Dec 03

Dodgers, Martin appear to have split over $800,000

For me and, I would venture to say, most of my readers, $800,000 is a whole lot of green. But for the people of Major League Baseball, it’s not exactly a lot of money — for example, it’s roughly one month of Jose Uribe’s salary over the next three seasons.

But $800,000 appears to be the amount that sent the Dodgers and Russell Martin their separate ways.

Dodger general manager Ned Colletti told reporters Thursday that as the deadline approached, Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, lowered his pitch to $5 million in base salary  (plus incentives). According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the Dodgers were offering a base of $4.2 million.

We can debate all day what salary Martin actually deserved, but given that the two sides were this close, I’m a bit surprised the deal didn’t get done. If you think Martin has the potential of helping at all in 2011, I don’t know why you’d let less than a million bucks stand in your way.  And if you are that skeptical, I’m not sure why you’d be offering even $4.2 million.

But what do I know? Not much. Each side had its magic number, and sometimes, you can’t fool with magic.

* * *

  • Here’s a fun take on the main Hall of Fame ballot from Wezen-Ball.
  • From The Onion: “Baseball Players Hold Annual Meeting To Discuss Benefit Of Wearing Index Finger On Outside Of Mitt.”
  • Here’s an attempt to project Ted Lilly’s 2011 performance from Jeffrey Gross at the Hardball Times.
  • Brian, I hope George Costanza brought you some nice sandwiches.
  • Finally, Dodger Thoughts favorite Buddy Carlyle has signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees, after a stint in Japan. Welcome back, Buddy!
Dec 02

Russell Martin is on the open market


Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireRussell Martin

He was something special. And then he wasn’t.

It happens to the best of ‘em, but I can’t believe it happened this fast.

It is most certainly a non-tender night. The Dodgers have parted ways with 27-year-old Russell Martin, at least for now, by not offering him a 2011 contract. Again, the reason: They would have had to guarantee the slumping and injured catcher at least 80% of his 2010 salary, and risk paying him even more – easily over $6 million – if they lost an arbitration hearing.

If it were simply a case of Martin’s offensive struggles, I think Dodger general manager Ned Colletti would have guaranteed his contract, as they have done today with James Loney. But the uncertainty over his recovery from his hip injury made Los Angeles that much more guarded about spending all those millions. Wrote Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… the Dodgers’ first choice was to bring Martin back if an agreement could be reached on a contract that would have paid him a lower base salary than what he received in 2010. Colletti said that in the final minutes before the 9 p.m. PST deadline, Colleran lowered Martin’s asking price to a simple $5 million guarantee, but the Dodgers weren’t willing to go that high.

“We were willing to get to the same point with performance bonuses, but not with a guaranteed $5 million,” Colletti said.

This isn’t necessarily the end of Martin’s Dodger career – he is free to negotiate with the Dodgers, as with all 29 other teams, for any contract, and Colletti told reporters that they would still talk. (Among other things, Jackson wrote that the Dodgers were interested in Martin in a utility role.)

But given that the parties couldn’t come to terms by this point, it seems unlikely to me that they would at any other. And that was made even more the case when, as Jackson reported, the Dodgers moved closer to signing Rod Barajas to a one-year contract.

“I think we are on the cusp of getting something done in a different direction,” Colletti said. “I wasn’t going to go to sleep tonight without a big league catcher here besides [backup] A.J. [Ellis]. We’re pretty far down the road with something, and it should come to fruition in a short period of time. This is somebody who, if the season were to start today, would take the lion’s share of [playing time], with A.J. in a backup role.”

The rest of the Dodgers’ decisions today went according to form. George Sherrill, like Martin, was non-tendered (as was September call-up Trent Oeltjen), while Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley all were guaranteed 2011 contracts.

Dec 01

Deadline to offer Russell Martin contract under 48 hours away

Been pretty busy lately, no? And it only might get busier …

  • Reminder: 9 p.m. Thursday is the deadline for the Dodgers to offer a 2011 contract to pre-free agents like Russell Martin. Doug Miller of MLB.com has more. In case you don’t understand why Martin might be non-tendered, Miller explains:  “According to the Basic Agreement, when teams tender contracts, they can’t cut any more than 20 percent of what a player earned in salary and performance bonuses the previous season, or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons. Non-tendered players, however, can be re-signed by their teams at larger cuts.”
  • Just how scrappy a ballplayer have the Dodgers given up in Ryan Theriot? Matt Sebek of JoeSportsFan’s Tailgate runs the analysis.  (via Hardball Talk).
  • Former Dodger pitcher Eric Stults signed a minor-league contract with Colorado. “The Dodgers sold Stults’ rights to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan at the end of Spring Training 2010, and Stults went 6-10 with a 5.07 ERA in 21 games,” writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “Stults, who turns 32 on Dec. 9, would be paid at a $435,000 rate if he makes the Majors, but the contract also allows him to re-sign with Hiroshima if he doesn’t make the big league roster.”
  • Making the case to scrap draft-pick compensation for free-agent signings is Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.
  • Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes movingly about Padres pitcher Kevin Correia coping with his brother’s death this summer.
  • Fifty years ago, Frank Finch of the Times looked at the Dodgers’ youth movement, to be led by Willie Davis, Tommy Davis, Frank Howard … and Charley (Charlie) Smith.  (via Keith Thursby of the Daily Mirror).
  • Josh Fisher’s latest Dodger Divorce take on the McCourts:

    … Frank McCourt’s primary position has been that the Dodgers must stay in the family. Naturally, he is confident that McCourt ownership is also good for the Dodgers and, by extension, the community. While he might have come to Los Angeles an outsider, I strongly believe that Frank has come to regard the Dodgers as much more important than 24 acres of Boston seafront property ever were. And I wonder if yesterday’s release is a sign that he is concerned about his chances of keeping the Dodgers in the family.

    I still think Jamie got what she wanted in the MPA. I can’t look at her initial public statements in the divorce and conclude that she had any idea that the documents had been switched–that she had any idea there existed an Exhibit A making the Dodgers anything but Frank’s separate property. And I can’t help but think that, despite her apparent unfamiliarity with marital property laws in Massachusetts and California, and despite the ugly chain of events leading up to the MPA’s execution and subsequent modification, Jamie didn’t have enough in the way of background and intelligence to at least question the document when she reviewed its terms.

    For all that, though, Jamie’s case is strong. Strong enough, perhaps, that Frank’s inability to prove his facts is more important than Frank’s facts as they actually occurred. Strong enough that most observers considered Jamie to be in the lead after the trial. Strong enough that Jamie turned down what was surely a well-reasoned, thorough settlement proposal crafted by a well-respected mediator. Strong enough, basically, that the McCourt with the most to lose is ready to roll the dice.

Sep 16

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million – a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit – committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Aug 05

Why Russell Martin won’t be so easy to replace


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin

You won’t have trouble finding people who think Russell Martin’s potential season-ending hip injury is no big deal. “He wasn’t hitting anyway, so who cares?”

Here’s why it’s a big deal, to both Martin and the Dodgers.

For all the decline Martin has had since his All-Star days not so long ago, the 27-year-old still brings a healthy on-base percentage to the table. This year, for example, Martin’s OBP is .347. He’s no Ted Williams, but that places him in the top 12 of major-league catchers with at least 150 plate appearances this year and fifth among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. In other words, barely a handful of teams in the majors could match the Dodgers for catcher OBP.

With the Dodgers, Martin is sixth in OBP if you include semi-regulars Manny Ramirez and Jamey Carroll and the departed Blake DeWitt. Without that trio, Martin jumps up to third, behind Andre Ethier and Rafael Furcal - and of course, Furcal’s status today is at least a bit uncertain. On a team struggling to piece together runs, Martin helped keep an inning alive more than most. And he was always there, until now.

The tandem of Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis probably can’t match Martin’s on-base production. Ausmus’ .343 OBP in limited duty last season was his highest since 2005 in Houston. Ellis can do better than the .246 OBP he has had in his short major-league career – he has hung consistently over .400 in the minors – but it’s a leap to suggest that he can jump to one of the highest catcher OBPs in baseball.

If that’s a drop-off, the decline of power in Martin’s absence might be more of a dive. Yes, Martin’s power has disappeared, his slugging percentage falling from .469 in 2007 to .330 in 2009-10. But that’s still higher than the .311 slugging Ausmus has had since turning 34 seven years ago. Meanwhile, Ellis has had a sub-.400 slugging percentage with zero homers in 100 games at Albuquerque over the past two seasons – so forget about him showing any power in Los Angeles. Whatever you think of Martin’s power, these guys are worse.

Some might be prepared to give Ausmus and Ellis points for defense, and maybe they’re right. But Martin, who was ripped for his work behind the plate in 2009, showed something closer to his Gold Glove form this year in my subjective opinion, including a much-improved throwing arm. He has thrown out a career-high 39 percent of runners trying to steal. The Dodgers are tied for 11th in baseball in fewest stolen bases allowed, with 10 of the 55 coming on Ellis’ watch in only 133 2/3 innings behind the plat (one every 13.3 innings) compared to 43 in 791 1/3 for Martin (one every 17 innings).

The chances of the Dodgers finding someone outside the organization to replace Martin this season are slim to none considering the available options – which, keep in mind, would come at a cost – and frankly, it’s not like it will get easy in the offseason.

All that being said, you really do have to wonder whether Martin will be back with the Dodgers in 2011. Despite what is perceived to be a poor 2010 season that has now been marred by health concerns, the arbitration-eligible Martin can expect a raise to about $6.5 million in salary for next year. (If that seems unfair to you, remember that he got paid $1,187,500 for 2006-08 combined.) Even a hale and hearty Dodger front office might balk at that figure for a catcher with Martin’s productivity concerns.

Now, the Dodgers might look at the options and negotiate a deal with Martin – the team rarely takes cases to arbitration, after all. But it’s very possible that Martin and the Dodgers will be going their separate ways to fend for themselves.

What a sad, unexpected ending that would be. Inside of two years ago, Martin was so important to the Dodgers in my mind that he was the only active player to get a separate chapter in my book – a great catcher, and a great Dodger. Even though he hasn’t been the same the past two years, this might be the end of an era, and it shouldn’t pass without notice.

Aug 04

Russell Martin has torn labrum in right hip

The Dodgers placed Russell Martin on the disabled list for the first time in his career, because of a torn labrum in his right hip. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Reed Johnson was activated from the disabled list. A.J. Ellis and Brad Ausmus will share catching duties.

Update: I asked baseball injury expert Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus about this. His response: “If the acetabular labrum is torn, this is devastating for the Dodgers. In the short term, Martin would be done for the season. We don’t really have good comparables for this – as far as I know, no catchers have had the procedures. Most have been very successful – Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Myers and more, just in baseball. The long term prognosis should be good, but the taxing nature of the catching position adds an element of uncertainty. If he has the FAIL surgery (femoral-acetabular impingement/labrum) he’d be out for approximately three to four months, which would have him back in time for spring training.”

Given the millions Martin could expect to earn if the Dodgers retain him for next season, I’m wondering if Martin has played his last game in a Dodger uniform.

Jul 22

Back-to-back: 2-0, 2-0

Wednesday it was Chad Billingsley and Casey Blake; tonight it was Hiroki Kuroda and Matt Kemp – with a Hong-Chih Kuo cherry on top, and perhaps that’s the biggest news of the evening.

After pitching two innings Tuesday and warming up Wednesday, Kuo pitched the ninth inning tonight for the save – further suggesting that the protective gloves have come off the precious reliever. It might not be quite accurate to say the Dodgers are going for broke, but it’s definitely a different mentality than we’ve seen for the past year and a half. Actually, maybe it is accurate to say they’re going for broke, figuratively if not literally.

Earlier today, Joe Torre talked about the bullpen situation with Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Before signing off this short post, a quick tip of the cap not only to Kuroda for his eight standout shutout innings and Kemp for his RBI double and solo homer, but to Russell Martin, who threw out two runners stealing tonight in a tight game.

* * *

Bill Shaikin of the Times has some new and interesting Dodger attendance analysis. Check it out.

Jul 09

Between a laugher and a tear: Dodgers hold on, 9-7


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireRussell Martin goes boom, finally.

Well, it’s really starting to get interesting now. It might not happen this quickly, but there is the possibility that when baseball takes its midsummer break, there will be a three-way tie for first place in the National League West between Los Angeles, Colorado and San Diego.

Nothing’s decided in July, but certainly the Dodgers are happy (and relieved) to gain another game on the Padres with a 9-7 victory tonight over the Cubs. Los Angeles also kept pace with the charging Rockies, who rallied from a large and late deficit for the third night in a row, this time defeating San Diego, 10-8. Colorado has won five straight, and both the Dodgers and Rockies are two games back of San Diego with two games left before All-Star time.

After the Dodgers fell behind 1-0 in the second inning, Russell Martin hit his first home run in 60 days – a smash with two men aboard in the bottom of the second – to give the Dodgers the lead they would keep for the rest of the night. I had hoped it would be the kickoff to a long overdue laugher of a night for Martin, but he was retired in his next three plate appearances. After getting two hits June 29, Martin has had exactly one hit in each of his past eight games.

In any case, the Dodgers had a few nice chuckles of their own tonight, leading 9-3 after six innings (with Andre Ethier and James Loney each reaching base three times), but Jonathan Broxton once again found his way into the game after the Cubs (along with George Sherrill and Justin Miller) made Dodger manager Joe Torre sweat.

It was a down-and-up night for Chad Billingsley, who allowed seven baserunners in the second and third innings but kept the damage to a run in each. Billingsley then allowed only two more hits and a walk before being pulled following a leadoff single in the eighth inning. (Torre, who is becoming a regular Agatha Christie the way he is authoring such mysterious use of his pitching staff, had Billingsley start the eighth with 115 pitches already thrown in the game, a move that perplexed everyone from me to Vin Scully.) For those who keep track of such things, Torre’s decision cost Billingsley one of them so-called quality starts by letting a fourth run be charged to him, that run coming home on an 0-2 wild pitch by Miller after Sherrill gave up a double. Another run followed, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to four and meaning that the one pitch Sherrill threw boosted his ERA from 6.86 to 7.32.

Miller had a chance to close out the game in the ninth, but was pulled for Broxton after allowing a leadoff single in the ninth. Aramis Ramirez tripled in the Cubs’ sixth run when Ethier flailed in a diving attempt to make a catch he should have made, and then Marlon Byrd’s seventh hit in two nights added the seventh run. Tyler Colvin batted as the tying run, echoes of the Dodgers’ collapse against the Yankees in June in everyone’s mind. But Colvin struck out, the Cubs’ 26th strikeout against the Dodgers in two games.

Scully summed up: “The Dodgers stagger, but hold on to win.”

I think it’s safe to say that by next week, this Dodger middle relief will not stand. Changes must be coming.

* * *

Seattle asked the Dodgers for Billingsley or Loney in a trade for Cliff Lee, according to an anonymous source in this story by Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Dodgers offered several minor leaguers, the source said, but wouldn’t give in on the major-leaguers.

* * *

Three days after returning from a long stay on the disabled list, John Lindsey doubled and homered three times for Albuquerque in a doubleheader today. Ramon Troncoso gave up a game-winning home run in his second appearance since being sent to the Isotopes. (The winning pitcher in that game? Matt Herges.)

Jun 07

Torre thinks Blake will avoid disabled list, Martin rests again

Casey Blake, who hasn’t played since Thursday’s 14-inning game, might be available to pinch-hit tonight, Joe Torre told reporters today. Torre now believes Blake will avoid a trip to the disabled list.

A.J. Ellis is starting for the second consecutive day in place of Russell Martin. Torre said Martin was ready to play, but Torre felt that he could use the extra rest. This is the first time since June 30-July 1, 2009 that Martin has missed consecutive starts.

Apr 16

Russell Martin deserves a hand, if not a nap


Chris Williams/Icon SMI
Back in the home opener, Russell Martin had no idea of how rough the middle of his week would get.

Last May, I wrote about Orlando Hudson in the midst of his hot start to 2009:

I’m not going to attempt to tell you how long Hudson can perform at an All-Star caliber level. Rather, my point in these giddy times for Dodger fans is to remind us that there was serious doubt whether Hudson, coming off a traumatic 2008 wrist injury, could play this well at any point in the remainder of his career — for a month, for a week, for even a day. That we now know he can is a revelation.

Things will go up and down, but just setting the ups this high is juicy. Right now, this is looking like a magical signing.

That Hudson didn’t finish the season in the starting lineup shows how a hot start doesn’t guarantee anything, but I do feel it’s worth making a similar point about Russell Martin.

In a year where expectations for Martin couldn’t have been lower – particularly after he missed most of Spring Training – the Dodger catcher leads the major leagues in on-base percentage and is 19th overall in OPS. Martin always has had a good eye, but he’s even slugging .591, compared to .329 last season and .256 last April.

Again, there are no assurances he won’t slump, especially if the Dodger pitchers keep wearing him out, but it’s nice to know that he can get this hot even for a little while.

* * *

Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness makes explicit what I implied in my last post: The Dodgers really only have Russ Ortiz, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Troncoso available in relief of Vicente Padilla tonight, unless they make a more dramatic move. (Petriello includes Jeff Weaver among the available — Joe Torre included both Weaver and George Sherrill in his pregame conversation with reporters — but I can’t imagine the Dodgers want to go there tonight.)

If the Dodgers fall behind big early, then you pretty much can burn Ortiz and Monasterios to get through the game. But in a competitive game, the Dodgers figure to be at a huge bullpen disadvantage if Padilla has to leave before the eighth inning.

I’ve never been all that high on Padilla, but I kind of feel he’s due for a good outing. Just a gut thing I’m having.

* * *

Torre said that the day-after reports on Hong-Chih Kuo’s rehab outing showed no problems, and that he’s due to pitch again in a minor-league game Sunday. Torre pointed out that Ronald Belisario isn’t eligible to make rehab appearances, so that he will come straight to the Dodgers when his command is present.

Torre also said that he doesn’t consider carrying 13 or 11 pitchers on the staff to be an option at this time. Twelve it is.

* * *

One pitching bright spot: As a team, the Dodgers have struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings. Four pitchers are over the 9.0 mark, led not by Jonathan Broxton (15.4) but Charlie Haeger (16.7).

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 24

Russell Martin and the Dodgers tempt fate

Mark Duncan/APRussell Martin played his only exhibition game of 2010 on March 5.

Ignoring my counsel – peanut gallery as it might be – the Dodgers aren’t hesitating to get Russell Martin back into action. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Martin will catch in a minor-league game Thursday, and that Opening Day is now a real possibility for him.

The only reason this sounds plausible to me is that I am willing to believe A.J. Ellis just can’t get a break. But we’ll see how Martin fares.

  • Jackson also reports that an MRI on Hong-Chih Kuo showed no new damage. (I guess the old damage was still there.) Kuo played soft toss after the MRI.
  • Hiroki Kuroda faced 19 Oakland A’s batters tonight and got 16 of them out in a shutout performance.
  • Between his contract still not being official and his fairly unimpressive Spring Training (certainly less impressive than Blake DeWitt or Jamey Carroll), I’m still not quite ready to consider Ronnie Belliard a roster lock yet. Odds are still in his favor, as the memory of his late-season hotitude still lingers. But when you have an aging player who didn’t do much for most of 2009, and a plethora of second basemen, there’s still room for release.
  • Pablo Torre of SI.com posted a story about the Dodgers that questioned their rotation depth (“arguably the thinnest in the division”) while making all positive assumptions about NL West rival pitchers Jeff Francis, Chris Young and Brandon Webb, and ignoring all the other teams’ problems in the back of their rotations. Just check out what’s going on in Arizona, for example. It’s not going to be all golden for the Dodgers, but can we not use the same standard evaluating them as the other teams?
  • Lenny Harris was released from the hospital today, five days after his emergency bypass surgery, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • Robert Culp, you will always be so cool in my eyes.
Mar 22

The ever-prodigal Jamie Hoffmann returns to the Dodgers


Cliff Welch/Icon SMI
Jamie Hoffmann was 3 for 23 with three walks for the Yankees this spring.

The Dodgers are like the island on “Lost” for Jamie Hoffmann, who can’t seem to stay away no matter how often he leaves or how far he goes.

Designated for assignment last summer only to return, then taken by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft in the winter, Hoffmann once again is a Dodger, according to multiple news reports, after failing to make the Yankee Opening Day roster and clearing waivers. Hoffmann figures now to start the season in the Dodger minor leagues, competing with Jason Repko for a midseason callup if neither is traded.

In other Dodger news, Russell Martin was hit by a Tim Corcoran pitch at practice this morning. Dodger manager Joe Torre said Martin’s back and wrist were casualties, but there was “no damage.”

Torre continued to show support for Charlie Haeger, among others — to the point where it almost seems a roster spot is being preserved for him.  “I have high regard for him,” Torre said. “We probably wouldn’t pitch him in Colorado, but I don’t think anybody wants to pitch there. Arizona is different since it’s indoors.”

I’m a little surprised by Torre’s affection for Haeger only because of how quickly he was buried last summer after that one bad inning in Cincinnati. Haeger allowed runs in only three of the 20 innings he commenced for the Dodgers last season.

Update: Ken Gurnick of MLB.com clarifies that Martin was hit not by one pitch but by three.  “It got a little too simulated,” Torre said. “There was no damage. He was lucky on the one on the wrist. It was a little too uncomfortable to continue.”

Gurnick also notes that the Dodgers released shortstop Angel Berroa.

Mar 21

Eric Stults gives doubters an opening, Eric Gagne gives them closure

Eric Stults has pitched in nine innings this month (including Taiwan), if I’m not mistaken. Eight of those innings have been good; one of them has been bad. For his first three innings today, Stults was near-perfect.

Perhaps Stults isn’t meant to be the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter in April, and perhaps that’s justified. But if that’s the decision, I hope it’s not because of a single bad fourth inning on March 21. I hope the Dodgers have better reasons than that. Because it ain’t as if the next guy is gonna be perfect …

  • Game Over is truly over: Eric Gagne’s request for his unconditional release by the Dodgers has been granted. Adios, monsieur.
  • Joe Torre called off contract extension talks between himself and the Dodgers, citing a few reasons, including the idea that they were a “distraction,” according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. I can certainly understand his hesitancy to commit to work beyond the expiration of his contract at the end of this year, but I don’t see how the uncertainty concerning the Dodgers’ post-2010 managerial situation will be any less distracting, Don Mattingly or not.
  • The amazing UCLA baseball team is now 16-0. Eric Sondheimer of the Times notes that the Bruins outscored Oral Roberts 41-7 in a three-game sweep.
  • Sorry, folks, but Dodger Stadium simply won’t be ready for the 1961 season. “You gather that Florida is sufficiently far enough away from the scene of delayed action to keep (Walter) O’Malley from blowing his top,” wrote Times sports editor Paul Zimmerman, “but just barely.”
  • My advice regarding Russell Martin: When Martin and the Dodgers agree that he is absolutely, positively recovered enough from his injury to play in a game … tack on an extra week off right then.