Dec 07

Dodgers to sign Chris Gwynn’s nephew

Tony Gwynn, Jr., is probably few people’s idea of an answer to the Dodgers’ outfield concerns, but now that the Dodgers are about to sign him, let’s talk about what they will do with him.

In his best year (2009), Gwynn reached the .350 mark in on-base percentage, but other than that and a good year on the basepaths last season (17 steals in 21 attempts), Gwynn has zero — or less than zero — offensive value.

Defensively, Gwynn’s another story, as he was arguably the best center fielder in the National League last season.

So if the Dodgers plan on using Gwynn as more than a fifth outfielder, should they not play him in center field, either moving Matt Kemp to left field or Kemp to right and Andre Ethier to left?

Just as you shouldn’t bat a great offensive player eighth, shouldn’t you avoid minimizing the impact of a fine defensive player?

The Dodgers’ 2011 lineup may be the most OBP-challenged we’ve seen in Los Angeles in some time. If the plan is to win with pitching and defense, while hoping that Kemp, Ethier and others hit a few home runs along the way, the Dodgers should seriously consider using Gwynn in center.

Of course, if the Dodgers want to find more offense for that third outfield slot, fine by me.

Update: R.J. Anderson of Fangraphs has more on Gwynn.

* * *

According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, in addition to his $2 million base salary, Vicente Padilla could earn as much as $8 million in incentives as a starter or $6 million in incentives as a reliever.

Dec 07

Getting the gang back together: Vicente Padilla returns for $2 million

When I first heard last week that the Dodgers were still interested in signing Vicente Padilla, I was surprised … then not. And then I thought it was a shaky idea … and then not.

And now comes the news that he has signed for a mere $2 million (plus incentives), pending a physical. That’s just a good idea.

Padilla can be used as a spot starter (on a team that reason to worry that it might need one), as a middle reliever, and even as a set-up man and occasional closer (ideally, to provide rest for the full-time closer that is already pitching so, so well). It’s a role that can be very valuable, and one that has been filled on the Dodgers at times with authority using someone like Wilson Alvarez, and less so at other times using someone like Carlos Monasterios or Jeff Weaver.

Padilla’s recent health history has lowered expectations for him, and in turn his salary, but it’s a good deal. He’s close to the same guy who earned more than twice as much last season. He never should have been an Opening Day starter, but as an Opening Day jack-of-all-pitching trades, I’m all for it.

With Padilla and Hiroki Kuroda signing contracts below what one would think would be their market value, one might get the impression that some people find Los Angeles to be a nice place to pitch.

Coming up next … another outfielder?

Nov 23

No salary arbitration for Barajas, Padilla and Podsednik

In declining to offer salary arbitration to free agents Rod Barajas, Vicente Padilla and Scott Podsednik, the Dodgers chose the flexibility of being able to offer each contracts on the teams’ terms in exchange for the rights to compensation of a draft pick after the first round should the players sign elsewhere. (Here’s a list of those elsewhere who got salary arbitration offers, from MLB Trade Rumors. Octavio Dotel?)

But on this day, I just wish to celebrate once again the fact that baseball has eliminated its nonsensical rule that prevented teams from negotiating with their own free agents if they declined arbitration – a rule that gave the 29 other teams a distinct advantage over the player’s most recent team. Having nothing to do with these three players, I’m just glad a stupid rule is no more.

As True Blue L.A. reminds us, December 2 is the deadline for the Dodgers to offer arbitration to non-free agents: Russell Martin et al.

Meanwhile, in the Noah’s Ark that bears non-roster invitees to Spring Training two-by-two, the Dodgers now have a pair of sub-mediocre ex-Diamondbacks, Dana Eveland and Oscar Villarreal.

* * *

Farewell, Danny McDevitt.

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.

Sep 11

Vicente Padilla’s season might be over

Vicente Padilla has perhaps already made his final start as a Dodger. He was scratched today from his Sunday start with a recurrence of the bulging disc in his neck, and Joe Torre told reporters that he didn’t expect Padilla to return soon – and the season doesn’t have much more than soon left.

Padilla has pitched 95 innings for the Dodgers this year, 54 2/3 of them in an eight-start stretch in which he had a 1.32 ERA. The rest of his 2010 Dodger season has consisted of 40 1/3 innings with 35 earned runs allowed (7.81 ERA).

More from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Aug 19

It never ends: Vicente Padilla heads to disabled list


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAfter allowing eight earned runs in eight starts from June 25-August 4, Vicente Padilla allowed 12 in his past two outings.

Perhaps the next time Vicente Padilla slumps, we should just assume he’s hurt.

Padilla got off to a poor start this season, and it turned out he needed to go on the disabled list.

Then he came back, and got red-hot for a while.

Then he slumped, and it turns out he needed to go on the disabled list — with a bulging disc in his neck, as Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports …

Both (Joe) Torre and Dodgers director of medical services Stan Conte said the injury is nothing they didn’t know about, but that Padilla wanted to try to pitch through it. Torre admitted that the injury was a major factor in Padilla’s ineffectiveness in those two starts, when he gave up 12 runs on 14 hits over 9 1/3 innings.

Carlos Monasterios, who pitched 5 1/3 innings this month, most recently facing eight batters Sunday, is now a potential starter in Padilla’s place Friday, and Travis Schlichting is coming back from Albuquerque.

* * *

  • If the Dodgers had released this draft-day video two months ago showing how badly Logan White wanted Zach Lee, no one would have thought for a moment that they had punted the pick. (Link via Blue Heaven.)
  • Vin Scully learned (kinda) what a mullet is, and Wezen-ball has the amusing transcript.
  • Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce looks at today’s McCourt news.
  • Pedro Feliz and his .555 OPS with Houston got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals today for Single-A pitcher David Carpenter, who has good stats but is already 25. In case you want to compare trade value, Casey Blake, who turns 37 on Monday,  has better numbers (.722 OPS) than the 35-year-old Feliz but is owed a bunch more money. Not that Blake appears to be going anywhere …
  • Lou Gehrig finished a triple short of the cycle 42 times, writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Hey, Manny Mota’s under there! (Another one from Blue Heaven.)
Aug 04

Near no-no still a yes-yes for Vicente Padilla and Dodgers: 9-0


Jae C. Hong/APVicente Padilla

Vicente Padilla’s extraordinary run of starts since returning from the disabled list in June nearly peaked with a no-hitter tonight at Dodger Stadium.

Padilla came within eight outs of the gem before allowing a line shot off the glove of a diving James Loney by Ryan Ludwick. Padilla gave up one other hit over his 105 pitches, settling for the fourth shutout of his career and second of the two-hit variety, and the Dodgers defeated the Padres, 9-0.

With the Dodgers seemingly losing a player a day, Padilla let everyone take their minds off their troubles. After walking two batters (one intentionally) in the second inning, Padilla retired 14 in a row before the Ludwick single. Since June 19, Padilla has pitched 60 innings and allowed 12 earned runs for a 1.80 ERA. His nine strikeouts tonight give him 52 in that time. He has not allowed more than two runs in his past eight starts.

The Dodgers, who have won consecutive games following their six-game losing streak, scored three runs in the second inning, the crowning blow a two-RBI dunker by Scott Podsednik. Ronnie Belliard added an RBI double in the third, and then Padilla – left to bat for himself in the bottom of the eighth following much suspense – drove in a run with his second hit of the night.

That kicked off a five-run inning for the Dodgers – their biggest output since a six-run inning July 3 – capped by a two-run homer by Andre Ethier. Ethier also had two doubles, while Casey Blake and Jamey Carroll added two hits for the Dodgers.

Dodger pitchers have held San Diego to a single run on five hits over the past two games combined. Since the All-Star Game, Dodger starting pitchers have allowed 35 earned runs in 123 innings for a 2.56 ERA.

If not a turnaround, tonight might amount to a false positive for a crumbling Dodger team, but temporary relief is better than none.

Jul 06

Padilla stays on track in Dodgers’ 7-3 victory


Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesVicente Padilla

Two starts ago, Vicente Padilla allowed two runs in seven innings. Last start, Padilla allowed one run in seven innings. But with a shutout through 6 2/3 innings tonight, Padilla lost a chance to keep that progression going and create a lot of anticipation among mathematicians and physicists for his next start.

Nevertheless, it’s been a real hot streak for the enigmatic righty.

Padilla left after those 6 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 7-3 victory over Florida, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out nine before surrendering a two-run home run on a 1-2 curve to Marlins’ rookie Mike Stanton. With the exception of a 12-pitch at-bat by Cody Ross with two runners on base to end the fourth inning, it was a breezy outing for Padilla, who allowed two runners to reach second base and none to reach third before Stanton’s homer.

Matt Kemp (2 for 5 with two of the Dodgers’ five season-high steals) followed Rafael Furcal’s two-run single in the second inning with a monster homer to left field – Kemp’s fourth homer in his past six games and 16th of the year – to give the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Furcal tied Gil Hodges’ 57-year-old franchise record by scoring a run in his 12th consecutive game. (Correction: Furcal is the first to do this since Hodges, but Hodges does not hold the franchise record.)

Casey Blake and Andre Ethier each later hit solo home runs, while Kemp almost topped off his night with a near-three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that was caught at the wall. Furcal bookended his evening with an RBI single in the eighth.

Blake DeWitt had a single, two walks and his first two steals of the season.

Jonathan Broxton warmed up in the bullpen with the Dodgers leading by four runs in the eighth inning, sat down after the lead went up to five, then warmed up again and entered the game once Travis Schlichting gave up three hits and his first run of the season in the ninth. With visions of the Yankee game from nine days ago and Colorado scoring nine in the ninth to beat St. Louis, 12-9 tonight, Broxton retired both batters he faced to get the save.

Jun 25

Cruel duel leaves Dodgers blue, 2-1

In his not-so-graceful way, Vicente Padilla kind of dazzled tonight with his combination of 95 mph fastballs and 55 mph blooper curves. He kind of shone, really. He turned a Fear Factor matchup for the Dodgers against CC Sabathia and the Yankees into a “Hey, this could be kind of cool” kind of game.

But he let Alex Rodriguez get the best of one pitch in the sixth inning, and with the Dodger offense unable to muster anything after Manny Ramirez’s first-inning RBI single, Los Angeles was done for, losing 2-1 tonight.

After Sabathia completed eight innings with just the one run charged against him, 40-year-old Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the ninth on 13 pitches (the final one blowing the lid off James Loney, making as angry as perhaps we’ve ever seen him). A tough loss for the Dodgers, if perhaps a better tough loss than some of the ugly ones during the six-game losing streak.

The offense was simply smothered, unable to get a runner past first base in the final seven innings. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp each struck out three times. Kemp at least looked better in center field. I plan to write more about his recent struggles, but probably not until after seeing him through this series.

Good atmosphere tonight. Maybe the crowd at Saturday’s game will be rewarded with a Dodger victory.

* * *

The Dodgers designated Charlie Haeger for assignment before tonight’s game and called up Jon Link.

Congrats to former Dodger Edwin Jackson on his no-hitter for Arizona! Jackson threw 149 pitches, but as long as he gets plenty of rest afterward, I’m hoping it was okay as a one-time thing. Jackson, you’ll recall, has twice exceeded 120 pitches facing the Dodgers this year.

May 29

Denver police finds no evidence to support allegations against Vicente Padilla


Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
Vicente Padilla

This afternoon brought a bit of unwanted mystery, with a local Denver TV news report emerging at lunchtime that Denver police were investigating allegations against Vicente Padilla made shortly before 4 a.m. at the Ritz Carlton Hotel near Coors Field. At a 3 p.m. press conference, however, Denver police said that after an investigation by detectives, the police department found no evidence that any crime occurred and has no intention to cause Padilla with a crime. The initial call was a domestic violence call, according to police.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. Padilla went on to throw a simulated game at Coors Field today.

Apr 24

Dodgers win in extras but lose Vicente Padilla


Nick Wass/AP
Carlos Monasterios, right, gets a high-five from Russell Martin, center, and Matt Kemp after the Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 4-3 in 13 innings Saturday. Monasterios isn’t going anywhere for a while after his 2 2/3 extra innings of shutout ball.

See what happens when you get two out of three cogs working?

The Dodger defense help cause the team to play four extra innings Saturday, but this time the bullpen was up to the task while the offense did just enough. With Carlos Monasterios getting the final eight outs, the Dodgers defeated Washington in 13, 4-3.

The glow was tempered a bit with the news that Vicente Padilla was going on the 15-day disabled list with right forearm problems – the third Dodger to go on the DL this week. Reliever Jon Link has been recalled, but the Dodgers will make another roster move by Tuesday for a starter to take Padilla’s turn in the rotation. But there was a glow nevertheless.

Clayton Kershaw (3.13 ERA in 2010) allowed 11 baserunners in six innings but went to the showers with a 3-2 lead thanks to Casey Blake’s second home run. However, a Russell Martin throwing error – the 20th of the Dodgers’ 17-game season to date – led to an eighth-inning entrance by Jonathan Broxton, who allowed the game-tying, unearned run (charged to Ramon Troncoso). Rafael Furcal’s error an inning earlier also caused trouble; the Dodgers used four pitchers to get six outs in the sixth and seventh.

But the Dodger bullpen provided five scoreless innings at a most welcome time, with Broxton pitching the ninth, George Sherrill retiring all four batters he faced and then Monasterios (his ERA shrinking to 2.08) providing the final 2 2/3 innings to end it.

It wasn’t without one more scare. Monasterios entered the bottom of the 13th with the one-run lead after Russell Martin (0 for 5 with the big error at that point) singled in Furcal, who had singled and stolen his eighth base in nine attempts this year (second in the National League). Monasterios allowed a one-out single to pinch-hitter Ivan Rodriguez and then a double to the right-field corner by Nyler Morgan. A faster player would have scored, but Rodriguez held at third – and then was thrown out at the plate by inches by Blake on the Nationals’ next at-bat.

Cristian Guzman then popped out to end it. Monsasterios had come through. The Dodgers had come through. Even though Washington had gotten a runner to at least second base in each of the first nine innings, the Dodgers won.

From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

Monasterios, 24, generally keeps his emotions in check on the field but was jumping up and down in the infield like a Little Leaguer when he got Guzman to fly to left and end the game.

“That’s the correct way, no?” Monasterios asked. “I’m very excited and happy to be on this team right now. This experience will give me a lot of self confidence.”

Shades of Pedro Astacio …

Blake went 3 for 5 with the three RBI from his two homers, and Furcal, Matt Kemp and James Loney each had two hits. (Furcal also had a walk.)

With James McDonald on the AAA disabled list because of a broken nail (“Why tonight?”), the leading candidates to take the Tuesday start are John Ely, Scott Elbert and Josh Towers. Ely and Towers would require a 40-man roster spot, which the Dodgers have to spare if they move Brad Ausmus or Cory Wade from the 15- to the 60-day DL. Ely has the best numbers of the three: a 3.00 ERA over three starts covering 18 innings, though he has allowed 16 hits and eight walks against 12 strikeouts, and he’d be on five days’ rest for Tuesday. McDonald could be activated from the DL next week, but would the Dodgers use him after the layoff he has had?

Elbert, who last pitched for Albuquerque five days ago and was scheduled as recently as Friday to pitch today, was replaced by Seth Etherton, so one might have concluded he’ll get the call despite allowing 13 runs in eight innings over his past two starts. (He pitched six shutout innings in his first start of the year.) But Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out that Elbert is with his wife for the birth of their second child, so who knows?

Also keep in mind, with the possibility of a rainout Sunday or Monday, the Dodgers might be able to postpone addressing this problem. Anyway, enjoy today’s glow – a nice alternative to what could have been another dastardly disappointment.

Apr 17

Dodgers have a monster mash – but Tim Lincecum awaits


Mark J. Terrill/AP
Hello … is it me you’re looking for?

Andre Ethier is just mashing the ball. And it’s not just Friday in the Dodgers 10-8 victory over the Giants. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes that Ethier has hit 25 home runs in his past 81 home games. Sons of Steve Garvey has a photo essay showing just how incredible Ethier’s night was.

And Matt Kemp is just mashing the ball, too. He has homered in four consecutive games and five of his past six.

James Loney doesn’t have a home run yet, but he is mashing the ball in his own way. Loney is 12 for his last 25, raising his batting average from .167 to .327 and making him one of seven Dodger regulars hitting over .300.

And for a night, opponents stopped mashing the ball against Vicente Padilla. With the Dodger bullpen in a shambles, Padilla picked a good time to give the Dodgers his best outing of the season. But Vin Scully and KCAL noticed Padilla rubbing his pitching arm pretty vigorously just before the fifth inning – the inning in which he lost his no-hitter and was hit pretty hard. Though Padilla lasted seven innings, we’ll have to see if what Scully saw had any significance.

The Dodgers came within one run of matching their team record (since moving to Los Angeles) for most runs in the first 10 games of a season (68). At the same time, they also reached their third-highest total of runs allowed in the first 10 games of a season (60).

* * *

Manny Ramirez came out of the game after three innings because of calf tightness, but Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Joe Torre said Ramirez would have stayed in the game if the Dodgers hadn’t been up by seven.

Of course, there were no guarantees the Dodgers would hold such a lead. And the fact that Russ Ortiz again could not finish an easy assignment is the last straw. Ortiz needs to be released.

When you take a flyer on a pitcher who hasn’t pitched well in years, the sole (if questionable) purpose is to try to see if there’s a chance he has solved his problems or even has one hot streak left in him. When you can see that he’s just as bad as he’s always been, there is nothing to hold out for. There is no situation in which Ortiz is a reliable pitcher, and the Dodgers should not wait any longer on him.

If Hong-Chih Kuo is about to be activated, that’s a simple exchange. But if Kuo has a setback, the Dodgers still need to jettison Ortiz.

* * *

  • It’s a tall order, but the Dodgers will try to “outlast” Tim Lincecum in today’s game, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. It’s similar to how they were able to get a late victory against Arizona on Thursday – if they can make the great starter throw a lot of pitches, they can at least give themselves a chance against the bullpen.
  • The fifth-inning Padilla pitch that hit Aaron Rowand left him with two small fractures in his cheekbone and a concussion, writes D.J. Short of Hardball Talk.
  • Joe Torre recalls that when he was managing the Mets in 1977, the team almost traded Tom Seaver to the Dodgers for a package of players that included minor-leaguer Pedro Guerrero, writes Vincent Bonsignore of the Daily News.
  • John Ely pitched six two-run innings for Albuquerque last night.
  • Dee Gordon went 3 for 6 for Chattanooga and now has a .448 on-base percentage. Trayvon Robinson had a single, double and homer.
  • Will Savage, the 25-year-old from West Hills, pitched six innings without allowing an earned run while striking out eight for Great Lakes. In 12 2/3 innings this year, Savage has allowed two earned runs and five unearned runs.
Apr 05

That’s a Padillaing: Dodgers fall in opener, 11-5


Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Vicente Padilla allowed 11 of 24 batters he faced to reach base Monday.

The last time the Dodgers played a game that counted, Vicente Padilla started for Los Angeles in Pennsylvania and got pounded before the Dodgers tried to rally from a six-run deficit in the seventh inning — and almost made you think they would succeed.

In Philadelphia for Game 5 of the 2009 National League Championship Series, the Dodgers were down, 9-3, but scored a run and loaded the bases in the eighth inning with none away before James Loney, Russell Martin and Casey Blake made outs. Today in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles halved their 8-2 deficit and had the tying run on deck in the seventh — and at the plate in the eighth — before faltering and ultimately tumbling, 11-5, in their 2010 season opener.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, Wednesday’s second game of the regular season should, if nothing else, break the Paddle Padilla Pattern.

The cup of Dodger offense was more than half-full today, pouring five runs on 14 baserunners but, unfortunately for them, stranding 10. Every Dodger starter reached base except Loney, who had an RBI groundout in the seventh on an 0-for-5 day. Rafael Furcal had a couple poor at-bats with runners on base before recovering with a single and walk late, and in general the Dodgers’ missed some golden opportunities to score more, but it’s not as if you could lay this loss on the hitters. Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez each had a single and a double, Blakes Casey and DeWitt each had two hits, and Martin reached base three times.

Keith Srakocic/AP
Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones homered to right field and left field in his first two at-bats of the season.

But it was Padilla who from the beginning looked very much like the castoff that he had been when the Dodgers signed him, rather than the savior who earned playoff and Opening Day starts. Granted a 2-0 first-inning lead on Matt Kemp’s two-run single, Padilla walked the leadoff batter and then gave up a prodigious Allegheny River-splasher to Garrett Jones that tied the game. (I’ll try not to belabor this point beyond today, but if Chad Billingsley had performed similarly in the first inning with a lead, there would have been calls from the usual suspects to institutionalize him.)

Padilla allowed at least two baserunners in each of the first three innings — escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second with the aid of a 1-2-3 double play, before giving up another homer to Jones in the third. He then settled down, relatively speaking, to get out of the fourth with just a single.

This being early April, you could make an argument to be made that the Dodgers should have cut their losses and gone to the bullpen before the fifth inning rather than extend Padilla farther, given the off days yesterday and tomorrow, but instead Joe Torre went by the book and stuck with Padilla into the fifth. (I’m not saying Torre did anything controversial — just that it wasn’t likely that Padilla was going to do much better this day.)

In fact, Padilla was rousted in the fifth — HBP, walk, double — and with new reliever Ramon Ortiz unable to minimize the damage, the Dodgers fell behind, 8-2.

Carlos Monasterios had a 1-2-3 sixth in his major-league debut and Russ Ortiz struck out former Dodger Delwyn Young to end a Pirate threat in the seventh after the Dodgers scored three, but then after Andre Ethier’s bid to tie the game in the eighth with two on base went awry, George Sherrill came out and gave Dodger fans even more to worry about, allowing a double, walk and then a three-run homer to Ryan Doumit. (Remember, Sherrill only allowed one homer as a Dodger last year, before the playoffs.)

It’s just one game, and Dodger fans can calm themselves with the notion that by getting  Padilla out of the way, they should have matchup advantages on the mound for the rest of this series.  But Opening Day 2010 was certainly a reminder of Closing Day 2009 in all the wrong ways.

* * *

Ronald Belisario is making rapid progress in his efforts to rejoin the active roster, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Belisario is scheduled to throw to hitters for the first time this spring on Tuesday, a significant move in his effort to rejoin the big league club. Belisario arrived five weeks late to spring training because of lingering visa issues in his native Venezuela, but club officials don’t think he will need the full six-week equivalent of spring training in order to be ready. One Dodgers source said Monday that Belisario could be ready in as few as “15 or 20 days.”

Mar 25

Vicente Padilla named Dodgers’ Opening Day starter


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Vicente Padilla

It doesn’t matter much, and I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I find it bizarre that the Dodgers have chosen Vicente Padilla to start on Opening Day April 5.

It’s not needed to set up Clayton Kershaw to start the home opener eight days later. And in all my years watching baseball, I can’t think of a rationale that would make Padilla the choice over Hiroki Kuroda or Chad Billingsley, both of whom have been with the team longer, contributed more to the team in the past year and have their own sentimental reasons for getting the nod. In particular, I would have thought Kuroda’s comeback from a frightening injury would have given him the honor.

A one-month hot stretch by Padilla shouldn’t trump those factors. Frankly, it’s a decision that cries out to be mocked, despite its insignificance in the grand scheme of things. And heaven knows, lots of people enjoy new reasons to mock the Dodgers.

That doesn’t mean Padilla won’t go out and throw shutout ball — after all, that’s what he did for six innings in his last appearance in Pittsburgh, nearly five years ago. But it still just doesn’t feel right to me. Whatever reasons there were to choose Padilla, there were better reasons not to.

Feb 21

Scott Elbert recovering from tendinitis

No. 5 starter candidate Scott Elbert had a recent bout of shoulder tendinitis, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but after being shut down for 10 days had a pain-free bullpen session Thursday. He is scheduled to throw again Monday.

In a separate blog post, Gurnick noted that reliever Travis Schlichting had a pretty significant health scare over the winter, dealing with Gilbert’s syndrome, “which results in increased bilirubin levels and, in Schlichting’s case, is believed to have caused fatigue and nausea that led to (a 30-pound) weight loss.”

Hiroki Kuroda and Hong-Chih Kuo, among others, are having no issues so far.

  • Vicente Padilla was throwing (stories about) bullets. Tony Jackson of ESPN.com/LA has details. If Padilla were a duck, Casey Blake might still have a beard.
  • The way Joe Torre talked about Jeff Weaver, according to Gurnick, a swingman role in the bullpen is his to lose.
  • For those interested in injured pitchers from 2009 that the Dodgers might have signed but ended up with Oakland instead, this Associated Press update tells us that Justin Duchsherer is having back troubles, but Ben Sheets is pounding the strike zone.