Jun 16

Kershaw LXV: Kershawnee, Indiana

With 21 doubles in 64 Dodger games this season, James Loney is on pace to tie the franchise record of 52 in a season and break the Los Angeles record of 49.

If that doesn’t suit you, there’s always this: Will Loney become the first Los Angeles Dodger to finish a year with single-digit homers and triple-digit RBI?

Jun 13

Matt Kemp rests

After 62 games, Matt Kemp is rested for the first time in 2010. “I’m giving Matt Kemp a day off, which is something he hasn’t had,” Joe Torre told reporters today. “He’s fighting himself a little bit, and I noticed yesterday that he was just trying to put the ball in play. I wanted to give him a mind day off, it’s not a physical thing.”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the recap of Saturday’s game.

Torre on Vicente Padilla: “We’ll talk Tuesday when we see him in Cincinnati, he’ll throw his bullpen on Wednesday. I need him to be honest, I don’t want him to be almost there, I want him all the way back.”

Steven Strasburg is at it again: eight strikeouts in five innings so far today. Though he has walked three, he has allowed only one hit, a home run.

Jun 11

The Angels brought on Chad Billingsley’s demons in 2009

When the Angels last faced Chad Billingsley at Dodger Stadium, on May 24, 2009, they ended Billingsley’s streak of consecutive quality starts at nine, scoring three runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead. When Billingsley faced the Angels again on June 19, at Anaheim, he had a 4-1 lead before giving up three runs in the sixth inning again.

Billingsley gave up three runs in the sixth inning of his next start, against the Chicago White Sox on June 25, and suddenly, a pitcher who was on his way to the All-Star Game began to have a reputation as a pitcher who would melt down in the sixth inning — even though, as you can see from his game log, it was hardly a regular occurrence even in the second half of 2009.

Fortunately, Billingsley has done a lot in 2010 to repair his reputation. The skeptics will no doubt return should Billingsley falter again, even once, but it’s just a reminder to keep the big picture in sight when evaluating a player. Nearly 70 percent of Billingsley’s starts in 2009 were quality starts, yet people wanted to give up on him.

I don’t know if he’ll make it past the sixth inning against the Angels today, but I sure look forward to seeing him try.

* * *

In his afternoon media session, Joe Torre made a comment to reporters about the Dodgers’ recent streak of one-run victories to the effect of “the bulk of those have been at home, where the main ingredient is that you can use your closer in tie games.”

Someone needs to remind Torre that you actually can use your closer in tie games on the road — and that you’re better off doing so than using a lesser pitcher to try to keep you in the game.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for managers to grasp that it’s easier to protect a one-run lead than a zero-run lead, but such is life.

* * *

While comments remain welcome here, of course, you can also join me and ESPNLosAngeles beat writers Tony Jackson (Dodgers) and Mark Saxon (Angels) for a Cover It Live chat during tonight’s game. They’ll be chatting live from Dodger Stadium, I’ll be chatting live while putting the kids to bed.

Editors at ESPNLosAngeles.com also picked their all-Los Angeles-named-baseball-team stars. You can make your own picks here.

Jun 08

Casey Blake returns to action

Casey Blake returns to the Dodger starting lineup after missing four games with back spasms. Trainer Stan Conte gave the go-ahead.

* * *

Memories of Kevin Malone has information on the Dodger draft picks that came after the third round:

* * *

Scott Elbert had to miss his start for Albuquerque today because of a family matter. Bobby Blevins and his 5.80 ERA for Class A Inland Empire took his place and allowed one run in five innings. Last week’s Dodger hero, Travis Schlichting, gave up two runs in a 9-6 Isotopes loss.

* * *

Former Dodgers Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young had the first hit and home run, respectively, off Steven Strasburg during his otherwise impressive major-league debut. Strasburg struck out six in his first three innings for Washington before giving up the two-run homer to Young in the fourth, and was still losing 2-1 in the sixth despite having 11 strikeouts and no walks.

But back-to-back homers by Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham in the bottom of the sixth put Strasburg in position to get the victory.

Stat of the Day places Strasburg’s debut in historic context. Through six innings, he had the most strikeouts without a walk in a major-league debut ever.

* * *

Jerry Stephenson, the former Dodger scout and major-league pitcher, passed away from cancer at age 66. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes about Stephenson.

Jun 07

And the Dodgers’ first-round pick is …

… Zach Lee, 6-foot-4, 195-pound right handed high school pitcher from McKinney, Texas.

He’s a high-school quarterback committed to Louisiana State, so there are immediate signability issues. This draft choice sets up a new referendum on the McCourt ownership.

Here’s a scouting report with video from MLB.com. An excerpt:

Summary: With above-average to plus stuff across the board — fastball, slider, changeup — good command and tremendous athleticsm, Lee should be one of the high school arms being mentioned up close to the top of the Draft, or at least on a short list of top high school arms. If he’s not, it’s largely because of one thing: signability. As a quarterback recruit, he’s committed to play two sports at LSU next year, and many think he’s unsignable as a result. That said, there’s bound to be a team with deep pockets that will take a shot at luring him away from the gridiron and life as a collegiate athlete.

Here’s what Marc Hulet of Fangraphs has to say:

A top quarterback prospect from Texas, it will clearly take a lot ($$$) to sway Lee away from his commitment to Louisiana State University. A team drafting Lee in the first round will have to have a pretty good feel on his signability. Lee has a three pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His arm slot tends to wander at times. Thanks to his focus on the football field, the right-hander is still raw but he does display solid control for his age.

From ESPN.com:

Lee is a star quarterback who has committed to LSU to play both football and baseball, but if he put word out tomorrow that he was willing to sign and focus exclusively on the world’s greatest sport, he’d go off the board in the top 50 picks next month.

Lee will show three pitches, with the changeup already flashing plus, and his fastball velocity is likely to increase as he fills out and if he dedicates himself to baseball.

He has a really bright future if and when he chooses baseball, but if he’s not interested in a pro career now, doesn’t that say something about the kid’s commitment to football and/or school? Buying him out of LSU isn’t the solution, and I think he’ll be a top-20 guy in 2013.

From Baseball America:

Lee’s status as one of the best quarterback recruits in the nation and a top student will make him one of the most difficult signing decisions in this draft. The perception among area scouts is that Lee might require as much as $3 million—and even that might not be enough to steer him away from playing two sports at Louisiana State. He passed for 2,565 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall, and his arm is just as potent on the mound. He already has a 90-93 mph fastball with room for more projection in his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame. He also throws a sharp slider and a changeup that needs work but shows promise. Unlike many two-sport stars, he has a lot of polish. Lee has a clean delivery that he repeats, enabling him to throw strikes with ease.

Here’s some video of Lee playing football at YouTube. And here he is on the mound last summer at the Area Code Games.

Jim Callis of Baseball America called the Dodgers “the last team” he expected to go after Lee.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that football is leverage, rather than the top priority for Lee. And it’s not as if the Dodgers have no draft budget – they could always have made a conservative pick that would sign relatively inexpensively. But hardcore fans will be watching carefully to see if the Dodgers punted this pick, or if they will complete the Hail Mary. Certainly, there is going to be tons of skepticism.

The draft continues Tuesday.

Update: From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“People can think what they want, he was the best talent available and I want to sign him, absolutely,” said Logan White, assistant general manager of scouting. “I didn’t take Zach to not sign him. You’ll see as the summer goes along we’ll make every effort to sign him, and I want to sign him. I know it won’t be easy, but hopefully we’ll get it done.” …

“If he focuses on baseball, I think he can move quickly, like Kershaw and Billingsley,” said White. “A lot will be made of the two sports, but as a pitcher, he has a real good arm and delivery, a plus breaking ball, he has a feel for a changeup, and when I saw him he was 90-92 [mph] with the fastball and up to 95. The ball comes out of his hand easily.

“The guy’s a competitor, he’s smart. Put it all together and we really couldn’t pass him up. He’s worth the risk of not signing. I like him that much.”

Unlike many recent Dodgers top picks, the club did not hold a special workout for Lee. According to White, Lee was surprised to get the call.

“He certainly was surprised,” White said. “They didn’t have a feel for what we were going to do. It’s part of the gamesmanship of the Draft.”

Update 2: From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

“These are unusual circumstances,” White said. “I can only say that I am optimistic we will sign him. … [But] I can’t sit here and tell you that we’re going to sign him. It will really be Zach’s decision and his family’s decision. But we feel confident that once he and his family are able to get a good look at what this organization is all about, we’ll have a good chance to get him.”

White said Lee’s fastball has been clocked anywhere between 89-95 mph and routinely hits 93 and that he already has a plus changeup and curveball to go with it.

“One thing I will tell you is that he is quite an athlete,” White said. “One thing we liked was his athleticism, his size and his strength. He is tall and has a very good delivery, just easy, easy arm action. He is a strike thrower, and he knows how to change speeds. He has a great feel for pitching. He doesn’t just try to blow it by everybody, even though he has that ability. It’s a chess game for him because he is very competitive.”

White said Lee plans to follow through with his plans to participate in LSU’s summer football workouts, so an agreement with the Dodgers probably isn’t imminent. White wouldn’t rule out an agreement that would allow Lee to play football at LSU while playing baseball professionally in the Dodgers’ system, but it also didn’t sound like the kind of agreement White is eager to enter into.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I just feel like if we can get him into our organization, he is going to be [in the majors] pretty fast,” White said.

Jun 06

Whither Casey Blake?

The Dodgers might announce a move to the disabled list for Casey Blake before today’s game. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com had the latest after Saturday’s 9-3 loss to Atlanta.

* * *

  • A.J. Ellis would have pitched the ninth inning for the Dodgers had they had an opportunity to pinch-hit for Charlie Haeger, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Haeger didn’t pitch all that well, but he would have had two shutout innings had Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier not let a Martin Prado fly ball fall between them for a hit.
  • Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods is scheduled to be the guest of Ken Levine and Josh Suchon on KABC AM 790 at 6:05 p.m. tonight.
Jun 04

Kershaw LXIII: Kershawt My Dad Says

Paul Spinelli
With two hits, Chad Billingsley is the Dodgers’ Babe Ruth this year. (This picture is from last year.)

Even by pitcher standards, Dodger pitchers are stinking it up at the plate this year.

They’re the worst in the NL this season by almost every measure. Los Angeles pitchers have a .178 OPS at the plate, while their top NL West rival, San Diego, is best in the league at .502. (The Dodgers have an .086 batting average on balls in play, while the Padres are at .310.)

Through 54 games, they have a grand total of five hits — fewer hits than walks, in fact. That’s the one bright spot for Dodger pitchers — they’re tied for the league league in free passes received with eight. Last season, Dodger pitchers had 40 hits and 14 walks.

Chad Billingsley — who was the Dodgers’ best-hitting pitcher last year, not Randy Wolf (though Wolf had a noteworthy 11 RBI) — leads the Dodgers with two hits. Clayton Kershaw (1 for 17), Carlos Monasterios (1 for 5) and Jeff Weaver (1 for 1) have the others. Hiroki Kuroda and John Ely are a combined 0 for 34.

Dodger pitchers have no extra-base hits this year and one RBI – a sacrifice fly by the 0-for-6 Charlie Haeger. They do lead the NL in sacrifice hits.

Forget blaming Manny Ramirez, Russell Martin or anyone else for their slumps. It’s time for the Dodger arms to get in the swing!

* * *

  • Casey Blake went for an MRI, Joe Torre told reporters today.
  • Here’s one more take on the unperfect game and instant replay — I know we’ve overdosed on this stuff, but it’s from Josh Wilker so I can’t not push it.
Jun 03

Dodgers activate Charlie Haeger, option Schlichting

With their bullpen worked over by back-to-back extra inning games, the Dodgers have activated Charlie Haeger from the disabled list and optioned Wednesday’s relief hero, Travis Schlichting.

Haeger presumably will work in relief if needed tonight and be on call if Carlos Monasterios’ blister prevents him from starting Monday.

* * *

Garret Anderson’s walkoff hit Wednesday was the eighth of his career, the first since 2001. He had a walkoff walk in 2008.

Jun 02

Why John Ely will have trouble becoming Rookie of the Year

Howard Smith/US Presswire
Jason Heyward

A Rookie of the Year campaign for John Ely becomes less far-fetched by the day — heck, the guy has practically been Cy Young (if not Ubaldo Jimenez) in every appearance since his first, with a 1.80 ERA. But then there is the matter of one Jason Heyward.

Heyward, who doesn’t turn 21 until August, has a .410 on-base percentage, .567 slugging percentage and 160 adjusted OPS for Atlanta this year. For fans of Wins Above Replacement, Heyward is sixth in the National League. In other words, he’s been spectacular, and spectacular since Day 1 of 2010.

ESPN Stats and Information adds the following:

Entering play Tuesday, Jason Heyward had played 47 games. Just for comparison’s sake, here is what Alex Rodriguez did in his first 47 games (also at age 20).

     Heyward     Rodriguez
BA     .292        .237
HR       10           3
RBI      38          14
K        36          47

There’s also, to say the least, the matter of St. Louis’ Jamie Garcia (1.32 ERA) and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (2.45 ERA).

At least Ely has a bouncy leg up on Aroldis Chapman, though Chapman provided intriguing viewing for Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.

* * *

  • Hong-Chih Kuo surely won’t be available to pitch today and Jeff Weaver might be limited, but five other Dodger relievers — Jonathan Broxton, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Justin Miller and Travis Schilchting — can back up Carlos Monasterios after limited-to-no use over the past two nights.
  • Andre Ethier has moved into third place in the N.L. All-Star balloting for outfielders.
  • Seth Etherton had his second straight superb outing for Albuquerque on Tuesday, allowing no runs and six baserunners over seven innings while striking out seven. Despite his performance and Jamie Hoffmann going 3 for 4 to raise his OPS to .809, the Isotopes’ Scott Dohmann allowed four runs in the ninth inning to take a 5-4 loss.
  • Prodigal Dodger Travis Denker, 24, went 4 for 5 for Inland Empire on Tuesday to raise his on-base percentage with the 66ers to .419. Austin Gallagher, 21, went 4 for 4.
  • Trayvon Robinson of Chattanooga was named Southern League Hitter of the Week for May 24-30 after going 6 for 21 with three home runs.
  • While everyone waits for Jerry Sands to get promoted from Great Lakes, the slugger is slumping a bit. After going 0 for 3 with a walk in the Loons’ 6-2 victory Tuesday, Sands is 2 for his last 18 with no home runs and three walks. Longshot story Will Savage won again, allowing two runs over six innings so that his ERA rose to 2.26.
Jun 01

It’s nice to know you can come back to win, but getting an early lead is fine as well

Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Casey Blake is embraced by Matt Kemp at the end of Monday’s game. Clayton Kershaw’s white cap makes me feel that he has come in to celebrate from another era.

Hear James Loney talk about the “dumbest play I’ve ever done.” And then hear Charley Steiner with Loney’s redemption.

This was a bitter loss (among many) for Arizona. What’s your choice for 2010’s most bitter Dodger loss?

Elsewhere …

  • Earl Pomerantz writes about pressure. As usual, it’s a great read.
  • What song has the lyrics, “Trees fade out in the black of the night/Sometimes it don’t hardly seem worth the fight/But at least tonight I get to hear the golden voice of Vin Scully.” Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News has the answer.
  • The Dodgers’ ThinkCure! auction is about to launch. In the meantime, Darin Erstad’s upcoming charity auction, including an Erstad Gold Glove, will send 100 percent of the final sale price to support the Child Abuse Prevention Center in Orange.
May 31

Memorial Day game chat

My best, if inadequate, thoughts to everyone on this Memorial Day. It’s a humbling day that makes me feel fortunate. At Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker posts a lengthy exchange he has had with a soldier in Afghanistan.

* * *

For the first time since April 22, 35 games ago, the Dodgers are fielding their intended starting lineup. As David Young writes at True Blue L.A., the Dodgers have gone 21-14 (.600) despite being without Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal and/or Andre Ethier in that time – not to mention Vicente Padilla and other pitchers. Celebrate Ethier’s return (and embrace of “Yo Gabba Gabba!” by reading Ramona Shelburne’s long feature story on him for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

As of this writing, the expected option of Xavier Paul to Albuquerque had not been made official.

  • Colorado’s incredible Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t beat Clayton Kershaw, but he went 128 pitches to get the shutout victory over San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum today. Jimenez lowered his ERA to 0.78.
  • Great Lakes star Allen Webster, 20, pitched shutout ball for seven innings Sunday, lowering his ERA to 1.94, best in the Dodger organization. Webster has 50 strikeouts in 51 innings against 58 baserunners, with one home run allowed.
  • John Lindsey went 2 for 4 with his 10th home run Sunday for Albuquerque, pushing his OPS back up to 1.217. Lindsey then went 1 for 2 in the Isotopes 11-0 loss to Memphis today.
  • Mario Alvarez, 26, allowed one run on eight baserunners in six innings Sunday for Chattanooga, striking out five. Alvarez has a 3.81 ERA, but with 32 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings and 91 baserunners allowed.
  • At Real Sports Heroes, Ross Porter writes about being the last person to interview Art Linkletter before his passing last week.
May 30

Kershaw LXII: Kershawrmor All

Andre Ethier had another successful rehab appearance Saturday, in Albuquerque’s 16-6 victory over Memphis, and remains on track to be activated from the disabled list Monday.

In other notes:

  • The insane John Lindsey went 2 for 6 with a homer and six RBI – his OPS lowering to 1.198 in the process. Ivan De Jesus, Jr. went 4 for 5, and Chin-Lung Hu 3 for 6 with a double in his first game back from the disabled list to boost his May OPS to .847 after a .478 in April.
  • The Dodgers’ likely starter Tuesday against Dan Haren and Arizona, Charlie Haeger, pitched three innings in a rehab appearance with Inland Empire and allowed three runs on eight baserunners. Aaron Miller, the 36th overall pick in the 2009 draft, pitched six innings of one-run relief. Miller lowered his ERA to 3.08 and has 50 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings against 61 baserunners.
  • Alberto Bastardo struck out 11 in six innings while allowing one run on seven baserunners in a winning effort for Chattanooga. Bastardo, 26, has a 3.75 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings against 79 baserunners. Dee Gordon, 22, hit his second home run of the season and is OPSing .702. He has nine hits in his past 20 at-bats.
  • Josh Wall, 23, allowed only two unearned runs and six baserunners in seven innings while striking out 11, but was the losing pitcher as Great Lakes was no-hit for 7 2/3 innings and lost, 2-0. Wall has an 0-3 record despite a 3.63 ERA in 10 starts and 49 strikeouts in 52 innings against 65 baserunners.
  • Why does Hiroki Kuroda struggle so much against Colorado – home and away? Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com explores.
  • Good from Saturday: Justin Miller’s Dodger debut, Rafael Furcal’s three hits and two rifle-armed throws from shortstop.
  • Bad from Saturday: Kuroda, Scott Elbert’s 2010 Dodger debut, Furcal’s fourth error in five games and Manny Ramirez’s inability to catch a first-inning foul fly.
  • It wouldn’t hurt the Dodgers to sign Dontrelle Willis (cut loose by the Tigers) for the AAA rotation, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, but don’t expect him to contribute on the major-league level.
  • Matt Kemp has played 99.4 percent of the Dodgers’ innings this season, which is the most in the National League, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. I’d expect Kemp might get a rest after Ethier returns to action.
  • Buster Posey delivered three hits and three RBI in his long-awaited 2010 Giants debut. The highly regarded catcher played first base for San Francisco.
  • Teenage female knuckleballer (how fun is it to start with those three words) Eri Yoshida made her debut for Chico of the Golden Baseball League on Saturday, writes The Associated Press. She pitched a shutout first inning before allowing four runs in her next two. She also had an RBI single.
  • Elymania on the cover of Sports Illustrated? It sure would look nice. (@PA_Dodger via Blue Heaven).

Update: Joe Torre told reporters this morning that Haeger’s foot isn’t ready. As of now, Ely starts Tuesday, Carlos Monasterios on Wednesday for the Dodgers.

Also, Vicente Padila talked about the incident/non-incident from Friday night/Saturday morning.