Mar 21

Vin, we accept your apology …

“Hi everybody, and a very pleasant Sunday to you, wherever you may be. Hope you don’t mind if I take a moment out: First of all, I am sorry to have caused the accident that caused so much stress. I’m very sorry for that. I’d also like to salute the gentle heroes of 911 in Calabasas, and the doctors and nurses at West Hills Hospital, for taken care of me so very, very well. However, now that I’ve done that, let’s get to the more important thing, and that is the game. The Dodgers and the Indians. Jake Westbrook will be on the mound for Cleveland. Left-hander Eric Stults will be on the mound for the Dodgers. And Lord, I am happy to be here. We’ll be with the ballgame, right after this.”

Yep, Vin Scully is back. Before today’s broadcast, he talked to reporters briefly about his eventful week, and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

“All of a sudden, I felt one of those big, bronchial coughs coming up, and I thought I could get to the bathroom,” Scully said. “So I jumped out of bed — bad idea — I got dizzy, and then, trying to keep the cough in until I got to the bathroom, I did something to myself. I’ll explain: I went from the bedroom toward the bathroom, and there was a marble floor, and all of a sudden, I blacked out.“I woke up sitting in the floor, my wife calling 911 and blood on the floor.”

Scully had hit his head on the floor, as well as bruising his arm and slightly injuring his back. When he arrived at the hospital, he received staples in the back of his head.

“Instead of stitches, they put in five staples with a thing like a staple gun,” he said. “I will never go by that office supply store without thinking of what happened. … I won’t mess around with a marble floor ever again. But I never thought I was in any [life-threatening] trouble at all.”

Scully was in the broadcast booth for Sunday’s Cactus League game with Cleveland, the first game he has called this spring. He said he was under no restrictions following the accident.

“I’m supposed to cut back on dangling participles, and I’m not allowed to split any infinitives for at least another week,” he said.

Talk about your health scares, though: former Dodger player and current minor-league instructor Lenny Harris had emergency quadruple bypass surgery. “Harris was stricken with chest and arm pains Friday, but did not suffer a heart attack as there was no heart damage,” reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. “In a Saturday operation, doctors found blockages in four arteries, with one 95 percent blocked.”

* * *

  • Ronald Belsiario’s visa paperwork is completed, according to an anonymous source of Jackson’s, meaning that the Dodgers could see him as soon as Monday or Tuesday.
  • Though Russell Martin is improving, taking live batting practice Sunday, he is still not expected to be in the lineup Opening Day because of the probable need of a rehab assignment. In contrast, Brad Ausmus had a flareup of chronic back pain, but is expected to be on the Opening Day roster.  No. 4 catcher Lucas May was optioned to Albuquerque, at least for the time being.
Mar 17

Carlos Monasterios: One surprise fits all

The funny thing about Carlos Monasterios’ emergence as a legitimate roster contender (based on his eight shutout innings this spring) is how little shock there is about it. It’s like being tipped off about a surprise party.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
With even less upper-level experience than Fernando Valenzuela had in the minors, Carlos Monasterios won’t be a full-time starting pitcher in 2010 – but he could still contribute.

By now, we’re all used to unexpected faces on the Opening Day roster, from well-known retreads like Wilson Alvarez  to out-of-nowheres like Takashi Saito. Ronald Belsiario’s 2009 season removed the last vestige of shock-and-huh? from our consciousness. You never know who’s going to be great, but throw enough arms out there, and you’ve got a good chance of finding someone.

Now, the Dodgers do make it look a lot easier than it really is – otherwise every team in baseball would have had Saitos and Belisarios in the past few years. It could be a remarkable run of luck, but why not give credit to the scouts for finding studs among the duds? After all, it was the same scout – Ron Rizzi – who recommended both Belisario last year and Monasterios this year.

Unlike some of the wild-card arms contending for a roster spot, Monasterios at least brings a strikeout pitch, fanning 7.6 batters per nine innings in the minors last season. But Monasterios, who turns 24 Sunday, has only thrown 183 2/3 innings the past two seasons and only 7 1/3 innings above A ball – he’s got less experience than Fernando Valenzuela had in 1980 before his Dodger callup – so let’s be clear. Under no circumstances is Carlos Monasterios going to grab a permanent spot in the Dodger starting rotation in 2010.

At best (underscore that, because it’s still only March), you’re talking spot starter and middle reliever. But that would still be a pretty impressive reward for a $50,000 acquisition fee. An unbelievable coup – yet par for the course for the Dodgers if it happens.

“He’s got a nice presence out there,” Dodger manager Joe Torre said of Monasterios. “He’s got a really good off-speed pitch; he’s very aggressive. I like what I see. He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Eric Stults remains the leading candidate for the starting rotation based the Dodgers’ inability to send him to the minors. Monasterios could be in a direct battle with Charlie Haeger for the final spot on the staff (or there could be room for both depending on what happens with Belisario or Hong-Chih Kuo), while pitchers like Ramon Ortiz begin the season in the minors, waiting for the first calamity.

“Stults and Haeger haven’t done anything to hurt their chances,” Torre said.

Belisario’s DUI case has been resolved, according to Jim Peltz of the Times. Peltz talked to Belisario’s lawyer J. Michael Flanagan, who said Belisario was fined $1,000 after charges against him were reduced to reckless driving. That should mean that Belisario’s arrival in the States will be sooner rather than later, though everyone remains in wait-and-see-and-wonder mode.

As for Kuo, he had an encouragingly successful bullpen session, his first since before elbow pain made him a scratch in Sunday’s Taiwan game, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

* * *

Last call for the Dodger Thoughts March Madness group. Password is “Kershaw.”

Mar 12

Taiwan Game 2 chat – with Ronald Belisario update

There are reports of rain, but in case there’s a game and you’re not sleepy …

* * *

Dodger third-base coach Larry Bowa was released from the hospital today after a CAT scan examination brought on by abdominal pains. Tom Singer of MLB.com has details.

Tony Jackson’s ESPNLosAngeles.com notebook from the day at Camelback (Dodgers lost, 3-2) features Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Monasterios and Aroldis Chapman.

Update: Ronald Belisario has been found, by Ignacio Serrano of ESPNdeportes.com. In advance of his story, Serrano tweeted that Belisario hopes to have his visa by Monday, that he is in good shape and will only need two bullpen sessions to be game ready, and that he hasn’t missed any appointments with the American embassy in Caracas.

Update 2: Here’s the Serrano column. Link is to the original Spanish version; below is a Google translation. Continue reading

Mar 10

You’re out of order! No – you’re out of order!

Don Mattingly’s first game as Spring Training manager in 2010 was part Goofus, part Gallant. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details:

… Somehow, the official lineup cards the Dodgers submitted to plate umpire Brian Runge and to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the Cactus League game had Matt Kemp hitting third and Andre Ethier fourth, the exact opposite of every other lineup posted around the facility, including those given to the press box.

Mattingly said that after Ethier flied out to center to end the first and Kemp did the same to start the second, Runge informed Mattingly that they had batted out of turn and that the Dodgers had “established a new order.” Mattingly took that to mean they would continue to bat in that order the rest of the game. But after Kemp flied to left and Ethier grounded out to end the third, Runge came back to the dugout.

“He said, ‘I think we have a misunderstanding,”‘ Mattingly said later. “The way I understood it, we had re-established the order. But [bench coach Bob Schaefer] said he thought that was wrong, and it turned out that it was.”

So, in an effort to resolve the situation, Runge made a decision that seemed to make no sense and would wreak havoc with the postgame box score. He decreed that Ethier, who had been the next-to-last batter in the third, would lead off the fourth so that he would follow Kemp in the order.

So Ethier did lead off the fourth. And drove an opposite-field homer to left-center off Bob Howry, tying the score at 1-1.

“It was right on our lineup card, but obviously, we got it wrong [on the official card],” Mattingly said after the game. “I should have checked it, which we usually do. Schaef puts it on the [official] card, but it’s my job to check it, and I didn’t do that.”

Mattingly, who had been in a relaxed mood all day, then smiled.

“But wasn’t it great to get that out of the way in spring training?” he said. “In that sense, you have to look at it as a positive.” …

That was the sausage – here are the links:

  • According to a Venezuelan newspaper – as interpreted by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy – missing Dodger reliever Ronald Belisario “has missed three dates with the U.S. embassy for paperwork, which is the reason he has yet to report to Camelback Ranch.”
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com is en route to Taiwan and has begun a travelogue.
  • With so many Dodgers in a Taiwan-bound airplane, several players from minor-league camp got into today’s game, including Kyle Russell, Brandon Watson, Andrew Lambo, Pedro Baez and Christian Lara. Russell had an RBI single.
  • Ramon Ortiz has started the spring with six strikeouts in five shutout innings.
  • Tony Abreu batted leadoff for Arizona and took it to his former team with a single, triple and homer.
  • The Dodger Thoughts March Madness group is forming. When the NCAA men’s basketball bracket is announced, fill out yours here. “Kershaw” is the password.
Mar 03

Ronald Belisario trouble: Much ado about almost nothing

It bothers me that the Dodgers seem more upset about relief pitcher Ronald Belisario’s current visa problems than they were about his arrest for driving under the influence last summer.

I understand that with the DUI still awaiting adjudication, there’s a presumption of innocence for Belisario, who pleaded not guilty. So my point is not that the Dodgers should have immediately disciplined Belisario for the arrest.

Rather, it seems to me if you’re going to cut the guy some slack for something that serious, you should do the same for his visa issues.

Yeah, Belisario messed up with his paperwork – for the second year in a row.  It stinks. But it happened. Yet, even as manager Joe Torre tells Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that the situation is now out of Belisario’s hands and at the mercy of the U.S. government, general manager Ned Colletti is still in a snit.

“While he is sitting in Venezuela, other people are here trying to make the club,” Colletti said. “Maybe one of them will take food off his table.”

Forgive me for thinking Colletti is sounding a little like Inspector Javert.

Meanwhile, all this talk about the Dodgers losing Belisario to waivers continues to be overblown, as I suggested a week ago. Jackson reports that the Dodgers can “suspend Belisario without pay and require him to stay behind in extended spring training.” So Belisario can be punished more than amply for his sins, without the Dodgers losing him forever.

Odds remain that Belisario won’t miss any more regular season time because of his visa problems in 2010 than he missed when he went on the disabled list in 2009 – for an injury that some would argue happened because of the Dodgers’ irresponsibility in their use of him. The Dodgers, as Colletti suggests, have plenty of candidates to replace Belisario in the short-term – it’s not as if his visa problems will make or break their season.

The attention to this issue, it seems to me, is the result of having not enough things to complain about. The McCourts aren’t a presence in Arizona right now, and the silly furor over Manny Ramirez last week has died down. It’s almost like people are having too good a time – so by all means, let’s make an example of Belisario.

And I know I’m asking too much, but I just wish the attention were centered on an issue that might actually mean something.

Feb 26

Charging toward peace of mind over Ronald Belisario

Wherein I discover the master card to deal with Ronald Belisario’s visa problems that have kept him from joining the diners’ club on the American express …

There are tremors emanating from Camelback Ranch that Belisario’s career as a Dodger might be in jeopardy, because his inability to secure a visa has kept him from reporting to Spring Training on time. The fear is that he won’t be ready for the season opener, and with no minor-league options remaining, the Dodgers would risk losing their great find from 2009.

The concern seems a bit overwrought. First of all, it’s not as if Belisario had a full Spring Training last season. Visa problems delayed him a year ago as well, and once he arrived, he spent most of his time in minor-league camp facing low-caliber competition, throwing only five innings with the big-leaguers all spring.  We’re not talking about needing to get someone ready to throw six innings on Opening Day. He just needs to be able to get a few guys out at a time when the season begins.

But if for some reason Belisario just doesn’t seem prepared to face regular-season hitters by April 5, there’s always the disabled list. Though there are rules against stashing healthy players on baseball’s injured reserve, I can’t imagine that it will be a tough sell that a pitcher with a shortened spring and a history of arm trouble has come down with soreness.  If other major-league teams were to challenge this, it might be the first time ever. And for all we know, the soreness might well be real. He is a pitcher with a shortened spring and a history of arm trouble, after all.

The Dodgers can worry whether Belisario’s 2009 performance was a fluke, but I doubt they need to worry that their prized set-up man will get away from them against their will. The main thing is to treat him carefully once he arrives, and make sure he doesn’t rush himself into an ugly year like Will Ohman or Cory Wade had in 2009.