternoon against the Mets. He, Carlos Monasterios (two shutout innings tonight) or John Ely are all candidates to take the turn.

Jul 11

Starting over: John Ely goes to Albuquerque

The Dodgers announced today that they have optioned John Ely to Albuquerque and recalled Jon Link in time for tonight’s game.

Ely’s next scheduled start for the Dodgers was July 19, so unless he is replacing an injured player, he cannot be recalled in time for that start. But of course, there’s always the chance the Dodgers will have an injured player for him to replace.

Sending Ely to Albuquerque presumably allows him to work on some things in game action, rather than being sidelined for nine days.

Nevertheless, by the sounds of Joe Torre’s media session today, it doesn’t look like the Dodgers are eying Ely for that next start. Torre said that he and Ned Colletti decided that Ely needs to get back on track, and that James McDonald, Carlos Monasterios and Claudio Vargas are currently candidates for the July 19 start against the Giants. That’s assuming the Dodgers don’t make a trade.

McDonald extended his recent relatively hot streak today, allowing a run in 6 1/3 innings for the Isotopes, though he walked four and struck out only two. McDonald has a 2.08 ERA in his past four appearances, with no home runs allowed.

Jul 06

Furcal named player of the week … and other notes

Rafael Furcal was named National League Player of the Week. According to the Dodger press notes, Furcal has scored in 11 straight games, tying Davey Lopes (1979) and Shawn Green (2002) for the Los Angeles Dodger record. The franchise record of 12 was set by Gil Hodges in 1953.

* * *

Minor-league news: John Lindsey activated from the disabled list after missing a month of games, James Adkins sent to AA Chattanooga, Timo Perez released.

* * *

James McDonald is pitching now in the first game of a doubleheader for the Isotopes, who play another twin-bill Friday. McDonald started his night with two perfect innings. Three pitchers currently with Albuquerque – Carlos Monasterios (well, technically he’s not on the roster), Ramon Troncoso and McDonald — all might be with the Dodgers inside of a couple of weeks, given the ongoing roster shuffling.

Update: McDonald took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He pitched six innings of two-hit, no-walk shutout ball, striking out five batters in a six-batter stretch at one point, and was two outs away from a shutout in the scheduled seven-inning game before getting charged with four runs in the seventh inning. (Three of those came in when Kiko Calero allowed a two-out, bases-loaded double.) Until that final frame, McDonald was working on a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings.

Jul 02

Chin-Lung Hu out for at least six weeks after thumb surgery


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireChin-Lung Hu (shown here in 2008) slugged .507 in June.

Chin-Lung Hu is trying a bit too hard to be like Chase Utley.

Hu had surgery on an injured thumb and is expected to be out six to eight weeks, reports Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.

James McDonald would have gone past four innings Thursday, but he was hit on the left knee by a comebacker and was taken out of the game for precautionary reasons.

Cory Wade, outrighted to Albuquerque on Thursday, pitched a scoreless fifth to get the win. Josh Lindblom and Travis Schlichting each allowed runs in their relief outings.

Tim Wallach talked to Jackson about the 53 transactions the Isotopes made in June, believed to be a team record:  “It’s kind of what Triple-A is,” he said. “If we’re not moving guys up then we’re not doing our job, so that’s a good thing. Certainly guys are trying to get to know each other, I’m trying to get to know them, but it’s part of the deal. It’s good experience for not only the players but for us as a staff, too. You’ve got different personalities coming in and out all the time no matter where you’re at. I don’t look at it as tough.”

* * *

Dodger farm teams Chattanooga and Ogden each played 15-inning games Thursday.

The highlight for the Lookouts was Kenley Jansen striking out six batters in two innings. Chattanooga starting pitcher Aaron Miller allowed one run in five innings and had five of the Lookouts’ 17 strikeouts. Chattanooga scored three in the 15th to win, 4-1. Dee Gordon was 0 for 6 with a walk, Jerry Sands was 0 for 6 with three strikeouts and Andrew Lambo was 0 for 7.

Ogden also won, 5-4, on an RBI single by Chris Henderson (3 for 7), driving in Jesse Bosnik (2 for 4 with three walks).

* * *

Great Lakes righty Elisaul Pimentel, who turns 22 a week from Saturday, allowed more earned runs Thursday (five in six innings) than he had in his previous eight starts combined, in which his ERA was 1.00. But the Loons won, 7-6.

Phil Gurnee of True Blue L.A. posted a lengthy interview with Great Lakes beat writer Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News. And don’t miss the latest Dodger prospect rankings from Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone. Chris Withrow remains No. 1, but Jansen and Sands made huge leaps into the top five.

* * *

Dylan Hernandez of the Times has more details on the incident that apparently got Matt Kemp benched: a spat with coach Bob Schaefer. Kemp has reportedly not been backing up second base on basestealer throws by Russell Martin. Hernandez says Kemp has denied having “a confrontation” with the Dodger coaching staff, but I think that must be a semantics issue or just a cover.

Hernandez also today had a very nice feature on Hiroki Kuroda, who seems more haunted when he’s not pitching by the line drive that hit him in the head last year.

* * *

Arizona Republic writer Nick Piecoro on the Diamondbacks’ new manager: “I’m curious to see how interim manager Kirk Gibson settles into this role. I find the public perception of him to be wildly different from the way he actually is. It seems like everyone expects some kind of drill sergeant to come in and whip everyone into shape, a guy who’ll have smoke shooting from his ears on every bad call. Who knows, maybe that’s what he’ll be like, but that’s not what he’s been like in his time as the bench coach. He’s more of a goofy guy, someone the players monkey around with in the clubhouse, a guy who’s always keeping them loose. Maybe being the guy in charge will bring that drill sergeant out of him. We shall see.”

Jul 01

James McDonald shines in return

James McDonald pitched four shutout innings for Albuquerque tonight in his first appearance in a month. McDonald allowed two singles, a double and a walk while striking out three, needing only 51 pitches for the four innings.

Xavier Paul was not in the Albuquerque starting lineup tonight, for those trying to read tea leaves about what will happen Friday with Manny Ramirez and the disabled list.

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 23

Ten questions with Albuquerque play-by-play announcer Robert Portnoy


Richard Drew/AP
Tim Wallach, shown here as a Dodger coach, has handled all kinds of challenges as Albuquerque’s manager.

With the Albuquerque-Los Angeles shuttle in overdrive, I thought this might be a good time to check in with Robert Portnoy, friend of Dodger Thoughts and the play-by-play broadcaster for the Isotopes. And with that largely ado-free introduction, here’s the interview:

1) First, can you update us on when we might see James McDonald and Scott Elbert back in action? What can you tell us about Elbert’s situation?
I don’t have anything to tell about Elbert’s situation. He is not with the team and we haven’t received word when he might return. McDonald’s recovery from his hamstring strain is coming along well in Arizona. He has thrown a simulated game and is scheduled to make his first start in an Arizona League game. [Note: McDonald pitched two hitless innings Tuesday, after this interview was completed.] His return date is not set, but it’s not too far off.

2) How is McDonald handling things in a year he probably thought he’d be in the majors? Especially when things just seemed to be coming together for him before he got hurt.
He was very disappointed when the injury occurred, that was evident. There’s no doubt he was pitching better than he had all season at the time he went down. He was handling being in Triple-A quite well. He realized he had things to work on, and he made great strides. At the start of the year, A.J. Ellis told me J-Mac’s changeup has always been his best secondary pitch, the one that’s always there for him, his most reliable. J-Mac said his changeup was terrible at the start of the year. He was throwing it much better before the injury. His rehab has been exclusively in Arizona, so I can’t comment on how he’s handled that process.

3) The roster comings and goings have been endless. How crazy has it been, particularly in the Isotopes starting rotation? How does Tim Wallach handle it?
Wallach is as even-tempered as they come, unflappable. The kind of manager who watches a terrible base running mistake, pulls the player aside for a brief moment, asks if that player’s aware what he should have done, then tells him to put it behind him so he can help win a ballgame. He realizes that the primary goal is get players ready to help the Dodgers, and if that leaves his rotation depleted, he’ll adjust. The injuries to key guys don’t help, obviously. Yesterday, big league veteran Tim Corcoran, a reliable starter since joining the rotation, had to leave his start early. We hope he won’t miss a turn.

4) What do you think of Wallach as a managerial prospect?
Fantastic. He’s a players manager who keeps proper distance and maintains full authority. One step ahead, it seems, all the time. When he pitches out, they’re running. His instincts are great. Always gets the matchups he wants. One game I distinctly recall talking about multiple scenarios on the air, then asking him about them after the game. He discussed those and gave three or four others he had considered. He can play the chess game with the best of them.

5) Is it a relief to see Josh Lindblom moved to relief?
Josh has a tremendous head on his shoulders, and he’s a real student of the game. Talks about Clemens, Halladay, Carpenter as starters he tries to emulate, even gave me a Goose Gossage reference when talking about his favorite closers (mentioned Goose getting six outs or more for many of his saves). I had a great conversation with him on our recent road trip in Iowa. Here’s the thinking: He has been a reliever, has never even thrown 100 innings in a season. His arm isn’t accustomed to logging that much work yet. So, the past two seasons he’s gotten run down, lost his arm strength. I think he has the stuff, the fastball command, and the makeup to be a big league starter, a real innings-eater, IF his body can adapt. If not, he’ll make an above-average middle innings or setup guy who can get you up to three innings because he has four quality pitches. He’s a big leaguer for sure.

6) Are you able to see what weaknesses John Lindsey has to keep him from the majors? (And when will he return to the field?)
John might rejoin the team when we get back to Albuquerque this weekend, but he could still have a bit more rehab to do before getting back on the field. He has been recovering from his calf strain in Arizona. John’s a professional hitter, he could help the Dodgers with his bat right now. He’s not James Loney at first base, but he can hold his own. Defense might be the only thing that’s holding him back.

7) Jay Gibbons is a potential lefty bat off the Dodger bench with major-league experience. What do you see as his strengths and weaknesses at this point in his career?
Gibbons’ only weakness, if you can call it that, is how hard he plays. At 33, he still leaves it all out there every day. But as a lefty bat off the bench, there’s no wear and tear. He would be ideal, because he could stay in the game and play either corner OF position or 1B adequately, and he’d be great for multiple ABs because he’s actually BETTER against lefties than righties, the numbers don’t lie. His bat is level through the hitting zone longer than anybody I’ve ever seen, period. And he threw two guys out on the bases from RF in one inning in Iowa last weekend.

8) Does Xavier Paul have anything left to prove in the minors? What is he working on?
No. He’s an everyday big leaguer waiting for his chance. He’s working on his defense constantly, looking to continue to improve in that area any way he can. His arm is unquestioned. Just in the last week, naive hitters have tried to stretch singles into doubles when he’s playing left and paid the price twice. Strong and accurate thrower. RF arm in LF when he plays there. When he keeps his focus in the field, he’s an above-average defensive OF. He has shown how he can hit when he’s been with the Dodgers this year. He is tearing up PCL pitching, and now he’s hitting for power, which adds the final piece.

9) How is Ivan DeJesus’ comeback going?
Talked with Ivan in Iowa as well. He’s still working to get strength back in the surgically repaired left leg. It’s a process. He told me that his rehab was rushed a bit last year, when he first tried to run his leg wasn’t ready. They had to shut him down and reset the timetable. He hasn’t had any problems, though. Going very smoothly. He looks great, and his swing is terrific, uses right-center a lot, and can drive the ball that way. Best of all, he’s already had multiple plays this year at home plate, where he’s beaten throws with a variety of slides, and he says he doesn’t think about the collision that caused the injury anymore.

10) Anyone under the radar on the Isotopes roster that you like?
There are several, but if I had to pick one, I’ll go with Russ Mitchell. Has been solid at the plate all year, consistent approach, hits for average and power. Really impressive at 3B, good first step and strong arm, equally good going left, right, and coming in. And he can play 1B and 2B capably as well. He’s even played OF in his career, though we haven’t seen him there yet. But he’s not a utility guy, I like him at 3B every day. He’s the one keeping everybody loose, always talking, laughing. Clearly loves coming to the ballpark, loves what he’s doing.

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  • Claudio Vargas pitched 3 2/3 innings for Albuquerque on Tuesday, allowing two unearned runs on five baserunners with five strikeouts and throwing 77 pitches.
  • A step forward for Brent Leach? Converted into starting, Leach threw five shutout innings for Chattanooga, allowing four baserunners and striking out six.
  • Dodger farmhand Nathan Eovaldi allowed two runs in an inning of relief in the California League’s 15th annual All-Star game against the Carolina League on Tuesday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • Dee Gordon and Pedro Baez will play in Sunday’s Futures minor-league All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium. Baez was given a spot even though he’s been on the disabled list in recent weeks.
  • A film about a Warren Cromartie-managed Japanese team on a 90-game road trip in California’s independent Golden League, “Season of the Samurai,” will premiere on the MLB Network at 4 p.m. Friday, reports Ben Bolch of the Times.
  • Jerry Manuel pulled a Joe Torre/Hiroki Kuroda with Jon Niese on Tuesday, and is getting grief for it.

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For Dodger fans feeling down about the team’s losing streak, this should cheer you up.