Jun 02

Why John Ely will have trouble becoming Rookie of the Year


Howard Smith/US Presswire
Jason Heyward

A Rookie of the Year campaign for John Ely becomes less far-fetched by the day — heck, the guy has practically been Cy Young (if not Ubaldo Jimenez) in every appearance since his first, with a 1.80 ERA. But then there is the matter of one Jason Heyward.

Heyward, who doesn’t turn 21 until August, has a .410 on-base percentage, .567 slugging percentage and 160 adjusted OPS for Atlanta this year. For fans of Wins Above Replacement, Heyward is sixth in the National League. In other words, he’s been spectacular, and spectacular since Day 1 of 2010.

ESPN Stats and Information adds the following:

Entering play Tuesday, Jason Heyward had played 47 games. Just for comparison’s sake, here is what Alex Rodriguez did in his first 47 games (also at age 20).

     Heyward     Rodriguez
BA     .292        .237
HR       10           3
RBI      38          14
K        36          47

There’s also, to say the least, the matter of St. Louis’ Jamie Garcia (1.32 ERA) and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (2.45 ERA).

At least Ely has a bouncy leg up on Aroldis Chapman, though Chapman provided intriguing viewing for Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.

* * *

  • Hong-Chih Kuo surely won’t be available to pitch today and Jeff Weaver might be limited, but five other Dodger relievers — Jonathan Broxton, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Justin Miller and Travis Schilchting — can back up Carlos Monasterios after limited-to-no use over the past two nights.
  • Andre Ethier has moved into third place in the N.L. All-Star balloting for outfielders.
  • Seth Etherton had his second straight superb outing for Albuquerque on Tuesday, allowing no runs and six baserunners over seven innings while striking out seven. Despite his performance and Jamie Hoffmann going 3 for 4 to raise his OPS to .809, the Isotopes’ Scott Dohmann allowed four runs in the ninth inning to take a 5-4 loss.
  • Prodigal Dodger Travis Denker, 24, went 4 for 5 for Inland Empire on Tuesday to raise his on-base percentage with the 66ers to .419. Austin Gallagher, 21, went 4 for 4.
  • Trayvon Robinson of Chattanooga was named Southern League Hitter of the Week for May 24-30 after going 6 for 21 with three home runs.
  • While everyone waits for Jerry Sands to get promoted from Great Lakes, the slugger is slumping a bit. After going 0 for 3 with a walk in the Loons’ 6-2 victory Tuesday, Sands is 2 for his last 18 with no home runs and three walks. Longshot story Will Savage won again, allowing two runs over six innings so that his ERA rose to 2.26.
Jun 01

Bison buys one for the Dodgers, 1-0


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
“The Dodgers are going to have to take an ad to get a run for him,” Vin Scully commented after John Ely’s seven innings of shutout ball left him with a no-decision.

And so we’ve found the kryptonite for John Ely – the Dodger offense. With his seven innings of two-hit, two-walk shutout ball tonight, Ely has allowed one run on 10 baserunners over 14 1/3 innings – a 0.63 ERA – but in that time, the Dodgers haven’t scored for him.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Matt Kemp: Glory be.

They did score for Jeff Weaver, however. With one out in the bottom of the 10th inning of a scoreless tie, Matt Kemp hit a hanging fastball hard, deep and winningly. His blast to the left-field bleachers off Juan Guiterrez gave the Dodgers a slightly more conventional walkoff victory, 1-0 over Arizona.

With walkoff wag Andre Ethier on deck, Kemp tied his outfield colleague with his 11th homer of the year and moved the Dodgers within a game of San Diego for the best record in the National League. It was the first 1-0 extra inning victory since Russell Martin hit that game-winning homer against the Giants on August 13, 2006, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. For the year, the Dodgers are now 2-2 in 1-0 games.

Kemp stole the spotlight from Ely, but the wunderkind pitcher still glows.

Ely took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before a Rusty Ryal single got past a somewhat immobile Casey Blake. To be honest, that wasn’t the first hard-hit ball off Ely – on MLB Gameday, the “Away Outs” portion of the hit chart in the bottom left-hand corner shows five balls caught at the warning track or deeper. But that doesn’t mean Ely wasn’t mesmerizing. At one stretch, he threw first-pitch strikes to 11 consecutive batters.

Ely even mesmerized Russell Martin, who committed a passed ball on what would have been an inning-ending strikeout in the top of the seventh but instead allowed Arizona to put Ely in some of his biggest jeopardy of the night – runners at first and second. (Martin also committed a throwing error after an Ely wild pitch that allowed Ryal to reach third base in the fifth.) But two pitches later, LaRoche practically mimicked the James Loney blunder of Monday’s game – actually did worse, considering how many outs there were – by getting himself thrown out by Martin trying to advance on another ball in the dirt.

That, as it turned out, was the last we’d see of Ely tonight. With a runner on first base and one out, Joe Torre decided to have Garret Anderson pinch-hit for Ely, who had thrown 92 pitches, in what I commented at the time was not exactly going to be a popular decision. Anderson then did himself no favors by hitting into a routine 4-6-3 double play.

Ely went to the showers with his ERA lowered to 2.54 and his sixth consecutive quality start in which he allowed no more than two runs. (The six straight quality starts are the most by a Dodger rookie since Hideo Nomo in 1995, according to the Dodger press notes.) Ely struck out five, and his K/BB ratio actually declined to 4.63. Interestingly, he’s getting close to having enough innings to qualify for the National League ERA race, and even more interestingly, it’s kind of relevant. As of now, Ely is 12th in the league in ERA among pitchers with at least 40 innings and third in K/BB.

“The Dodgers are going to have to take an ad to get a run for him,” Vin Scully commented.

Dodger fans who were doubly disappointed by the Anderson-for-Ely exchange might have felt that disappointment redouble when Ronald Belisario gave up a leadoff single in the eighth, and, after a Chris Snyder bunt, Dan Haren was left in the game to bat. The explanation: Haren was 14 for 34 (.412) this season, plus Arizona’s bullpen is notoriously poor. But Haren flied out, and Hong-Chih Kuo came in to get Kelly Johnson to ground out.

Haren, who had an 8.68 ERA over his past three starts, continued through the eighth inning. Ethier got his first hit since coming off the disabled list, meaning that for the third time in three weeks, Manny Ramirez would bat in a potential game-winning situation in the eighth inning against a tiring Arizona starter. Ramirez hit a grand slam off Edwin Jackson on May 12, then struck out with the score tied 4-4 Monday against Rodrigo Lopez. Tonight, Haren just missed striking out Ramirez on his 125th pitch, and then on his career-high 126th pitch, Ramirez popped to center field. Amid chatter that Haren might be left in for infinity and beyond, he instead ended his night with eight shutout innings, allowing seven hits and striking out seven while walking nada.

Neither team scored in the ninth, despite two-out hits by Martin and Jamey Carroll, and so the Dodgers and Arizona took their scoreless game to extra innings. Weaver allowed a hit in an otherwise harmless top of the 10th, and then one out after Rafael Furcal lined to short, Kemp made Ely the valued best supporting actor in a victory.

* * *

Sour note: James McDonald’s hamstring injury is significant, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.

… McDonald is presently on the seven-day DL and is at the Dodgers’ spring-training facility in Glendale, Ariz., where he is throwing off flat ground. But he isn’t expected to return to pitching competitively anytime soon.

“It’s a significant strain,” Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said. “It’s not a small one. We call it a Grade 2 out of a possible three. We’ll just have to see how long it takes. We don’t believe it’s a matter of days. It’s longer than that.”

May 27

Dodgers, Ely have no defense against lack of offense in 1-0 defeat


Jerry Lai/US Presswire
Blake DeWitt tags out Derrek Lee attempting to steal in the seventh inning today.

Today’s story, as far as I’m concerned, is that the remarkable John Ely raised his game yet another level. Pitching in his hometown (albeit not on the South Side), Ely took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning. That’s the story.

That the Dodgers hadn’t and ultimately wouldn’t score any runs in support of Ely, that Ely ultimately allowed two more hits and a run, that the Dodgers lost, 1-0, those are indeed significant details, but I’ll not let them divert me from the main story: John Ely keeps bringing it, and bringing it, and bringing it.

Ely’s final totals: 7 1/3 innings, four hits, two walks, four strikeouts, 98 pitches, 19 first-pitch strikes to 27 batters. For the first 6 2/3 innings, Derrek Lee was the only Cub to reach base against him. Lee had two walks and a double, making him 7 for 9 with three walks against the Dodgers in the three-game series. But Lee never scored.

Instead, the real damage came in the eighth inning. Mike Fontenot hit a shot down the right-field line leading off the inning, a double (maybe a single) that outfielder Xavier Paul played into a triple. After Ely struck out Geovany Soto, Tyler Colvin hit a bounder past James Loney to score Fontenot.

Paul made an error on that play, but this loss can’t be put on the defense. The hits were legitimate and together probably would have added up to a run, unless Paul made a great play to hold Fontenot at first and everything thereafter went the Dodgers way. Further, Paul, second baseman Blake DeWitt and left fielder Reed Johnson each made fine catches today — as did Ely himself, on a liner back at the mound. Russell Martin also threw out Lee attempting to steal in the seventh inning, a play that at the time might have seemed a game-saver, considering that Kosuke Fukudome singled one out later.

Rather, it was the Dodger offense that couldn’t make hay against Ted Lilly, who combined with Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol on the Cubs’ second shutout in three days. Paul popped out with the bases loaded (on walks) to end the fifth inning — the only inning the Dodgers had a runner on third. And in the only other inning the Dodgers put a runner on second base, after Martin and Matt Kemp singled, Casey Blake (who, along with Martin, was the only Dodger to reach base twice) and James Loney could not drive them home.

In the ninth, DeWitt walked with one out, but Marmol struck out pinch-hitters Manny Ramirez and Garret Anderson to end the game.

All of these details mattered, all of these details add up to another tally in the loss column, one that puts the Dodgers further behind the persistently pesky Padres. But still, for me this game remains primarily about John Ely working his magic, yet again. He lowered his ERA to an even 3.00 — 13 runs in 39 innings — and gave the Dodgers even more hope about his future, even if today didn’t bring much of a homecoming present.

Update: Want to know what the sixth-inning brouhaha was about? Rob Neyer of ESPN.com explains.

Update 2: MLB.com has video.

May 22

Ely glides and Dodgers finish the ride, 6-4


Harry How/Getty Images
John Ely allowed five baserunners in his final five innings today.

Like the space shuttle in its glory days, John Ely came back to Earth in the first inning today – then took off again for the skies.

Ely gave up three hits and his first base on balls after 89 walkless batters to let Detroit score two runs in the top of the first, but like Chad Billingsley the night before, put up only zeroes after that, and the Dodgers rode out a 6-4 victory over the Tigers.

The Dodgers steadily worked Tigers starter Armando Gallaraga and knocked him out in the fifth inning. Casey Blake (11 for 23 with three homers and a walk on the homestand) had a homer and two singles, Matt Kemp had a homer and a double, Blake DeWitt’s third triple of the homestand drove in two runs, and Xavier Paul and James Loney added two hits each. (Paul also walked.) Russell Martin walked in the first inning but went 0 for 3, ending his 15-game hitting streak but extending his on-base streak to 17.

Ely went six innings plus one batter, allowing eight hits and the one walk while striking out three and lowering his ERA to 3.41. Joe Torre had a quick hook for Ely, who had thrown only 83 pitches when he came out of the game following a leadoff single in the seventh by Austin Jackson, and the main men of the Dodger bullpen made the move seem even more questionable by delivering one of their roughest collective outings in some time.

Hong-Chih Kuo, who warmed up Friday but didn’t pitch, first gave the Tigers a look at the game by walking Magglio Ordonez after Ramon Santiago reached on Blake’s two-out error. But with the bases loaded, Kuo made a nice play on Detroit cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera’s slow grounder to no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the foul line, fielding and firing to James Loney for the third out.

In the next inning, Ramon Troncoso, who allowed three runs without getting an out Wednesday in his third consecutive night of work, came back after two days off and gave up a solo homer to Santa Monica native Brennan Boesch. Troncoso followed by walking Brandon Inge, getting a double-play grounder from Gerald Laird and then beaning Austin Jackson (don’t expect him in the starting lineup Sunday). Jeff Weaver came in to bail Troncoso out by inducing Ryan Raburn to fly out to end the eighth.

Jonathan Broxton, pitching in his third consecutive ninth inning, allowed leadoff singles to Johnny Damon and Ramon Santiago. Alex Avila struck out, and Blake made a diving stop of a Cabrera grounder to create a force out at second base. Boesch ripped a first-pitch liner to right for a ground-rule double that brought the Tigers within two runs and put the tying runs at second base.

But after falling behind 2-1 to Inge, Broxton got a swinging strike on a 97-mph fastball, then a called third strike to end the game.

Twelve wins in 13 games for the Dodgers, who moved a half-game ahead of San Diego in the National League West pending the outcome of the Padres’ game at Seattle tonight. The Dodgers will try to keep it going Sunday behind Hiroki Kuroda, though it’s doubtful they’ll have Broxton or Kuo available. But those worries can wait, as the Dodgers celebrate another successful flight of Spaceship John Ely.

May 22

Can John Ely keep it going?


Jeff Gross/ALLSPORT
Luke Prokopec is fifth all time in major-league innings pitched by an Australian native.

Nine years ago, at the age of 23, Luke Prokopec began the 2001 season with the following three starts:

Date IP H R ER BB SO ERA
4/6 7.67 4 1 1 0 7 1.17
4/21 6.00 6 2 2 0 5 3.00
4/27 7.00 6 3 3 0 5 3.86
Total 20.67 16 6 6 0 17 2.61

Prokopec was a sight for sore eyes in a starting rotation that at the start of 2001, except for Kevin Brown, was a mixed bag, with Eric Gagne and Darren Dreifort each posting April ERAs of around 5.00.

However, Prokopec, who walked the leadoff batter in start No. 4 after having faced 78 batters in a row without a free pass, didn’t last the year in the rotation, finishing the season with a 4.61 ERA in 22 starts. That December, newly installed Dodger general manager Dan Evans made the rather prescient decision to trade Prokopec and minor leaguer Chad Ricketts to Toronto for Cesar Izturis and Paul Quantrill.

This trade was personally memorable for me because it was the first time I had ever recognized that it might be a good idea to trade a pitcher who had promise but didn’t have great strikeout totals – Prokopec was at 5.9 per nine innings. If I recall correctly, there were those who felt the Dodgers should have traded Gagne, who was 25 with a 4.75 ERA.

As it turned out, the following season was miserable for Prokopec, who had a 6.78 ERA and battled serious arm trouble. He made his last major-league appearance August 23 of that year.

So yeah, I went there. I’m telling the cautionary tale, that just because a young pitcher rips off three starts without walking anyone and looks like he can make the baseball do his bidding, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a bright future.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me just say that I couldn’t be more excited about John Ely’s next start, coming today in the Dodger Stadium shadows before a Fox audience. I hope in a matter of hours, the whole nation is catching Elymania.

* * *

Rafael Furcal had a good day in an extended Spring Training game today, Joe Torre told reporters, and is on track to be activated Sunday or Tuesday.

Torre added that Andre Ethier has begun hitting off a tee and is progressing.

The Dodgers don’t need to start their fifth starter again until Saturday, but might do so Friday to give Hiroki Kuroda an extra day off. Monday’s off day is the Dodgers’ last before a stretch of 17 games in a row heading into June 10.

May 17

Elymania! Dodgers 6, Astros 2

Alex Gallardo/AP
John Ely: 24 strikeouts since his last walk.

Well, the infamous eighth inning came, and once again John Ely couldn’t get past it.

I kid, of course. I kid, because I love. Love love love.

The 24-year-old rookie has now faced 84 consecutive batters without walking one – by far the longest active streak in the majors – and more importantly, pitched well enough Monday to lead the Dodgers to their eighth consecutive victory, 4-2 over Houston.

Need someone to tell you what facing Ely is like? Try asking the Astros’ best hitter, Lance Berkman. In the top of the fourth, Berkman worked the count to 3-2 (only the second three-ball count for Ely to that point). Undaunted, Ely offered a tantalizing 76-mph changeup that drew Berkman into swinging early, and he was done. His next time up, with the count 2-2, Ely froze Berkman on an 89-mph fastball.

It’s not about the speed. It’s about the fact that Ely has become a puppetmaster out there.

He struck out a career-high eight in his career-high seven innings – his longest outing ever complemented by his lowest pitch count ever, 97. Allowing two runs, he lowered his season ERA to 3.51 while raising his strikeout total to 25 in 25 2/3 innings, against 25 baserunners.

Not only has Ely not walked anyone in his past 23 innings, he hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit in his past 23 innings.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. tweeted that Ely is the first pitcher since Ross Grimsley 1971 to have three starts of at least six innings with no walks out of the first four in his career.

Remarkable.

Ely actually allowed a first-inning run, but the Dodgers came back with three in the bottom of the first off Wandy Rodriguez, aided by a close call at second base that could have been a forceout but instead loaded the bases. James Loney followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game, and then slumping Casey Blake rapped a shallow double just inside the first-base line to score two more runs (including Matt Kemp, who saw the opportunity in front of him instead of third-base coach Larry Bowa’s stop sign).

Blake DeWitt had two triples to right field tonight (besting Hunter Pence, who was shading him toward center), scoring once to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead in the fourth, then driving in two with the other to boost the Dodgers’ lead in the eighth to 6-2. It was the 19th time that a Los Angeles Dodger has tripled twice in a game. (I’m sure everyone remembers Eric Anthony matching the feat in a Dodger uniform.)

With Jonathan Broxton taking the night off, Jeff Weaver, George Sherrill and Ramon Troncoso combined for two shutout innings of relief, giving the Dodger bullpen a 0.90 ERA over 20 innings during the winning streak.

Ely, who went out for a pinch-hitter with the Dodgers leading 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh, will continue to be tested, by teams much more challenging than the 2010 Houston Astros, but so far in this riotous world, he’s been like a dose of nature sounds. He’s been as respendently good as Takashi Saito in his first season as a Dodger – only he does it for six innings or more at a time.

“He hasn’t had a bad outing,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said on Prime Ticket after the game. “The first one, the numbers didn’t look very very good, but I thought he competed very well. Tonight, he looked terrific.”

Said Ely: “I’m just going out there with the same game plan – trying to throw strikes and keep the ball down.”

The kid must be on cloud nine.

Update San Diego defeated San Francisco, which means that the Dodgers remain two games out of first place in the National League West but move within half a game of the second-place Giants.

Update 2: Memories of Kevin Malone is among the sites tracking the best of Twitter-based Elymania.

May 11

Wa happen? Dodgers blindside Haren and Diamondbacks, 13-3


Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
Manny Ramirez is congratulated by Matt Kemp during the Dodgers’ victory.

“John Ely” is “John Elway” minus “wa,” the Japanese term made famous to baseball fans in the U.S. in Robert Whiting’s book “You Gotta Have Wa.” “Wa” means “group harmony,” so I’m told, and I get the sense that a heroic John Ely gave up his “wa” for the good of the Dodgers.

That is my best explanation for how, on a night when Arizona pitcher Dan Haren got all nine outs in the first three innings via strikeout, the Dodgers ended up coming away with a 13-3 slaughter of the Diamondbacks – and how Ely defied the odds and took a shutout into the seventh inning for the second game in a row.

Ely has now faced 48 batters over 12 2/3 innings in his past two starts and allowed only 10 singles – and no walks or extra-base hits – while striking out 13. He has allowed three runs in that period, all of them in the seventh inning. He has been indisputably critical in turning around the season for the Dodgers, who have now won eight of 11 games to move into third place by themselves, 4 1/2 games behind San Diego and three games behind second-place San Francisco.

As for the offense, after weathering Haren’s strikeout storm, the Dodgers got three consecutive doubles in the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead and doubled that margin by the bottom of the seventh, when Ely, Jeff Weaver and George Sherrill combined to allow three runs and make it a tight game again. (Ramon Ortiz was called into get the final out of the seventh inning, throwing four pitches and raising questions about whether this will impact his scheduled start Friday.)

Just when nervous time seemed to be approaching, Jamey Carroll and pinch-hitter Garret Anderson singled before Russell Martin hit a three-run homer to give the Dodgers breathing room in the top of the eighth, an inning that ended up with Los Angeles sending 12 men to the plate and scoring seven runs. Two more tallies came across in the ninth, while Carlos Monasterios (lowering his ERA to 2.18) retired all six batters he faced to wrap things up.

The Dodgers had 23 baserunners in all. James Loney had two doubles and two singles, Manny Ramirez two walks and two singles, Martin a single and hit-by-pitch to go with his homer, and Andre Ethier two doubles. Ramirez’s on-base percentage is now at .507 for the season, Ethier’s league-leading OPS is at 1.175, and thanks in no small part to Ely, the Dodgers are looking like a real team again.

May 11

John Ely and Dan Haren: no guarantees


US Presswire
John Ely tonight faces Dan Haren, an All-Star selection the past three seasons.

I’m going to say the odds are stacked against John Ely coming close to his success last week against Milwaukee. First of all, any rookie pitcher would have a tough time pitching shutout ball into the seventh inning of back-to-back games. Then, you add in the uncertainty of the past four days, when instead of having a normal routine, Ely was triangulating (at least mentally) between Los Angeles, Albuquerque and Phoenix.

Further, the Diamondbacks will have the benefit of having seen video of Ely’s dominance of the Brewers and can prepare accordingly. Ely will have to be able to adjust in front of a visiting crowd.  It’s going to be a challenge.

Pitching for Arizona will be Dan Haren, their undisputed top pitcher at least while Brandon Webb remains injured. However, the Dodgers haven’t found him unbeatable — though he has been tougher lately. Since coming to the National League in 2008, here’s how Haren has done against the Dodgers (ERA is Haren’s season ERA entering each start):

Date Place ERA* IP H R ER BB SO Team result
4/7/08 Arizona 4.50 6.00 6 3 1 0 5 W, 9-3
4/23/08 L.A. 1.80 4.67 9 6 5 2 5 L, 3-8
7/19/08 Arizona 2.72 7.00 4 0 0 2 7 W, 3-2
8/30/08 Arizona 3.10 6.00 10 5 5 0 5 L, 7-14
9/5/08 L.A. 3.41 4.00 6 5 5 4 2 L, 0-7
4/12/09 Arizona 1.29 6.00 4 2 2 3 2 L, 1-3
6/2/09 L.A. 2.54 7.00 2 1 1 1 7 L, 5-6
8/14/09 Arizona 2.57 8.00 6 1 1 2 8 W, 4-1
9/9/09 Arizona 2.78 7.33 7 3 3 1 9 W, 4-3
4/15/10 L.A. 3.95 6.33 6 2 2 2 7 L, 6-5
    Average 6.23 6.0 2.8 2.5 1.7 5.7

*ERA entering the start

* * *

Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan and his son, former major-leaguer David Newhan, have teamed up on a blog, Newhan on Baseball. In the most recent post, David goes after Ken Griffey, Jr. about the hotly debated sleeping incident. Earlier, Dad and lad disagree on Arizona’s illegal immigrant law. (Remember, no political debates at Dodger Thoughts, but the Newhans seem to welcome them.)

May 10

Dodgers eye Ramon Ortiz for Friday start


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Ramon Ortiz’s last major-league start was in 2007.

Joe Torre told reporters tonight that as of this moment, he plans to start Ramon Ortiz on Friday instead of taking advantage of Thursday’s off day to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Torre wants Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to get the extra day of rest.

Ortiz has a 5.24 ERA in 22 1/3 innings with 31 baserunners allowed (including four home runs) against 16 strikeouts. In relief against Colorado on Saturday, he was charged with two runs on eight baserunners in five innings. He’d be taking the mound next in pitching-friendly San Diego.

Torre indicated that he expects John Ely to stick around for a while, that this second callup isn’t a one-time thing. A start Friday by Ortiz would bump Ely’s next outing from San Diego to Monday in Houston.

Torre also said that Charlie Haeger’s heel has been bothering him and that he wasn’t letting on about it. If Haeger’s injury isn’t invented and he really has been pitching hurt, well, you know, that was really irresponsible of him.

May 06

Party at Ely-sian Park: Dodgers 7, Brewers 3


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
John Ely

With a near-perfect changeup offsetting a fastball that sat in the high 80s, John Ely simply dazzled in his second major-league start, which the Dodgers won, 7-3.*

For the first six innings, Ely, who turns 24 in a week, put the fun in efficiency, requiring only 80 pitches to shut out Milwaukee on two singles and no walks while striking out seven. He retired 16 batters in a row after allowing a second-inning hit to Casey McGehee. His only three-ball counts in the first six innings came against Jim Edmonds, who struck out each time (and one other).

The Brewers pecked away at Ely in the seventh, fouling off 11 of his 28 pitches to scratch across their only run. It remains to be seen whether Ely can survive with that fastball, but if he can keep pairing it up with that change while attacking the strike zone, there’s potential. And if nothing else, he was a sight for sore eyes and arms tonight.

The Dodgers earlier indicated that Ely would head back to the minor leagues after today’s performance to make room for Jeff Weaver coming off the disabled list, but it’s almost unfathomable that the team would do so with its starting pitching in the disarray it has been in. Keeping Ely would require the Dodgers to shed Ramon Ortiz – if somehow the Dodgers can’t wrap their head around letting him go, then Ely will rejoin Albuquerque inside of 24 hours.

I’m looking at that last paragraph again. Keeping a 24-year-old pitcher with a plus changeup who threw six shutout innings would require the Dodgers to let go of 37-year-old Ramon Ortiz. This is kind of like the $100 question on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

*Footnote: The Dodgers won after Jonathan Broxton blew the save on a walkoff grand slam by Andre Ethier in the bottom of the ninth.

May 04

James McDonald tries to make the case for a callup

John Ely is expected to start Thursday for the Dodgers, but is James McDonald ready to reclaim his roster spot? McDonald, who entered the season as a potential member of the starting rotation, is back from his fingernail-induced hiatus and takes a 3.57 ERA into his start today for Albuquerque against Memphis at 5:05 p.m.

McDonald has 16 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings for the Isotopes, but has allowed 25 baserunners despite his five innings of no-hit ball last week. On the other hand, outside of the one-inning start that sent him to the DL, McDonald has allowed four runs and 20 baserunners in 16 2/3 innings (2.16 ERA). The 25-year-old’s career major-league ERA is 3.65.

Apr 24

Dodgers win in extras but lose Vicente Padilla


Nick Wass/AP
Carlos Monasterios, right, gets a high-five from Russell Martin, center, and Matt Kemp after the Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 4-3 in 13 innings Saturday. Monasterios isn’t going anywhere for a while after his 2 2/3 extra innings of shutout ball.

See what happens when you get two out of three cogs working?

The Dodger defense help cause the team to play four extra innings Saturday, but this time the bullpen was up to the task while the offense did just enough. With Carlos Monasterios getting the final eight outs, the Dodgers defeated Washington in 13, 4-3.

The glow was tempered a bit with the news that Vicente Padilla was going on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm problems – the third Dodger to go on the DL this week. Reliever Jon Link has been recalled, but the Dodgers will make another roster move by Tuesday for a starter to take Padilla’s turn in the rotation. But there was a glow nevertheless.

Clayton Kershaw (3.13 ERA in 2010) allowed 11 baserunners in six innings but went to the showers with a 3-2 lead thanks to Casey Blake’s second home run. However, a Russell Martin throwing error – the 20th of the Dodgers’ 17-game season to date – led to an eighth-inning entrance by Jonathan Broxton, who allowed the game-tying, unearned run (charged to Ramon Troncoso). Rafael Furcal’s error an inning earlier also caused trouble; the Dodgers used four pitchers to get six outs in the sixth and seventh.

But the Dodger bullpen provided five scoreless innings at a most welcome time, with Broxton pitching the ninth, George Sherrill retiring all four batters he faced and then Monasterios (his ERA shrinking to 2.08) providing the final 2 2/3 innings to end it.

It wasn’t without one more scare. Monasterios entered the bottom of the 13th with the one-run lead after Russell Martin (0 for 5 with the big error at that point) singled in Furcal, who had singled and stolen his eighth base in nine attempts this year (second in the National League). Monasterios allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Ivan Rodriguez and then a double to the right-field corner by Nyler Morgan. A faster player would have scored, but Rodriguez held at third – and then was thrown out at the plate by inches by Blake on the Nationals’ next at-bat.

Cristian Guzman then popped out to end it. Monsasterios had come through. The Dodgers had come through. Even though Washington had gotten a runner to at least second base in each of the first nine innings, the Dodgers won.

From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

Monasterios, 24, generally keeps his emotions in check on the field but was jumping up and down in the infield like a Little Leaguer when he got Guzman to fly to left and end the game.

“That’s the correct way, no?” Monasterios asked. “I’m very excited and happy to be on this team right now. This experience will give me a lot of self confidence.”

Shades of Pedro Astacio …

Blake went 3 for 5 with the three RBI from his two homers, and Furcal, Matt Kemp and James Loney each had two hits. (Furcal also had a walk.)

With James McDonald on the AAA disabled list because of a broken nail (“Why tonight?”), the leading candidates to take the Tuesday start are John Ely, Scott Elbert and Josh Towers. Ely and Towers would require a 40-man roster spot, which the Dodgers have to spare if they move Brad Ausmus or Cory Wade from the 15- to the 60-day DL. Ely has the best numbers of the three: a 3.00 ERA over three starts covering 18 innings, though he has allowed 16 hits and eight walks against 12 strikeouts, and he’d be on five days’ rest for Tuesday. McDonald could be activated from the DL next week, but would the Dodgers use him after the layoff he has had?

Elbert, who last pitched for Albuquerque five days ago and was scheduled as recently as Friday to pitch today, was replaced by Seth Etherton, so one might have concluded he’ll get the call despite allowing 13 runs in eight innings over his past two starts. (He pitched six shutout innings in his first start of the year.) But Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out that Elbert is with his wife for the birth of their second child, so who knows?

Also keep in mind, with the possibility of a rainout Sunday or Monday, the Dodgers might be able to postpone addressing this problem. Anyway, enjoy today’s glow – a nice alternative to what could have been another dastardly disappointment.