Jul 31

Preparing for a Shane Victorino trade

To paraphrase Sally Field, you might not like Shane Victorino. You might really, really not like him. Perhaps because of the 2008 playoffs. (If you can’t get the clip above to work, click here.) Perhaps for another reason.

But other than providing Victorino no honeymoon if the Dodgers complete a trade for him, none of that is going to matter. If and when he does well for the Dodgers, you’re going to be happy. If and when he doesn’t, you weren’t going to be happy anyway.

As I commented yesterday at Dodger Thoughts, if Sal Maglie, Juan Marichal and Jeff Kent can become Dodgers, it’s hard to say a more insignificant rival like Victorino can’t.

Victorino, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1999 before leaving the organization twice in rule 5 drafts – the second time to the Phillies in 2004 – is having his poorest season in five years, with a .324 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage for Philadelphia. The situation is parallel to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez – even if Victorino continues at that sub-par level, his total package still is a step up from what the Dodgers have been getting out of their current left fielders, unless you’re a big fan of the outfield defense of Jerry Hairston Jr., Elian Herrera and Bobby Abreu.

With his speed (24 steals in 28 attempts) and defense, consider Victorino as Tony Gwynn Jr. with a better bat. The upside for a player like Victorino, who OPSed .847 in 2011 and was at times considered a Most Valuable Player candidate, is gravy.

The problem is that Victorino, despite being a switch-hitter, has a huge platoon disadvantage against right-handed pitching, as Jack Moore notes at Fangraphs. His OPS vs. righties this year is .649, and he has never broken .800 while batting left-handed.  Again, the Dodgers have seen worse, but given how much more often there’s a right-handed pitcher on the mound, Victorino likely gives the Dodgers a new offensive weapon in fewer than half their remaining games. He’s more a replacement for Juan Rivera (and Gwynn) than for James Loney.

Victorino is earning $9.5 million this season and can become a free agent this fall.

The reported cost will be Dodger reliever Josh Lindblom and a prospect. Lindblom, though slumping lately, has been one of the Dodgers’ top relievers this year, and he’s someone I like coming out of the bullpen, though that’s an area that’s easier to solve than the outfield. In general, the Dodgers are moving to solve their tremendous organizational imbalance of pitching vs. position players, and so this move would have that going for it.

How much of a difference Victorino might make as a Dodger, I don’t know. I can certainly think of players I’d rather have. But like him or not, if the Dodgers get him, it’ll be time to root for him.

Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the deal is done, with Victorino coming to Los Angeles in exchange for Lindblom and Ethan Martin, the 2008 first-round draft pick who misses bats but has long had control issues. Martin has allowed 89 hits and 61 walks in 118 innings for Double-A Chattanooga this year, but with 112 strikeouts.

Update 2: Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the trade a bit for the Dodgers.

Update 3: The Giants have countered. Hunter Pence, who has a .784 OPS for the Phillies this year, is headed to San Francisco.

Update 4: The trade is official, with the Dodgers also sending Philadelphia a player to be named later or cash. (Or Ralston Cash.)

Update 5: More on the trade from Jonah Keri of Grantland, Cliff Corcoran of SI.com and Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs.

Update 6: The Dodgers have designated LHP Michael Antonini for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Update 7: The Baseball Prospectus take on the trade.

Apr 24

Clock ticking on Mike MacDougal?

The Dodger bullpen is nearing another crunch. Todd Coffey is scheduled to pitch in minor-league rehab games Wednesday and Friday, in advance of becoming eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Before Coffey went on the disabled list to make room for the activation of Ted Lilly, it appeared that Josh Lindblom would be sent to the minors, because he had options remaining. Since that time, the importance to the Dodger bullpen of Lindblom, who had a 2.73 ERA and 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings last year, has only been underscored. Even after allowing his first run of the season Monday, the 24-year-old Lindblom has a 0.84 ERA in 2012 with nine baserunners in 10 2/3 innings, generally pitching in critical situations. Meanwhile, Mike MacDougal has been just about useless in what has become a mop-up role, allowing 12 of 26 batters to reach base.

Even though the Dodgers have committed $1 million to MacDougal ($650,000 salary for 2012, plus a $350,000 buyout of the club’s nearly insane $2.35 million 2013 option), it’s seemed clear in recent days that Lindblom has established that he has become too important to the Dodgers to send to the minors.

There’s room for a little second-guessing, however.

MacDougal has suffered from a .412 batting average on balls in play (Lindblom is at .174). The 35-year-old’s top problem has been that he has walked five batters in 4 2/3 innings. MacDougal has always had control problems, but as overrated as he might have been in 2011, he’s probably better than he has shown in 2012. The sample sizes are so small that I’m not sure the Dodgers would be ready to give up on their MacDougal investment so early in the year.

On the other hand, they might as well be. MacDougal’s peak value is still replaceable. The Dodgers aren’t hurting for alternatives, including Shawn Tolleson, who continues to absolutely destroy opposing batters in the minors. After becoming the team’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, Tolleson has started 2012 by facing 22 batters and striking out 13, while allowing only three to reach base.

In addition, Ronald Belisario’s suspension will end next week (May 3) after the Dodgers play their 25th game, forcing Los Angeles to confront his future. And somewhere down the road, a recovery for Blake Hawksworth theoretically lurks.

There’s only one logical assumption, and that’s another conveniently timed injury will befall a Dodger reliever, perhaps one whose initials are the same as Mickey Mantle’s. Barring that, Los Angeles should be brave enough to confront a future without MacDougal, who conceivably could clear waivers anyway and spend some time in Triple-A, where he pitched as recently as 2010.

Oct 18

Remembering 2011: Josh Lindblom


Kirby Lee/US PresswireJosh Lindblom (22)

The setup: The second-round draft pick from 2008 has had Dodger minor-league watchers excited about his potential for some time, especially with a 2.54 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 39 innings for Albuquerque in 2009, but his star dimmed in a rough 2010 (6.54 ERA with the Isotopes). As with Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ indecision about whether to make him a starting pitcher or not didn’t seem to help, but as with Elbert, the team committed to making him a reliever in 2011.

The closeup: Lindblom began the year in Double-A Chattanooga and thrived in three stints down there, totaling a 2.13 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings with 48 baserunners allowed. He came up to the big club on May 29 when Kenley Jansen went on the disabled list for what figured to be a temporary stay, but he made a decent first impression with a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings, though he struck out only five and allowed three of four inherited runners to score. Lindblom went back to Double-A after Jansen returned to active duty, allowed two runs on 11 baserunners in 17 innings while striking out 18, then came back when Jansen had his cardiac arrhythmia at the end of July.

From that point on, except for a one-week roster-crunch detour to the minors in late August, Lindblom was pretty much a Dodger to stay. Though his season ERA with the Dodgers rose to 2.73, he was actually more convincing the second time around, stranding nine of 11 inherited runners and striking out 23 in 19 innings while allowing only 20 baserunners. His highlight: September 14, when he was suddenly pushed into a game against National League West champion Arizona after Clayton Kershaw was ejected and struck out the side in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh.

Coming attractions: One of the Dodgers’ bright young firebrand firemen, the 24-year-old righty should join Jansen, Elbert and Javy Guerra as one of at least four 26-and-under pitchers in the 2012 bullpen.

Sep 14

Lindblom steps up in Kershaw’s absence, Dodgers win

Coming in from the cold after Clayton Kershaw’s ejection, Dodger reliever Josh Lindblom struck out the side in the sixth inning and added two more Ks in the seventh, pushing the Dodgers toward their 3-2 victory over Arizona tonight.

With Javy Guerra getting a night of rest, the Dodgers turned to Nathan Eovaldi for the eighth inning and Kenley Jansen to close. Eovaldi surrendered a run in an inning that saw Jerry Sands failing to make one diving catch on Ryan Roberts’ double, but then going to the wall to haul in a long fly by bete noire Gerardo Parra. Importantly, the Dodgers got the run back in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by Aaron Miles, driving in Matt Kemp (who stole his 39th base).

Jansen then gave up a leadoff single to Aaron Hill but struck out the next two batters. Hill took second on defensive indifference (no comment), then scored on Miguel Montero’s single to left. It was only the second run that Jansen had allowed in 27 innings since the end of May.

Jansen put things to bed, however, by striking out Chris Young, giving him 83 in 48 innings this season (15.56 per nine innings).

Aug 26

Minutia, Minushka

Catching up on some news …

  • Kenley Jansen has been activated from the disabled list. Josh Lindblom was sent to Double-A Chattanooga, where he will bide his time until he can return, in 10 days when rosters expand or sooner if there’s another Dodger injury.
  • Dee Gordon was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but Gordon did not play Thursday. It does not appear that the Dodgers will wait until when rosters expand September 1 to activate Gordon, which would mean that Eugenio Velez might not remain on the 25-man roster for long (though would no doubt clear waivers).
  • Ted Lilly is responding well to acupuncture treatment, he told Gurnick.
  • Don Drysdale’s daughter Drew is scheduled to sing National Anthem and God Bless America at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
  • While much talk about the Cubs’ general manager vacancy has centered on Ned Colletti, it’s former Dodger general manager Dan Evans who might be a more likely choice, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dodger prospect Jerry Sands is breaking some eggs – that is, making some significant adjustments with the hopes of deriving long-term benefit. From Christopher Jackson at Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:

    … “It’s been real tough, cause I came back down and I knew I needed to change some things, but it’s tough to totally overhaul in the middle of the season and be productive,” Sands said. “I want to get back up there, but I want to look like I learned something.

    “It was tough having to change things I’d done for years and then change them right over. The hot and the cold stretches have been a part of me learning, just a process of what I have to do to be more consistent.” …

  • Clayton Kershaw “stands to become just the fourth Dodger in the 128-year history of the franchise to post three straight seasons with an ERA+ of 130 or higher,” writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Jeff Pfeffer, Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser are the others.
  • Stephen also passes along the news that outfielder Kyle Russell has gotten a late-season promotion from Chattanooga to Albuquerque.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey caps its visit to St. Louis with a long, thoughtful piece about sportswriting.
  • The man himself, Bob Eubanks, talked to Dodger historian Mark Langill about the Beatles, setting up this weekend’s commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles playing Dodger Stadium (via Blue Heaven).
  • The friendly folks at Bronx Banter passed along “10 Things John Sterling would say in a hurricane” from IT IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS… caught.
  • On target as always, Joe Posnanski about “the myth of pressure.”

    … This line — that it’s easier to put up numbers without pennant pressure — is a lot like that. Nobody can possibly believe this. First of all, there’s the obvious flaw: If it were easier to put up numbers in non-pressure situations, then players would consistently and obviously have better years on lousy teams than they do on good ones. Does this ring even the slightest bell of truth? Does anyone believe that Derek Jeter would have put up better numbers had he played for Kansas City? Does anyone believe that Albert Pujols would be so much better if he had spent his career playing in the carefree world of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Roy Halladay was great for mediocre Blue Jays teams and is great for outstanding Phillies teams. Hank Aaron was the same great player with the same great numbers when Milwaukee won, when Milwaukee almost won, and when Milwaukee wasn’t very good at all. …

    If you’ve read this blog at all you know: I’ve covered a lot of bad teams in my life. I’ve been around some good ones, too. And as far as “pressure” goes, well, from my observation, it’s not even close. There is infinitely more pressure on players on lousy teams than on good ones. Obviously, this depends on how you define pressure, but if the textbook definition of pressure is “the feeling of stressful urgency cause by the necessity of achieving something,” well, absolutely, there’s way more pressure on the lousy teams.

    … Think about it: What pressure is there on players in pennant races? The pressure to win? Sure. But players come to the ballpark energized. Everyone on the team is into it. The crowd is alive and hopeful. The afternoon crackles. Anticipation. Excitement. There’s nothing in sports quite like the energy in a baseball clubhouse during a pennant race. Players arrive early to prepare. Teammates help each other. Everyone’s in a good mood. There’s a feeling swirling around: This is exactly the childhood dream. The added importance of the moment could, in theory I suppose, create extra stress. But the reality I’ve seen is precisely the opposite. The importance sharpens the senses, feeds the enthusiasm, makes the day brighter. Baseball is a long season. Anything to give a day a little gravity, to separate it from yesterday, to make it all more interesting — anything like that, I think, is much more likely to make it EASIER to play closer to one’s peak.

    A losing clubhouse? Exactly the opposite. The downward pressure is enormous and overwhelming — after all, who cares? The town has moved on. A Hawaiian vacation awaits. Teammates are fighting to keep their jobs or fighting to impress someone on another team or just plain fighting. The manager might be worried about his job. The reporters are few, and they’re negative. Smaller crowds make it easier to hear the drunken critics. Support is much harder to come by, and there is constant, intense force demanding that you just stop trying so hard. After all: Why take that extra BP? You’ve got the swing down. Why study a few extra minutes of film? You’ve faced that hitter before. Why take that extra base? Why challenge him on that 3-1 pitch? Why? You’re down 9-3 anyway.

    It’s absolutely AMAZING to me when a player puts up a fantastic year even when the team around him stinks. …

Jul 29

Jansen heads to disabled list

Kenley Jansen has gone on the disabled list with a cardiac arrhythmia, and Josh Lindblom has come from Chattanooga to replace him, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Also, Carlos Monasterios has had Tommy John surgery and will be out for approximately one year.

Jun 18

A low down dirty shame

One thing I noticed about the sixth-inning-gone-wrong in the Dodgers’ 7-3 loss to Houston on Friday was how the hitters who did the most damage to Ted Lilly were diving for pitches.

Carlos Lee went down and away to loop a 200-foot single to drive in the run that broke a 1-1 tie. The first-pitch breaking ball was not in the strike zone. Then, with the bases loaded, Clint Barmes hit a 1-0 slider over the plate but down at his knees, slicing a two-run double just inside the right-field line about 250 feet down.

The topper came on a two out, 3-2 fastball to Jason Bourgeois – first seen here in my 2002 article on Single-A ball in Savannah, right around the time I started Dodger Thoughts – that was over the center of the plate, but all Bourgeois did with that was hit a grounder up the middle that Aaron Miles flagged, only to miss on the throw to second, allowing two runs to score.

In the meantime, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com can tell you about the Dodgers’ lack-of-patience woes at the plate.

Not the Dodgers’ night, or their week, or their month, or their year.

* * *

Kenley Jansen, one of three injured Dodger relievers coming off the disabled list in the short term, returns to the active roster today. The trio of returnees will create some tough cuts in the Dodger bullpen, starting with Josh Lindblom, who is being sent to Double-A for the time being.

Note where Lindblom ranks on the following lists …

Opponents’ OPS in 2011 for recently active Dodger relievers
.624 Josh Lindblom
.629 Matt Guerrier
.637 Blake Hawksworth
.686 Scott Elbert
.749 Mike MacDougal
.777 Javy Guerra
.996 Ramon Troncoso

Opponents’ OPS in past 28 days for recently active Dodger relievers
.588 Blake Hawksworth
.624 Josh Lindblom
.686 Matt Guerrier
.840 Scott Elbert
.851 Mike MacDougal
.863 Ramon Troncoso
.868 Javy Guerra

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 01

Despite loss, kids continue to carry Dodger bullpen


Icon SMI/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa and Scott Elbert brought relief from the minors.

The kids have come to the rescue of the Dodger bullpen, and not nearly enough has been said about it.

Jonathan Broxton went on the disabled list May 6, followed within 10 days by Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Blake Hawksworth. To replace them, the Dodgers brought up Kenley Jansen (who had temporarily gone down to Chattanooga), Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra and Ramon Troncoso.

Another week later, the Dodgers dispatched mop-up man Lance Cormier and replaced him with Rubby De La Rosa. Then in the past week, Jansen went on the disabled list and was replaced by Josh Lindblom, who made his major-league debut with an inning in the finale of the Colorado series Wednesday.

Of the replacements, Troncoso was the veteran with all of 177 1/3 career innings. The combined career experience of Jansen, Elbert, Guerra, De La Rosa and Lindblom was 39 2/3 innings. Their average age: 23 1/2. Think about it – more than half of the bullpen handed over to runts.

Here’s how they’ve done, including the 3-0 Dodger loss to Colorado, in which the bullpen followed Jon Garland’s six-inning, three-run start with shutout ball:

  • Jansen: 7 2/3 innings, 13 baserunners, four earned runs (4.69 ERA), 13 strikeouts, 0 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Troncoso: six innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), two strikeouts, 2 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Guerra: seven innings, nine baserunners, two earned runs (2.57 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • De La Rosa: five innings, four baserunners, one earned run (1.80 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • Elbert: 4 2/3 innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), seven strikeouts, 1 of 6 inherited runners scored
  • Lindblom: one inning, two baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), no strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored

Total: 31 1/3 innings, 40 baserunners, seven earned runs, 32 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 3 of 16 inherited runners scored

That’s remarkable, especially considering we can assume that we can possibly attribute three of the seven runs allowed to the shoulder inflammation that sent Jansen to the disabled list.

The news that Padilla is expected to return to active duty Friday will, barring injury, start pushing the runts back to the minor leagues, but each has made the case to stay with the big club. Considered a weakness less than a month ago, the Dodger bullpen will in less than 48 hours have eight effective relievers to choose from, with more to come as Broxton, Kuo, Hawksworth and Jansen get back on their feet.

The other noteworthy thing is that with all the injuries, Dodger manager Don Mattingly has basically been forced to throw the idea of a designated closer out the window, instead bringing in pitchers simply based on the situation rather than their title or status. Unshackled from a pecking order, the Dodger kids haven’t suffered – they’ve thrived. Jansen, Guerra and De La Rosa have all finished close games, while Elbert and now even Lindblom have pitched in situations where giving up a single run could be a killer. De La Rosa, whose destiny remains starting pitcher, could be a circa-1992 Pedro Martinez-like smokejumper, giving you a couple innings at a time as long as there’s sufficient rest in between.

Message to Mattingly: Do yourself a favor. As the veterans return to the pen, don’t get caught up in who your closer is. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Manage according to the situation, not according to resume.

May 29

Whooosh – there it is: Kershaw, Dodgers blow out Marlins


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw

So that’s what a breeze feels like.

Sailing into a storm most of the season, the Dodgers enjoyed a day with the wind entirely at their backs, with Clayton Kershaw in near no-hit form and the offense practically an arcade, leading to an 8-0 breeze over the Marlins.

The Dodgers took two of three from Florida for their first series victory since April 22-24 in Chicago. If you’re any kind of believer – and praise be onto you if you are – this is where it starts, all the ifs and buts transforming into actual results.

Whether they can extend this one-game winning streak, matching their longest since May 13 (yes, that’s right), is of course up in the air, but if in fact it’s a blip on the losing radar, it was a blip to be savored.

Kershaw’s marquee game in my mind remains his showdown victory over Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado 12 1/2 months ago, but as Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out, today was Kershaw’s finest statistical outing ever – a Kershawnal Best, if you will – allowing two hits and one walk while striking out 10 in his second career shutout. The second hit off Kershaw was a ball that Jay Gibbons lost in a battle with the sun and an unusually ferocious wind, which would have been exceedingly painful for fans had Omar Infante not singled softly to left in the third inning.

In any case, Kershaw, who lowered his ERA to 2.62 and now leads the major leagues with 87 strikeouts, was in complete control.

“He was hitting both sides of the plate and throwing inside on lefties, which you don’t see that much from a lefty,” Florida’s Wes Helms told The Associated Press. “Kershaw just commanded all of his pitches today, and he had above-average stuff. He knows how to bury his curveball and his slider. He’s not going to leave it over the middle of the plate. I mean, you get geared up for that heater, and his slider’s hard enough that you can’t hold up when it’s in the dirt.”

It was a Hershiseresque day all around for Kershaw, who had as many hits at the plate as he allowed. The 23-year-old, who was 10 for 132 entering this season, is 6 for 25 in 2011. His two hits were only 13 percent of the Dodgers’ 15 off Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco, who was forced to stick it out for five innings after Florida blew out its bullpen Saturday. The total tied a Los Angeles record for the most off a single starting pitcher (Mario Soto of Cincinnati was the last victim, in 1982).

Gibbons, Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal each had three, including Furcal’s first homer of the year, a two-run shot to the right-field bullpen that gave the Dodgers their initial lead after Kershaw led off the bottom of the third with a single. Ethier reached base in all five plate appearances, while Dioner Navarro went 2 for 4 to complete a 7-for-18 week.

Dodger life is good today, for the second time in three days.

* * *

  • Bob Timmermann has a great essay at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence about a simpler time, a simpler time when all we had to do was be mad at Tom Niedenfuer and Jack Clark.
  • Zach Lee gave up six runs in one-third of an inning of his return to active duty with Great Lakes today. He allowed three hits, two walks and two hit batters, writes Hugh Bernreuter of the Saginaw News, who also had a nice piece on Ramon Martinez earlier this week.
  • Josh Lindblom officially arrived today, with Kenley Jansen going on the 15-day disabled list and Travis Schlichting being designated for assignment. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. That makes five top relievers on the Dodger disabled list: Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Blake Hawksworth and Jansen.
  • Gary Carter’s diagnosis is grim, but no one is giving up, writes Ian Begley for ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Stadium Journey reviews the Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark.
Mar 10

Garland injury confirmed, DL all but certain

An MRI confirmed that Jon Garland has a strained left oblique muscle, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, all but confirming that he will start the season on the disabled list.

Wednesday, Jackson was among those who noted that the Dodgers “really don’t have to use a fifth starter until their 11th game of the season, April 12 at San Francisco, the first time they are scheduled to play a game on a fifth consecutive day.”

Going with only four starters in early April could allow someone like Xavier Paul to extend his Dodger stay past Spring Training.

  • Other late items from Jackson: The weird, thank-goodness-it-didn’t-happen-to-Matt Kemp explanation of why Andre Ethier didn’t end up starting Wednesday’s game, and a note that John Lindsey has reinjured his calf.
  • More at MLB.com from Ken Gurnick: Rubby De La Rosa is recovering from minor shoulder inflammation, and this update on Josh Lindblom …

    … Two springs ago, he came out of nowhere to nearly make the Opening Day roster after only 34 professional innings, but it’s been a roller coaster ever since. He’s been bounced between starting and relieving and passed by the likes of Rubby De La Rosa on the prospect depth chart. He had a 6.54 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque last year. …

    Lindblom, a closer at Purdue and second-round Draft pick in 2008, said he’s determined to get back on track now that management has told him he’s exclusively a reliever again.“I got to the point where I lost who I was as a pitcher,” said the 23-year-old. “Instructional league helped me get back my delivery. It was tough going back and forth [between starting and relieving], but what happened I have to take ownership of. Most important, I let myself down. Now I’m settling into a role.” …

  • Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke’s basketball injury reminded Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy of the time Matt Kemp went all out at a charity hoops game at Westchester High.
  • Duke Snider, Jimmy Wynn and Willie Davis rank sixth, eighth and 11th all-time among MLB center fielders using a statistical measure called Weighted Wins Above Replacement (wWAR), according to Beyond the Box Score.

* * *

Padres at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m. (Prime Ticket)

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.

* * *

  • 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.

* * *

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

Jun 20

Revenge of the beleaguered

Look who’s off the mat: Charlie Haeger threw six shutout innings for Albuquerque today. Josh Lindblom followed with two shutout innings in relief.

Also of note: Kiko Calero has not been scored upon in six innings since joining the organization. The 35-year-old had a 1.95 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 60 innings for Florida last year and a 3.24 ERA in his career. He made his major-league debut at age 28.

Jun 03

Dodgers can’t quite bounce back, fall 4-3


Danny Moloshok/AP
Manny Ramirez’s failure to come up with this sinking drive by Atlanta pitcher Kris Medlen in the sixth inning allowed what proved to be the winning run to score.

Well, the Dodger offense indeed was slumping. Shut out for the first seven innings tonight by Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, the Dodgers had only two runs to show for their past 31 innings.

Still, they almost extended their winning streak. Almost.

Danny Moloshok/AP
Takashi Saito’s Dodger Stadium homecoming was nearly perfect, until his leg gave way.

Down 4-0 and held to three runners in the first seven innings by 24-year-old Atlanta righty Kris Medlen, the Dodgers picked and poked their way back into it in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs on singles by James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Jamey Carroll and Ronnie Belliard, a throwing error by the Braves (which DeWitt barely converted into a run with a devilish hand-touch of home), and an RBI groundout by Rafael Furcal. But after Matt Kemp walked, mojo-free Andre Ethier struck out on a 2-2 fastball.

And then control of the game turned to our truly old friend, 40-year-old Takashi Saito, pitching against the Dodgers for the first time in his career. In the ninth, Saito retired Manny Ramirez and Loney, then got to 0-2 on Martin … when he had to leave the game with an apparent left hamstring injury. After a delay of several minutes, Jonny Venters came in and threw one pitch to strike out Martin and walk away with Saito’s save of a 4-3 Atlanta victory.

It was a disappointing night for Los Angeles, but not quite the bad taste that a shutout would have left. And the Lakers’ NBA Finals Game 1 victory will certainly provide some cover and consolation.

Hiroki Kuroda is also slumping now, by the way. His performance tonight wasn’t terrible – three earned runs in six innings – but the seven hits and four walks against two strikeouts hint at how sloppy it was. In his past two starts (the previous one an even more uncomfortable outing in Colorado), Kuroda has allowed 11 runs (eight earned) on 23 baserunners in 10 innings with three strikeouts. Yikes.

But this all, I believe, will pass. Perhaps around the time that the Dodger bullpen, which hasn’t allowed an earned run in its past 20 innings (according to the Dodger press notes), cracks.

* * *

  • Jeff Weaver entered the game in the top of the seventh, only to depart with trainer Stan Conte without throwing an official pitch. No details immediately available.
  • Casey Blake is day-to-day with back spasms, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Spurred to investigate the situation by questioners during his online chat today, Jackson found that minor-league pitcher Josh Lindblom is being converted back to relief. “When he gets back, we’re probably going to transition him back to the bullpen,” assistant general manager for player development DeJon Watson told Jackson. “I think he is better suited to the bullpen. It’s just his delivery and his stuff, and I think this will give him a chance to help our big league club at some point this year. We just want to get him back to where he was at the end of last year.”
  • Pitching rehab outings for Inland Empire tonight, Vicente Padilla threw 37 pitches, allowing one hit and striking out five in three innings, while George Sherrill struck out two in an eight-pitch inning of relief.
  • Vin Scully will make a rare trip East in two weeks, broadcasting the Dodgers’ game at Fenway Park for Prime Ticket on June 18, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Lucky us.
Apr 11

Relief disbelief: Same old song with a few new lines


Keith Srakocic/AP
George Sherrill’s bad outing against Pittsburgh on Opening Day was mere prelude to Saturday’s Florida fright night.

George Sherrill should be able to get three outs before he gives up three runs. And inevitably, there was going to be a do-or-die situation this season when he would need to do that. Just as Vicente Padilla shouldn’t give up four runs on nine baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, Sherrill needs to do better if the Dodgers are going avoid trouble.

But Padilla and Sherrill’s failings are basically heat-of-the-battle failings, whereas Joe Torre’s use of Jonathan Broxton this week is the equivalent of filling the bubbles in your SAT exam with Crayola burnt orange. (Assuming they still use bubbles.)

We’ve said it before and we hate to say it again – so this is going to be brief. If you can’t afford to allow a run – as was the case when the Dodgers played extra innings in Pittsburgh on Wednesday – you use the pitcher least likely to allow a run. Only after that pitcher has been used do you turn to others. And certainly, you don’t worry about saving your best pitcher for a situation in which you can allow a run and still win.

On one level, it was coincidental that Torre’s use of Broxton this week led to us talking about his absence from Saturday’s game. It required a specific flow of events from Opening Day on. On the other hand, we do see this from Dodger managers, including Torre’s recent predecessors, all too often. If Sherrill had been used Saturday after a proper use of Broxton in previous days, people would have been talking about Sherrill overnight a lot more than Torre.

Do not save your best reliever for a save situation in an extra-inning game on the road.

  • One other oddity regarding Saturday and the bullpen: Torre told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Ramon Troncoso, who was pitched a perfect eighth inning but was pulled after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth, “is basically a one-inning guy.” I realize that bullpen roles have changed with Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario out, but especially when he hadn’t pitched the day before and with Broxton out, since when is Troncoso a one-inning guy? The guy made his reputation with his ability to go multiple frames. Troncoso needed only seven pitches to get out of the eighth inning, then had thrown six pitches in the ninth when he came out of the game.
  • The botched squeeze in the second inning Saturday (that resulted in a bases-loaded, one-out situation imploding) was even crazier than it appeared. As many surmised, Vicente Padilla missed the suicide squeeze sign that resulted in Casey Blake getting tagged out between third and home. But from what Torre told reporters this morning, it appears that Torre himself wanted to take the squeeze off after having initially called for it – but that he gave the second sign too late for third-base coach Larry Bowa to see. So Bowa and Blake incorrectly, though understandably, thought the squeeze was still on – while Padilla, apparently, was oblivious to all of this. Torre indicated that he puts signs on and takes them off all the time.
  • Manny Ramirez had his 2,500th career hit Saturday, while Rafael Furcal had his 1,500th. Furcal has a .480 on-base percentage this season and is tied for the major-league lead in doubles.
  • Ian Kennedy is the scheduled starter for Arizona against Clayton Kershaw in Tuesday’s home opener, followed by Rodrigo Lopez against Chad Billingsley on Wednesday and Dan Haren against Hiroki Kuroda on Thursday.
  • LeeAnn Rimes will sing the national anthem Tuesday.
  • Josh Lindblom was hit hard in his first 2010 start for Albuquerque – needing 77 pitches to get through three innings that saw him give up eight hits, two walks and three runs while striking out one.
  • John Lindsey, the 33-year-old minor-league lifer still looking for his first major-league action, is 7 for 13 with three doubles in his first three games for the Isotopes. Lindsey would need a few injuries to right-handed hitting Dodgers before he’d have a shot at a cup of coffee.
  • James Adkins, a 2007 first-round pick, allowed five runs in three innings of relief in his first 2010 outing for AA Chattanooga.
  • Ethan Martin’s Inland Empire season debut was a different story: five innings, no runs, three singles, no walks, one hit batter, nine strikeouts.
  • Allen Webster allowed one run over five innings (six baserunners, four strikeouts) in his ’10 Great Lakes debut.
  • Dixie Walker, the Brooklyn Dodger long remembered for starting a petition against Jackie Robinson joining the team, is revisited today by Harvey Araton of the New York Times (via Inside the Dodgers). The article’s main point seems to be that Walker was remorseful and not the racist he’s been accused of being:

    … Though (Maury) Allen and Susan Walker suggest in the book that her father did not initiate the anti-Robinson petition, Roger Kahn, in his 2002 book, “The Era,” wrote that Walker told him in 1976 that he had.

    Kahn quoted Walker saying: “I organized that petition in 1947, not because I had anything against Robinson personally or against Negroes generally. I had a wholesale business in Birmingham and people told me I’d lose my business if I played ball with a black man.”

    In a telephone interview, Kahn said his conversation with Walker took place when Walker was the hitting coach for the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

    “He invited me out for a glass of wine — somewhat shocking in that Budweiser world,” Kahn said. “We talked for a while, and then he got to the point: the petition and his letter to Rickey. He called it the stupidest thing he’d ever done and if I ever had a chance to please write that he was very sorry.”

    Calling the Walker he met “a lovely, courtly man,” Kahn said that the assumption should not be made that all early opposition to Robinson was based on core discrimination and not confusion or fear.

    “Ballplayers depended on off-season work back then,” he said. “When I was covering the Dodgers, Gil Hodges sold Buicks on Flatbush Avenue. Now, if you’re Derek Jeter and you have a wholesale hardware business, you can say, ‘So what?’ ”

    Rachel Robinson’s response in the same article: “If you’re asking about forgiveness based on the context of the time, I can’t say I worry about the view of them at this time. Maybe they learned better or changed, but at the time, they had a chance to move forward from segregation and chose the opposite. They had an impact.”