Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Darnell Sweeney

Dodgers add Chase Utley for postseason pursuit

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By Jon Weisman

On Monday, Statcast analyst and Dodger Insider magazine contributor Mike Petriello wrote about a key reason general managers might be interested in Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who has for most of 2015 been having the worst season of his career.

“Utley’s average exit velocity jumped more than five full mph (since returning from the disabled list),” wrote Petriello, “and his average batted-ball distance increased more than 25 feet. In 28 plate appearances since returning, he’s got 13 hits, including six extra-base hits. To put that into context, Utley has just 18 extra-base hits all year long; a full one-third of them have come in the last week.”

Combine that with Utley’s long-term track record in regular-season and postseason play, and the never-ending desire to upgrade the active roster, and you have an inkling why the Dodgers traded minor leaguers Darnell Sweeney and John Richy to the Phillies today for Utley and cash considerations.

Utley’s presence will supplement the Dodgers off the bench and in the infield, especially while second baseman Howie Kendrick remains injured, freeing Kiké Hernandez to roam the diamond more. The Dodgers have not announced who will vacate the 25-man roster to make room for Utley.

Drafted by the Dodgers in 1997, Utley chose instead to attend UCLA, as this 2008 Times story by Bill Shaikin relates. After signing as a first-round pick with the Phillies in 2000 and making his MLB debut in 2003, Utley would go on to have a .366 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage in 6,617 plate appearances.

In 2014, had a .339 OBP and slugged .407, before falling to .257/.275 this year until he went on the DL on June 22. In his return, he is 15 for 31 with a 1.227 OPS.

Sweeney, a 24-year-old infielder-outfielder taken in the 13th round of the 2012 draft, has a .332 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage for Triple-A Oklahoma City. He leads the Pacific Coast League with 32 steals (in 45 attempts).

The 23-year-old Richy, a third-round selection in last year’s draft, has a 4.20 ERA in 124 1/3 innings this year for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga with 105 strikeouts against 181 baserunners.

Chase UtleyToday’s acquisition, of course, reunites Utley with his longtime double-play partner in Philadelphia, shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Both players will be free agents after this season. The last pitch Utley saw as a Dodger opponent was the final pitch of Josh Beckett’s no-hitter on May 25, 2014.

It was only two Augusts ago that the Dodgers acquired another 36-year-old infielder from Philadelphia: Michael Young. The long-time Ranger, short-time National Leaguer hit .314 with the Dodgers in 53 plate appearances, though with only one walk and three extra-base hits. Young then went 1 for 10 in the playoffs.

In August 2006, the Dodgers had unqualified success with another former Phillies infielder, Marlon Anderson. Coming over from the Nationals at age 32, Anderson hit .375/.431/.813 in 73 plate appearances, including his 5-for-5, two-homer extravaganza in the 4+1 game.

And continuing with the NL East in August theme, there was Ronnie Belliard in 2008. Another National expatriate, the 34-year-old Belliard hit .351/.398/.636 to finish the regular season, then batted .300 with hits in all eight Dodger playoff games, including the tying RBI in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series Game 2 comeback win.

The two minor-leaguers sent by the Dodgers to Philadelphia for Rollins have nearly completed their first seasons for Double-A Reading. Starting pitcher Zach Eflin, a 21-year-old righty, has a 3.43 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 4.5 K/9 in 107 2/3 innings, while 23-year-old lefty Tom Windle has a 4.47 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and 5.9 K/9 in 90 2/3 innings. Windle was moved to the bullpen June 30 after starting his first 14 games.

The good, the bad and the unusual in a 7-5 loss

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By Jon Weisman

There was plenty of action in today’s 7-5 Dodger loss to the Cubs, but the marquee attraction in the “Have You Seen This Before?” Department was … no, not Sergio Santos’ four-strikeout inning, but the fact that he had a 1-3 strikeout on a pitch that caromed back to him before he threw the batter/runner out at first.

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Livin’ in the future …

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By Jon Weisman

Throughout my childhood, I would hear tales of Lew Alcindor leading the 1965-66 UCLA freshman men’s basketball team to victory over the UCLA varsity, which had merely won the NCAA title the season before.

The situation isn’t really the same, but if nothing else, the 2015 Dodger junior varsity gives a hint of what it must have been like to experience such excitement from the future.

Dodger prospects and reserves have been shining all spring long, but the eighth inning of today’s 10-5 victory over Oakland turned the brightness up to 10.

First, they tended the top of the eighth in dazzling fashion, with Erisbel Arruebarrena — playing out of position at second base — ranging far to his left to flag a ground ball, before doing a 180-degree turn to whip the ball to super-prospect Corey Seager, who stepped on second and fired to Kyle Jensen at first for an inning-ending double play.

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SweeneyThen in the home half of the inning at Camelback Ranch, Darnell Sweeney followed singles by Austin Barnes and Jensen and a walk to Seager with a grand slam — to the opposite field, no less.

Next, after Alex Guerrero singled and O’Koyea Dickson calmly took first base after being hit by a pitch, Scott Schebler hit a towering homer of his own to center field.

Before Schebler had finished getting high fives in the dugout, Chris Heisey homered to left, capping the eight-run eighth inning for the Dodgers, who are now 8-2-4 (.714) in Spring Training, in no small part because when the reserves come in, they have been fairly dominant.

Lest it be forgotten, the Dodgers were led in the early going by Darwin Barney, who went 3 for 3, and Joc Pederson, who walked once and made this catch in center field.

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Yeah, yeah — it’s March. But it’s been fun.

In case you missed it: Back against the wall … in March

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

For more photos from Wednesday, visit LA Photog Blog.

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Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago CubsBy Jon Weisman

Yasiel Puig certainly didn’t look uncomfortable in center field Wednesday, at least until he collided with the wall.

And sure, I held my breath as his back smacked, but all was well.

Puig not only continues to look both athletic and smart in the outfield, he helped get the Dodgers going on offense by beating out an infield single and later avoiding a sure force at third base to load the bases.

He’ll still draw howls every time he makes a mistake, but don’t be surprised if those mistakes come farther and farther apart.

Meanwhile …

  • Zack Greinke, who allowed five baserunners in two innings of Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Chicago, feels healthy but said he was experimenting with his slider, according to Ken Gurnick of “I’ve been trying to make the slider better than last year, but it hasn’t worked,” Greinke said. “I’m trying to figure if I keep trying or go back to last year’s. I’m trying everything. It looks good, but I’m giving up more hits than normal.”
  • Here’s what Julio Urias had to say after allowing three singles and a sacrifice fly, via J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News: “It looks like a bad outing on paper, but I look at it as a good outing because it’s something I can work on,” Urias said through an interpreter. “My confidence is absolutely there. I want to work on the slider, the changeup as well, locating pitches in the zone.”
  • The four batters Urias faced (Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan) are a combined 38 years older than the 18-year-old pitcher.
  • Non-roster lefty reliever David Huff has impressed Don Mattingly, according to Gurnick. “He’s got a lot of weapons, a clean delivery and he handles everything well,” Mattingly said. “He’s really interesting.”
  • The Dodgers used five former first-round picks on the mound in Wednesday’s game: Greinke, Huff, Zach Lee, Chris Reed and Chris Anderson, who took the loss after allowing a run on a walk, single and sacrifice fly in the eighth.
  • Darnell Sweeney has been working closely with Davey Lopes this spring, writes Ari Kaye for
  • Former Dodger reliever Peter Moylan signed an unusual deal with Atlanta, notes Mark Bowman of Moylan, who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, will be a Rookie League player-coach in 2015 with an invite to Spring Training as a Major Leaguer in 2016.

The report from Planet Urias

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By Jon Weisman

At times, I felt silly about tweeting out batter-by-batter updates on Julio Urias’ outing today, but it just felt to me like the combination of the level of interest and it being his first Cactus League outing as a grown-up justified them.

What I felt badly about was the short shrift given the other noteworthy prospects on the mound for the Dodgers today. Chris Anderson pitched two perfect innings, Zach Lee walked one batter but retired the other six and Chris Reed had a perfect inning before two singles, a wild pitch and a ground out spoiled his second frame.

Nonetheless, our minds were already in full orbit around Urias.

Urias did display a bit of “Aw, shucks” fallibility that on one level was a welcome antidote to those of us who might be getting carried away with our star-gazing, as if he were a celestial body from light-years away that had already blossomed, while we were just now getting our first glimpse. Facing seven batters, he walked three and went to a full count in an eight-pitch at-bat with another.

Urias pitchingHis first inning of work, following Lee to the mound, was fairly scintillating — two strikeouts sandwiching his first walk, followed by a harmless ground out (18 pitches in all). Coming back to the mound after a long rest (the Dodgers ate up a lot of time on offense in producing their 10-1 victory over Milwaukee), Urias took eight pitches to retire Carlos Gomez, then used another eight pitches in walking Aramis Ramirez.

(It’s here that we pause and remember, that’s an 18-year-old pitcher facing two 2014 National League All-Stars. Anyone else but Urias or Clayton Kershaw would have simply dug a hole on the mound.)

That put Urias at 34 pitches with four outs on his ledger, and a pitch-count limit was nigh. Urias staved it his departure — and showcased another exciting element of his game — by picking off pinch-runner Elian Herrera.

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But after getting ahead of Khris Davis 1-2, Urias couldn’t finish him off. Davis fouled off two pitches and took three more, and that was that.

Part of me couldn’t help but wonder, “Shoot, if the guy can throw 42 pitches on March 6, couldn’t he throw 21 on August 6?” My takeaway, however, was that whatever was meant to be for Urias in a Major League uniform would all come in due time.

And flying under the radar, despite their own impressive pedigrees, Anderson, Lee and Reed should have their chances to romance us.

* * *

Reporters naturally sought out Urias for comment afterward, and it was nice to see his enthusiastic reaction.

“It was awesome to face (Gomez) and get an out against him (on a popup) at this early stage,” Urias told’s Lyle Spencer, who noted that the pitcher’s father, grandfather and brother were watching. “I felt good, comfortable.”

Also weighing in was the man himself, Fernando Valenzuela.

“He was relaxed, nice and loose,” Valenzuela said, via Spencer. “He’s got a lot of confidence in himself. He has a good fastball with life and throws a nice curveball and changeup. He got ahead (in counts), but they didn’t chase. He looks like he can be something special.”

A.J. Ellis put the outing in perspective, in Eric Stephen’s writeup at True Blue L.A.

“He looked like a guy making his first start of spring training. A little bit erratic, a little bit anxious,” Ellis said. “When you’re erratic and anxious, but still have electric stuff, you can get away with a lot of things. We saw a little bit of everything.”

* * *

Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson come together before splitting off for today's split-squad games. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson come together before splitting off for today’s split-squad games. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

It was also another fine day for the Dodger bats, mainly against the Brewers but also in their 7-4 split-squad victory over the Mariners.

In support of Lee, Urias, Reed and Associates, Ellis had a walk and a three-run home run, Yasiel Puig had a single and two walks. Joc Pederson and Alex Guerrero each went 2 for 3 with an extra-base hit (double for Pederson, home run for Guerrero) to keep them a matched set with .714 batting averages this month.

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“There is a very short window to make the team,” Guerrero told Stephen. “I’ve prepared a lot in the offseason, so I have to jump right in with a short time to prove myself. Mentally I’m confident, I’m relaxed, so that’s a difference too.”

Scott Schebler had two doubles, and Kyle Jensen followed up Thursday’s home run with two singles today. Darnell Sweeney got in the act, hitting a single and the Dodgers’ third home run off Milwaukee pitching. The Dodgers had 22 baserunners in that game, while Milwaukee ended up with a runs-hits-errors linescore of 1 2 3.

Joey Curletta ended the rout with a diving catch in right field.

Back at Camelback, O’Koyea Dickson hit his second home run of Spring Training, after Adrian Gonzalez went 1 for 2 at first base. Erisbel Arruebarrena had two hits, after Jimmy Rollins went 1 for 2 at short. Howie Kendrick, Andre Ethier and Shawn Zarraga gave the Dodgers a total of six 1-for-2 batters in the game.

What dreams may come …

By Jon Weisman

Look, it’s not like I haven’t been burned. Here’s an all-what might-have-been lineup of Dodger prospects from the past 10 years:

Jason Repko, CF
Delwyn Young, RF
Andy LaRoche, 3B
Jerry Sands, 1B
Joel Guzman, SS
Blake DeWitt, 2B
Xavier Paul, LF
Tim Federowicz, C
Jon Meloan, P

I’m not criticizing them — each fulfilled a dream (I really mean that), even if they didn’t fulfill all dreams.

Then Clayton Kershaw finishes his first exhibition inning of 2015 today by dropping a straight echo of his teenage Public Enemy No. 1 on Jose Abreu, and I’m reminded, it’s OK to believe.

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Outfield competition front in center as Cactus League opens

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Chicago White Sox v Los Angeles DodgersBy Jon Weisman

On the first day of Cactus League play, Joc Pederson had two hits while playing designated hitter. Andre Ethier struck out twice while playing center field, but he probably wouldn’t have minded that much if he had made a diving catch at the warning track.

Well, there’s always the next game.

“Just a tough play,” Ethier told Phil Rogers of “It’s one where you have to make a break on it, try to keep an eye on the ball the best you can, not lose it. I got there, just didn’t bring it in.”

Said Don Mattingly: “As we get into spring, he catches that ball all day long.”

Despite losing to the White Sox, 6-4, it was a pretty eventful day in general for the Dodgers. Most of the action came after the starters were pulled …

  • O’Koyea Dickson hit the Dodgers’ first homer of the exhibition season, turning on a ball at his knees and pulling it over the wall in left.
  • Alex Guerrero had two hits off the bench, playing third base.
  • Corey Seager and Darnell Sweeney each singled and walked.
  • Jimmy Rollins went 1 for 2, but fellow newcomers Howie Kendrick, Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes each went 0 for 2.
  • Juan Nicasio was the domino that fell over after Ethier’s near-miss, allowing three runs in the third inning.
  • Carlos Frias allowed two runs on three hits and two walks, but struck out five. Batting average on balls in play: .750.
  • Sergio Santos, Adam Liberatore and Josh Ravin each pitched a perfect inning. Liberatore struck out two.
  • The Dodgers had the tying runs on base with none out in the ninth after singles by Sweeney, Guerrero and Seager scored their fourth run, but Kyle Jensen flied out, Kiké Hernandez struck out and Scott Schebler grounded out.

In case you missed it: Justin Turner and prospects on parade

Los Angeles Dodgers Caravan at Long Beach Rescue Mission

By Jon Weisman

As often as the top Dodger minor leaguers get recognized for their potential, I never get tired of it …

  • Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Darnell Sweeney and Scott Schebler all finished in the top 10 of Carson Cistulli’s admittedly very rough attempt to determine Wins Above Replacement for 2014 minor leaguers at FanGraphs. Bonus: Austin Barnes was 16th.
  • Seager and Urias are in the top 10 of Keith Law’s new prospect rankings at ESPN, with Joc Pederson 28th and Grant Holmes 79th. An excerpt: “Kyle Seager has turned into one of the top 20 players in the majors, but even as good as he is, brother Corey has the potential to be much better.
  • Urias is the No. 1 left-handed pitcher in MLB’s prospect positional rankings, with Pederson the No. 2 outfielder and Seager No. 4 at shortstop.
  • Al Campanis’ many achievements with the Dodgers, before his “Nightline” demise, are reviewed by Mark Armour and Dan Leavitt, who are promoting their book, “In Pursuit of Pennants.” They rank Campanis No. 13 all-time among general managers.
  • Promotions update: Juan Uribe (July 11) and Yasiel Puig (July 19) Bobblehead dates are set. And here’s more:

  • J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News caught up with Justin Turner, who talked about his busy offseason workouts. “I think the key to anything is obviously being on the field and staying healthy,” Turner said. “That was my emphasis this offseason, was to focus on that. Get stronger, get leaner, do some running stuff and prevent any breakdowns.”
  • Here are photo highlights from Tuesday’s caravan stop at Cesar Chavez Elementary School and Wednesday’s activities, featuring Turner.
  • More on video below …

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Arruebarrena, Seager, Urias among 17 non-roster Spring Training invitees

Steve Saenz/Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Steve Saenz/Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers announced that they have invited 17 non-roster players to Spring Training in 2015, including infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena, who has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Here’s the list:

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Hyun-Jin Ryu progressing toward return from disabled list this weekend


Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Roberto Hernandez, P

By Jon Weisman

Hyun-Jin Ryu, eligible to come off the disabled list Friday, threw a bullpen session today, has a simulated game planned for Wednesday and could pitch as soon as Sunday, Ken Gurnick of reported on Twitter.

Right now, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw set up for Wednesday’s starting assignment, followed by an off day Thursday. Then, after Dan Haren and Zack Greinke pitch the first two games of the upcoming series at San Diego, Ryu could slot in.

If Ryu doesn’t start Sunday, then Roberto Hernandez will.

* * *

The National League West standings since June 7:

 NL West since June 7

Yep, going back 11 weeks, the Dodgers’ opponents on this roadtrip, the Diamondbacks and Padres are tougher opponents than the Giants.

* * *

In other news and notes …

  • With his next stolen base, Dee Gordon will match the total of the 2005 Dodgers (58). That 2005 squad was led in steals by Jayson Werth and Antonio Perez with 11 each, in a year in which Oscar Robles went 0 for 8 and became MLB’s all-time leader in caught stealings without a stolen base.
  • Bryce Harper experimented with Yasiel Puig’s bat. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has the backstory.
  • Daniel Brim of Dodgers Digest analyzed Puig’s home run drought.
  • The Dodgers announced that they have signed two more outfielders on the international amateur market: 24-year-old Yadir Drake out of Matanzas, Cuba (signing scouts: Mike Tosar, Patrick Guerrero, Franklin Taveras) and 16-year-old Federico Giordani from Anzio, Italy (signing scouts: Marco Mazzieri, Bob Engle).
  • Great Lakes outfielder Joey Curletta made the Midwest League’s postseason All-Star team. Curletta has a .336 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage this season.
  • The honors continued for Joc Pederson, who was named the 2014 Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year.
  • Corey Seager, Scott Schebler, Darnell Sweeney and Michael Thomas are among the initial selections from the Dodger organization to play in the Arizona Fall League. Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. discuss the choices.
  • David Davis has a closer look at the Juan Marichal-John Roseboro incident at Deadspin.

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