Mar 29

The Jay Gibbons saga is just depressing

Whatever your 2011 expectations for Jay Gibbons were, you’ve got to feel for the man. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Gibbons is expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list because of lingering problems with the vision in his left eye, an issue Gibbons thought he had resolved when he returned two weeks ago from a visit to a San Francisco doctor who gave him a better-fitting contact lens.

Gibbons said upon his return from that trip that his vision in his everyday life was dramatically better. But he said Monday that wasn’t the case in the batter’s box, because he couldn’t pick up the spin on breaking balls.

“My vision was great coming back, but I had no depth perception,” Gibbons said before Monday night’s Cactus League game, a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels before 19,415 at Dodger Stadium. “I went up there in spring training with very little chance. Those pitchers are pretty good. Once they figure out you can’t see, they cut you up pretty quickly.”

Gibbons, who lives in the Los Angeles area, plans to see another doctor here on Tuesday — “about the fifth different guy I’ve gone to,” he said — in hopes of trying yet another contact lens. His original problem was that the lens kept popping out, the result of some flattening of his cornea that is a normal result of the PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery he underwent last fall as a follow-up to the lasik procedure he had in 2004.

He came back from San Francisco with a lens that had a lower base curve so it clung more securely to his eye. But he now says his vision at the plate was less clear than it had been before. …

OK, it’s not a total tragedy: Gibbons’ $650,000 salary for 2011 became guaranteed Monday. And when a door closes for one guy, it opens for someone else. But you’d still like to see a player go down swinging, instead of not seeing.

* * *

Almost-a-Dodger Eric Chavez will be on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster (with Russell Martin and Andruw Jones), but once-a-Dodger Ronnie Belliard will not, reports Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com:

It was hardly surprising — Chavez had a terrific spring, outhitting everyone on the team for average, even the red-hot Alex Rodriguez, and showed he could still play an excellent third base and a serviceable first base — but certainly inspiring for a player hampered by multiple back and shoulder injuries over the past five seasons, and potentially a steal for the Yankees, who waited as long as possible to be sure Chavez would make it through camp in one piece.

“That one’s pretty evident with the spring that he had,” manager Joe Girardi said in announcing Chavez had made the team. “We feel that he’s healthy and we feel that it’s a good bat on a day that we rest Alex or Tex [Mark Teixeira]. I’m really pleased with what he did. …

They also released Ronnie Belliard, which came as no surprise to anyone, since he came in overweight, almost immediately strained a calf muscle which cost him nearly two weeks, and batted .136 after his return to action. …

* * *

Up in Oakland, Andy LaRoche is still waiting to hear if he grabbed a spot with the A’s. LaRoche had a .987 OPS and team-high four homers this spring, playing four infield positions. In Arizona, Tony Abreu has reportedly been placed on waivers. Pittsburgh’s James McDonald, who has thrown only 6 2/3 innings this spring, might miss the start of the season with a left side injury.

Feb 05

Eric Chavez heads to Yankees

Eric Chavez won’t be the uncertain solution to the Dodgers’ uncertain third-base situation. The oft-injured vet is headed to the New York Yankees on a minor-league deal, as is former Dodger Ronnie Belliard.

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Fairly safe to say that the most scrutinized 2011 Dodger heading into the season will be Matt Kemp.  Here’s more detailed analysis, from True Blue L.A. newbie Chad Moriyama,

Sep 07

Dodgers designate Ronnie Belliard for assignment

In 83 regular-season plate appearances for the Dodgers in 2009, Ronnie Belliard had five homers and a 1.034 OPS. In 183 plate appearances in 2010, Belliard had two homers and a .622 OPS, sinking to levels below what got him cast off by the Washington Nationals last summer.

Belliard’s chapter in Dodger history ended today with the team designated for assignment in order to purchase the contract of 27-year-old Australian outfielder Trent Oeltjen, who had a .979 OPS for Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles has details.

Belliard and Marlon Anderson — how their Dodger stories paralleled.

* * *

Dodger prospect Jerry Sands finished tied for third among all minor-leaguers in home runs this year with 35. As John Manuel of Baseball America notes, behind Sands was a familiar name: Joel Guzman.

The one-time Dodger phenom, now 25, hit 33 homers for the Orioles’ Double-A farm team in Bowie. That’s right — Double-A, the same level Guzman was at as a 20-year-old when he was considered arguably the Dodgers’ top position prospect.

Guzman had a career-high in walks with 45 this season, against 121 strikeouts — still not enough to assuage questions about his eye at the plate.

John Lindsey (.353) won the minor-league batting title in absentia, to go with the slugging percentage title.

Apr 11

Dodgers surrender another lead to end 2-4 road trip

“Slacks” did his part.

In a performance best seen to be appreciated, Charlie Haeger knucklestruck 12 batters in six innings, walked four and had as many hits allowed as wild pitches (three). He gave up a three-run homer to Jorge Cantu in the fourth after walking two batters with a 4-0 Dodger lead, but that inning was the only one when he really struggled, and he overall pitched well enough to win. Rob Neyer of ESPN.com pointed out that in his fifth career start, the 26-year-old Haeger equaled the career strikeout high of 43-year-old Tim Wakefield.

But a bobbled-and-dropped fly ball by an on-the-run Matt Kemp opened the door for the Marlins to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, and then Jeff Weaver, pitching for the fifth time in six games, picked the wrong time to allow his first runs of the season, giving up a two-run double to Cantu that Florida didn’t waste, with the Marlins holding on for a 6-5 victory.

The Dodgers put runners on first and third in both the eighth and ninth innings, but pinch-hitter Andre Ethier grounded out to end the eighth, and Kemp struck out before James Loney grounded out to end the ninth. Kemp and Loney were both 2 for 5 on the day.

Ronnie Belliard had another three-hit start for the Dodgers and also made two outstanding plays at third base. A.J. Ellis made his first start of 2010 for the Dodgers and produced a boxscore line of 0 0 0 2, thanks to a squeeze bunt, walk and sacrifice fly.

And so the Dodgers head home after a 2-4 season-opening road trip in which they gave up the winning run in the seventh, ninth and 10th innings – all three games that Jonathan Broxton missed. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported that Hong-Chih Kuo threw a side session today and could be activated during the Dodgers’ upcoming homestand, after at least one minor-league rehab assignment. The Dodgers, averaging 6.0 runs per game despite Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez combining for six starts this year, could use some good news out of that bullpen.

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.