Oct 21

Remembering 2011: Lance Cormier


Nam Y. Huh/APLance Cormier (26)

The setup: Signed to a minor-league contract in February, the 30-year-old Cormier was coming off three straight adequate years in the American League in which he pitched in 158 games with a 3.71 ERA. He walked four batters per nine innings in that time, so he was no one’s idea of a savior, but he was coming off a better year than, say, Mike MacDougal.

The closeup: Um, yikes. Thrust into a mop-up role, Cormier kept spilling the bucket, allowing 11 runs (nine earned) in seven innings over his first four appearances through April 15. He pitched only three games in the next month.

On May 18, the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 4-0 in the fifth inning and 5-2 in the eighth to tie the Giants, 5-5. But they had used three relievers in the process, and three others were unavailable (Vicente Padilla had forearm stiffness, while Kenley Jansen had pitched four of the past five days and Matt Guerrier the past two). So they turned to Cormier, who hadn’t pitched in a game closer than three runs all season. With two out and two on, Cormier allowed a three-run, game-winning home run to Cody Ross.

Cormier pitched one more game for Los Angeles, giving up two runs in two innings to lower his 2011 ERA to 9.88 in 13 2/3 innings. On May 24, he was designated for assignment, making room for Rubby De La Rosa. Cormier returned to the Tampa Bay organization, spending the rest of the year in Triple-A Durham with a 5.51 ERA, allowing 80 baserunners while striking out 25 in 47 1/3 innings.

Coming attractions: Cormier faces an uphill march trying to get back in the majors, but with relievers, you never know.

May 24

Rubby De La Rosa gets the call

The Dodgers’ accelerated youth movement continues today with the promotion of pitcher Rubby De La Rosa from Double-A to the big leagues.

De La Rosa follows Jerry Sands as the second active Dodger who began last season in Single-A ball. (Correction: Make it three, as Kenley Jansen also qualifies.) De La Rosa has a 2.92 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 40 innings this season for Chattanooga.

He figures to be a top candidate for the starting rotation as soon as next season, but while this move will put him in the bullpen, it might help preserve an arm that had only thrown 180 professional innings before this season. Chad Billingsley and Pedro Martinez are among the starting pitchers who spent early portions of their major-league careers in relief.

In the process, the Dodgers gave up on Lance Cormier, designating him for assignment rather than sending Ramon Troncoso back to the minors and making room for De La Rosa in some other fashion.

May 01

Kuo activated, Jansen sent to Chattanooga


Harry How/Getty ImagesAaron Miles and the Dodgers will try to get back on their feet today

The first part of the headline is the most important: The Dodgers get Hong-Chih Kuo back after a minor-league rehab appearance Friday (his third) in which he allowed no runs or walks and struck out two. But the more curious aspect is the second part, in which the Dodgers optioned reliever Kenley Jansen to Triple-A rather than cut loose back-of-the-bullpen reliever Lance Cormier. (Update: The Dodgers later issued a correction saying that Jansen has gone down to Double-A Chattanooga.)

Jansen has had two certifiably terrible outings, one April 2, the other April 19. But in has past three games, covering 4 2/3 innings, Jansen has allowed no hits, walked two and struck out nine. That makes Jansen the Dodgers’ most effective reliever over the past week.

If this small sample size were all that Jansen had going for him, that’d be one thing, but the two bad outings in April are much more of an aberration in the Jansen oeuvre than what he’s done recently. Jansen’s career numbers remain strong: 2.90 ERA, 49 baserunners vs. 63 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers want Jansen to develop a secondary pitch, and that the Dodgers value Cormier’s role as a mop-up man, which is as damned with faint praise as you get. So what this boils down to is the Dodgers breaking more eggs in their bullpen, in the hopes that they’ll bake a better cake in the long term. It’s not the end of the world, but Jansen will be missed.

As long as Cormier’s sticking around, can I suggest again that the Dodgers use the right-handed Cormier more against left-handed batters, a group he continues to have the most success against?

* * *

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%.

Feb 18

Why Lance Cormier is a darkhorse roster candidate

Kim Klement/US PresswireIn the past three seasons, Lance Cormier has allowed a sub-.700 OPS against left-handed batters, including 26 extra-base hits in 486 plate appearances.

Outside of the left-field conundrum, the Dodgers’ biggest question mark for Spring Training might be how they will address the task of getting left-handed batters out with their almost completely right-handed bullpen. No one wants to see Hong-Chih Kuo relegated to facing only lefties, and the only other left-handed thrower on the 40-man roster is the uncertain Scott Elbert.

Three non-roster invitees to major-league camp are left-handed: 39-year-old Ron Mahay, achy-hamstringed Dana Eveland (whose career 5.74 ERA will apparently be sidelined for weeks after Thursday’s injury) and Wilkin De La Rosa, who has never pitched about Double-A. After that, you start dipping down into the minors for developing players like James Adkins.

With Ronald Belisario’s absence seemingly opening up a roster spot, Mahay would seem to be the default candidate. He had a .520 OPS allowed against lefties last season. But the previous two seasons, his OPS allowed against lefties was above .700 — which isn’t terrible, but isn’t exactly the kind of authoritative performance you’re looking for when you really want someone to come in and get that guy out.

I got to wondering if there were any righties among the Dodger relievers who were reliable against lefties. Here’s a chart of the bullpen candidates’ OPS allowed against lefties over the past three seasons in the majors:

2010 PA/ 2010 OPS   2009 PA/ 2009 OPS   2008 PA/ 2008 OPS
Belisario 86 .793   122 .720      
Broxton 123 .626   148 .414   126 .800
Colon 5 .650   94 .713      
Cormier 162 .718   180 .671   144 .667
Elbert 4 2.000   40 .699   14 1.000
Eveland 59 .802   60 .999   170 .646
Guerrier 102 .649   120 .525   126 .801
Hawksworth 185 .886   76 .724      
Jansen 51 .586            
Kuo 69 .271   40 .524   98 .557
Link 16 .962            
MacDougal 39 1.353   124 .760   24 .858
Mahay 68 .520   111 .743   110 .721
Monasterios 188 .709            
Padilla 166 .590   352 .837   385 .944
Redding       282 .860   402 .808
Schlichting 39 .465   9 .905      
Troncoso 99 .823   157 .751   84 .707
Villarreal             68 .862

Some observations:

  • The Dodgers have a few righties who seem consistently effective against their opposite numbers: Jonathan Broxton, Matt Guerrier and, based on a small sample size, Kenley Jansen.
  • Oh, and another guy who probably isn’t on your radar … late signee Lance Cormier.
  • Based on only his one season, Carlos Monasterios offers an intriguing first impression — though looking at the chart, you can see how much these numbers can fluctuate. Look at what happened to Ramon Troncoso, for example, or moving in the other direction, Vicente Padilla.
  • For extreme small-sample candidates, there’s Roman Colon and Travis Schlichting. Consider at your own risk.

If the Dodgers decide that Kuo, Broxton, Guerrier, Jansen and Padilla are all effective against lefties, they could decide to go without a second left-handed pitcher — especially if they also think Cormier is worth a roster slot. It might still be Mahay’s spot to lose or Scott Elbert’s spot to win, but Cormier might be this year’s guy you least expected.

Feb 16

Dodgers invite Lance Cormier to camp

The Dodgers signed Lance Cormier to a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league camp, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who has details.

Interestingly, Cormier is two years younger than Matt Guerrier, who signed a big three-year deal with the Dodgers in the offseason,

Cormier, 30, has been effective at times over the past three years pitching for the Orioles and Rays, with a 3.71 ERA, though he has still allowed 316 baserunners in 211 innings with only 112 strikeouts. As a righty, he has long odds for making the Opening Day roster but could be in the midseason mix if he stays in the minors.