Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Feb 16

Belisario in jeopardy of missing season

The weird thing with Ronald Belsiario, whom Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles says is in jeopardy of missing the 2011 season, was that he ever became an important pitcher for the Dodgers in the first place.

His credentials at Spring Training 2009 were less than zero, making his late arrival there irrelevant, and less than a week before Opening Day that year, he remained practically a non-entity. Then he came, was seen and conquered. On July 1, he had a 1.89 ERA with 46 strikeouts against 55 baserunners in 47 2/3 innings.

He soon was forced to miss a month of the season with some personal and physical problems, but still finished the year strong. Only a run he allowed on the final day of the season pushed his ERA over 2.00.

But then came the chaos of 2010 — an even later arrival, followed by almost none of the consistent excellence the previous year had offered. His rate of baserunners allowed went up; his strikeout rate went down. The lowest his ERA sat at any point last year was 3.79 on July 5, after a three-inning shutout performance that was immediately followed by another sabbatical of more than a month. On August 12, he was a conspirator in one of the Dodgers’ devastating losses, allowing four of the eight runs the team gave up in the final two innings of a 10-9 defeat at Philadelphia.

As divided as fans can be on pitchers like Jonathan Broxton, they were united this offseason on Belisario. I doubt there was anyone who didn’t cast a dubious eye on his presence on the 2011 roster, wondering if he could be relied upon in any sense.

There are certain players who, no matter how talented they were at one point, will always be remembered for the air of mystery or confusion that so often surrounded them. Belisario may well make it back to the big leagues someday, with the Dodgers or some other team, but something tells me his name will always evoke a sigh.

I hope Belisario finds his way through his problems.  Boy, never a dull moment with this Dodger team …

* * *

Using my Spring Training Primer for reference, Belisario’s absence strengthens the hold that Kenley Jansen and Blake Hawksworth have on bullpen spots (behind Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier and Vincente Padilla), and takes a hurdle away from Ron Mahay, Scott Elbert and Ramon Troncoso, who figure to be the leaders (in that order) in the battle for a theoretical seventh relief spot.

Jan 03

Dodgers sign Tim Redding to minor-league deal

Looks like the world is getting back to work …

  • The Dodgers signed Tim Redding to a minor-league contract. Redding, who will be 33 in February, had a 2.89 ERA in 109 Triple-A innings last year, following a 2009 major-league campaign in which his ERA was 5.10 with 76 strikeouts in 120 innings.
  • Albert Lyu of Fangraphs has a precision look at Matt Kemp’s struggles against fastballs in 2010 compared with the year before. “Kemp’s whiffs against lower-90s fastballs dramatically increased in the past year, nearly doubling that of the average hitter,” Lyu writes.
  • Ronald Belisario won a Venezeulan winter league closer of the year award, notes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also passes along word of the arrival of Clayton and Ellen Kershaw in Africa.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness wonders if there is still room to add a second lefty reliever to the 2011 Dodger bullpen, especially because Hong-Chih Kuo can’t be wasted as someone who only faces lefty batters.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter shares a sweaty, tongue-tied New York moment, co-starring Tina Fey.
  • Farewell, Anne Francis and Pete Postlewaite.
Aug 09

Ramon Troncoso optioned … for Ronald Belisario?

The Dodgers announced today that they have sent Ramon Troncoso back to Albuquerque:

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso was optioned to Albuquerque today, creating an opening for fellow reliever Ronald Belisario to return to the active roster from the restricted list Tuesday.

Troncoso pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings over two games since being recalled from Triple A on Aug. 3, when Jeff Weaver was placed on the disabled list. Troncoso — like Belisario, a mainstay of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2009 — has a 4.85 ERA in 39 innings this season.

The Dodgers, who were off Monday, did not immediately confirm that Belisario would be activated before Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia. However, Dodger manager Joe Torre said over the weekend that Belisario, who made rehabilitation appearances for Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday and Sunday, was close to a return.

Belisario has not pitched for the Dodgers since July 5. He was placed on MLB’s restricted list effective two days later, for reasons still not publicly disclosed. Belisario, who resumed workouts two weeks ago, has a 3.79 ERA in 35 2/3 innings for the Dodgers.

Belisario’s 2010 season also began on the restricted list, after visa problems delayed his spring training arrival. Belisario had a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings last season.

What’s interesting to me is that the Dodger bullpen suddenly seems so deep that it could part with Troncoso even though he had not been scored upon since his return — and that’s with Weaver still sidelined. The offense, certainly, remains a different story.

* * *

After Brandon Morrow threw a 17-strikeout one-hitter Sunday, Stat of the Day made a list of all the pitchers under age 26 since 1920 who had thrown one-hitters while striking out at least 10, within their first 160 career games.

Two Dodgers are on this quirky list. Sandy Koufax is one. If you can guess the other without looking, I’ll be really impressed. Name the non-Koufax Dodger under the age of 26 who struck out at least 10 batters in a one-hitter. It came in the pitcher’s 22nd career game.

Jul 26

Ronald Belisario resumes workouts with Dodgers

News on the beleaguered reliever:

Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario, who has been on Major League Baseball’s restricted list since July 7, has resumed workouts at Dodger Stadium, according to the team, though no timetable has been set for his return to the active roster.

The Dodgers offered no further comment. Belisario hasn’t pitched for the team since July 5, when he threw shutout ball over a career-high three innings against Florida. Players can be kept on the restricted list for a maximum of 30 days, meaning that Belisario has until approximately Aug. 6 before the Dodgers (need to) make a decision on him.

After a 2009 rookie season in which he posted a 2.04 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings, Belisario opened the 2010 season on the restricted list following visa problems that detained his arrival in the States from his native Venezuela. He made his season debut April 21, and after performing inconsistently through the end of May, had a 1.45 ERA from June 1 on. For the year, Belisario has a 3.79 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.

Belisario was arrested for driving under the influence in June 2009 and subsequently pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

If Belisario makes it back, he would potentially rejoin a Dodger bullpen fronted by Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen and Jeff Weaver just in time for the final weeks of the season.

Jul 07

Agent: Belisario might have to go to Venezuela

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has quotes from Ronald Belisario’s agent, Paul Kinzer:

“It’s just some personal problems, and he’s got some things he’s got to work through,” Kinzer said. “It’s just a lot of anxiety, and that is about all I want to say right now.”

Pressed on what he meant by the word “anxiety,” Kinzer declined to offer details. …

Players placed on the restricted list are removed from a team’s 40-man roster, but they can be kept there for a maximum of 30 days. Kinzer said it was too early to tell whether Belisario’s absence would be short term or long term.

“We aren’t sure at this point,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how things go.”

Kinzer also said that Belisario was still in Los Angeles, but indicated the pitcher might be heading home to Venezuela at some point.

“Right now, he is [still in town], but we will have to see how things work out later,” Kinzer said. “Obviously, his family is in Venezuela. But we haven’t set up [any travel].”

Jul 07

July 7 game chat

As of 6 p.m., here’s all we know about the Ronald Belisario situation. From The Associated Press:

“Let’s put it this way, I’m surprised by this,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, adding that he had no indication of how long Belisario will be away from the club. “Ned [general manager Ned Colletti] told me last night after the game and gave me a heads-up that there would be something going on with him. That was the extent of it. That’s all I know.

“He’s one of my players, and I’d like to feel that I’m close with all my players. But I had no hint of this and had no conversation about this with him,” Torre said. “Obviously, it takes a big chunk out of the bullpen and who we rely on — especially because of the fact that he’s a seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guy.”

Belisario, who had a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings as a rookie last season, was arrested in Pasadena, Calif., last June 27 on suspicion of DUI and pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving a month later without appearing in court. The case was resolved in March when he was fined $1,000 on a reduced charge of reckless driving.

But it reportedly created visa problems in his native Venezuela, and Belisario didn’t report to spring training until late March — prompting the Dodgers to put him on the restricted list without pay instead of suspending him. He was activated April 21 and has appeared in 35 games this season with a 1-1 record and 3.79 ERA.

“He hasn’t been an issue. There’s no disciplinary stuff that’s gone on. He’s been here for us every day,” Torre said. “I haven’t had a problem with him — aside from a high slider here and there.” …

Jul 01

Think twice before trading for middle-relief help


Al Behrman/APRonald Belisario

Remember all the indignation when Ronald Belisario put himself on the layaway plan when it came to Spring Training this year? Plenty of people wanted to wash their hands of the delayed arrival.

Given the current state of the Dodger middle relief, I’m not sure too many people want to cast off Belisario for his sins today.

The Dodger bullpen has shown some unexpected weakness, though circumstances aren’t dire. Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo are brilliant short relievers, while Belisario and Jeff Weaver are satisfactory set-up men.

Carlos Monasterios will probably take the back end of the bullpen when he returns from the disabled list. Monasterios, while flaming out for the time being as a starting pitcher after a briefly glorious run, remains adequate for long relief. Assuming the Dodgers still have a long-term vision for the Rule 5 draft-day acquisition, that’s where he’ll be.

That covers five of seven spots in the bullpen.

Ramon Troncoso is a question mark right now. Right now, as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports, we’re in the phase of Troncoso claiming that overwork isn’t the issue, but execution is.

“I feel perfect, I feel brand new, like a baby with a new toy,” Troncoso said. “My arm is good. I’m here to pitch every day. I’m going to pitch in 50 more games this year. Of course this year has been frustrating for me, but if we win, everything is OK. I don’t care about my ERA, I just want to pitch good and help the team.”

Bullpen coach Ken Howell said Troncoso’s problems this year are part mechanical, which he’s cautiously optimistic have been worked out, and partly pitch selection and execution.

“He’s been throwing the curveball instead of the sinker in some situations, and the sinker is his money pitch,” said Howell. “And he needs to be at the bottom of the [strike] zone. When he’s thigh-high and up, he gets in trouble. His stuff is fine, but he’s not pounding the bottom of the zone with the consistency of last year. But lately it’s been better.”

And then there’s George Sherrill.

Sherrill looks hopeless, but his lefty-right splits indicate that he does retain some value if he were used only against left-handed batters. Ned Colletti has cut bait on his relief acquisitions before — Danys Baez didn’t even last a season in Los Angeles — but something tells me that Sherrill won’t be sent away.

However, either Troncoso or Sherrill might end up on the disabled list, for reasons legit or not — and for that matter, Troncoso still has minor-league options remaining. So the Dodgers are probably looking for a couple of relievers as contingencies.

The thing is, they probably have them already.

It would be ironic, if it weren’t easy enough to foresee, that the reason the Dodgers might trade for middle relief this year is that last year’s trade for middle relief has gone south. Right now the Dodgers’ farewell to Josh Bell, the organization’s top third-base prospect, for Sherrill isn’t one to savor; Bell was called up by the Baltimore Orioles to play the hot corner tonight. It so happens that the Dodgers caught lightning in a bottle with Sherrill and his sub-1.00 ERA with the team, but Sherrill’s rapid decline this year illustrates how fluky that was.

The Dodgers have Travis Schlichting, Jon Link, Kenley Jansen, Josh Lindblom, Kiko Calero and James McDonald, among others, that they can test out in middle relief. Each comes with a mitigating factor — for example, McDonald, who returns from the minor-league disabled list tonight, might be considered the No. 6 starter right now — but from that group of six alone, odds are that at least one can do the job. (Cory Wade, outrighted to Albuquerque today after a minor-league rehab assignment, is also in line for a try.) So if the Dodgers decide they need a break from Troncoso or Sherrill, they have people they can turn to at no cost at all.

They might be like Justin Miller, who was brilliant when he arrived but has since faltered. They might be worse. But a fresh arm that major-league hitters aren’t familiar with — or heck, a fresh arm period — often works wonders coming out of the pen. And you only need to make it for two months until September, when rosters expand and it’s all hands on deck.

Los Angeles needs to be very careful about any trade for middle relief. The species is too erratic. What you have might well be as good as it gets.

Jun 29

The soothing feeling of John Ely on his game


Jason O. Watson/US PresswireRemember me? I’m still getting it done

John Ely walks the occasional batter now, and Elymania has died down, but with everyone’s attention elsewhere, he is back to doing the job.

After a 30-pitch first inning in which he walked two and gave up a double and a run, the rookie righthander stymied the Giants in pitching the Dodgers to a 4-2 victory Tuesday. He went six more innings, allowing only five more baserunners and no runs, giving the Dodgers a much-needed lift. Ely pitched his second consecutive game of seven innings and one earned run, lowering his season ERA to 3.62.

James Loney was another hero, twice giving the Dodgers the lead with an RBI single in the first and a two-run single in the fifth. Rafael Furcal (3 for 5 with a triple) and Russell Martin (2 for 5 with two steals) were the main tablesetters for the Dodgers, and Casey Blake had the other RBI.

With Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario all designated for rest after heavy workloads in recent days, the Dodgers had to regret some missed opportunities to put the game away. They stranded Furcal at third base with two out in the sixth and left the bases loaded in the seventh.

But in the eighth, Ramon Troncoso got two outs, gave up a single, and then George Sherrill came in and had what had to be his best sequence of the season, going 1-0 on Aubrey Huff and then striking him out on three perfect breaking pitches – Sherrill’s first strikeout since May 17.

Justin Miller, who began the season in AAA, had a chance for his first career save in his 176th career major-league appearance, but gave up a leadoff homer in the ninth to Pat Burrell and a two-out single to Edgar Renteria that fell just in front of Reed Johnson in left field. Belisario, who began warming up after the Burrell homer, came in for the third consecutive game after having thrown 12 and 13 pitches the previous two nights. Rookie pinch-hitter Buster Posey lined Belisario’s first pitch to Furcal, who reached to snare it for the final out. That gave Belisario his first career save in his 103rd appearance. (Bob Timmermann adds that it was the first one-pitch save by a Dodger since Duaner Sanchez in 2005.)

San Diego lost again, allowing the Dodgers to close to within three games of first place in the National League West.

Matt Kemp, who came off the bench in the first inning after Manny Ramirez’s injury, fouled out, struck out and singled twice in four at-bats, while making two more long running catches in center field. Both catches came on full sprints after slow reactions, but that’s basically how Kemp did the job in center all last year.

Johnson went 0 for 4, striking out three times for the second consecutive game, matching Kemp’s feat from Thursday and Friday last week.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on the Kemp drama.

Apr 21

My Beli’s back and you’re gonna be sorry


Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Reinstated from the restricted list, Ronald Belisario will try to do his part to reverse the Dodgers’ disturbing bullpen performance.

I mean, one way or another, someone’s gonna be sorry.

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Dodger pitchers have an ERA of nearly 7.00 after the third inning this season. Belisario will hopefully pass that sorry-ness to opponents.

Stephen also has a post that shows how Matt Kemp’s April hitting is starting to rival Ron Cey’s hallowed April 1977 (the first month of my full-on rooting for the Dodgers).

* * *

Vin Scully’s alma mater has something else to be excited about.

Mar 28

Look who’s talking

  • Ronald Belisario said he did nothing wrong to cause his visa delays, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Dubious – and even if it’s true, his communication with the Dodgers still should have been better. I still wonder if something more was going on. Anyway, expect the Dodgers to activate him by April 25 at the latest.
  • Russell Martin is scheduled to catch seven innings and bat seven times against the Indians’ AAA team today, according to the Dodger press notes.
  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News has a nice piece today describing the dog days of Spring Training.
  • The first of a two-part interview with Logan White has been posted by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus. Some really good stuff in there. Sample:

    “Another thing I do is keep a private log of certain types of arm actions – the success rates of them. Certain types of deliveries – their success and failure rates. The same with hitters. There are certain things that we will either like or stay away from based on our own statistics of how those have been working over the past 10 or 15 years. I’ve kept these since I was an area scout. Let’s say for example that a guy is a slinger or he has a bad wrist wrap. How many guys have that who have been drafted and signed, that I’ve seen, and have actually made it? And how far? Things like that. I’ve kept pretty good records and I haven’t publicized them, not even to my own staff, but I do utilize that kind of stuff.”

  • How much playing time do you think each Dodger will get this year? Submit your predictions with Tangotiger.
Mar 27

Never fear, Ronald Belisario is here

Tony Jackson chronicles Ronald Belisario finally arriving at Camelback Ranch.

…Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng said Belisario can be kept on the restricted list for up to 30 days after being placed there on Friday, meaning he has to be either activated or waived — he is out of minor league options — by April 25.

Belisario is expected to dress in the major league clubhouse until the team breaks camp on Wednesday, but his activity will take place in minor league camp.

“We have to see what kind of shape he is in,” Ng said. “After determining that, then he will probably be on the other side.”

Other than saying hello to a couple of reporters in the parking lot, Belisario declined to speak with reporters until Sunday morning. …

Colletti was asked minutes before Belisario’s arrival whether the pitcher’s strange behavior might signify a deeper problem.

“It certainly makes you wonder,” he said. “But he is obviously a talent.” …

* * *

  • Following up on the tea leaves, which I posted on the fly from my cellphone and couldn’t comment on: It sure seemed as if Joe Torre was hinting at the possibility that Blake DeWitt would go to the minors for roster reasons. (And no, I wouldn’t agree with any decision that would send DeWitt down to preserve Nick Green.)  I wouldn’t assume DeWitt won’t start at second base, but I wouldn’t quite lock it in, either.
  • And, when Charlie Haeger and Florida (site of the Dodgers’ fifth-starter debut) were mentioned in the same sentence, you got the feeling that Torre was liking the idea of Haeger in the rotation, and today’s 5 1/3 shutout innings probably made him like it just a little more. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness arrived at Camelback this weekend and posted a first-hand account of Haeger today.
  • Dodger Thoughts commenter BHSportsGuy wrote a worthy piece for True Blue L.A. about the effect of the divorce litigation on the Dodgers.
  • UCLA baseball is now a mesmerizing 20-0.
  • A few months before his 60-homer 1927 season began, Babe Ruth was arrested in Long Beach – and Steve Harvey of the Times tells the story.
Mar 26

Ronald Belisario: What happened?


Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Ronald Belisario pitching in Game 2 of the 2009 National League Championship Series.

Ronald Belisario has been ruled out for the Opening Day roster by Joe Torre, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Most of what I read about Belisario chides him for blowing this opportunity and letting down the Dodgers and their fans. But absent a rational explanation for what has happened, I still can’t help thinking that the bigger issue is a serious problem that we should be concerned with instead of critical of.

That might make me sound soft, and if he’s being a flake just to be a flake, I’ll adjust my reaction accordingly. But I’m just having trouble imagining why Belisario would willfully self-sabotage. Right now, I’m still in the position of hoping Belisario makes it back, mentally as well as internationally.

* * *

  • I’m scheduled to be a guest on KSPN 710 AM at 1:40 p.m., interviewed by Andrew Siciliano and Mychal Thompson. (That link will also take you to Molly Knight’s interview with the pair from Thursday.
  • In case you missed it, Ronnie Belliard made weight and is now an official 2010 Dodger, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Times.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America joins the groundswell of praise for prospect Allen Webster, a fave of Dodger Thoughts and Maple Street Press Annual prospect expert CanuckDodger.
  • Steven Goldman, writing at ESPN’s TMI blog, wonders if the failure of Joba Chamberlain to make the Yankee starting rotation will represent a tipping point for over-protecting young arms.
  • Forty years ago today: “Next Stop for Steve Garvey Is Third Base at Dodger Stadium” (via the Daily Mirror).
  • The Pawnee Parks and Recreation Summer Catalog is a must-peruse.