Mar 14

March Mudness

Rangers 5, Dodgers 4

Earl Pomerantz passes along this important lesson from Bill Cosby about panic.

… It’s the morning of the “table reading”, where the actors read the script out loud before the assembled production staff – fifty or so people – so we can see what’s working and what needs to be fixed. At this point, the actor who will play the freaked out father-to-be has not yet been hired. Dr. Cosby asks me to fill in for the missing actor and perform that part at the table reading.

I am immediately terrified.

Why? Well, in my own memorable words,

“What if I mess up?” (Though I may not have used the word “mess.”)

Dr. Cosby instantly replies to my exaggerated concern, and herein lies the life lesson,

“Bases loaded, two outs, bottom of the first.” …


  • Trying to find his way onto the team, Xavier Paul sings “Let My Love Open the Door” with a single and a triple (to go with a caught stealing as a coda).
  • Trent Oeltjen sings “Don’t You Forget About Me.” His double raised his spring OPS to 1.044 before the eyes of the impressionable Dodger management.
  • Jamie Hoffmann warbles “I’ll Be There For You” with a double, boosting his OBP in the spring to .400.
  • Marcus Thames doesn’t need to sing for his Opening Day supper, but he just had his fifth double of the spring, in 25 at-bats.
  • Trayvon Robinson singled in two runs in the ninth inning as the Dodgers tried to rally and avoid their eighth straight loss.
  • Lance Cormier pitched a shutout sixth inning. Cormier’s chances of making the team remain alive, given the struggles of Scott Elbert and Ron Mahay.
  • John Ely threw four walkless innings, giving him 10 this spring.


  • Overall, Ely continued the trend of faltering Dodger starters. After a perfect first inning that included strikeouts of Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton, Ely allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits, including a three-run Hamilton homer. Ely struck out three.
  • After allowing a two-out single, Elbert walked two in the fifth inning, escaping the bases-loaded jam on a deep flyout by David Murphy.
  • Kenley Jansen had a rough eighth, allowing a run on two hits and a walk.


  • In a rare start against a frontline pitcher (Texas’ Neftali Feliz, who suddenly might be in the starting pitcher racket), Jerry Sands went 0 for 2.
  • Hector Gimenez had a double, then was doubled off second base on a ball hit by Gabe Kapler.
  • From The Associated Press: “Told that Ely was trying to locate an inside fastball off the plate that didn’t quite break far enough, Hamilton said smilingly, ‘Tell him thank you for me.’ “
  • Jerry Crasnick of writes about the upside of the San Diego Padres, post-Adrian Gonzalez.
  • Rob Neyer of SB Nation looks at how the Yankees’ starting pitching crisis.
  • Only three of 30 MLB general managers played in the majors, writes Jayson Stark of
  • At his blog, Former major-leaguer Morgan Ensberg hints at a harrowing story.
  • Mitchell Page, who passed away Saturday, is remembered at the Hardball Times by Bruce Markusen, who compares Page to Willie Davis.
  • This Jay Gibbons update from Tony Jackson of sounds a mixed note about the outfielder’s near-term future.

    … Gibbons underwent PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery on the eye last fall as a follow-up procedure to the laser procedure he underwent in 2004. But a side effect of PRK is that it lengthens and flattens the cornea, which is why the contact — which Gibbons wasn’t sure he would need again after the original surgery — no longer fits as tightly as it should and tends to pop out.

    Gibbons said he was told he’d likely need a follow-up procedure after his initial laser surgery. “So that was pretty much what my thought process was, to get a tune-up, and [the vision] went south a little bit last year,” he said.

    The issues after the follow-up surgery, though, began almost immediately, causing Gibbons to return home from winter ball earlier than he planned. Gibbons and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly sounded optimistic this doctor’s consultation would be sufficient to solve the problem. The Dodgers are off Wednesday, so the hope was Gibbons would miss only one day.

    “We need to get this resolved,” Mattingly said. “If your [vision] isn’t right on and you’re trying to hit a breaking ball, it’s just not going to work.” …

  • Last but certainly not least, the Dodgers are staging a drive-through charity effort at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday to benefit victims of the disaster in Japan.
Mar 13

Five days, seven losses

Julie Jacobson/APRubby De La Rosa got the start against the Cubs today.

White Sox 6, Dodgers 1

Cubs 4, Dodgers 3 (10)


  • Rubby De La Rosa performed well in his two innings against the Cubs, retiring Kosuke Fukudome, Tyler Colvin, Alfonso Soriano, Blake DeWitt, Reed Johnson, Marquez Smith (who reached on an error) and Koyie Hill. The only baserunner he allowed was a Starlin Castro single.
  • Carlos Monasterios followed with two shutout innings.
  • Josh Lindblom pitched out of a ninth-inning jam with the game tied, 3-3.
  • Rafael Furcal had two hits and an RBI.
  • Hector Gimenez homered off the Cubs’ Chris Carpenter, who is 10 years younger than the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter. Jerry Sands also doubled against Carpenter.
  • Justin Sellers had an RBI double against the White Sox. Dioner Navarro also had a double.
  • Hiroki Kuroda became the first Dodger pitcher of 2011 to complete six innings, finishing with shutout ball over the final two frames.


  • Kuroda gave up four runs in his first four innings, and struck out only one batter in his outing.
  • Sellers made his fifth error of exhibition play this year, leading to an unearned run.
  • Three hits (but four walks) for the Dodgers against the White Sox. Two of those hits came against Will Ohman.
  • Matt Kemp struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the top of the ninth against the Cubs’ Jeff Stevens.


  • Casey Blake’s injury is more toward his ribs than his lower back, reports Tony Jackson of

    … “All I’m doing is really icing it,” he said. “I was pretty sore last night, and I had some trouble sleeping. … I guess I don’t know enough about it to know whether it’s serious or not. I know I am pretty sore right now, but with treatment, that soreness can go away pretty soon. I think they were pretty relieved that it’s where it is, [because] that can go away in a day or two rather than if it were a pulled muscle or something like that. But we don’t know exactly what it is.”

    Blake left the game after laying down a sacrifice bunt in the top of the first inning. He ran hard up the first-base line and was called out on a close play. It was when he then turned to return to the dugout that he felt something in his back. …

  • Jon Huber has been sent to minor-league camp.
  • A fond look back at “Undeclared” and “Freaks and Geeks.”
Mar 13

Face it: injury-prone players are, in fact, injury-prone

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesFinally, Matt Kemp masters the art of flying. All he had to do was listen to his coaches.

Royals 19, Dodgers 7

Giants 8, Dodgers 7

Casey Blake’s back tightness, though not considered major at this time, underscores the fact that you can’t keep older, injury-prone players like Blake and Rafael Furcal healthy just by keeping them rested. Blake has not been overexerting himself by any definition. These guys are just going to get hurt no matter what they do, and I see an argument once the season starts for not worrying about rest and getting all the production you can out of them until that next injury comes.

In any case, Tony Jackson has a piece at noting how much Juan Uribe will probably play at shortstop and third base this year.


  • Tony Gwynn Jr. went 3 for 3 against the Giants and stole his sixth base in as many tries.
  • Andre Ethier went 2 for 4 with a bases-loaded triple.
  • Trent Oeltjen went 2 for 2  vs. the Royals and hit a three-run homer off Denny Duffy.
  • Juan Uribe went 2 for 3 with a double.
  • Travis Schlichting, Jon Huber and prospect Allen Webster had shutout relief performances.
  • Trayvon Robinson tripled of Guillermo Mota.
  • The Dodger defense was charged with no errors in either game.


  • Ted Lilly got blasted, ultimately getting charged with six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Royals. “I wasn’t locating,” Lilly told The Associated Press. I missed quite a bit down in the dirt with my fastball. They just weren’t cleanly thrown balls.”
  • Ron Mahay is doing all he can to give away his roster spot, allowing his third home run in four short appearances and surrendering four hits, four runs and a walk in two-thirds of an inning.
  • Ramon Troncoso also got knocked around: five outs, six baserunners, four runs.
  • Tim Redding surrendered four runs in four innings against the Giants.
  • Roman Colon gave up four San Francisco singles in the bottom of the ninth as the Dodgers gave up a 7-6 lead.


  • Clayton Kershaw tells Ken Gurnick of not to worry about the split fingernail on the middle finger of his pitching hand because he gets them “all the time.” Gee, now I feel much better.
  • In the same notebook, Gurnick notes that Hong-Chih Kuo is feeling more confident about his developing changeup that could go with his fastball and slider.
  • John Ely, we’re now told, resisted listening to Dodger coaches who tried to help him during his second-half collapse last season, writes Jim Peltz of the Times.
  • Major League Baseball’s new official historian, John Thorn, writes an overview in the New York Times on the current state of information of the origins of baseball.

* * *

White Sox at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Dodgers vs. Cubs (at Las Vegas), 1:05 p.m.

Mar 11

Nothing from nothing

After two 7-1 victories to start the week, the past few days have had a little something for everyone … meltdowns by the defense, the offense, Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley. Health concerns. Mental mistakes. A feeding frenzy for the pessimistic (or realistic, if you wish).

I believe we call these teaching opportunities for the boys in blue.

Athletics 9, Dodgers 2


  • Aaron Miles and Matt Kemp continued their battle for the team home run lead, each hitting their second of the spring to tie Rod Barajas and Jerry Sands.
  • Blake Hawksworth pitched a near-fllawless 1 2/3 relief innings, though he hit one batter with a pitch.
  • Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect sixth inning with a strikeout.
  • Tony Gwynn Jr. reached base twice and has a .360 spring on-base percentage.


  • Billingsley had only allowed seven baserunners in 6 2/3 innings in March before an all-over-the-place performance today: four hits, four walks, four runs allowed in 3 1/3 innings.
  • Jay Gibbons went 0 for 3 to fall to 1 for 17.
  • Infielders Ivan DeJesus Jr., Justin Sellers and Christian Lara made errors.
  • Javy Guerra allowed four runs (two earned) and walked three in two-thirds of an inning.


  • Kirk Gibson’s wife left Game 1 of the 1988 World Series early. Eric Stephen passes along the story at SB Nation.
  • Juan Castro and his wife Yadira became parents for the second time Thursday night.
  • Pitcher Luis Vasquez was optioned to the minors.
  • Former Dodger Andy LaRoche, playing shortstop today for Oakland, drove in two runs.
  • All members of Takashi Saito’s family in Japan are now accounted for, writes Adam McCalvy of
Mar 10

The knocks on Brox

Christopher Hanewinckel/US PressiwreCasey Blake made no errors in this fan’s eyes.

Padres 8, Dodgers 2


  • Clayton Kershaw maintained his 0.00 ERA, pitching 4 1/3 innings and allowing an unearned run on four hits and two walks.
  • Scott Elbert faced four batters in a shutout inning, walking one and striking out one.
  • Juan Uribe and Marcus Thames had doubles.


  • Jonathan Broxton had a terrible, no-good, horrible, very bad day: homer by Jarrett Hoffpauir, single, single, hit batter, walk, exit. Tony Jackson of has details.
  • Casey Blake made errors on consecutive batters in the first inning and went 0 for 2, dropping to 1 for 13 this spring.
  • Carlos Monasterios gave up two runs pitching the ninth inning.
  • Dodger batters had five hits and no walks.
  • Dodger pitchers allowed 18 baserunners.


Mar 09

Oblique-di, oblique-da, life goes on?

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireJon Garland will take a 0.00 Spring Training ERA to the doctor.

Mariners 9, Dodgers 4


  • Rod Barajas went 2 for 2 with his second homer of the spring.
  • Jerry Sands had another hit, briefly raising his Spring Training batting average to .500, before reaching base on an error in the eighth.
  • Dee Gordon doubled and scored on a Trent Oeltjen single in the eighth.
  • Josh Lindblom pitched a shutout ninth, striking out two and walking one.


  • Obliquely speaking, one trumped all. Apparently, live chickens pass unpleasant mojo to Jon Garland.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo allowed a home run to his second batter, Jack Wilson.
  • Wilkin De La Rosa and Jon Huber, neither of them roster contenders, let a close game slip away. De La Rosa allowed two runs in his second inning of work, while Huber gave up a grand slam and five runs total while getting only one out in the seventh.
  • In his return to the lineup, James Loney went 0 for 2 with an error on Ichiro Suzuki’s leadoff at-bat.
  • Barajas’ passed ball allowed the Mariners to score an unearned first-inning run
  • Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons, Juan Uribe, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Loney went a combined 0 for 16.


  • Former Dodger minor-league manager and coach Luis Salazar, now a minor-league manager with the Braves, suffered frightening injuries after being hit in the face by a line drive today.
  • Andre Ethier was replaced today in the starting lineup by Gabe Kapler just before gametime.
Mar 08

Dodgers dial long distance for second game in a row

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images (file)Tony Gwynn, Jr., who has five regular-season homers in his major-league career, went yard today.

Dodgers 7, Brewers 1


  • Tony Gwynn Jr.’s leadoff homer against Takashi Saito kicked off a Dodger power parade, which included circuit clouts by Aaron Miles, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Each member of the latter trio went 2 for 3.
  • Ethier, Ivan De Jesus Jr. (also 2 for 3), Dioner Navarro and Justin Sellers notched doubles.
  • Starting against the team that he faced when Elymania launched, John Ely threw three shutout innings, retiring nine of 10 batters and striking out two.
  • The Dodger defense impressed Milwaukee’s broadcast team, said Dodger Thoughts commenter Bob Hendley.


  • Ron Mahay allowed his second homer in three innings this spring, this to left-handed hitting Prince Fielder.
  • Jay Gibbons, still trying to find his form, went 0 for 3 and is 1 for 12 in the early going.


  • Benches cleared in the sixth inning of today’s game, notes The Associated Press, over a Roman Colon fist pump.
  • Hiroki Kuroda worked on his endurance today in a 4 1/3-inning B-game outing, in which he struck out six while allowing three runs, writes Ken Gurnick of
  • Jerry Sands was among those who played a doubleheader of sorts today: RBI single in the B game, pinch-walk in the A game. Sellers also had an HBP in the B game.
  • Milwaukee has bigger things to worry about than today’s loss: Newly acquired pitcher Zack Greinke is nursing a broken rib.
  • Would Frank McCourt sue Major League Baseball over being denied his recent attempt at a $200 million loan from Fox? Friend of Dodger Thoughts BHSportsGuy wonders in a guest post at True Blue L.A.
  • As Kim Ng noted this morning, Sandy Koufax visited Camelback Ranch today.
  • James Loney and Raymond Carver are connected by Jesse Gloyd at Buckshot Boogaloo.
Mar 07

‘Sands and Deliver’: Homer and triple by rookie propel Dodgers

Harry How/Getty ImagesJerry Sands (shown here from a February 28 game) homered and tripled for the Dodgers today.

Dodgers 7, Rockies 1


  • Jerry Sands homered in the seventh off Greg Reynolds and tripled in the eighth off Matt Belisle, driving in three runs with the first blast. More exuberance!  More of me saying he won’t make the team until at least May.  More of me silently wondering to myself whether, if James Loney reaggravates his knee,  the door to April creaks open.
  • Xavier Paul ended his early spring slump with a homer ahead of the Sands triple.
  • Juan Uribe, Marcus Thames and Trayvon Robinson added doubles for the power-starved Dodgers.
  • Hey, singles count too: A.J. Ellis went 2 for 2.
  • Ted Lilly allowed a run in 3 1/3 innings, allowing three baserunners and striking out two.
  • Tim Redding pitched three shutout innings in relief, increasing his chances of being the first starting pitcher after the front five that the Dodgers turn to in case of need.


  • Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp went 0 for 3.


  • An excerpt from the new Roy Campanella biography can be found at Alex Belth’s Bronx Banter.
  • Josh Wilker’s “Cardboard Gods” is now out in paperback.
Mar 06

Loss to Cubs? Dodgers mullet over

Cubs 5, Dodgers 3 (10)


  • Chad Billingsley (above) went 3 2/3 innings before giving up the first earned run allowed by a Dodger starting pitcher this weekend. He allowed four baserunners and struck out two.
  • Ramon Troncoso retired all four batters he faced (one admittedly on a dicey umpire’s call) and has allowed one hit in 3 1/3 shutout innings. Tony Jackson of has more on Troncoso’s growing chances of making the Opening Day roster.
  • The platoon of Jay Gibbons (wearing awesome big white sunglasses, the best Dodger eyewear since Eric Gagne) and birthday boy Marcus Thames went 2 for 5 with an RBI double (by Thames).
  • Aaron Miles tripled in his only at-bat.
  • Ivan De Jesus, Jr. made a nice backhand grab running into the outfield, drawing a big smile from the Cubs’ third-base coach, Ivan De Jesus, Sr.


  • Justin Sellers committed a double-error (bobble and bad throw) on the Dodgers’ first defensive play of the game.
  • Right fielders Xavier Paul and Jerry Sands combined for a golden sombrero.
  • Luis Vasquez the Magician made the game disappear when he allowed a two-run walkoff homer to D.J. LeMahieu in the bottom of the 10th.


  • In the above-referenced piece by Jackson, he addresses the James Loney situation.

    Although the tightness in first baseman James Loney’s knee isn’t serious and Loney tentatively is expected back in the lineup by Wednesday, the momentary scare did underscore the fact the Dodgers don’t have a lot of depth at Loney’s position.

    Third baseman Casey Blake and outfielders Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames all have some experience — but not a lot of it — at first base, and Mattingly said any or all of them could be a viable alternative if Loney were to be lost for, say, two or three games. But if Loney suffered a major injury that sidelined him for a month or more?

    In that case, Mattingly said, the Dodgers would have to bring up a first baseman from the minors. And the most likely candidate would be Russell Mitchell, a third baseman by trade who also can play left and right field but played all of 13 games at first for Triple-A Albuquerque last year.

    “We feel like Russ can be pretty flexible,” Mattingly said. “He can handle himself out there, and he has actually played some second. He even did some catching in the Instructional League, so we feel like we could trust him with catching. That emergency third catcher can be pretty valuable in the National League because it allows you to maybe pinch run for your catcher without having to get nervous about not having another catcher left on the bench.” …

  • Ken Gurnick of and Steve Dilbeck of the Times have more on Loney.
  • The Dodgers’ starting baseman is still healthier than the Angels’ Kendry Morales, notes Mark Saxon of The Angels might turn to Triple-A power hitter Mark “Don’t call me Dalton” Trumbo, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Times.
  • Scott Elbert is working on a mechanical adjustment, writes Gurnick, who adds that Jamey Carroll will miss a few days of game action after being hit by a pitch on his right index finger (X-rays were negative).
  • Josh Suchon says that he and his new KABC 790 AM talkmate Joe Block will be the broadcast team for Dodger games on Prime Ticket this Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Mullet Mania: Jackson gave us a hint this morning, but later came the full story on Travis Schlichting’s new ‘do from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.

    I understand that this is going out on a fragile limb above a pool shared by sharks and alligators, but I witnessed the greatest mullet in baseball history Sunday morning, and I refuse to believe otherwise.

    Randy Johnson may have sported the curly afterbirth on his neck, and John Kruk may have rocked the accompanying gut, and Troy Tulowitzki may have had the ironic twist to his charity mullet, but nobody – nobody – can compete with the absolute resplendence that topped Travis Schlichting’s head on Sunday. …

Feb 27

Dodgers look sharp against Angels

Harry How/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and Marcus Thames feel fine in the sunshine.

Spring Training, Day 2


  • Looking to return to form and function, John Ely faced eight batters and allowed one hit, striking out three and walking none.
  • The Dodger bullpen followed with seven shutout innings from Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso and Jon Link.
  • Two hits from Rafael Furcal in his Spring Training debut.
  • Jamie(Jamey)’s got a glove: Diving defensive plays from Jamey Carroll at short and Jamie Hoffmann in left field.
  • Rod Barajas hit the Dodgers first homer of the spring.


  • I didn’t see the play, so I don’t know how bad it was, but after hitting a two-run single in the first inning, Matt Kemp was picked off. Something for him and Davey Lopes to talk about?
  • Andre Ethier struck out in both his at-bats.


Feb 17

Today’s Dodger Facebook status updates

Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.

Friend this …

Feb 16

Clayton Kershaw to start Opening Day

As it should be

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will get the ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season opener on March 31 against the San Francisco Giants, manager Don Mattingly announced on Wednesday morning.

Mattingly said he made the decision as far back as last fall.

“Probably the day after I found out I was going to manage,” Mattingly said. “This kid loves the challenge, and I would line him up against anybody.”

In this case, Mattingly likely will be lining up Kershaw against right-hander Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ ace right-hander and two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Mattingly cited Kershaw’s two victories last season over Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the N.L. starter in the All-Star Game, as evidence of his ability to rise to the occasion. …

Feb 15

Welcome to Spring Training

View Larger Map

Wednesday: Major-league pitchers and catchers reporting date
Thursday: First workout
Monday: Major-league position players report
Feb. 22: First full-squad workout
Feb. 23: Minor-league early camp opens
Feb. 26: Cactus League Opening Day – split-squad games in Tempe vs. Angels and Scottsdale vs. Giants
Feb. 27: Camelback Ranch Opening Day vs. Angels (on Prime Ticket)
March 3: Minor-league pitchers and catchers report
March 9: Minor-league position players report
March 11: First full minor-league workout
March 27: Final 2011 Camelback Ranch Spring Training game vs. Indians
March 28: Dodgers vs. Angels at Dodger Stadium
March 29: Dodgers vs. Angels at Anaheim
March 30: Dodgers vs. Mariners at Dodger Stadium
March 31: Opening Day vs. Giants at Dodger Stadium

Feb 15

The Dodger Thoughts 2011 Spring Training Primer

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireRonald Belisario, International Man of Mystery

Here we go – our journey to the 2011 season begins with this single step. Here’s how the Dodger roster shakes out at the start of Spring Training. (Names below are either on the 40-man roster or have a non-roster invitation to major-league camp.)

Locks (20)
Definition of a lock: Only the disabled list or a trade can stop these guys from making the Opening Day roster. (We’ll discuss them more in an upcoming post.)

Starting pitchers (5): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Jon Garland

Relief pitchers (4): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier

Catchers (1): Rod Barajas

Infielders (5): James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (5): Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames

Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Kenley Jansen

Most Likely to Succeed (5)
Kenley Jansen, RHP: I fully expect Jansen to be on the Opening Day roster after he allowed two runs in 27 innings while striking out 41 for the Dodgers in his surprising debut last season, but the bullpen does face a roster crunch of relievers who are out of options, while Jansen has ’em to spare. If for some reason he blows up in Spring Training, he would be a candidate for more seasoning.

Blake Hawksworth, RHP: Here’s the opposite scenario of Jansen – he’s coming off a shaky 2010 (4.98 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 90 innings), but he came in the Ryan Theriot deal with no minor-league options remaining. That should be enough for a spot, but there is a scenario where others could force him off the team.

Ronald Belisario, RHP: It’s not an original thought to say that just arriving at Camelback on time will be half the battle, but it’s probably true. Coming off his inconsistent 2010, Belisario has something to prove, but any sign of his 2009 form and a half-decent approach off the field should be enough.

Dioner Navarro, C: Of all of Ned Colletti’s offseason moves, offering a million bucks to the guy he once traded away and had 24 hits last season might have been the most head-scratching. If Navarro looks terrible in March, the Dodgers could cut him loose without paying his full salary. But the expectation here is he does enough with his second chance to send A.J. Ellis to Albuquerque with a rock in his Halloween bag.

Aaron Miles, IF: The 25th spot on the roster is a true spin of the wheel. Logically, it should go to an infielder, but there you have candidates including Miles, Juan Castro, Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Justin Sellers. Or the Dodgers could decide to go with five infielders in order to buy more time with one of their outfielders, be it Xavier Paul, Jamie Hoffmann or Trent Oeltjen. Or they want to keep an extra lefty in the bullpen without sacrificing Jansen, Hawksworth or Belisario.  Without much conviction, I’m giving a small edge to Miles. My guess is they feel the need for a sixth infielder, and Castro is so far over the hill I think Mattingly might notice. Sellers and De Jesus can go to the minors. So can the 34-year-old Miles, but he has the major-league imprimatur (.281 batting average/.627 OPS for St. Louis in 2010), plus he’s expendable if they decide they want to cut him.

Next in Line (5)
Ron Mahay, LHP: Mahay will probably wear a Dodger uniform this season – it’s only a matter of when. It could be March 31, if just one of the seven relievers ahead of him is traded, has to start the season on the disabled list or is generally deemed unworthy. But even at age 39, his relative skill at throwing from the left (.520 OPS allowed against lefty batters) just seems too right.

A.J. Ellis, C: The Dodgers probably like Ellis as a person – they just have a roundabout way of showing it. To be fair, you have to respect the Navarro signing in how it shows the Dodgers didn’t buy into Ellis’ red-hot final month (15 for 36 with eight walks) as the sign of something permanent. On the other hand, Ellis was better than Navarro last year, so you have to feel a little for the longtime minor-leaguer having to wait things out again.

Justin Sellers, IF: Sellers was my original first choice for Miles’ spot, based on his solid showing for Albuquerque in 2010 (.867 OPS, 14 home runs), but then I figured the Dodgers would lean toward the veteran for the bench. He’s not considered a serious prospect, but he’s no old-timer – he turned 25 this month. Look for him to make his major-league debut this year.

Ramon Troncoso, RHP: Will Troncoso complete his final journey to Cory Wade-Land?  An indispensable member of the pen less than a year ago – by May 1, he had pitched in a rather stunning 16 of the Dodgers’ first 24 games with a .601 OPS allowed – Troncoso was rocky the rest of the way, ultimately splitting time between the majors and the minors. His strikeout rate declined from 9.0 per nine innings in 2008 to 5.7 last year, but if his arm rallies in 2011, he could convince the Dodgers to, say, part ways with Belisario. And certainly, he could be the first righty reliever resolutely recalled.

Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Xavier Paul

Xavier Paul, OF: The leading candidate for the Delwyn Young Pat on the Butt – Here’s Your Ticket to a Central Division Team Award for Out-of-Option Players, Paul missed his best chance to establish himself as a Dodger when he OPSed .591 as part of the Committee to Replace Manny Ramirez. In theory, there’s no reason why Paul couldn’t emerge triumphant in the Hit and Play Defense in the Same Game Outfielder Challenge, but after all his health and hitting struggles, it would help if he could avoid his annual escapades with the Murphy’s Law Musketeers.

See You by September? (17)
Scott Elbert, LHP: His personal problems are, until we hear otherwise, last year’s story – as is confusion about his role. The Dodgers view him purely as a reliever and are asking him just to get three outs, maybe six, and call it a night. If he can find a clear head and figure out his control, a multiyear career with the Dodgers may yet be his. But in the short term, Mahay’s presence will force Elbert to dazzle to make the initial 25.

Juan Castro, IF: You can’t count Castro out of the Opening Day discussion, but his shaky offensive resume has dissolved completely. If he’s willing to go to the minors at age 38, there could certainly be a moment that would find the Dodgers dialing his number.

Ivan DeJesus Jr., IF: Ned Colletti specifically said that DeJesus is a candidate to be the backup infielder, which probably reflects both his ascension to the top of the farm system and a lack of concern about him getting everyday playing time. But is there a Catch 22 at play here? The better he plays in Spring Training, the harder it will be to see him ride the bench. The logic bet is that DeJesus is in the minors, earning a callup if and when a starting infielder goes on the disabled list. The longshot is DeJesus winning the second-base job outright, pushing Uribe to third base and Blake into a utility role.

Mike MacDougal, RHP: Last year was brutal at the major-league level for the 2003 All-Star, but the year before wasn’t. That speaks to the inconsistency of his career (not to mention his profession). He’s got the kind of name value that would allow him another chance.

Travis Schlichting, RHP: The 26-year-old’s 2010 major-league campaign began with that heroic four-inning relief effort in the 1-0, 14-inning victory over Arizona. Schlichting kept his ERA in healthy form the rest of his time in Los Angeles, though he could be careless with inherited runners. In addition, lingering health concerns remain. Buried behind the right-handed relief corps, Schlichting nevertheless should be a midseason candidate.

John Ely, RHP: Elymania II? Ely could be the first starting pitcher called up from the minors in 2011, after Padilla is pressed into service from the bullpen (if not before). Ely will want to show that he’s learned something from his second-half struggles in 2010 — he had an 8.00 ERA in 54 innings after June 1.

Jamie Hoffmann, OF: Lost in the Rule 5 draft a year ago and then found, Hoffmann led Albuquerque with 169 hits and also comes with a better defensive reputation than any third-outfielder candidate besides Gwynn. But the signing of Thames all but killed Hoffmann’s chances of making the premiere roster without fate intervening.

Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
Carlos Monasterios

Carlos Monasterios, RHP: Monasterios is free from the Rule 5 shackles, which has everyone assuming he’ll spend the bulk of the year in New Mexico. Turning 25 in March, he actually brings back better relief numbers from 2010 than several of the guys ahead of him (2.06 ERA, .620 OPS allowed), so maybe he’ll surprise, but he has a lot of men to leapfrog.

Jon Link, RHP: Let’s see, Link is the … 18th pitcher we’ve listed so far. How long will it take the Dodgers to get to pitcher No. 18?  Should we place the over-under in June?

Trayvon Robinson, OF: We talked last month about Robinson’s accelerating development and the chance he could go from Double-A in 2010 to the majors by the end of 2011. The Dodgers would rather postpone that last step until ’12, but I’m finding it hard to believe that things will go so well for the veterans or so poorly for Robinson that he won’t get his first taste of the bigs in the months ahead.

Jerry Sands, OF-1B: The inaugural entry in the “How close is he?” series, Sands will be right on Robinson’s tail. He could become another left field alternative by midseason, or challenge Loney at first base if the incumbent continues to falter. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any midseason position switches.

Trent Oeltjen, OF: At some point, the Dodgers might well face a choice between calling up a Robinson/Sands prospect, or short-terming it with Oeltjen, who played in 14 games with the big club in September after OPSing .979 in 226 plate appearances with Albuquerque. I’ve listed Oeltjen below Robinson and Sands, but he should very possibly be above them.

Eugenio Velez, OF: With a lifetime .300 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage as his 29th birthday approaches, there’s not much reason to think the ex-Giant would make a dent at the major-league level, but far stranger things have happened.

Hector Gimenez, C: Ever since the Dodgers signed Gimenez in November, I’ve mentally dismissed him as irrelevant, but when you look at his ledger (peaking with 16 homers, .384 on-base percentage, .533 slugging percentage in 392 plate appearances at Double-A), there’s no reason to think the 28-year-old couldn’t surpass Ellis as the No. 3 catcher – or, if Navarro flames out, No. 2. Baseball America once rated Gimenez the best defensive catcher in the Houston Astros’ farm system, though that was six years ago. As of this writing, 180 people like Gimenez’s Facebook page.

Russ Mitchell, 3B: When he’s wasn’t moonlighting for CBS News, Mitchell was putting together one of the more unusual Septembers for a Dodger rookie: 43 at-bats, four singles, two homers. He was second at Albuquerque in home runs (23) and plays a position in which the Dodgers lack depth, so that keep him alive for another cup of coffee this year – he’s the first available third baseman after Blake, Uribe and Carroll (well, except for Miles, Sellers or Castro).

Dee Gordon, SS: The Dodger organization’s most prolific Twitterer – closing in on No. 2,000 –  has been talked to and talked about this winter. Though many say his ceiling is higher than Robinson or Sands – or because of it – the Dodgers might be inclined to let him percolate the longest. With DeJesus and other transients available to fill in as middle infielders, I’m thinking September 1 is the absolute earliest that Gordon arrives, as he works on his fundamentals offensively and defensively. He turns 23 in April.

John Lindsey, 1B: Lindsey’s big hurdle this offseason was sticking on the 40-man roster amid the Dodgers’ quantity of acquisitions. He’s close to making it through the winter unscathed, though the fact remains that there’s no spot for him on the Opening Day roster. If he doesn’t head off to Japan, Eric Stults-style, he could return to Albuquerque and wait for another opportunity to wear those major-league togs again.

Check Back in a Year or Two (5)
Javy Guerra, RHP
: The one-time blogger Guerra, who struck out 27 in 27 innings for Chattanooga last year, would have been a more likely contender for a 2011 callup if a) he didn’t also walk 22 and b) he wasn’t slowed down by offseason surgery to repair a gash from a kitchen accident.

John Rieger/US Presswire
Jon Huber

Jon Huber, RHP: In May, almost exactly 10 years after he was drafted, Huber was released by the Braves organization and landed with the Dodgers. He then pitched his best ball in quite some time for Double-A Chattanooga: 2.23 ERA, 48 strikeouts and only 47 baserunners in 44 1/3 innings. However, the 29-year-old, whose reached the majors in 2006-07, has a non-roster invite to Spring Training and a long line of relievers to navigate before he would get his contract purchased.

Luis Vasquez, RHP: He was added to the 40-man roster in November, after striking out 39 in 40 1/3 innings against 54 baserunners with Single-A Great Lakes.

Rubby De La Rosa, RHP: The Dodgers’ minor-league pitcher of the year shot onto the radar with a 2.37 combined ERA at Single- and Double-A, but with only 28 professional starts in his career and never more in a season than last year’s 13, he needs to show he can do it for longer stretches.

Wilkin De La Rosa, LHP: In his first three seasons in the Yankee farm system, this De La Rosa posted ERAs of 2.62, 2.11 and 3.17 with more than a strikeout per inning. But after a 5.33 ERA at Double-A Trenton in 2010, the Yankees designated him for assignment, and the Dodgers grabbed him in December. He’s a lefty, so there’s always a possibility of something happening sometime.

Fodder (7)
Roman Colon, RHP
: Neither a Roman column nor a roamin’ colon (Note: I’ve been asked what a roamin’ colon is, and I don’t have a good answer), the 31-year-old showed some promise in his younger days but has a 5.12 ERA in 179 1/3 career innings since 2004, with 117 strikeouts against 272 baserunners.  Last year brought a detour to the Kia Tigers in Korea.

Oscar Villarreal, RHP:  Last seen in the majors with a 5.02 ERA in 37 2/3 innings for Houston in 2008, Villareal had Tommy John surgery in 2009 before beginning a comeback in 2010 with the Phillies’ Triple-A team (4.40 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings. He had an unusual debut in the majors, winning 10 games in relief before turning 22 in 2003.

Jason O. Watson/US Presswire
Gabe Kapler

Gabe Kapler, OF: The unretired manager’s .578 OPS with Tampa Bay last year doesn’t hint at much of a remaining major-league career, hometown ties or not.

Tim Redding, RHP: A year or two ago, Redding might have contended for shot as the No. 5 starter, but unless things go very wrong with the deepened Dodger pitching staff, the 33-year-old won’t see his way to Los Angeles. His last major-league action came in 2009, with a 5.10 ERA in 120 innings for the Mets. Last year, he had a 2.46 ERA in 84 innings for the Yankees’ Triple-A farm team, but his next stop wasn’t the Bronx but rather Korea.

Dana Eveland, LHP: The 28-year-old has slung a 6.96 ERA the past two seasons with 204 baserunners allowed in 98 1/3 innings against 46 strikeouts. Last year, he sucked Toronto in by allowing four earned runs in his first three starts, only to finish the year back in the high sixes. In short, like many professionals, he’s capable of a solid outing every now and then, but it’s a roulette wheel you don’t want to spin. If you ever wanted to read about Dana Eveland and Jack Taschner in the same paragraph, here you go.

JD Closser, C: Batted .319 in 124 plate appearances as a rookie in 2004, but he hit .213 in two seasons after that and hasn’t been seen in the majors since. Now 31, for two years he’s been in the Dodger organization, but OPSes of .761 and .671 in Albuquerque offer little promise.

Damaso Espino, C: Eleven seasons into his pro career, Espino hasn’t progressed past Triple-A, and a conversion from the infield to catcher hasn’t helped. Last year, he had an OPS in the low .600s for Cleveland’s Double-A and Triple-A teams – leaving it unclear, given the presence of Ellis, Gimenez and Closser where he even fits in as a minor-league backup for the Dodgers.

Feb 13

The Dodger Thoughts Spring Training Primers – a look back

Harry How/Getty ImagesNorihiro Nakamura went 5 for 39 with two walks as a Dodger. Trivia: In his final major-league game, the Dodgers scored 10 runs in the first inning.

This week, I’ll have my ninth Spring Training preview at Dodger Thoughts, and the time capsule effect of the previous eight is starting to mesmerize me.  As a warmup, I thought I’d present some artifacts from the past:

Wilson Alvarez, LHP:
Dan Evans seems to really want him to succeed as the Omar Daal replacement, even though Darren Dreifort should fill that role. I’m dubious, but in terms of making the roster, he’s probably got enough to get spring training hitters out and make the move viable. If the Dodgers are healthy, a 12-man staff isn’t necessary, but, you know …

Chin-Feng Chen, 1B/LF: Once their most exciting prospect after batting .316 with 31 home runs, 123 RBI and 31 steals in San Bernardino in 1999, he now seems to have some real holes in his game: declining speed, no defense, strike zone issues. Still has something to prove.

Steve Colyer, LHP: 24 years old, had a 3.45 ERA in 59 relief appearances for AA Jacksonville last year. Struck out 68 in 62 2/3 innings. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Dodgers may be hoping for a lefty Eric Gagne (6-2, 195), but Colyer also walked 40.

Shane Victorino, OF: Had a weird year as a Rule 5 draftee from the Dodgers by the Padres. Now back with Los Angeles, the Hawaiian is still only 23 – but like so many Dodger minor leagues, is a singles hitter without much walks or power. Still more promising at the plate than Romano.

James Loney, 1B: Ballyhooed, but I have this half-irrational fear his career will be like Todd Hollandsworth’s. Some power, some plate discipline, but not enough of both?

Russell Martin, 3B: We’ve come all the way down to the bottom to find a home-grown Dodger prospect who knows what ball four means. The 21-year-old Quebec native has 58 bases on balls (against 55 strikeouts) in less than 500 professional plate appearances. Say “Amen!”

Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesCody Ross had nine of his 10 career RBI as a Dodger in a three-game stretch at Pittsburgh in April 2006.

Norihiro Nakamura, 3B: He has said he’s willing to play in the minor leagues, and an April in Las Vegas might be just the thing to give Nakamura rhythm and confidence. But he’ll get a long look in March.

Cody Ross, OF: Has 80 professional home runs at age 24. Injuries marred much of his 2004, and he’s never OPSed over .900 in the minors. But he’s a Paul DePodesta acquisition and that puts him in the game.

Oscar Robles, IF: Almost 29, he had some nice Mexican League numbers in 2004. Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, he is that rare player thinner than me.

Andre Ethier, OF: A left-handed hitter, he could challenge Repko for the temporary last outfield slot, but more likely would be first in line if another outfielder stumbles after April 1.

Joel Guzman, IF-OF: The exciting prospect will also eye the major league injury report while discovering his new position, whatever that is. For our part, we’ll be watching his plate discipline.

Matt Kemp, OF: A true outfield prospect, it’s not impossible that the 21-year-old Kemp could be the first of the 2005 Vero Beach Dodgers to make the bigs.

Takashi Saito, P: This year’s Norihiro Nakamura, pitching side. A 36-year-old (on Valentine’s Day) pitcher with a 3.82 ERA in Japan last season doesn’t excite.

Andy LaRoche, 3B: With Betemit perhaps begging for a platoon partner, the promising LaRoche has an outstanding shot at making his major league debut ASAP. I’m not impressed that people say LaRoche has fully recovered from his labrum surgery – we’ve been led astray before – but he can still be considered a strong candidate to make the team.

Jonathan Meloan, P: A fifth-round draft pick in 2005, Meloan is rocketing upward. In his 91-inning minor-league career, he is averaging 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings against exactly nine baserunners. Though he has only 10 2/3 innings of experience above A ball, fans in the know are salivating at the prospect of having two Big Bad Jons in the bullpen.

Scott Elbert, P: Sandwiched between Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw in the “Let’s get excited” line of starting pitchers, Elbert has struck out 346 in 310 2/3 minor-league innings. Sure to start the season in the minors, Elbert very possibly will finish it there to keep his service clock at zero. That’s not to say he couldn’t outpitch some guys that will make the team, but at the same time, with five walks per nine innings in the minors, it’s not as if he has nothing to work on. He turns 22 in August.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesRamon Troncoso

Clayton Kershaw, LHP:
Never heard of him. Must be a scrub. But what the heck, if the Dodgers feel like he deserves a chance, who am I to stop them?

Ramon Troncoso, RHP: Troncoso, 24, went from Inland Empire to Jacksonvile in 2007 and pitched well in both places. In fact, the reliever blew the Cal League away, allowing only three earned runs in 30 innings, before settling in nicely with a 3.12 ERA for the Suns. The 2007s of Meloan and Hull show how hard it can be to get a callup, but keep an eye on Troncoso nevertheless.

Greg Miller, LHP: There could hardly be a better story this spring than Miller making the team. A Clayton Kershaw before there was a Clayton Kershaw, Miller reached AA at age 18 in 2003, striking out 40 and walking seven in 27 innings. But first his health and then his control betrayed him, and four years later, he was struggling. He walked 89 in 76 2/3 innings in 2007. But he also struck out 97, and the Dodgers still like him. If he can show any control in March, he immediately puts himself back on the fast track.

Shawn Estes, LHP:
When I think of Estes, I think of a game show in which the category is “Pitchers I’ve been eager for the Dodgers to face in the 21st century.” Estes, who turns 36 this month, hasn’t had a better-than-average ERA since 2000, and while he hasn’t been awful, you have to wonder what the point is — especially considering he’s notched only 49 2/3 major-league innings and 23 strikeouts in the last two years. But hey, it wouldn’t be Spring Training without an aging pitcher determined to prove us wrong.

Ronald Belisario, RHP: According to the blog Bucs Dugout, Belisario is “the pitcher formerly known as ‘No, nobody knows why he’s on the Pirates’ 40-man.’ ” The 26-year-old averaged four walks and 5.5 strikeouts per nine innings in AA ball last year.

Juan Castro, IF: Always a defensive specialist, the 36-year-old Castro has completely stopped hitting. His on-base percentage over the last two seasons is .235, his slugging percentage .256. What’s to love? By reputation, at least, he is a much better fielder than DeWitt, Loretta or Blake, and the Dodgers could see value in that as he competes for a roster spot with a host of shallow-hitting glovers.

Carlos Monasterios, P:
Last year, we were all caught off guard by Ronald Belisario making the big-league squad and excelling despite having virtually no resume to speak of. There’s nothing to Monasterios’ stat line that suggests he can be a big-leaguer in 2010 – he wasn’t even that great in winter ball – but I’m suspecting that the Dodgers didn’t acquire him (and Armando Zerpa) on Rule 5 day without a good reason. As with Stults, the Dodgers can’t send Monasterios to the minors. So I can see them stashing him in the back of the bullpen and testing him out before discarding him.

Kenley Jansen, P: Converted from catcher last year, the 22-year-old struck out a whopping 19 batters in 11 2/3 innings in A ball but also allowed 25 baserunners. So his target date is 2011 at the earliest.

US Presswire/Getty ImagessOrtiz x 2

Ramon Ortiz, P: He hasn’t been in the majors since 2007 and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his final season with the Angels in 2004. So despite a 3.05 ERA in the minors last year, I’m not buying what Ortiz, 37 in March, is selling.

Russ Ortiz, P: He hasn’t been in the majors since 2009 and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his final season with the Braves in 2004. So despite a 4.06 ERA in the minors last year, I’m not buying what Ortiz, 36 in June, is selling.