Jun 23

2-1: The mourning after


Lori Shepler/AP
Joe Torre argues with second-base umpire Jim Reynolds as the Angels celebrate their win.

It was hard to watch the Dodgers tonight, hard to watch Matt Kemp hit into hard luck (even with an RBI double), hard to watch the return of John Ely (seven innings, one earned run) get wasted, and hardest of all watch Rafael Furcal make two critical errors in his first game back from burying his father.

And then …

With runners on first and second and none out in the ninth inning, Dodgers down by a run, Casey Blake, who sacrificed with runners on first and second and none out in this one-run victory over St. Louis on June 9, struck out.

And then …

With the count 3-1 to Russell Martin (after a questionable 3-0 strike call), Kemp is picked off second base.

And then, and then, and then ….

After Martin walks to keep things alive, pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll bloops a single to left field. And with pinch-runner Reed Johnson coming home to score the tying run unchallenged, Martin rounds second base too far and is tagged out before Johnson crosses the plate.

Game over.

“I thought we gave it away,” Joe Torre told Prime Ticket after the game. “I thought Russell was safe getting back to second, but he can’t put himself in peril like that. … It was stated (to the team before the game) that Fuentes has a move, just be careful of his spin-around move, and we got caught. We need more than ability to play this game.”

I want my thoughts to be with Furcal, and the worst part of the way the ninth inning went down is that it makes it hard.

It’s not for me to say what was going on in Furcal’s head, it’s not for me to say whether the errors were coincidence or whether he came back too soon, it’s only for me to say that I feel for him. Tonight’s loss will pass within a day or days, but Furcal will carrying his burden, I can imagine, the rest of his life.

The wolves will be out for the Dodgers, fierce. I want my thoughts to be with Furcal.

Jun 17

Rafael Furcal placed on bereavement list

No details yet, but the Dodgers announced in a 7:30 a.m. e-mail that Rafael Furcal had been placed on Major League Baseball’s bereveament list. Chin-Lung Hu has been called up to take his roster spot, though he will not arrive in Cincinnati in time for the start of today’s early game.

Placement on the bereavement list means that Furcal will miss from three to seven games.

All my sincerest condolences to Furcal.

Update: Furcal went to the Dominican Republic to see an ailing family member, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

  • Nick Green opted out of his minor-league contract and became a free agent, reports Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner.
  • Claudio Vargas returned to the Dodger organization, signing a minor-league contract with the Isotopes, whose pitching has been trashed by injuries, absences, promotions and demotions.
  • Russ Mitchell homered twice and singled for Albuquerque on Wednesday, while Michael Restovich doubled, tripled and homered, and Xavier Paul and Ivan De Jesus, Jr. also each had three hits.
  • Kyle Russell hit his first AA home run for Chattanooga, while Trayvon Robinson had three hits.
  • Fred Claire has a nice story at MLB.com about Monte Irvin, who at age 91 will have his number retired by the Giants. Among other tidbits was this revelation:

    … Irvin revealed that when he got out of the service in 1945 he signed a contract with the Dodgers.

    “I had been selected by Branch Rickey to break the color barrier,” said Irvin. “I had the talent and I was easy to get along with.”

    Irvin said that even though he had signed the contract with the Dodgers, he asked to return to play in the Negro Leagues “because I didn’t want to go to the Major Leagues until I had my game back after three years in the service.”

    Irvin said a dispute developed over the contract between his Negro League team and the Dodgers, and he didn’t get his opportunity in the Major Leagues until a deal was worked out with the Giants in 1949.

    “Things have a way of working out and I’m just happy that I had the chance to play the game that I loved,” he said.

  • Matt Kemp’s struggles get an analysis from Chad Moriyama of Memories of Kevin Malone.
  • Second-round draft choice Ralston Cash is close to signing with the Dodgers, reports Bill Murphy of the Gainesville Times.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven passes along a neat find: a 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers ticket order form. Get your box seats for $3 …
  • Here’s a fun historical site: CalTrafficSigns.com (via Franklin Avenue).
Jun 15

Dodgers a-splishin’ and a-splashin’, 12-0


Al Berhman/AP
The Reds couldn’t stop Rafael Furcal – they could only hope to tag him out trying to steal in the sixth inning.

In the middle of tonight’s game, the Dodgers worried that their three-run first-inning outburst might be washed away by rain. Turns out the team was just getting started.

On a night that Rafael Furcal had five hits, the Dodgers scored nine runs after the tarp was removed at soaked and nearly empty Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, finishing off a 12-0 romp at 12:52 a.m. on the East Coast.

With Hiroki Kuroda leading the pitching before and after the rain delay, the Dodgers stayed within a half-game of San Diego for the best record in the National League. Yet for the season, the Dodgers had only outscored their opponents by two runs, 292-290, before tonight.

Furcal, who grounded out in the ninth while bidding to tie the Dodger team record of six hits, had four singles and a double, and also dazzled defensively. James Loney (now the team’s RBI leader) added three doubles and a single, giving him seven hits in his past nine at-bats. Left field also had four hits for the Dodgers, with Manny Ramirez homering and singling twice in his second consecutive three-hit game, and Reed Johnson adding a single. The Dodgers had 25 baserunners in all – Ramon Troncoso even had a bases-loaded walk.

According to the Dodger TV broadcast, the last time two Dodgers had at least four hits in a game was when Jeff Kent and Marlon Anderson did it in the 4+1 game on September 18, 2006.

May 25

Dempster’s Revenge: Cubs shut out Dodgers (again)


Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
In his past 15 innings against the Dodgers, Ryan Dempster has allowed four runners to reach second base and none to score.

Ryan Dempster would rather have the first game of the 2008 National League Division Series back, but he’s doing well with consolation prizes.

Since giving up the NLDS-changing grand slam in October 2008, Dempster has pitched twice for the Cubs against the Dodgers – May 30 last year and tonight – and done nothing less than throw 15 consecutive scoreless innings against the Dodgers, who lost their second straight game after winning 12 of 13, 3-0.

Dempster went eight innings this time around, allowing three hits and walking one while striking out seven. Russell Martin (single), Manny Ramirez (single and walk) and Casey Blake (single) were the only baserunners for the Dodgers, whose final 16 hitters were retired by Dempster and Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.

Rafael Furcal had a miserable return from the disabled list, going 0 for 4 with two errors, each of which led to an unearned run. The first was a failed backhand pickup on a Ryan Theriot grounder leading off the bottom of the sixth, with Theriot coming around to score on a Derrek Lee single to break a scoreless duel between Dempster and Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw lowered his ERA for the season to 2.90 with six innings of four-hit, two-walk, four-strikeout ball, but was charged with the loss.

Furcal then threw in the dirt after fielding a Starlin Castro grounder starting the bottom of the eighth, and Lee (3 for 3 with a walk) homered off reliever Ramon Troncoso – who told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com hours before that he had figured out the flaw in his delivery that caused him to give up three other homers last week – to give the Cubs breathing room.

In his past four starts covering 28 1/3 innings, Kershaw’s ERA is 0.64.

Update: Rafael Furcal wasn’t the only one who goofed Tuesday. I managed to miss another start Ryan Dempster made against the Dodgers last year – August 23. Thanks to commenter DodgerKramer for alerting me. Dempster allowed no earned runs in seven innings that outing, meaning that his streak of innings without allowing an earned run against the Dodgers is actually 22.

May 14

Rafael Furcal doesn’t come off disabled list as expected


Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Rafael Furcal

Rafael Furcal was expected to be activated from the disabled list for tonight’s game, but the Dodgers just announced (via Twitter) a starting lineup with Jamey Carroll at shortstop again. Details to come.

Update: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the latest on Furcal:

… “I don’t know,” Furcal said when asked when would be activated. “They have to see. I just have to keep working on it and see when it gets better.”

Furcal played six innings defensively in each of two minor-league rehabilitation games with high Single-A Inland Empire on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I felt it a little bit when I was playing there,” he said. “But afterward, I felt it a little bit more.”

Furcal said if it were his choice, he would have come off the DL and play despite the lingering discomfort. At the same time, though, he didn’t question the decision of the team’s medical staff to keep him sidelined a little longer. …

* * *

Ramon Ortiz starts for the Dodgers, with a full compliment of seven relievers behind him, thanks to Thursday’s day off. I don’t know if the Dodgers did this intentionally, but given the fact that the team was going to need a No. 5 starter at some point in the next five days, it makes sense to start your worst pitcher on the day your bullpen is completely rested.

May 04

Rafael Furcal officially heads to disabled list


Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Rafael Furcal

The Dodgers officially placed Rafael Furcal on the disabled list and chose to call up Nick Green instead of Chin-Lung Hu to take his place on the roster, according to their daily press notes. Furcal will be eligible to come off the DL on May 13. Cory Wade was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room for Green on the 40-man roster.

Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness argues why Hu should have gotten the call.

Mar 06

Torre talks about going without lefty on bench – isn’t this unthinkable?

Dodger manager Joe Torre says he is contemplating going without a left-handed hitter on the bench, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.  I can’t believe it. I can’t believe any manager would do it. It puts your team at such a disadvantage, by allowing opponents to throw their best right-handed relievers against you at will.

But it’s true that the Dodgers have basically put themselves behind the right-handed 8-ball by signing non-southpaws Jamey Carroll, Nick Green, Ronnie Belliard and Reed Johnson this offseason. And with the latest news that Anderson won’t be ready to face live pitching for at least a week, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com – along with ongoing health concerns about Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz, and the team’s reluctance to make the inexperienced Xavier Paul their lefty off the bench – the Dodgers have to at least plan for the possibility that come Opening Day, they will have no lefty options better than their righty ones.

Torre faces a problem because, as was noted when the team was signing Johnson, the Dodgers don’t have room for 12 pitchers and a lefty bench player unless a) Blake DeWitt starts the season in Albuquerque or b) the team does something it went out of its way to avoid in 2009, by making a non-shortstop the backup to Rafael Furcal. (Remember, the Dodgers kept Juan Castro as a backup basically all of last season, and that was with Mark Loretta having more shortstop experience than Jamey Carroll has.)

Even though DeWitt is off to a nice start after two Spring Training games, he’s still got a ways to go before the starting second base job is his.  But if he wins it, the Dodgers would face such a roster crunch that the next most logical choice might be to cut Belliard, rather than go without a lefty pinch-hitter. After all, Belliard (whose contract isn’t officially guaranteed yet) is really only with the team in case DeWitt needs more seasoning.

If Giles or Mientkiewicz were healthy, I’d recommend keeping them over Belliard. However, Belliard projects to be better against righties than the over-the-hill Anderson, so choosing Anderson over Belliard is a bit unsavory.

A different solution would be to go with 11 pitchers, but as I said all last year, the Dodgers really do have a pitching staff that benefits from a 12th man. Maybe someone should run the numbers, but I think the cushion the seventh reliever provides helps the team more than a sixth bench player would.

The Dodgers are going to have to bite one of these bullets, and after shooting through all the different options, the best one might be to go without a true backup shortstop. With Furcal looking much healthier this year, backup shortstop will be one of the team’s lower priorities come Opening Day. If Furcal gets hurt, I’d much rather see Carroll at shortstop at the end of a close game than see a righty batter against a tough righty reliever. Neither Green nor Chin-Lung Hu would be likely to help the team more than even Anderson would.

The question is whether Green or Hu’s defense makes either a better choice for the roster than Belliard. I do think, if DeWitt starts at second base, that’s where the choice would be.

If the Dodgers do the heretofore unthinkable and keep an all-righty bench, I’d bet the house it doesn’t last more than two weeks. A team should have more than one left-handed hitter on the bench. Having none, strategically, is just a nightmare.