Sep 01

September 1 game chat: Ely promoted

Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m.
Mark Ellis, 2B
Shane Victorino, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, RF
Luis Cruz, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Josh Beckett, P

In addition to Tim Federowicz and Javy Guerra, John Ely has joined the big-league roster. Alfredo Silverio was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Ely.

If the Dodgers lose tonight, they will be 35-32 at home and on the road.

Sep 01

At least there is some good news …

Atlanta, St. Louis and Pittsburgh are sure doing what they can to keep alive the Dodgers’ hopes of playing past Oct. 3, even if only for one day. But it sure has been an ugly week.

On the bright side, Jaime Jarrin has signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers that will keep him in the broadcast booth for his 55th, 56th and 57th seasons.

Elsewhere …

  • I talked Dodgers in this interview with Will Carroll at the Nickel.
  • Javy Guerra and Tim Federowicz are expected to be the Dodgers’ first roster-expansion callups today.
  • John Ely might not get a callup because of 40-man roster issues, but he was named Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year. He led the league in ERA, WHIP and innings, writes Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Dodger pitching prospect Zach Lee has a 2.27 ERA with eight walks and 29 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings since July 27 for Double-A Chattanooga.
  • Yasiel Puig, Eric Eadington, Red Patterson, Steven Rodriguez, Gorman Erickson, Rafael Ynoa and Joc Pederson will be on the Dodgers’ Arizona Fall League team.
  • The life and career of John Roseboro is the subject of Bruce Markusen’s piece at the Hardball Times.
  • Former Dodger shortstop Rafael Furcal has a damaged elbow ligament and will miss the rest of 2012. Tommy John surgery is a possibility. Furcal had a .325 on-base percentage and .346 slugging percentage in 531 plate appearances for St. Louis, .276/.278 from May 17 on. He played in 121 of the Cardinals’ first 131 games.
  • No one plays third base like Adrian Beltre, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times (via Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation).
  • San Diego, which began its season 28-50, is 34-21 since – best in the National League West. Jeff Sullivan writes about their resurgence at Fangraphs, while The Associated Press writes about their new O’Malley-led ownership.
Jul 13

The resurrection of John Ely

One-time breath of fresh air John Ely is quietly having a stellar 2012, posting a 3.22 ERA in Triple-A Albuquerque with 9.7 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine innings. You just don’t see those stats with the Isotopes very often. James Bailey of Baseball America has more on the Pacific Coast League All-Star.

“It took a couple of years of getting my head beat off the wall a little bit in this league to try to figure it out a little bit,” Ely told Bailey. “The PCL can get to you, man. Ask anybody out here. It’s a tough league to pitch in with the travel and the ballparks and the matter that you’ve got some pretty darn good hitters in this league. I think I underestimated it a little and I probably didn’t take it quite as seriously as I should have.”

“A lot of it has to do with staying ahead and basically just throwing my best pitches when I have to throw them,” Ely added. “You know, making pitches when you need to and realizing, ‘OK, this is what I want to do with this pitch right now.’ ”

Though the Dodgers’ rumored trade-market pursuits include starting pitching, Ely would certainly seem to have some renewed value – either as a stopgap starter if the Dodgers still end up needing one, or as a trade chip.

* * *

  • Andre Ethier played in rehabiliation games Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to join Matt Kemp in tonight’s Dodger starting lineup, writes Alex Angert of MLB.com.
  • Ronald Belisario’s certainly got the right to go home to Venezuela during the All-Star break, but somehow it isn’t surprising that his return to the States was delayed, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com (pictured, right, with Ned Colletti). However, Belisario is expected to arrive for tonight’s game.
  • Yasiel Puig’s arrival in Arizona is documented by Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
  • Kemp will be featured on the next edition of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, premiering Tuesday.
  • A midseason review of the Isotopes is provided by Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • It’s a quirk to say the least, but Zach Greinke of Milwaukee tonight will become the first pitcher since 1917 to start three consecutive games, notes David Pinto of Baseball Musings. He faces James McDonald of Pittsburgh.
Nov 18

Dodgers remove Ely, Monasterios from 40-man roster

Ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, the Dodgers outrighted pitchers John Ely and Carlos Monasterios to Triple-A Albuquerque in order to make room for five first-timers on the 40-man roster.

Two came at the trading deadline: outfielder Alex Castellanos and pitcher Steven Fife.

  • Alex Castellanos, the 25-year-old outfielder who came from the Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal and had a combined .958 OPS in 534 plate appearances at Double-A.
  • Stephen Fife, a 25-year-old righty who came from the Red Sox in the Trayvon Robinson trade and had a combined 3.74 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 137 innings at Double-A.
  • Chris Withrow, a 2007 first-round draft choice who had a 4.20 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A Chattanooga.
  • Michael Antonini, a 26-year-old who came from the Mets organization last winter in exchange for Chin-Lung Hu and had a 4.01 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 148 innings as a starter at Chattanooga.
  • Josh Wall, a 2005 second-round draft choice who had a 3.93 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings as a reliever at Double-A Chattanooga.

After spending all of 2010 with the Dodgers, Monasterios was injured most of 2011, pitching only four innings with the Isotopes. Ely never recovered his Elymania form of 2010, though he was mostly effective in very short spurts with the Dodgers in 2011.

Both players could easily remain in the organization for 2012, depending on the interest they receive elsewhere.

For more on the state of the 40-man roster,  as well as some names that were left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft, check out this post and this post from True Blue L.A.

Oct 03

Remembering 2011: John Ely


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireJohn Ely

The setup: Last year’s rookie darling, at least before his pinpoint control abandoned him midway through the 2010 season, Ely was believed to hold enough usefulness that, amid a seeming lack of alternatives, he figured to be the first minor-league pitcher the Dodgers would turn to in 2011 if anything happened to Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly or Jon Garland.

The closeup: As soon as April 10, the ninth game of the season, the Dodgers did turn to Ely, because Garland hadn’t yet recovered from his Spring Training oblique injury. And Ely was one strike away from a quality start, having allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, when he then walked San Diego’s Ryan Ludwick and then gave up a home run to Nick Hundley. If the Dodgers were going to be forgiving, an uneven performance at Albuquerque (5.99 ERA) changed their minds: Despite Garland soon being lost for the season, Ely made no more starts for Los Angeles in 2011, passed over in favor of Rubby De La Rosa, Nathan Eovaldi and Dana Eveland. In fact, Ely made only four other appearances in the majors this year. One of them was June 5, when he had a chance for a four-inning save before faltering in the ninth. The other three came after rosters expanded in September, when Ely pitched four innings of shutout ball, lowering his season ERA to 4.26 with 13 strikeouts against 12 hits and an uncharacteristic seven walks in 12 2/3 innings.

Coming attractions: Ely wouldn’t seem to figure in the Dodgers’ plans for 2012, especially with a new wave of homegrown minor-leaguers making the grade. Pitching in Albuquerque certainly seems to have done him few favors. On the other hand, he’s still only 25, and if not the Dodgers, some team might see if he can rediscover the confidence control that made him such a hit in 2010. In the same fashion that Eveland got another shot this year, perhaps Ely can too.

Jul 25

Javy Gravy? A guarded response to Guerramania


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireJavy Guerra

All praise is due to Dodger reliever Javy Guerra, who had never pitched above Double-A before 2011 but has posted a standout rookie season.

The 25-year-old has a 1.99 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings against 31 baserunners and has yet to blow a save opportunity. His perceived calm on the mound — perhaps marked by how he pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam of his own making July 8 against San Diego — has led many to wonder if the Dodgers have found their replacement at closer for Jonathan Broxton, who surely will not be back in a Dodger uniform in 2012, if at all.

On one level, I take issue with the question itself — the goal is always simply to find the best relievers you can and not worry about their roles. Part of the beauty of what happened with Guerra this year is how he wasn’t assigned the closer job, but just began pitching in the ninth inning because he happened to be the guy who was available. You shouldn’t doubt, for example, that Kenley Jansen, who has been absolutely unhittable since coming off the disabled list, could close games.

But as far as whether Guerra is the real deal, I’m of two minds. He certainly showed his potential after striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings in his 65 games with Chattanooga from 2009-11. But he has also always allowed a fair number of baserunners: his career WHIP in Double-A is nearly 1.5. That’s not all that good. Jansen’s WHIP at Chattanooga, by comparison, was below 1.1. It’s reasonable to suggest that Guerra might be pitching over his head.

People are talking about Guerra’s precocious performance, but we’ve done that about many other young relievers who made strong debuts only to falter a year later. People are talking about Guerra’s fearlessness and attack mentality on the mound … just like they did for John Ely. Seriously, there were experts that not only thought Ely was the real deal a year ago, they were crediting him for showing other Dodgers how to pitch. A year later, he’s a pitcher of last resort.

Guerra is on a particular roll of late, having retired his past 10 batters over four appearances – striking out five and earning saves in each game. It’s wonderful. I’m just not ready to declare him a natural closer, partly because I’m skeptical about the use of such a definition, partly because we still haven’t seen enough of him to know how effective he’ll be over the long haul.

We shouldn’t be surprised if Guerra hits a rough patch. We also shouldn’t be alarmed. The guy hasn’t even faced 100 batters yet in his career – I’d recommend being patiently optimistic. I’m just saying, it really is still early.

In any case, the Dodgers do appear to have the potential for a nice, mostly home-grown bullpen brewing for 2012, with Guerra, Jansen, Scott Elbert and minor-leaguers including Josh Lindblom, Steven Ames, Shawn Tolleson and Cole St. Clair in the mix. That’s seven names right there before you even talk about veteran holdovers like Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth and Mike MacDougal. Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo might be gone next season because of performance, salary and injury concerns, in much the same manner that Russell Martin departed last winter, but at least in this area, Los Angeles looks ready to move on without them.

Update: More on Guerra here from Jason Grey of ESPN.com.

Jun 06

Dee-Day: Whirlwind of roster changes ends with Gordon callup


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesUnderneath that helmet is newest Dodger major-leaguer Dee Gordon.

Jerry Sands getting an early promotion to the bigs didn’t surprise me much. Nor did Rubby De La Rosa.

But Dee Gordon getting the call — now that’s a commitment to youth.

With Rafael Furcal once again relegated to the disabled list for weeks, the Dodgers have called up the 23-year-old Gordon from Albuquerque, where he had a .361 on-base percentage and 22 steals in 25 attempts, but also only 14 walks and nine extra-base hits (.370 slugging) in 50 games. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.)

Gordon has also had many questions about his fielding, particularly his ability to make the ordinary play (as opposed to the extraordinary one). On the bright side, his surge of errors in April has slowed considerably.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that while everyone has always raved about Gordon’s blinding speed, that .880 stolen-base percentage is a new bright spot. No one’s expecting power from Gordon, so if he can just get on base and stay out of his own way defensively, he could be a thrill to watch.

Gordon is not in tonight’s starting lineup, but unlike with someone such as Ivan De Jesus, Jr., you don’t call someone like Gordon up to ride the bench. Cynics might wonder if Gordon is being showcased for a trade, but I’ve never gotten the sense he’s someone the Dodgers want to part with.

To make room for Gordon and Marcus Thames, who was activated from the disabled list, the Dodgers designated Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons for assignment. This is also something of a surprise, given the Dodgers’ proclivity to protect depth — and by 2011 Dodger standards, the .668 OPS for Gibbons and .619 OPS for Castro aren’t the worst you could imagine. Sands could easily have been sent to the minors. But clearly, general manager Ned Colletti buys into the reality that they’re not going to miss much by losing Castro and Gibbons. (There’s also the not-slim possibility that the pair could end up back in Albuquerque if they clear waivers.)

Perhaps the way the young Dodger bullpen replacements have risen to the occasion has influenced Colletti.

Finally, the Dodgers optioned John Ely and De Jesus to make room for the return of Blake Hawksworth and Juan Uribe from the DL.

On the current 25-man active roster, 15 are below the age of 30.

* * *

Three years ago, I transcribed a Vin Scully excerpt on the anniversary of D-Day. This rubbed some people the wrong way, and a long discussion ensued in the comments of that thread. Just want to link to it to say I hadn’t forgotten what Scully said, nor the response that followed. It was a learning experience for me.

Jun 05

Sluggin’ Billingsley powers Dodgers, 9-6


David Kohl/APAaron Miles congratulates Chad Billingsley on hitting his second home run since Miles last hit one.

Chad Billingsley couldn’t bring it today on the mound, but he sure brought it at the plate.

Billingsley somehow managed to overshadow Matt Kemp’s third home run in two days by going deep himself in the second inning, walking with the bases loaded in the third and doubling in a run in the fifth inning, helping the Dodgers to a 9-6 victory.

Billingsley, who entered the game OPS-ing a career-high .638 (5 for 21 with two doubles), surged to .950, which is second in the major leagues among pitchers to J.A. Happ’s .959. (Today’s double wasn’t cheap, either – it landed on the warning track and one-hopped against the wall.) His efforts, combined with Kemp’s prodigious two-run home run in the first inning and a total of 13 hits and 10 walks from the Dodger offense, boosted the Dodgers to 20 runs over the past two days, 17 of them coming in a eight-inning span.

Kemp was 2 for 3 with three walks, Andre Ethier 2 for 4 with a walk, Jamey Carroll 1 for 4 with two walks, James Loney (batting eighth) 1 for 2 with three walks, Aaron Miles 2 for 6. Rod Barajas added a significant two-run double. Ethier and Kemp (who reached base five times for the third time in his career) each lifted their 2011 on-base percentages back over .400.

Sobering for the Dodgers was this: This wasn’t the first time Billingsley homered and doubled in the same game, and things went more than a little rough when it happened before. On July 5, 2009, Billingsley did the same in San Diego while holding the Padres to one run over the first eight innings, only to have the Dodgers blow a 6-1 in the ninth inning in a game that, following the 2008 playoffs, helped make Jonathan Broxton very unpopular among many Dodger fans. (The Dodgers ultimately won, 7-6.)

So what would happen today? Los Angeles ultimately removed Billingsley after five innings, four runs, 12 baserunners and 106 pitches. John Ely, called up to support the injury-depleted pitching staff, had an opportunity for a four-inning save. He started a little shaky, giving up four baserunners and a run in his first two innings, but had a nice eighth inning in which he retired Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in order. It was the first time in the game either team had a 1-2-3 inning.

Ely came out for the ninth, but lost his save opportunity when he walked Ryan Hanigan and Don Mattingly replaced him with Josh Lindblom, who started out by walking Miguel “33 homers in 1,359 games” Cairo and, looking really wild, hitting Ramon Hernandez in the shoulder to load the bases. Tying run up at the plate, nobody out.

As Ramon Troncoso began warming up in the bullpen, Paul Janish, who was 3 for 3 at that point, fouled out to Barajas. Pinch-hitter Chris Heisey flied deep to right for a “we’ll take it” sacrifice fly.

Facing Drew Stubbs, who had a chance to follow his leadoff homer in the first inning with a game-tying homer in the ninth, Lindblom fell behind in the count, 2-1. But then it all came together for Lindblom. The next two pitches were nasty fastballs at the knees, and Stubbs whiffed at both … and the Dodgers had held on.

Weird note: The Dodgers average 3.7 runs per game, but haven’t finished a game with exactly four runs since May 13.

Jun 04

Dodgers call up Ely, De Jesus

Rafael Furcal and Jon Garland are officially on the disabled list, replaced for the time being by Ivan De Jesus Jr. and John Ely. Vicente Padilla has had a setback, which is why he’s not being activated. Juan Uribe and Blake Hawksworth could displace the Ely and De Jesus within days, however.

Ely will pitch out of the bullpen – Rubby De La Rosa is still scheduled to start Tuesday.

Apr 11

Kershaw LXXXVI: Kershawlandaise sauce

I have several different thoughts percolating about the fan and security issues surrounding tonight’s Dodgers-Giants game, as well as today’s Dodger Stadium fundraiser for Bryan Stow. I know it’s my job to get them from percolation to full boil, but I didn’t quite get there. For now, let’s just keep it simple: I am thinking good thoughts for tonight.

In baseball news: Rafael Furcal is back in the lineup after a couple of days off because of wrist issues. But after resting Sunday, Casey Blake is also sitting out tonight’s game against San Francisco lefty Madison Bumgarner. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com said that Blake’s left leg has been bothering him since Saturday’s game-ending collision with the Padres’ Chase Headley.

Additionally, the Dodgers have sent John Ely back to Albuquerque, paving the way for Jon Garland’s activation before Friday’s game. In the meantime, Jamie Hoffmann gets a callup. Here’s Jackson’s story.

Apr 10

Ely can’t get one last strike, Dodgers can’t avoid blowout


Lenny Ignelzi/APJamey Carroll caught Rod Barajas’ throw on the short-hop and made a tremendous tag of Will Venable trying to steal in the second inning.

John Ely had thrown 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs. He had struck out his last two batters, giving him five on the day. He had a three-ball, two-strike count on Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick.

Ludwick fouled off three more pitches. An out on any one of those, and Ely can walk tall off the mound.

The next two pitches: ball four, home run.

Nick Hundley’s shot to center with Ludwick aboard gave the Padres a 4-1 lead, on their way to a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Ely’s line ends up looking ugly: four runs and nine baserunners in 5 2/3 innings, but he really did mostly pitch a good game.

With all that in mind, Padres starter Aaron Harang nearly handed the Dodgers the lead in the sixth and seventh innings. He walked Ely and gave up a single to Tony Gwynn Jr. to start the sixth, but Ely got picked off second base during a missed bunt attempt by Aaron Miles.

Then in the seventh, Harang had a play to throw out Matt Kemp at third on a comebacker by James Loney, but threw the ball away, allowing Kemp to score. However, after reliever Luke Gregeron hit Juan Uribe with a pitch, Rod Barajas grounded into a double play.

Harang ended up allowing one earned run over six innings. Dodger relievers Kenley Jansen and Lance Cormier combined to give up three runs in the final two innings.

The Dodger offense consisted only of Gwynn (1 for 3 with a walk and stolen base), Kemp (2 for 4 with a steal) and Ethier (1 for 4). The remaining position players went 0 for 16. The team’s only earned run came on a first-inning walk to Gwynn, a steal, a sacrifice and a groundout.

This season, Uribe has a .172 on-base percentage, and nearly half of that has come from being hit by pitches. He has two HBPs, two singles, a double and no walks in 29 plate appearances.

* * *

In his rehabilitation start, Jon Garland went 4 2/3 innings for Rancho Cucamonga, allowing four runs on six hits and no walks while striking out three.

Mar 25

Ivan DeJesus Jr. likely to start at second base while Blake is out

Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesIvan De Jesus Jr. has a .380 on-base percentage this spring.

“Barring an injury,” writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, “infielder Ivan DeJesus looks like a strong bet to make the club and remain in the big leagues until Blake returns from back injury. DeJesus, who will be making his major league debut, likely will get the bulk of the starts at second base during that time, while Juan Uribe will move to third.”

It’s a pretty impressive feat for the infielder, who has remaining options, who had to come back from a 2009 broken leg and was even said by some to be in the Dodgers’ doghouse last year.

Jackson also writes that the Dodgers will carry four starting pitchers on their Opening Day roster, and will call up a fifth starter from the minors April 12. That pitcher figures to be John Ely, especially if Tim Redding’s back ailment today proves to be serious. Jackson:

… Redding returned to Camelback Ranch, the team’s spring-training complex in Glendale, for further examination. No diagnosis or prognosis was immediately available. …

The season opener for Triple-A Albuquerque isn’t until April 7, so whomever the Dodgers choose to start in place of Garland could start that game and then be perfectly lined up to pitch for the Dodgers on April 12 in San Francisco. …

* * *

Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 3

Highlights:

  • Coming in to relieve the injured Redding with one on and none out in the fourth, Rubby De La Rosa got a double-play grounder and only allowed a bunt single in his first three innings.
  • Backup catchers A.J. Ellis and Hector Gimenez each went 1 for 2.
  • Xavier Paul thew out a runner at the plate.
  • Doubles by Aaron Miles and Justin Sellers’ sandwiched Ellis’ single and gave the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead.

Lowlights:

  • Redding allowed a two-run homer in the third and six hits total in his three-plus innings, before leaving with the back trouble.
  • De La Rosa allowed three runs in his fourth inning of work.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr. went 0 for 4, his spring OPS falling to .689.

Sidelights:

  • Christina Taylor Green’s brother Dallas and Tucson shooting victim Ken Dorushka threw out first pitches before today’s game.
  • Nick Charles, who has terminal cancer, will call the opening bout on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” on Saturday, says Sports Business Daily.
  • Rafael Furcal has been recovering from an offseason illness, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times in this feature.
  • Great pics of Fernando Valenzuela pitching in Mexico last week, shared by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Another great item, this from Eric Nusbaum at Pitchers & Poets, gives us Ken Levine talking about Vin Scully: “Normally I can look over somebody’s shoulders, I can pick up their scorecard and I can kind of figure it out. With one exception – Vin Scully. He’s got lines and dots and stuff. I have no idea. You need Navajo code breakers to figure out Vin’s scorebook. I have no idea.”
  • Here’s part 3 of Mark Timmons’ LADodgerTalk.com interview with Logan White.
  • The Dodgers aren’t the only ones with injuries, by any means. The shoulder of Phillies closer Brad Lidge is hurting, and so is Philadelphia’s bullpen, writes David Schoenfield of ESPN.com.
  • Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos is also ailing, notes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Will Leitch on the Mets (via Rob Neyer): “Even if this year is a write-off, the team will be more enjoyable to watch than it has been the last four years, if only because the franchise is finally moving forward. It’s going to get better, soon. I promise, this isn’t a scam. You are forgiven for fearing otherwise. This is, after all, the Mets.”

* * *

Dodgers at Mariners, 7:05 p.m.

Mar 16

State of the Opening Day roster: Update


Jake Roth/US PresswireDespite a 7.23 ERA last year with St. Louis, Mike MacDougal has taken advantage of Dodger injuries to carve out a chance at a roster spot.

On the last off day before the start of the season, this seems like a good time to check in on how the Dodger 25-man Opening Day roster is shaping up.

On track (18):

Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly

Relief pitchers (5): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen

Catchers (1): Rod Barajas

Infielders (4): James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (4): Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames

Likely (3):

1) Casey Blake, 3B: The latest news on Blake sounds about as good as one might have expected – inflammation with no evidence of a muscle strain.  So while anything could happen, we won’t assume that he’ll be on the disabled list March 31.

2) Mike MacDougal, RP: A 0.00 spring ERA, veteran’s moxie and all the positive things people are saying about him in the press make MacDougal this year’s most likely prize off the scrap heap.

3) Dioner Navarro, C: A.J. Ellis can still be optioned to the minors, so we’ll put him aside. Though Hector Gimenez presents an alternative, Navarro seems safe.

Roster spot battles (4):

Norm Hall/Getty ImagesAn .847 spring OPS has helped make Hector Gimenez a longshot as opposed to a no-shot.

1) Jay Gibbons vs. Xavier Paul vs. Trent Oeltjen, OF, vs. Hector Gimenez, C/1B: Gibbons’ spring has been a nightmare, to the extent that Tony Gwynn Jr. might already have passed him in the pecking order for playing time. Xavier Paul, seemingly healthy and performing better as the month goes on, is now adding to the pressure while the eyesight-plagued Gibbons tries to solve his vision problems. A third-party candidate is Trent Oeltjen, who has been hitting all spring – and we’ll even leave open the possibility that Gimenez could take this spot instead of a sixth outfielder.  Chances: Gibbons 45%, Paul 35%, Oeltjen 10%, Gimenez 10%.

2) Aaron Miles vs. Ivan De Jesus Jr. vs. Justin Sellers vs. Juan Castro, IF: A veteran has the automatic edge when you’re talking backup infielder, so it seems safe to knock out De Jesus and Sellers, neither of whom have seized the day. Miles has had a better spring than Castro and is also centuries younger. Castro has that Brad Ausmus-like zen quality that Ned Colletti admires, but Miles has sufficient experience to fill the role. Chances: Miles 80%, Castro 10%, De Jesus 5%, Sellers 5%.

3) + 4) Ron Mahay vs. Scott Elbert vs. Ramon Troncoso vs. Lance Cormier, RP, vs. John Ely vs. Tim Redding, SP, vs. position player: These two final spots seem very much up for grabs at this point, compounded by the uncertainty over whether the Dodgers will start the year with four or five starting pitchers, and whether they’ll start with 11 pitchers overall or 12.

If they keep a fifth starter, it’s still an open battle. Both Redding and Ely can be sent to the minors, though the difference is if Redding is placed on the major-league roster, he would then have to clear waivers before he could go to Albuquerque (once, say, Vicente Padilla or Jon Garland was healthy). The Dodgers can yank Ely up and down this year at will.

Both Ely and Redding started the spring excellently, then faltered (like every other Dodger starter in the past week). Ely is on the upside of his career but with something to prove; Redding is on the downside of his career with something to prove. My guess is that even if Ely wins the job, the Dodgers won’t want him to lose his rhythm by pitching in long relief during the opening days of the season – meaning he would start the season in the minors and then come up April 12 when he is needed. I’m not sure they’d have those reservations with Redding.

Among the lefthanders, Mahay finally had a decent inning Tuesday, though the four batters he faced had 19 career major-league homers. Still, it’s hard to imagine that, short of a 180-degree turnaround, the Dodgers are ready to rely on Elbert, who has walked nine of 20 batters he has faced this spring.

Troncoso has outpitched both lefties, though I’m not sure the Dodgers are convinced he’s all the way back from his 2010 struggles. If he were, he and MacDougal would exchange places. Lance Cormier has gotten little attention while throwing four innings and allowing seven hits while striking out one, but he remains in the running.

And then there’s the chance the Dodgers go with an 11-man staff and keep six guys on the bench. Gimenez, anyone?

If the Dodgers were making their final cuts today, I’d predict they keep two relievers at the outset and fly Ely to San Francisco on April 12. Chances: Troncoso 45%, Mahay 45%, Cormier 30%, Ely 30%, Redding 25%, position player 20%, Elbert 5%.

Mar 14

March Mudness


Rangers 5, Dodgers 4

Earl Pomerantz passes along this important lesson from Bill Cosby about panic.

… It’s the morning of the “table reading”, where the actors read the script out loud before the assembled production staff – fifty or so people – so we can see what’s working and what needs to be fixed. At this point, the actor who will play the freaked out father-to-be has not yet been hired. Dr. Cosby asks me to fill in for the missing actor and perform that part at the table reading.

I am immediately terrified.

Why? Well, in my own memorable words,

“What if I mess up?” (Though I may not have used the word “mess.”)

Dr. Cosby instantly replies to my exaggerated concern, and herein lies the life lesson,

“Bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the first.” …

Highlights:

  • Trying to find his way onto the team, Xavier Paul sings “Let My Love Open the Door” with a single and a triple (to go with a caught stealing as a coda).
  • Trent Oeltjen sings “Don’t You Forget About Me.” His double raised his spring OPS to 1.044 before the eyes of the impressionable Dodger management.
  • Jamie Hoffmann warbles “I’ll Be There For You” with a double, boosting his OBP in the spring to .400.
  • Marcus Thames doesn’t need to sing for his Opening Day supper, but he just had his fifth double of the spring, in 25 at-bats.
  • Trayvon Robinson singled in two runs in the ninth inning as the Dodgers tried to rally and avoid their eighth straight loss.
  • Lance Cormier pitched a shutout sixth inning. Cormier’s chances of making the team remain alive, given the struggles of Scott Elbert and Ron Mahay.
  • John Ely threw four walkless innings, giving him 10 this spring.

Lowlights:

  • Overall, Ely continued the trend of faltering Dodger starters. After a perfect first inning that included strikeouts of Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton, Ely allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits, including a three-run Hamilton homer. Ely struck out three.
  • After allowing a two-out single, Elbert walked two in the fifth inning, escaping the bases-loaded jam on a deep flyout by David Murphy.
  • Kenley Jansen had a rough eighth, allowing a run on two hits and a walk.

Sidelights:

  • In a rare start against a frontline pitcher (Texas’ Neftali Feliz, who suddenly might be in the starting pitcher racket), Jerry Sands went 0 for 2.
  • Hector Gimenez had a double, then was doubled off second base on a ball hit by Gabe Kapler.
  • From The Associated Press: “Told that Ely was trying to locate an inside fastball off the plate that didn’t quite break far enough, Hamilton said smilingly, ‘Tell him thank you for me.’ “
  • Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes about the upside of the San Diego Padres, post-Adrian Gonzalez.
  • Rob Neyer of SB Nation looks at how the Yankees’ starting pitching crisis.
  • Only three of 30 MLB general managers played in the majors, writes Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
  • At his blog, Former major-leaguer Morgan Ensberg hints at a harrowing story.
  • Mitchell Page, who passed away Saturday, is remembered at the Hardball Times by Bruce Markusen, who compares Page to Willie Davis.
  • This Jay Gibbons update from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com sounds a mixed note about the outfielder’s near-term future.

    … Gibbons underwent PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery on the eye last fall as a follow-up procedure to the laser procedure he underwent in 2004. But a side effect of PRK is that it lengthens and flattens the cornea, which is why the contact — which Gibbons wasn’t sure he would need again after the original surgery — no longer fits as tightly as it should and tends to pop out.

    Gibbons said he was told he’d likely need a follow-up procedure after his initial laser surgery. “So that was pretty much what my thought process was, to get a tune-up, and [the vision] went south a little bit last year,” he said.

    The issues after the follow-up surgery, though, began almost immediately, causing Gibbons to return home from winter ball earlier than he planned. Gibbons and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly sounded optimistic this doctor’s consultation would be sufficient to solve the problem. The Dodgers are off Wednesday, so the hope was Gibbons would miss only one day.

    “We need to get this resolved,” Mattingly said. “If your [vision] isn’t right on and you’re trying to hit a breaking ball, it’s just not going to work.” …

  • Last but certainly not least, the Dodgers are staging a drive-through charity effort at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday to benefit victims of the disaster in Japan.
Mar 09

Jon Garland leaves start with injury

Here’s Tony Jackson’s initial report for ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Jon Garland left Wednesday’s Cactus League game with two outs in the top of the second inning because of a left-oblique injury. There was no immediate diagnosis or prognosis, but Garland said he would meet with a team doctor either later in the day or early Thursday morning.

Garland said no actual tests have been scheduled, but that, “I’m sure they are going to want to do that.”

Garland, whom the Dodgers signed in November to a one-year, $5 million contract with an $8 million club option for 2012 to be their fifth starter, was making just his second start of the spring. After throwing the first pitch to Seattle Mariners shortstop Josh Wilson, his 30th pitch of the game, Garland knelt down on the front of the mound, stood back up and immediately made a gesture toward the dugout to summon trainer Stan Conte.

Garland then walked around the mound for a minute or two while clutching his left side before ultimately walking off the field with Conte. …

Bill Shaikin of the Times wrote that “although the Dodgers have not identified the problems, his actions were consistent with an oblique injury, which can require a month or more of recovery.”

With Vicente Padilla out, the leading candidates to replace Garland if he’s out of the rotation for the start of the season would be Tim Redding and John Ely.