Trenidad Hubbard, CF (1998)
Blake DeWitt, 2B (2010)
Olmedo Saenz, 1B (2006)
Juan Rivera, LF (2012)
Jason Phillips, C (2005)
Juan Encarnacion, RF (2004)
Luis Cruz, 3B (2013)
Justin Sellers, SS (2013)
Vicente Padilla, P (2010)
Tag: Juan Rivera
Trenidad Hubbard, CF (1998)
Starting today, I’m making periodic contributions to the CityThink blog at Los Angeles Magazine. My first piece looks at the state of the Dodgers from a War Games perspective. Check it out …
Good teams have bad weeks, and one bad week like the Dodgers are having (with four losses in a row, including Friday’s 8-5 come-from-ahead defeat against the Angels) doesn’t ruin a season. At the same time, people have feared all along that the Dodgers are a team living on the brink of destruction in a dangerous baseball world.
In the spirit of War Games, here’s a snapshot of which Dodger problems are tic-tac-toe and which are global thermonuclear war …
‘Twas a defeated night indeed for questionable starter Adam Kennedy, who made an error that allowed an unearned run to score for the Angels in the third inning and a decision that contributed to a second unearned run in the sixth. Add in a 0-for-3 night that included hitting into an inning-ending double play with runners at the corners in the fourth inning, and you have what will probably be the lasting memory of Kennedy as a Dodger.
Not that Andre Ethier didn’t do his darndest to make everyone forget. Hours after his contract-extension press conference, Ethier helped the Dodgers get over the Kennedy hump and come away with a 5-2 victory.
Ethier had the middle single in the Dodgers’ three-hit fourth inning, sent Mike Trout to the center-field wall in the sixth inning to haul in a deep fly, and made a diving catch to end the seventh inning with two runners on and the Dodgers trailing, 2-1. Most importantly, with Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis on first base and two out in the eighth inning, Ethier lined a single to right field to drive in the tying run.
Juan Rivera, coming to the plate with a .589 OPS, then blasted a no-doubt three-run homer to left for the go-ahead blow, victimizing Jerome Williams, who had allowed one run on five baserunners in the first seven innings, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who left Williams in past the point of no return. A crestfallen Williams sat in the dugout with his head in his hands after finally coming out of the game.
Aaron Harang allowed six hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out five and lowering his ERA to 3.59. But Harang was all but destined to take a loss when, with the bases loaded and two out in the sixth, Kennedy surprised Gordon by throwing to second base instead of going for an easier out at first base on a grounder hit by Williams. The throw, however ill-chosen, went right to Gordon’s glove as he put his foot on the base, but it clanked off for an error that put the Angels ahead.
But the Dodgers rallied in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen bounced back from his own loss Monday to save the game.
We expected a busy day because of the MLB Draft, set to begin at 4 p.m. Mark Appel is expected by many to be the third overall No. 1 pick from Stanford this year, following Andrew Luck in the NFL and Nneka Ogwumike in the WNBA.
However, the Dodgers made it even newsier by not only activating Juan Rivera but issuing a promotion — long-awaited by many of us — to strikeout-mad reliever Shawn Tolleson. Javy Guerra has gone on the disabled list with right knee inflammation, Scott Van Slyke has been optioned to Albuquerque and Matt Guerrier has moved to the 60-day disabled list.
Tolleson’s childhood buddy, Clayton Kershaw, is looking to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time in his career against a team he is 0-4 lifetime against with a 5.18 ERA (and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings).
One potential new concern: Tony Gwynn Jr. was in the original Dodger starting lineup against Phillies righty Vance Worley announced today but was later scratched without an immediate explanation.
Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times reports that Gwynn has a tight hamstring. How cliche …
Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. got the scoop: 2011 Dodger Minor League Player of the Year Scott Van Slyke is coming to the big leagues. The reason: an injured left knee tendon suffered Tuesday by outfielder Juan Rivera, who is headed to the disabled list.
Van Slyke, whose case for a callup was discussed here a couple of weeks ago, has a .411 on-base percentage and .623 slugging percentage for Albuquerque, playing the first base and corner outfield positions.
Rivera has a .276 OBP and .358 slugging this season. J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News tweeted that Rivera is expected to be out for some time.
In other injury news, not so fast, Jerry Hairston Jr. – you’re getting an MRI on your left hamstring.
Expect the right-handed hitting Van Slyke to start as soon as Friday against the Rockies and 49-year-old Jamie Moyer. For you trivia buffs, Moyer faced Van Slyke’s father Andy 21 times, giving up two singles, a double, a home run and two walks for a .707 OPS.
So, are you wondering about Alex Castellanos? If not, should you be?
The Dodgers’ hottest high-level minor-league hitter is Castellanos, who has a .483 on-base percentage and .757 slugging percentage for Albuquerque this year. His numbers have actually been better on the road, so while you have to take Pacific Coast League stats into account, it’s safe to say he’s been doing some of this on his own.
It’s hard to believe the lopsided Los Angeles lineup couldn’t use a guy like Castellanos, but the situation is a bit complicated. The 25-year-old has spent this year being converted to second base, which is not one of the Dodgers’ trouble spots right now. Mark Ellis has a .730 OPS (111 OPS+) and has been fielding well. You might make a case that Castellanos would provide an offensive boost, though I’m not so sure — but in any case, I’m not sure anyone would be ready for a double-play combo of Castellanos and Dee Gordon.
Castellanos hasn’t played a professional game at third base since 2009 — not even this year, when the Dodgers have had such uncertainty at the position. So I think you can dismiss the idea of him being called up to play there.
Left field, on the other hand, is a different story. Castellanos has spent most of his pro career in the outfield (albeit in right), while Juan Rivera is very quietly off to a start notably worse than the more publicized James Loney. Rivera has a .298 on-base percentage and .314 slugging percentage and provides none of Loney’s defensive value — indeed, Tony Gwynn Jr. comes off the bench at the earliest opportunity to replace Rivera. In the heart of the order, whether batting between or after Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the 33-year-old Rivera is problematic to say the least, and when he comes out, that leaves Gwynn (or, in case of a double switch, a relief pitcher) in the meat of the lineup.
That’s not to say Rivera might not kick it into gear offensively starting tonight, but essentially we saw last summer the best that he can provide, and we know it doesn’t last long. He’s broken a .750 OPS in a full season once since 2006.
Now, we wouldn’t even be having a Rivera conversation had Jerry Sands not had a miserable March, which happens to have been followed by a miserable April (.316 OBP, .318 slugging so far with the Isotopes). Sands reminds us how hit-and-miss the leap from Triple-A stardom to the majors can be.
So the question is, do you call up Castellanos for a role that would push Rivera to the bench, where the latter might be a decent No. 1 pinch-hitter against lefties (not surprisingly, he hits them better than righties)? I think that depends on how you view the Dodgers’ future at second base. If Castellanos truly can learn to hold down that position, that would ultimately make him more valuable to the franchise, which is fairly thin in middle-infield talent. But when would he get to play there? Ellis is signed through the end of 2013, but he turns 35 in June. If he wears down, the Dodgers might need to replace him this summer, but if he pulls a Jamey Carroll, the Dodgers might not need a new second baseman for two years.
Here’s what I might recommend:
Though he’s not quite at Castellanos levels this year, 25-year-old Scott Van Slyke with little fanfare has followed his outstanding 2011 by starting strong in 2012: .443 OBP, .600 slugging and more walks than strikeouts. Try Van Slyke in left field, Rivera on the bench and Adam Kennedy on an outbound train (with Justin Sellers and Jerry Hairston Jr. picking up the infield time taken by Kennedy, whose signing to a guaranteed contract this past winter never made sense). That gives Van Slyke a taste of the majors and the Dodgers hope for increased production in left field and off the bench, while buying time for Castellanos to continue to grow acquainted with second base and for Sands to figure out what’s gone wrong.
Calling up Van Slyke has a pretty good chance of making the Dodgers better in the short term and the long term. What’s not to like?
(Footnote: Castellanos came to the Dodgers in exchange for Rafael Furcal, who is for the time being hale and hearty. Furcal leads the National League with eight doubles and has a .423 OBP and .523 slugging in 72 healthy-for-now plate appearances in 2012.)
Rarely have I been retweeted more than I was Tuesday when I passed along this link to The Wire wind-up toys.
Now, unwind with these notes …
- Don Mattingly confirmed to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. that he has no plans to bat A.J. Ellis second, citing his lack of speed in front of Matt Kemp. Unfortunately, the alternative candidates’ lack of on-base percentage in front of Kemp seems not to have entered into Mattingly’s thinking.
- Mattingly also hinted that Juan Rivera would start 2012 as the Dodgers’ regular left fielder with occasional days off. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com added that Jerry Sands is still in the mix to be a platoon partner for Andre Ethier and James Loney.
- Dodger relief prospect Shawn Tolleson was interviewed by John Parker of MiLB.com.
- The Dodgers have the National League’s second-easiest early season schedule, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Nine of their first 34 games are against teams with winning records in 2011.
- Here’s the full list, 200-deep, of Dodger prospect rankings from Brandon Lennox at True Blue L.A. Henry Heredia, this is your moment.
- Gold Glove or not, Andre Ethier’s ranking in David Pinto’s PMR list for right fielders at Baseball Musings probably won’t surprise you. Matt Kemp in center field? You tell me what you think.
- Trayvon Robinson is trying to reestablish himself after his hot start with Seattle turned into a rough finish, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
- Tuesday in Jon SooHoo: two pics that fostered polar opposite reactions for me, Jerry Sands bunting and Matt Kemp skywalking.
- Not surprisingly, initial reaction to the new book from Dirk Hayhurst, Out of My League, is positive. Examples: Andrew T. Fisher of Purple Row and Keith Olbermann at Baseball Nerd.
- The statement from Ryan Braun sample-taker Dino Laurenzi is eloquently written.
- Coming March 15-17 is a SABR Analytics conference in Arizona. Not coming at the same time is the Notalytics Conference in South Dakota, but I sure wish it were.
- Emmett Ashford, the majors’ first African-American umpire, was given an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, Chapman College, according to Terry Cannon of the Baseball Reliquary.
- Giancarlo Stanton: the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton.
- Harvard-Westlake’s Lucas Giolito hit 100 miles per hour while pitching a one-hitter for the Wolverines on Tuesday, writes Eric Sondhiemer of the Times.
- Perfect for Leap Day: The Dodgers had the 29th-best offseason of all major-league teams, according to The Platoon Advantage.
- KCRW’s Which Way L.A. now has its own blog.
- Jonathan Abrams and Grantland published a vivid oral history of the 2004 Pacers-Pistons fight that spread into the stands.
- Longtime Times columnist Steve Harvey is back writing “Only in L.A.,” host Kevin Roderick of L.A. Observed announced. The first new edition is here.
- Watch former Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob break a world-distance record for throwing a paper airplane at ESPN.com.
- Farewell, Monkees and Brady Bunch star Davy Jones. I was a childhood fan of both. Here, from Variety, is the 1965 ad soliciting auditions for The Monkees
- Russell Mitchell was designated for assignment to make room on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster for Todd Coffey. He could return to the organization if he clears waivers. (Remembering 2011: Russell Mitchell)
- Blake DeWitt, once upon a time known as “The Solution,” was designated for assignment by the Cubs, who acquired him in the Ted Lilly trade a couple years back. DeWitt, 26, had a 95 OPS+ (.305 on-base percentage, .413 slugging) with Chicago in 2011, compared with Adam Kennedy’s 79 OPS+ for Seattle – but don’t expect the Dodgers to give someone up to acquire DeWitt, who more likely would end up back in the minors for the Cubs.
- Alex Cora is still at it, signing a minor-league deal with St. Louis.
- Edwin Jackson reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million deal with Pittsburgh to sign with Washington for one year and $11 million, banking on doing better in next season’s free-agent market (or just determined to set a record for organizations in a career).
- Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White talked about some of his prize picks – Zach Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Reed – with David Laurila for Fangraphs.
- Up-and-coming reliever Shawn Tolleson was profiled by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
- The late Jose Lima is the subject of a recent SABR biography by Rory Costello.
- Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. is taking a day-by-day look at the Dodgers’ divisional rivals, starting with Arizona on Monday and continuing with San Francisco today.
- Monday in Jon SooHoo: Blake Griffin and Matt Kemp.
- Mark Prior is trying one more time to salvage his pitching career, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Drew Silva of Hardball Talk). Prior last pitched in the majors in 2006 and won only two games after his 25th birthday.
- Also aspiring to come back: Brandon Webb, out since Opening Day 2009.
- Tim Lincecum talks about Clayton Kershaw, among other topics, in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
- Here’s a simple dice baseball game designed for kids ages 3-6, via Baseball Think Factory.
- One last baseball-oriented remark about “Smash” that I tweeted: “Hilty is the proven veteran talent. McPhee is green but higher-ceiling. It’s Juan Rivera vs. Jerry Sands. Harang vs. Eovaldi.” Except this wasn’t quite right. It’s more like A.J. Ellis vs. Tim Federowicz.
- Ten years ago, while on detail for MLB.com in Venezuela, former Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch wrote about an up-and-coming Rivera.
- In this terrific podcast interview, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Kamenetzky brothers talk to Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman about, among many other things in a 45-minute chat, his great admiration and love for baseball.
- This seemed to fascinate some folks on Twitter late Monday: Take a look at these NPR contributor bios, and see if their pictures match with your images of them.
As we enjoy more recovery progress from Bryan Stow …
- Juan Rivera’s new Dodger contract is official, and it guarantees him at least $4.5 million including a $500,000 buyout if the Dodgers don’t pick up a $4 million 2013 option. (That’s right — same base salary both years, because apparently the Dodgers were worried they might not be able to overpay Rivera two years in a row.) There are also $500,000 in potential incentives each year. The contract is getting pilloried on the Internet, with Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk bringing a particularly hard pillory.
- There’s $131 million changing hands in the binding divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt, according to The Associated Press, but the more interesting detail might be that Jamie ended up with three Southern California homes and Frank none. He might not just be getting out of the Dodgers — he might be getting out of Dodge.
- I did a radio interview with A Martinez of ESPN AM 710 on Thursday that made the same point as Ken Rosenthal makes in this column for Fox Sports: I get intellectually why it might be too complicated during this transition period to sign a player like Prince Fielder, but it’s still not clear to me how it would lower the value of the Dodgers when you think of the appeal he would have for so many. If it’s a good contract after ownership changes hands, it’s a good contract before.
- My brother’s childhood glove was a Matty Alou glove, so we exchanged sad e-mails over his passing Thursday.
- Another passing to lament: Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch.
In a move reminiscent of Rod Barajas 2010-2011, the Dodgers are close to a one-year contract with Dodger second-half helper Juan Rivera for 2012, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The contract would have a 2013 club option.
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesJuan Rivera (15)
The setup: Rivera was sent to Toronto by the Angels on January 21 in their infamous Vernon Wells deal, after OPSing .721 in 2010 with 15 homers in 124 games. As a Blue Jay, Rivera turned in a career-low .666 OPS (79 OPS+) in 70 games. On July 4, a day after he turned 33, Toronto designated Rivera for assignment. Eight days later, the Dodgers acquired Rivera in exchange for future considerations, cutting bait on Marcus Thames in the process. In one of my less prescient analyses of the year, I was almost completely dismissive of the pickup.
The closeup: In 2006, Marlon Anderson. In 2009, Ronnie Belliard. In 2010, Rod Barajas. In 2011, Rivera. Once again, Ned Colletti found one of his greatest successes of the year in giving up next to nothing to acquire a potent bat for the final two-plus months of the season – although Rivera wasn’t so much potent as he was a solid improvement over what preceded him. In 62 games with the Dodgers (45 starts in the outfield, 13 at first base), he had a .333 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage with five home runs in 246 plate appearances. Sometimes, as Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out, it helps just to stop playing terrible players.
What happened with Rivera is that, after OPSing .863 with four homers in his first 34 games as a Dodger, through August 24, he fell to .604 with one homer in his final 28 games and .527 in his final 15, including a 3-for-27 finish. You could say he was gassed, or regressed to the mean, but it took some of the rust coat off his Los Angeles detail.
Coming attractions: Rivera is a free agent, having played out the three-year, $12.75 million contract that he signed with the Angels before the 2009 season. He earned $5.25 million this year, but any chance that he could match that figure for 2012 evaporated with his late-season slump (assuming the powers that be noticed it). Furthermore, his chances of returning to the Dodgers diminished with James Loney’s late-season hot streak, which could push the first baseman back into the Dodgers’ future, Jerry Sands to left field and Rivera out of town.
However, if Rivera gives ground on salary, or if it’s decided that Loney is too expensive to tender a contract, Colletti would probably jump at the chance of having him back, just as he did (in mostly ill-fated fashion) with Anderson, Belliard and Barajas. The presence of Rivera would take some of the pressure off Sands to perform immediately, and one could certainly argue that Loney (who will get at least $6 million if the Dodgers don’t farewell him) isn’t worth millions more than Rivera for 2012. Colletti is high on Sands, but it’s hard to believe he’d be more comfortable with Sands batting behind Matt Kemp in April than Rivera. Moreover, the Dodger bench definitely has room for him at the right price.
Assuming that a signing of a super-slugging free agent by the Dodgers is mythical, Rivera might well be a Dodger next year, but the more he’s looking for in salary, the longer he might be kept on hold.
Sometimes it’s really curious what happens after you say something out loud.
Sunday, after Dee Gordon struck out in his first at-bat of the Dodgers’ 8-1 loss to San Francisco, I mentioned the fact that (in addition to having only two career walks), Gordon had only seen ball three a total of 10 times in 156 career plate appearances.
Lo and behold, in his final times at bat Sunday, Gordon walked on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth inning and grounded out on a 3-2 pitch in the seventh.
As bad as Gordon’s walk totals are – and make no mistake, even though they increased 50 percent in his last game, they’re just awful – I’m not ready to pronounce them a career-killer. Gordon’s still only 23, he’s in the big leagues before he was supposed to be and his ungodly speed has definite value that helps compensate. If he can hold down the shortstop position, and if he can continue to develop as a hitter, he might be a Dodger regular for years to come.
It sure would be nice if he showed some walking ability, though – and his lack of power doesn’t excuse him completely. For example, Brett Butler in his first two seasons in the majors (1981-82) had seven extra-base hits and no home runs in 413 plate appearances, but still managed to walk 44 times while striking out 52. Gordon, in 159 plate appearances, is at three walks, 24 strikeouts.
Except for the walks, Butler’s rookie season was not that unlike Gordon’s – 145 plate appearances, .254 batting average, .317 slugging percentage, nine steals in 10 attempts. Butler then had a huge learning curve in his second year, hitting .217 and slugging .225 in 268 plate appearances while stealing 21 bases in 29 attempts, in a year that included a midseason demotion to Triple-A for six weeks. Be prepared …
Butler was considered one of the fastest young players in baseball in his day and went on to steal 558 bases in his career. It shows you the kind of skills that Gordon will have in his bid to overcome his walk issues that he already has twice as many steals as Butler, while also offering the (admittedly error-prone) ability to play a more important defense position.
The Dodgers and their fans might need as much patience with Gordon as the kid himself needs to show at the plate. Hopefully, the sheer excitement he brings to the game will help with that.
* * *
One more remembrance from a forgettable game: If you missed Juan Rivera’s circus play Sunday, here’s your chance to rectify that.
Jake Roth/US PresswireJuan Rivera
Here’s a tip of the hat to Juan Rivera, who has performed above my expectations (but not above those of the guy who hounded me on Twitter last month saying he was a great pickup).
Rivera has a .359 on-base percentage and .416 slugging percentage in 64 plate appearances since coming to Los Angeles, which is superb by 2011 Dodger standards. He has effectively become an everyday player with starts in 17 of 20 games, counting tonight, when he makes his eighth start at first base.
The Dodgers begin play tonight 9 1/2 games behind San Francisco and Atlanta, their narrowest deficit since June 27. The same team that has enabled them to get over the double-digit hump, Philadelphia, will travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles to be the Dodgers’ opponent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while the Giants travel to Pittsburgh and the Diamondbacks to Houston. If that somehow doesn’t provide a reality check, it will mean that someone has gone into the garage to try to jump-start their Miracle Machine. In the meantime, we’ll see what youngun Nathan Eovaldi can do.
Juan Rivera homered on his first pitch as a Dodger, Matt Kemp threw out a runner at the plate, hit his 23rd homer and drove in four runs, and Clayton Kershaw allowed no earned runs over seven innings.
Yet thanks to a Juan Uribe error that paved the way for four unearned runs off Kershaw in the bottom of the seventh (including a three-run homer to deep center by Xavier Nady), the Dodgers had to sweat out a 6-4 victory.
The error effectively cost the Dodgers their fourth shutout in their past five games.
Hong-Chih Kuo started the ninth and was in position to become the eighth Dodger to get a save this year, but the final out ended up going to Javy Guerra (with the tying run on first base) on a called strike three. By the way, the Dodger team record is 11 pitchers with a save in a single season, last achieved in 1979.
The Dodgers have won five in a row, but all that’s done is get them to 11 games out of first place in the National League West, with a half-game drop imminent because San Francisco is romping over San Diego.
Mark Goldman/Icon SMIJuan Rivera has a .700 OPS in 730 plate appearances over this season and last, but he’s been better against lefties.
In a less-than-inspirational exchange, the Dodgers have acquired outfielder Juan Rivera from Toronto, plus cash, in exchange for a player to be named later or cash (presumably if the organizations can’t agree on the player).
In a separate but related move, the Dodgers designated Marcus Thames for assignment. Here’s more from my news story:
Rivera, who turned 33 last week, was batting .243 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 275 plate appearances this season. He had a .305 on-base percentage and .360 slugging percentage for the Blue Jays after coming to Toronto from the Los Angeles Angels in the January trade that sent Vernon Wells west. The year before, Rivera had a .312 OBP and .409 slugging for the Angels in 455 plate appearances.
He is in the final year of a three-year, $12.75 million deal, making $5.25 million this year.
The 34-year-old Thames, who signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Dodgers the same week as Rivera went to Toronto, was hitting .197 with two homers and seven RBIs with the Dodgers over 70 plate appearances in an injury-marred season that showed him ill-suited to play in the field. He had a .243 OBP and .333 slugging after posting .350/.491 numbers with the New York Yankees in 2010, playing the majority of the time as a designated hitter.
Rivera will join a left-field mix with the struggling Dodgers that includes Tony Gwynn Jr., Trent Oeltjen and Eugenio Velez, with Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson in the minors.
Dodger left fielders have two home runs and a .618 OPS this season, the worst in the National League.
There will be a lot of panic in some parts about whom the player to be named later might be, though I don’t have much fear on this front that it will be a significant prospect. And the cash from Toronto should cover a good part of what Rivera is owed this season.
So, this seems mostly to be a concession that Thames can’t hack it as a National League, non-designated hitter, whereas Rivera might fill the Thames’ role and contribute in the field a little.
At the same time, Rivera is pretty clearly a player in decline offensively — much more than Thames was going into this season — so I get no joy out of seeing him taking up space on the roster on the odd chance that he’ll bash a homer against a lefty once in a while. (Rivera has two home runs and a .909 OPS in 65 plate appearances against lefties this season.)
Of course, the Dodgers are still carrying Eugenio Velez, but that’s another story.
Clearly, Ned Colletti hasn’t quite given up on the divisional race, though this hardly means he’s gone all in.