May 09

Greinke to make rehab start Friday

Rushed, or just in the nick of time?

Zack Greinke is expected to make his first rehab start Friday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga at Lake Elsinore, with Scott Elbert also expected to pitch an inning of relief in his first rehab appearance, the Dodgers announced.

By the way, Carlos Quentin is 7 for 47 with a .574 OPS — including 2 HBP — since the Greinke incident.

Apr 12

Revenge on Jackie Robinson Night?

For Sports on Earth, I look ahead to the next meeting between the Dodgers and the Padres in the wake of their Thursday brawl. It comes Monday, on Jackie Robinson Night.

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.
Kershaw CLII: Kershawvanhoe

Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Juan Uribe, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
Clayton Kershaw, P

Update: “Zack Greinke was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache today in Los Angeles and underwent a CT scan on his left clavicle,” the Dodgers said in a statement. “It was determined that he should undergo surgery to place a rod in the clavicle to stabilize and align the fracture.  The surgery will be performed tomorrow by team physicians,  Drs. ElAttrache and John Itamura, at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles.  Greinke’s expected return is eight weeks.”

Shawn Tolleson has been recalled from the minors for the time being.

Apr 11

Furious Dodgers fight off Padres but lose Greinke

I was angry, so I can only imagine how the Dodgers felt.

The idea that Zack Greinke was trying to hit Carlos Quentin with a 3-2 pitch in the sixth inning of a one-run game was ludicrous. So was the idea that Quentin, who is notorious for not getting out of the way of anything in his hemisphere (already, at age 30, ranking seventh among active players in career HBPs), should have taken offense at the run-of-the-mill shoulder-high pitch from Greinke.

When Quentin paused and then charged the mound, the less composed side of myself felt that it was less out of anger and more out of seizing an opportunity to simply injure a rival team’s star. That’s probably wrong, but at best, it takes a pretty huge ego and an even larger blind spot to think what Greinke did was intentional, even if they had a spat a blue moon ago.

The consequences were serious, as Greinke didn’t run away from Quentin but lowered his left shoulder to take the initial hit from the Padre as the wrestling match began and the benches cleared. That Matt Kemp (who was buzzed near the head early in the game) and Jerry Hairston Jr. were ejected along with Quentin was one thing, but the possibility that Greinke, who left the game with trainer Sue Falsone, might be hurt was quite another.

And immediately after the game came the news. Greinke had suffered a fractured left collarbone.

The official statement from the Dodgers: “Zack Greinke sustained a left fractured clavicle.  He was immobilized with a sling and will return to Los Angeles to be evaluated by Dr. Neal ElAttrache tomorrow.”

“A 2-1 game and we’re trying to hit him 3-2? It’s just stupid,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly said after the game. “He should not play a game until Greinke can pitch. If he plays before Greinke, something is wrong.”

Mattingly’s dreaming, of course, and he knows it. “Their guy will probably be playing in three days,” he added. The Dodgers will have to move on despite the injustice.

Back to the game. On their heels, the Dodgers surrendered the tying run one batter later when Quentin’s pinch-runner, Alexi Amarista, scored on a Yonder Alonso single after going to second base on a Chris Capuano wild pitch. (The Padres’ first run also happened to score in the fourth inning on a Greinke wild pitch, halving the two-run lead Adrian Gonzalez’s first homer of the year gave the Dodgers.)

With Dodger fans’ teeth bared, Los Angeles escaped a two-out, two-on jams in that inning and the next, before Juan Uribe came up as a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth. Rarely has a player held in such disfavor by the multitudes done himself such a service. Uribe tomahawked a Luke Gregerson pitch over the left-field wall for his second home run of the series, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 lead (and, incidentally, knocking Clayton Kershaw out of the top ranks of Dodger home run hitters after nearly nine games).

Uribe, said Vin Scully, was so emotional returning to the Dodger dugout after he blast that it appeared he was close to tears.

And so it went to the bottom of the ninth. With Brandon League having thrown 34 pitches the previous night, Kenley Jansen was given the save assignment. Cody Ransom struck out, Chris Denorfia popped out and Everth Cabrera flied out, giving the Dodgers the victory.

The Dodgers and Padres next meet Monday. April 15. Jackie Robinson Night. On an evening that is meant to honor baseball’s greatest achievement, it could be one that instead pays homage to Robinson’s competitive spirit.

Apr 05

Greinke looks marvelous in Dodger blue debut

Zack Greinke didn’t throw a perfect game in his Dodger premiere, but that’s the only way he disappointed.

Greinke allowed only a questionable single in his first six innings for Los Angeles, whose bats came ever so slightly to life in a 3-0 victory tonight against Pittsburgh.

The new Dodger righty had thrown 84 pitches in retiring 18 of 19 batters over six innings, then gave up consecutive hard-hit balls to start the seventh. One was caught, but after the other by Andrew McCutchen went up the middle for a single, Dodger manager Don Mattingly rightfully decided that Greinke, whose Spring Training was interrupted by a tender elbow, had done quite enough.

Paco Rodriguez relieved and put out the mini-threat with a strikeout of Pedro Alvarez, with A.J. Ellis throwing out McCutchen trying to steal. Kenley Jansen retired the side after a leadoff walk in the eighth, and Brandon League closed the door perfectly in the ninth for the year’s first Dodger save.

Los Angeles got ahead to stay in the second inning when Andre Ethier hit the Dodgers’ first non-Clayton Kershaw homer of 2013, off Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez. It was Ethier’s third extra-base hit in his first seven at-bats off portsiders this season.

Greinke was living with that narrow margin until the bottom of the sixth, when Mark Ellis drew the Dodgers’ first walk of the game and Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez (2 for 4) followed with RBI doubles. The Kemp hit, of course, was his first of the season (ending an 0-for-12 streak), and he beamed at second base.

Los Angeles, which got nice glovework tonight after giving up a pair of unearned runs in each of the previous two contests, has a team ERA of 1.00 after four games. Opponents are batting .177 with three walks and 29 strikeouts.

On the other hand, the left side of the Dodger infield is 0 for 25 with two walks and two errors.

Below: a fantastic play by Dee Gordon for Albuquerque tonight

Sep 20

Lee’s surge complicates road to Cy Young for Kershaw


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireClayton Kershaw is set to finish his season with starts tonight and then Sunday in San Diego.

How heated is the National League Cy Young competition? The top four candidates — Roy Halladay, Ian Kennedy, Clayton Kershaw and Cliff Lee (in alphabetical order) — have a combined September ERA of 1.46.

Kennedy continued his late bid for recognition by pitching eight innings of one-hit ball with 12 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory for Arizona, which built its lead to 5 1/2 games in the NL West, while Halladay gave up a sliver of ground by allowing four runs in a 4-3 Phillies loss to St. Louis.

Kershaw and Lee — both red-hot of late, both scheduled to start tonight — have the opportunity to affirm themselves as the two top finalists for the award. In particular, if Kershaw bests Tim Lincecum for a fourth time in 2011 tonight, that’s going to be memorable.

For the first time, I’m starting to think that Halladay and Lee being teammates could hurt the award chances of both. Up until very recently, I’ve felt that the award was Halladay’s to lose, given that he pitches for the best team in the NL and that he’s pitched so well — his numbers are virtually equal to Kershaw’s (see chart below), with a slightly lower strikeout rate but better control, and higher wins above replacement.

However, Lee’s amazing stretch run —a 0.56 ERA in 64 2/3 innings since August 1 — has helped him catch up to the leaders and throw more confusion into the race. If you’re a voter who wants to honor the Phillies in some way with this award (given that the MVP race doesn’t really offer that opportunity), whom do you pick?

Now, if you watched “Modern Family” win bunches of Emmys on Sunday despite multiple nominations in those categories, you learned that teammates don’t always bring each other down. Still, as much as Lee presents another rival to Kershaw, he could also aid the Dodger by stealing votes from Halladay.

Voters who treasure wins may lean toward Kennedy, who certainly has been no slouch. But if Kershaw ends up with 20 wins himself, I think you can remove that category as a path to Kennedy leapfrogging the Dodger lefty.

In fact, much has been made lately of Kershaw possibly winning the pitcher’s triple crown: wins, ERA and strikeouts. My guess is that if he does, he will collect the Cy Young (though for me, the win totals are essentially irrelevant).

But let’s put it this way: If Kershaw doesn’t finish first in the balloting, there will be no crime. Halladay and Lee have been every bit as fierce as Kershaw. It’s been a superb year for all of them.

Top National League Cy Young Award candidates
(bold text signifies leader among contenders)

IP W-L ERA Sept. ERA ERA+ WAR (B-R.com) WAR (Fangraphs) WHIP K/9 K/BB
Roy Halladay 227 2/3 18-6 2.41 2.03 160 7.1 8.0 1.045 8.58 6.38
Cole Hamels 206 14-9 2.80 4.18 138 5.1 5.0 0.981 8.13 4.54
Ian Kennedy 216 20-4 2.88 1.88 137 5.3 4.9 1.083 8.08 3.66
Clayton Kershaw 218 2/3 19-5 2.30 0.90 161 6.4 6.8 0.983 9.71 4.63
Cliff Lee 219 2/3 16-7 2.38 0.72 162 6.7 6.5 1.015 9.14 5.31

* * *

  • By the way, this caught me by surprise, but Kershaw is no longer leading the NL in strikeouts per nine innings. Zack Greinke of Milwaukee is on top.
  • Chad Moriyama has a mammoth analysis of James Loney that you need to read, in which Moriyama analyzes both Loney’s stats and his swing. Conclusions:

    … What fans want to hear is that Loney has simply flipped a switch and will now pull 35% of balls and put up an OPS near .900 going forward. While I wish my analysis could guarantee that, it’s simply not a feasible conclusion to reach.

    What is clear though is that Loney has changed his approach and swing over the last two months in a way that has drastically affected his hit distribution and production. As such, the possibility does exist that his numbers could improve significantly in 2012 if the changes he has made carry over on a consistent basis.

    That said, all of my findings are subject to the usual sample size critiques, which is precisely why nothing about this is a sure thing. However, I have shown that Loney’s change under Hansen has absolutely happened, and looking at the free agent list at first base for 2012, unless the Dodgers can get Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or Lance Berkman, I’d rather give Loney another shot if he comes at a reasonable salary (4-6 million?) even though I had previously preferred signing Carlos Pena (probably more expensive).

    When talking about baseball players, hope is part of what makes the game so fun to follow, but it can also be a dangerous thing, especially when that hope is invested in a 27-year-old first baseman with a .749 OPS/103 OPS+ over four full seasons. Still though, as of now, I’m more willing to take a chance on Loney than ever before.

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a really nice feature centering on A.J. Ellis that will only make you root for him more.
  • Dylan Hernandez of the Times looks at the increasingly favorable comparisons of Kershaw with Sandy Koufax.
  • Jonathan Broxton had his elbow surgery Monday, with “a bone spur and associated loose bodies” being removed.
  • Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com has an update on ailing catcher Gary Garter.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors compiles the $100 million free agent contracts in baseball history.
  • David Pinto of Baseball Musings reminds us that batting order is less about stats and more about egos.
  • Patrick Dubuque at Notgraphs has a fun essay on the impulse for a fielder to throw his glove at a ball.