Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dodgers' roster news as Spring Training comes closer to conclusion

The Dodgers have made a few roster moves this week as the season is set to open on Thursday in San Diego.


Josh Bard and Cory Sullivan were released by the Dodgers. Bard was never going to make the team ahead of starter A.J. Ellis and million-dollar man Matt Treanor. There was a tweet during the contract he signed was guaranteed, but that was obviously not the case. Bard was 2-for-18 this spring.

Sullivan, notorious Dodger killer, had a decent spring, but he was a longshot to make the team anyway. I thought he'd end up in Albuquerque, but it isn't exactly a huge blow to a team with some of the most outfield depth in the minor leagues. Sullivan posted a .289/.333/.395 triple slash with one home run, seven RBI and three walks. He'll probably land a minor-league deal elsewhere. Here's hoping he never plays against the Dodgers again, though.

Disabled list

Ted Lilly was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a stiff neck. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. reported if Lilly remains on track, he could make his season debut on April 14 against the Padres.

The move allows the Dodgers to carry one extra bullpen arm because of the team's April 9 off day. It seems it will go with a four-man rotation until Lilly returns. Stephen notes Josh Lindblom and Scott Rice are in the mix. Nathan Eovaldi might get some consideration, but since he doesn't have a rotation spot, he's best suited to begin the season in the minors. If the Dodgers go with Lindblom or Rice, I have a feeling it'll be the latter. Scott Elbert is the team's only left-hander out of the 'pen and they gave John Grabow his release earlier this week.

Adam Kennedy is also a DL candidate after suffering a pulled groin. If the Dodgers do place him on the disabled list, it could be retroactive to March 26, which means, unfortunately, he'd only miss the first series of the season.

Luis Cruz, Josh Fields and Justin Sellers are fighting for reserve roles. The fact Cruz is even being considered reeks of Hector Gimenez last spring. Having said that, he's almost a lock to make it if Kennedy begins on the DL.


I'm starting a new weekly feature with Jared Massey of L.A. Dugout (formerly of L.A. Dodger Report and L.A. Dodger Talk). We're recording a podcast, "Dugout Blues," that is tentatively scheduled to go up every Monday. We'll talk about everything Dodgers while focusing on the minor league system a bit more than the Major League team.

I'll post links here and we'll Linkget it on iTunes as soon as possible.


Tango Tiger needs some input on how many games Dodger players will appear in this season in its annual "Community Forecast" feature. It's pretty simple and quick. There are only 18 entries thus far. I submitted mine on Friday.

Mike Petriello made his debut at FanGraphs on Friday, writing about Andre Ethier and how he's primed for a big season. If Ethier's spring is any indication, Petriello is going to look damn good with this article.

Petriello also thinks the Dodgers shouldn't give Ned Colletti his walking papers just yet. I'm inclined to agree. However, keeping him around longer increases his chances of remaining with the team (which are microscopic at this point).

Chad Moriyama links to ESPN LA's Ramona Shelburne and the L.A. Times' Bill Shaikin stating how Frank McCourt won't get any revenue from the parking lots at Dodger Stadium.
"So go back to the stadium and stop whining.


Scott Andes of Lasorda's Lair is counting down the 10 best moments in Dodger Stadium history. The most recent entry, No. 6, is something of which I have fond memories -- and I'm betting most Dodger fans do.

Zach Lee's signature could use some work, writes Greg Zakwin of Plashcke Thy Sweater is Argyle.

And this might be one of my favorite photos of all-time.

Photo credits: brendan-c on Flickr

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A thank you to Bill Shaikin, Molly Knight and Josh Fisher

With the Los Angeles Dodgers' ownership saga essentially over, it's time to thank three people who were key in covering this entire mess since October 2009.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine and Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce all did an amazing job of covering this story and adapting to the changing environment of it.

Some might say they were just doing their job -- and they were -- but they absolutely crushed it. As an aspiring journalist, I am envious of the work they did on this situation and hope to be able to cover something of this magnitude in my soon-to-be-career.

A lot of people covered the Dodgers' ownership situation, but these three, in particular, knocked it out of the park.

From writing an in-depth piece on the McCourts that shed light on things behind the scene, including the hiring of Ned Colletti (Knight), devoting a website to the divorce and digging through countless pages of court documents (Fisher) to telling us McCourt would not be controlling the parking lots (Shaikin, which isn't giving him his due for all the coverage) -- these three were on top of everything and shows why journalism is still such an important skill.

So, to the three of you, thank you from every Dodger fan out there (I feel I can speak for them all). Keep up the great work. And here's hoping the Dodgers and their fans don't ever have to go through this mess again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Dodgers' owner

The short list of people affiliated with the Dodgers' organization who are recognizable by one name just grew by one.

There's Vin, Tommy, Jackie, Sandy and now Magic.

The ownership group led by Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten was chosen tonight as the winners of the auction. Initial reports put the sale at $2.15 billion, or 2,150 million dollars.

Ken Gurnick was the first to report the news.

The only blemish in this deal is the parking lots are not included.
"Current owner Frank McCourt and certain affiliates of the purchasers will also be forming a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property for an additional $150 million."
Now, that's not to say the group only needed to kick in an extra $150 million to get the lots. I'm sure if that were the case, it would have been done. However, it's not the end of the world. It sucks McCourt is still involved, but it's a minor part, which is better than him keeping the team completely.

Update (March 27, 9:44 p.m.): From Bill Shaikin:
"Parking lots will be controlled by Magic's group."

Mark Walter will be the controlling owner. The bankruptcy court must still approve the sale on April 13.

This is a fantastic day for Dodger fans. This has been a long time coming. With Johnson, there is the tie to Los Angeles -- something that's been missing since the O'Malley days. Stan Kasten, one of those behind the great Braves' runs of the 1990s and part of the rebuilding Washington Nationals, might be the most underrated part of this deal.

Some, myself included, were expecting the Steve Cohen/Patrick Soon-Shiong group to have the largest bid. We were hoping McCourt would do the "right" thing and choose the Johnson group, even if the money wasn't as high. Well, apparently that wasn't an issue.

But back to Magic. The guy is one of the most popular athletes in Los Angeles sports history. The importance of that cannot be understated. This is akin to Kobe Bryant buying the Lakers in 15 years, but it's probably not even on that level. In the end, there couldn't have been a better person to be the face of this franchise.

Johnson's experience as part owner of the Lakers will help him when it comes to being part owner of the Dodgers. Here's a statement from Johnson:
"I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles."
Now, things aren't suddenly going to change. Ned Colletti still needs to go and the Dodgers need to commit to the draft and international scouting. I had been holding off writing my season prediction post until seeing who was going to be the new owner. I'm not going to give everything away, but the postseason might not be that far out of reach.

This is a great day, folks. Revel in it. Things are looking up.

Go Blue!

Photo credit: Rafael Amado Deras on Flickr (Johnson)

Jamey Wright, not John Grabow, gets the final Dodgers' bullpen spot

To much surprise, John Grabow opted out of his contract with the Dodgers on Monday, making him a free agent. The move officially means Jamey Wright will be the Dodgers' 12th (presumably) man out of the bullpen.

Both pitchers have thrown well this spring, but General Manager Ned Colletti informed Wright on Monday he'd make the club out of Spring Training. It stands to reason once Grabow heard the news, he used the opt-out clause in his contract to become a free agent.

Grabow, a lefty and a guy I predicted to make the club out of Spring Training when he was signed in December, threw six innings of scoreless ball, striking out seven, walking one and giving up four hits.

Wright has been solid in 8 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits, three runs (two earned), three walks and four strikeouts.

Wright's contract is now guaranteed for $900,000 this season with up to $500,000 in incentives for games pitched.

Grabow's contract would have been for $800,000 with up to $200,000 in incentives for games pitched.

Grabow really should have been the pick instead of Wright. The Dodgers' have just one left-handed pitcher slated to come out of the bullpen -- Scott Elbert. Elbert is better than just a left-handed specialist. He can get right-handed hitters out well enough to be a more than just a LOOGY.

Wright's edge is he can throw multiple innings at a time as a former starting pitcher. He had a solid season with the Mariners in 2011, posting a 3.16 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 8.0 H/9 and a 6.3 K/9.

This is also the seventh consecutive year Wright has made a team as a non-roster invitee.


Jerry Sands, Monday's hero (if there's such a thing in Spring Training), was optioned to minor-league camp today.

Sands put up an unimpressive .158/.256/.184 line with one double, five walks and 12 strikeouts. At one point, he had a 5:6 walk-to-strikeout ratio, but he's struggled mightily this spring.

He'll benefit from more playing time in Triple-A. After refining his swing midway through the 2011 season, Sands showed improvement with the Dodgers in September (.342/.415/.493), but a little more seasoning could do him well.

He'll be among the first call-ups if/when the Dodgers need another outfielder or first baseman.


The MLB owners vote today on the three remaining Dodger owners. Bill Shaikin has the details. Wednesday is when the private auction begins. Frank McCourt is required to choose a winner -- which doesn't necessarily mean the highest bidder -- by Sunday with the public announcement to be by April 6.

Photo credit: Keith Allison on Flickr, via UC International on Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Recap: Dodger blogger and fan fantasy baseball draft

I participated in a fantasy draft with some Dodger fans and bloggers this morning. Needless to say, it was an interesting draft.

Among those in attendance were Evan Chavez of New Mexico Fan (commish), Ernest Reyes from Blue Heaven, Manuel G. from L.A. Blue Crew and Scott Andes from Lasorda's Lair.

It's a 10-team league with 6x6 scoring. The additions to the standard 5x5 format are OPS for hitters and Holds for pitchers.

I had the seventh pick. I had my eye on a few guys pre-draft. On offense, I was expecting to get someone like Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun or Robinson Cano. I could even have gone for a pitcher like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw or Roy Halladay in the first round.

Little did I know I'd have more hitters to choose from than expected.

The first pick, unsurprisingly, was Matt Kemp. Then, things got a little unorthodox.

The second pick was Verlander. While he's the reigning American League Cy Young and MVP award winner, this one was unexpected. But that wasn't the last surprise of Round 1. Kershaw went No. 3 and Halladay went No. 4, leaving guys like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Troy Tulowitzki available for some lucky fantasy managers.

Pujols went No. 5 overall. At this point, I'm thinking Votto is my guy. To my surprise, Votto went No. 6, leaving me the No. 1-ranked player (according to Yahoo Sports rankings): Cabrera.

It took me all of two seconds to make the selection. His future eligibility at third base made him the easy choice for me.

My next pick came around and I was surprised Braun was still available. Just as quickly as I grabbed Cabrera, I grabbed Braun with my next pick.

The rest of the draft was pretty much status quo. I thought about starting the run on closers in Round 8 by choosing Craig Kimbrel, but I decided to strengthen my starting pitching with Jon Lester.

Here's a breakdown of my team:

1(7) Miguel Cabrera
2(14) Ryan Braun
3(27) Ian Kinsler
4(34) Jose Reyes
5(47) Matt Holliday
6(54) David Price
7(67) Matt Cain
8(74) Jon Lester
9(87) Jonathan Papelbon
1(94) Drew Storen
11(107) Kevin Youkilis
12(114) Joe Mauer
13(127) Brandon Beachy
14(134) Tommy Hanson
15(147) Dustin Ackley
16(154) Jason Motte
17(167) Peter Bourjos
18(174) Ervin Santana
19(187) Carlos Marmol
20(194) Erick Aybar
21(207) Mike Adams
22(214) Francisco Rodriguez
23(227) Jon Jay

I'm liking my chances in this league.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Three groups remain in bid to be next Dodgers' owner, plus other news

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported Friday there are three groups left in the Dodgers' ownership race: the Magic Johsnon/Stan Kasten group, the Steve Cohen/Patrick Soon-Shiong group St. Louis Rams' owner Stan Kroenke.

The Cohen group emerged as the favorite on Sunday when Soon-Shiong decided to join Cohen in his attempt to purchase the team.

The dates remain unchanged, as this should all be settled by April 6 at the latest. From Shaikin's article:
"Major League Baseball owners are expected to vote on the three remaining bidders early next week. Final negotiations then would take place with Frank McCourt and Blackstone Advisory Partners, the investment bank brokering the sale.

McCourt has agreed to identify a winning bidder by April 1, although he has until April 6 to present a sale agreement to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court."
The Dodgers are expected to sell for a record price -- somewhere north of $1.5 billion -- but the parking lots and Dodger Stadium itself remain an issue.
"McCourt was offered between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion in the most recent round of bids. However, negotiations have not taken place, and it is uncertain how the purchase price might be affected if McCourt refuses to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale. McCourt has said he intends to sell the team but keep the lots, in accordance with his rights under his settlement with MLB."
Whichever group ends up winning, let's just hope and pray McCourt gives in and sells the lots, too. He ties need to be completely severed from this great and proud organization. He's a black eye the franchise does not need.

It's going to be a fun eight-plus days. Everyone seems to think the Cohen group is going to win, but I'm still holding out hope for the Johnson/Kasten group.


The Dodgers reassigned three players after today's games: Angel Guzman, Wilfredo Ledezma and Fernando Nieve.

Guzman threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit, one walk while striking out two. He could see time in Los Angeles this year, if there are enough injuries.

Ledezma posted a nice line in 5 2/3 innings: two hits, two runs (one earned) and four strikeouts. His biggest problem was the walks, as he walked five.

Nieve threw the most innings of the trio and was, at one point, making a case to make the Dodgers' Opening Day roster. He threw 8 1/3 innings, allowing six hits, three runs (all earned) while striking out six. He didn't walk anyone. He could be an option if the Dodgers need a swingman this season.

Notes from today's game vs. Cleveland

Dee Gordon collected a couple hits to raise his spring batting average to .415. He also stole his eighth base.

Andre Ethier picked up his 11th extra base hit of the spring -- a double -- in today's win.He's hitting .419 and appears ready to have a big season.

Chris Capuano had a solid game: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K.

John Grabow and Jamey Wright, fighting for a bullpen spot, were both unscathed. Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweeted contract numbers for Grabow and Wright if they both make the team:


"John Grabow's contract will be guaranteed for $800k if he makes the big-league roster. Deal includes $200k in incentives based on GP."


"Jamey Wright's contact will be guaranteed for $900k if he makes the big-league roster. Deal includes $500k in incentives based on GP."

If we're making decisions based solely on money, Grabow's the choice. If we're making it based on need and talent, well, Grabow's still the choice.

I predicted he'd make the 25-man roster when he was signed. He's making a strong case to do just that.

Photo credits: health2con on Flickr (Soon-Shiong),
Rafael Amado Deras on Flickr (Johnson)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rubby De La Rosa could give Dodgers' bullpen a shot in the arm

I was reading Jon Weisman's piece for ESPN LA last night and it got me thinking: the Dodgers are going to have a huge addition late in the season.

The addition? None other than Rubby De La Rosa.

De La Rosa sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on July 31 and ultimately needed Tommy John Surgery.

De La Rosa pitched out of the bullpen in his first three games before securing a spot in the rotation. In 10 starts (55 2/3 innings), he went 3-5 with a 3.88 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and struck out nearly a batter per inning.

But if (when) he returns this season, he'll be coming out of the bullpen. Depending on where the Dodgers are at that point, he could help to secure a playoff berth or getting ready to take the No. 2 spot (as it stands right now) in the 2013 rotation.

If he returns in before Sept. 1, he'll be more than one year removed from ligament replacement surgery and also be eligible for the postseason roster.

Tony Jackson of ESPN LA reported on Feb. 22 De La Rosa is aiming for a rehabilitation assignment after the All-Star break. However, it'd be wise for the Dodgers not to rush him back.

The Dodgers need to make sure he's, without a doubt, 100 percent ready for action. He's far too valuable to risk another injury for a shot at a playoff spot with an imperfect team.

But that filthy fastball-changeup combination coming out of the 'pen would be reminiscent of the Eric Gagne days, minus the performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite losing most of the season due to surgery, De La Rosa still has a chance to contribute in 2012 and prepare himself for 2013. It's the best of an unfortunate situation.


The Dodgers signed Kyle Smit, presumably today, tweets Baseball America's Matt Eddy. The Cubs released him on March 4. Smit was sent to Chicago with Brett Wallach for Ted Lilly before the 2010 trade deadline. I literally just looked at his Baseball-Reference page yesterday, for some reason.

I missed this 20 days ago: Chad Moriyama released his Top 25 Dodger prospects for 2012. Lots of familiar names. The ranking I'm most pleased to see is Gorman Erickson at No. 10. Here's hoping he can continue to hit and get on base at Chattanooga.

Mike Petriello has no issue with one of the ownership groups inquiring about naming rights for Dodger Stadium. Regardless of what happens, it's still going to be "Dodger Stadium."

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dodgers' starter Chad Billingsley needs to trust his fastball

As the old adage goes, the fastball is the best pitch in baseball. There's a reason for that. Without a good fastball, the secondary stuff doesn't matter.

Now, a good fastball doesn't have to be 95 MPH-plus, but it has to be consistent and located well.

This is where we come to Chad Billingsley.

The Dodgers' starter was a top prospect ever since he was drafted with the 24th pick of the 2003 MLB Draft. He was once viewed as the future ace of the staff. However, his struggles (which haven't been as bad as advertised) and the emergence of Clayton Kershaw have negated the need for an ace.

But there's no excuse for Billingsley to be anything worse than a great No. 3 starter or solid No. 2 starter. He's too talented to be anything less. Not trusting his fastball is holding him back from success.

Billingsley debuted in 2006 for the Dodgers as a fresh-faced 21-year-old. He struggled a bit, as one would expect a guy who began his career so young to do. His 3.80 ERA was nice, but his WHIP (1.67), BB/9 (5.8) and K/BB (1.02) were not. Still, it wasn't a bad debut for the youngster.

His 2007 season began with him pitching out of the bullpen. It seemed the Dodgers were going to bring him along slowly after being aggressive with him in the minors. By the end of the season, he was the Dodgers' No. 4 starter behind Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf.

The 2008 season was arguably his best in the majors. He went 200 2/3 innings, posting a 16-10 record, a 3.14 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9 and a 2.51 K/BB. It looked like at the age of 23, he was putting it all together. He regressed in 2009, came back strong in 2010 before regressing again last season.

But let's go back to 2008. In that year, he threw his four-seam fastball 59.2 percent of the time. That was down from his first two seasons in the majors, but it's expected for a kid to stick to his fastball. And pitching out of the bullpen definitely meant he needed to throw more fastballs.

Here's a breakdown of his pitch type that season (info courtesy of FanGraphs):

Velocity is not a problem for Billingsley, as he's been consistent with it across all his pitches his entire career. But the fact he does not trust his fastball is problematic.

In 2009, he threw it 49.6 percent of the time. The best pitchers in baseball (and I'm not saying he is) don't throw their fastballs less than 50 percent of the time.

Take a look at Matt Cain of the Giants. I bring him up because Billingsley has been long since linked to Cain since he was taken one year before Billingsley, had similar stuff and followed a similar path to the majors.

For his career, Cain throws his fastball 63.9 percent of the time. While it has a little more giddy-up than Billingsley's, it shows he trusts it. Cain's changeup is among the best in baseball, yet he throws it just 11.3 percent of the time. He's thrown it more and more every season. To no surprise, he's gotten better every year he's been in the game.

But it all comes back to the fastball. Without trust in the pitch, it's hard for a pitcher to succeed.

While FanGraphs rates it as a negative pitch in terms of value, it's still the most important pitch for Billingsley's success. Without a good, consistent fastball, his cutter doesn't matter; his curveball doesn't matter and his changeup doesn't matter.

Part of trusting his fastball is also locating it well. Billingsley has pitched a lot more to contact the last three seasons, as evidenced by his declining K/9 rate. He had a career-high 9.0 K/9 in 2008. He's posted an 8.2, 8.0 and 7.3 K/9 in the last three seasons. Subsequently, his H/9 has increased in each of the last three seasons (7.9 to 8.3 to 9.0).

I'm perfectly OK with Bilingsley not striking out as many hitters because he still has the ability to get a strikeout when he needs to. If he locates his fastball better (comes with using it more), he's going to pitch deeper into games.

He has the frame to be a workhorse, yet he's thrown more than 200 innings just once in his career (previously mentioned). He's better than 194 innings per season as a starter.

Billingsley just wasn't a good pitcher last season. He was mediocre all-around. It's time for him to pitch up to his abilities. And it has nothing to do with his toughness, guts or ability to pitch in big games.

Billingsley said he's working on his leg kick to have a more consistent delivery. Consistency is everything when it comes to pitching. If a guy is not consistent, he's going to struggle -- be it the wind-up, the follow-through or the release point (or some combination of the three).

With the loss of Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers adding two mediocre veterans to the rotation and a bevy of great starters set to hit the free agent market this winter, this is Billingsley's best -- and possibly last -- chance to make an impression on the organization and stake his claim to a rotation spot, despite signing a lucrative contract extension before last season.

If he falters this season or is just a middle-of-the-road guy, he could be shipped out to make room for the aforementioned Cain, Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke.

Photo credit: SD Dirk on Flickr

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Dodgers' bench is going to be an issue this season

The most underrated part of a Major League Baseball team is the bench. Contending teams tend to have strong benches while mediocre teams tend to have, well, mediocre benches.

This applies to the Dodgers, a team with a mediocre bench for years. This season, though, could possibly be the worst in recent years.

This post was inspired by this tweet from Dodger fan Andrew Grant of Minor League Central:
"There's a non zero chance Matt Treanor will be the best hitter on the Dodgers bench."
That really makes one think. If Treanor is the Dodgers' best bat off the bench, this is going to be a long season.

The following players are locks for the Dodgers' five-man bench, assuming they carry seven pitchers:

Tony Gwynn
Jerry Hairston
Adam Kennedy
Matt Treanor

That leaves one spot and a few possibilities.

Josh Fields is hitting well this spring and would provide the only power potential off the bench -- and that's nowhere near a sure thing as he's struggled to stay in the majors since his debut.

Justin Sellers possesses decent on-base skills, but not much power. The fact he can play shortstop at least adequately has to be a plus in his column. Hairston is penciled in right now as Dee Gordon's backup.

Jerry Sands is the best young hitter closest to the majors the Dodgers have, but he'd be better off playing everyday in Triple-A.

Other guys in the mix include Ivan De Jesus, Trent Oeltjen and Cory Sullivan, but they are longshots to make the 25-man out of Spring Training.

Even in the best-case scenario, the Dodgers' bench is going to be bad. A way to remedy that is to not sign mediocre (at best) Major Leaguers to fill these roles. Another way is to sign superstar players, forcing borderline everyday players to the bench (I'm looking at you, James Loney). Alas, that won't happen until next winter.

Don't expect any heroics from this group. It has to rate as one of the worst in the majors. It just puts extra pressure on the starters to play well and not get hurt (like they can avoid that) so the Dodgers don't have to rely on the bench.

Notes from today's game against the Indians

Clayton Kershaw had a nice outing, and I got to see it on MLB Network. His line for the day is as follows: 5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. He seems ready to start the season right now.

Kenley Jansen pitched an inning and struck out two. Business as usual for him.

Andre Ethier hit a triple, but it was a generous one. He hit a flyball to left field that should have been caught. Instead, the left fielder slid and kicked the ball away, allowing Ethier to get to third. Regardless, it was Ethier's ninth extra-base hit in 10 Spring Training games. If numbers mean anything in March (which they don't), Ethier could be primed for a big season.

The aforementioned Sellers had three hits, including an RBI double, in his quest to be the Dodgers' fifth man off the bench.

Photo credits: SD Dirk on Flickr

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Training battles emerging, plus roster cuts and ownership news

The Dodgers made their second round of Spring Training cuts today, reassigning Jeff Baisley, Gorman Erickson, Matt Wallach and Lance Zawadzki to minor league camp. The Dodgers also gave Alberto Castillo his outright release.

Absolutely no surprises here. The only two of note in the group are Erickson and Wallach. Erickson will likely begin the season in Chattanooga with the Lookouts after getting a taste of Double-A late last season. Wallach, who spent 76 of his 79 games with the Lookouts last season, should back up Tim Federowicz in Albuquerque with the Isotopes.

The roster sits at 49 players. It obviously has to be down to 25 before Opening Day. There are a few interesting battles developing.

Jerry Sands vs. Josh Fields
- This isn't exactly a position battle, but both players are right-handed and aiming for bench spots. Sands, my No. 1 prospect a year ago, hasn't exactly lit up Spring Training while Fields has. However, this could (and should) come down to playing time. The Dodgers aren't going to platoon Andre Ethier and James Loney and Juan Rivera (with his $4.5 million contract) is certainly not going to sit. So, it seems Sands will begin the season in Triple-A.

Fields played part of last season in Japan and is making a str0ng case to be on the Dodgers' bench to start the season. I could see it happening because the bench, as constructed, looks to lack power -- not just right-handed power.

Justin Sellers vs. Ivan De Jesus
- Sellers has the edge in this matchup due to his ability to play shortstop. Without Sellers, there is no viable backup option to Dee Gordon (and no, Jerry Hairston is not viable). Sellers is also hitting well in Spring Training and had a couple moments with the team last year.

De Jesus has long since been in the team's doghouse (at least it seems that way) and just suffered an injury to his left oblique. It's not known how serious it is, but that, coupled with the fact he hasn't hit well and can't play shortstop more than in a pinch, should really about seal it for Sellers.

John Grabow vs. Josh Lindblom
- Grabow was signed earlier in December and I predicted he'd make the club out of Spring Training. So far, Grabow has thrown 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and has six strikeouts. He's making quite the case to be the Dodgers' second lefty out of the bullpen.

Lindblom has been fine so far, but he has options remaining and the fact that Scott Elbert is the only left-hander could lead the team to sending him to Triple-A. Matt Guerrier has back issues right now and could open a door for Lindblom to make the team if he starts the season on the disabled list.


Bill Shaikin brings us news of something huge going on in the Dodgers' ownership race.
"Patrick Soon-Shiong, the richest man in Los Angeles, has joined the Dodgers bid group led by hedge-fund billionaire Steven Cohen.

The alliance is the strongest indication yet of Cohen's intention to present outgoing owner Frank McCourt with a final bid that reflects prominent local support rather than just overwhelming East Coast money.

If McCourt were to accept the Cohen bid, he would be rejecting one led by local icon Magic Johnson. Soon-Shiong has held several meetings with McCourt since the Dodgers were put up for sale in November, according to people familiar with the process."
Well, that about settles that. With Soon-Shiong joining Cohen's group, a group that reportedly has the most up-front money included in its bid (roughly $500 million), it's hard to see how the richest man in Los Angeles joining the group is anything but good Cohen.

Speculation was Soon-Shiong was to join the Johnson-Stan Kasten group, but that obviously never materialized.

Cohen also reportedly has interest in bringing in former Cardinals' and Athletics' manager Tony LaRussa, recently retired, to oversee baseball operations for the club. While the prospect isn 't exciting, despite LaRussa winning two World Series titles in St. Louis and one in Oakland, it's about time we start to accept it and get used to it.

Mike Petriello has a good post on it while trying to look on the bright side of today's breaking news.
"Now, I’ve been pretty clear how against Cohen I’ve been since the beginning of this process. Now that it seems he’s the clear frontrunner, I’m trying to look on the bright side here, and there’s one massive bright side: Cohen and Soon-Shiong are estimated to be worth over $15 billion between the two of them. That means we may not have to worry so much about whether a record-setting purchase price would impact the ability to invest in the team and stadium; it also means that we may not have to worry about a large amount of debt being a part of the purchase price."
There should be a lot of news in the last two weeks of the saga. April 1 is the day all Dodger fans are anxious and eager to see.

Photo credit: wisely on Flickr

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Castellanos, others reassigned to Dodgers' minor-league camp

The Dodgers reassigned nine players to their minor-league camp today in the first of many moves to come in the next few weeks.

Michael Antonini, Alex Castellanos, Stephen Fife, Shane Lindsay, Russ Mitchell, Alfredo Silverio, Scott Van Slyke, Josh Wall and Chris Withrow were all optioned. A lot of them are unsurprising, especially Silverio, who's still out because of his January car accident.

Van Slyke hit a home run in his first Spring Training game, but that wasn't enough to keep him around. He'll get some valuable playing time in Triple-A. All the pitchers optioned are no surprise, as is Mitchell.

However, I'm a little surprised Castellanos was cut loose so quickly. I know he wasn't going to make the squad out of Spring Training, but he had been swinging a hot bat, going 6-for-16 with two home runs, four RBI, a double, triple and five runs scored. He's a work in progress at second base, but he could be a viable option there down the road.

I looked at what the Dodgers have in Castellanos in November.
"Scouts say Castellanos is playing above his skill level. Looking at his career numbers, I'm inclined to agree. Before 2010, the only times he had an OPS better than .800 was in his first two seasons in Rookie ball and Low-A ball.

Bottom line, it's not exactly known what the Dodgers have in Castellanos. They could have a utility player, they could have a starting corner position player, they could have a second baseman or they could have a Four-A player.

This season will determine whether his late-2011 performance was a sign of him turning a corner or just a fluke."
That basically remains unchanged. However, when Roberto Baly of Vin Scully is Homeboy posted a video of Castellanos taking batting practice at the Winter Development Camp, I was immediately drawn to the video of Castellanos. I know it was just BP, but the sound of the ball jumping off his bat just sounded great.

Jared Massey of LA Dugout was at last night's Dodger-Red game and commented on Castellanos' bat.
"My God, Castellanos has a quick bat. #Dodgers"
Baly's video, Castellanos' strong spring showing and Massey's comment gives me legitimate hope for Castellanos' future. Perhaps 2011 wasn't a fluke.

I just thought he'd hang around a little longer. At least he'll get to hone his abilities at second without having compete with Mark Ellis, Ivan De Jesus and Justin Sellers for playing time in major-league camp.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Albuquerque Isotopes' offense will be fun to watch

At about this time last year, I was writing about Jerry Sands and his hot start in Spring Training.

With a 2-for-14 start in Spring Training this year and with his roster spot uncertain, Sands could begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque. I'm not saying basing decision off Spring Training numbers is smart, but we all know it happens. And despite my desire (for what it's worth) to let the young guys play, it's probably the right move for the team and Sands.

Manager Don Mattingly said he won't start the season platooning Andre Ethier and James Loney. With Juan Rivera getting a $4.5 million contract, there's pretty much no way Sands will beat him out for playing time. While he's better off playing for the Isotopes to start and has the inside edge to start down there, there are some guys who are jockeying for playing time: Scott Van Slyke, Alfredo Silverio, Alex Castellanos, Tyler Henson, Kyle Russell and possibly Josh Fields.

Sands hit 29 home runs last season for the Isotopes and 33 home runs overall (four with the Dodgers). He doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors, but playing everyday trumps a platoon/bench role in the majors in my eyes.

Van Slyke will certainly start somewhere -- possible first base. Silverio's status is unknown, but he should man center field when healthy. Castellanos will likely be tried at second base, but he does have experience in the corner outfield positions. Henson could be tried at third base but is probably better suited in the outfield. Russell is a prototypical right fielder. Fields has experience at first base, third base and left field.

Other position players in the Isotope mix include Ivan De Jesus, Justin Sellers (though, he should begin the season in the majors), Tim Federowicz, Trent Oeltjen (even though I don't know why he still has a spot on the 40-man roster), Russ Mitchell, Josh Bard and newly acquired Matt Angle.

Here's what I think the projected lineup should be, but we know it won't work out exactly this way:

Silverio CF
De Jesus SS
Castellanos 2B
Sands LF
Russell RF
Van Slyke 1B
Oeltjen DH
Fields/Henson/Mitchell 3B
Federowicz C

Cory Sullivan could also be a possibility in center field if Silverio isn't healthy to start the season.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, doesn't look nearly as good as the offense does.

John Ely, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Carlos Monasterios and any number of pitchers could fill out the rotation. No one in that group really jumps out at you. We're a long time removed from "Elymania" and Monasterios is coming off Tommy John Surgery and probably won't be ready until mid-summer.

Guys like Ryan Tucker, Will Savage, Scott Rice and maybe Josh Wall (which would be intriguing) could see some time out of the bullpen.

The Pacific Coast League is famous for inflating numbers and with the Isotopes' potential on offense, they're going to be a lot of fun to watch. Just don't expect them to win many 1-0, 2-1 games.

Photo credits: LWY on Flickr (Sands), Cbl62 on Wikimedia Commons (Ely)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wrapping up the first week of Dodgers' Spring Training

The Dodgers finished their first week of Spring Training with a 5-1-2 record, which obviously means they're going to the World Series.

Seriously, though, they had a solid week. Some players had solid weeks as well.


Andre Ethier has five hits in eight at-bats, including three extra base hits (double, triple, home run) and only one strikeout. He missed Saturday's game against the Mariners with back tightness, but it doesn't sound too serious.

Matt Kemp hit his first home run of the spring on Friday against the Mariners. He's 4-for-12, but also has six strikeouts. But there's no need to panic.

A surprise performer so far has been Josh Fields, who is 7-for-12 with two doubles, a triple and two RBI. Fields began his career as a member of the White Sox and spent 2010 with the Royals and 2011 with the Rockies' Triple-A team and Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese League. He's battling for a bench spot, but I don't think he's a legitimate option unless there is a rash of injuries.

Former Rockie Cory Sullivan also had himself a week, going 6-for-12 with a double, a home run (a grand slam against the White Sox on Saturday) and a team-leading six RBI. Like Fields, I don't expect Sullivan to make the squad, but he's playing well so far.

Alex Castellanos and Juan Rivera are tied with the team lead in home runs with two.


Chris Capuano had the best debut, pitching two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out three.

Todd Coffey also appeared for two innings (in two outings) and like Capuano, struck out three hitters.

The bullpen trio of Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen has pitched six innings, given up five hits, three walks, struck out seven and, most importantly, have yet to allow a run.

It'll be interesting to see how some guys continue to perform before the first round of cuts is made.


The Dodgers signed Jarrad Page to a minor-league deal. If that name sounds familiar, you're probably a UCLA, Chief, Patriot, Eagle or Viking fan. He is the free safety who attended UCLA and was drafted in the seventh round by Kansas City in the 2006 NFL Draft.

He participated in the Dodgers' open tryout on March 1, a tryout that also resulted in the signing of former Dodger prospect Blake Johnson and former Blue Jay draft pick Brandon Mims.

Page was signed as an outfielder and was drafted three times before he decided to pursue football. He's 27 and getting a late start, so I wouldn't hold my breath hoping for him to be something. He's more likely to be picked up to play safety again than he is to pick up a bat in a Major League game.


Prospective Dodger owners are touring Camelback Ranch this week prior to the new owner being selected in less than a month.

Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times has the lowdown:
"(Steve) Cohen is widely considered one of three favorites to buy the team, along with St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke and a group led by Magic Johnson and veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten.

Cohen has an estimated net worth of $8.3 billion and Kroenke an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion, according to Forbes.

The other candidates include Stanley Gold and the family of the late Roy Disney; a group led by New York media investor Leo Hindery and Southern California billionaire Tom Barrack; a group led by Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and Los Angeles investor Tony Ressler; and Beverly Hills real estate developer Alan Casden."
So, it seems we're down to seven groups again. My money (and heart) is still on the Magic-Kasten group, but anything can happen right now.

I mean, Magic wouldn't have sold his minority stake in one of the most lucrative professional sports teams in the Lakers if he didn't feel he'd have a great shot of being part owner of the Dodgers, would he?

This whole saga should be determined in the next three weeks. It's been a long time coming for Dodger fans and it'll be nice to finally move on from the Frank McCourt era. Hopefully that means we'll get to move on from the Ned Colletti era, too.

Photo credits: SD Dirk, Flickr (Kemp), Rafael Amado Deras, Flickr (Johnson)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Young bullpen guns make spring debuts

Despite Ned Colletti's infatuation with over-the-hill middle relievers, the Dodgers are relying on quite a few youngsters in the bullpen -- namely Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra and Scott Elbert.

The trio made their season debuts today and it went pretty well.

Jansen threw fifth inning, striking out only one. I say only because he averaged 16.1 K/9 last season -- an MLB record for a pitcher with at least 50 IP. He isn't going to match that number by striking out just one hitter. /sarcasm

Elbert followed him in the sixth and gave up a hit, a walk and struck out one. Guerra pitched the seventh and also threw a scoreless inning, but he walked two in the process and struck out one.

We know the Achilles' Heel for the youngsters is going to be control, and while Elbert and Guerra didn't give up any runs, they had to pitch out of trouble.

I know, they aren't going to be perfect every game. It's just something to keep in the back of one's mind this season.

Of the trio, Guerra is most likely to regress the most because of his Minor League track record. Still, it's nice to see the young guys getting a chance.

With Jansen anchoring the bullpen (even if he's not the closer), it could be a strength for the team this season.

Other notes from today's game:

- Prospect Chris Withrow made his debut and pitching two innings. He gave up one hit, allowed one run, walked one and struck out one. He also hit a batter and threw two wild pitches. For his first appearance with the big league club, it wasn't terrible.

- Tony Gwynn drew two walks against Atheltics' pitching. He also stole his second base of the spring.

- Cory Sullivan, famed Dodger killer, picked up three of the Dodgers' four hits today. He collected a double and the game-tying RBI.

Coming up

The Dodgers face the A's again on Thursday and Jarrod Parker, former Diamondback top prospect whom they acquired for Trevor Cahill, will take the hill. Chris Capuano will make his Dodger debut. The only prospect (using this loosely) of note for the Dodgers scheduled to pitch tomorrow is Stephen Fife, who was acquired from Boston in the Trayvon Robinson deal on July 31.

Photo credit: SD Dirk (Flickr)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Andre Ethier homered off a lefty and yes, it's news

Dodgers' outfielder Andre Ethier hit a solo home run in the second inning of today's Giant-Dodger Spring Training game. Normally, that isn't lede-worthy. But he hit it off a lefty.

OK, he hit it off Barry Zito, but it's still newsworthy.

Ethier hit just one home run last season against left-handed pitching in 141 at-bats. And it isn't that he doesn't hit for power against lefties, it's the fact he doesn't hit lefties well at all. He hit .220/.258/.305 against lefties last year and has a career line of .242/.302/.359 against left-handed pitching.

Then again, maybe Ethier just got lucky and ran into one. It was Barry Zito after all.

Here's hoping he can improve his splits because there's a push in the blogger community to have Ethier platoon. I'm still of the mindset he needs to play everyday, (with the occasional day off against lefties), but I could change my tune if Ethier doesn't improve.


Ted Lilly was in midseason form, giving up six hits, five runs and two home runs in two innings.

Josh Fields collected his third hit of the spring -- a double (his second). He's wearing No. 37, a number worn by old friend Darren Dreifort. If he could hit as well as Dreifort, he might have a shot at making the team.

Ronald Belisario made his first appearance for the Dodgers since the Oct. 1, 2010, and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. has the proof. He's wearing Jonathan Broxton's old No. 51. He gave up two hits in a scoreless inning of work.

Josh Lindblom and Josh Wall made their spring debuts, each tossing scoreless frames and each picking up a strikeout.

Photo credits: brendan-c (Flickr)

The good, bad and ugly from the Dodgers' first Spring Training game

Baseball is back. Officially.

The Dodgers opened the 2012 Spring Training schedule on Monday against fellow Camelback Ranch resident -- the Chicago White Sox -- and defeated them 6-4.

While it's easy to over analyze just one Spring Training game, I'm just going to point out the good, bad and ugly from the first game.


Chad Billingsley
- His debut was solid, posting two scoreless innings, allowing one hit in the process. He didn't walk anyone, but he also didn't strike out anyone.

Andre Ethier
- He got the Dodgers' first hit of Spring Training -- a double -- and scored the first run for the Dodgers.

Josh Fields
- He went 2-for-2 against his former team.

The sixth inning
- The Dodgers strung together a few extra base hits -- a Justin Sellers RBI double, Ivan De Jesus RBI triple and...

Scott Van Slyke
- He hit a booming home run to left field in the sixth inning. Here's hoping he's just a late-bloomer, but it'd be wise to temper expectations right now.

The bad

The top three
- Dee Gordon, Mark Ellis and Matt Kemp combined to go 0-for-6 in their spring debuts.

Nathan Eovaldi (sort of)
- Eovaldi allowed four baserunners in 1 2/3 innings (two walks, two hits) and a run, but he also struck out three in the process.

The ugly

Ryan Tucker
- Tucker gave up a home run to a guy who hit .119 (not a typo) last season in Dan Johnson. Tucker has a live arm, but there's a reason the Marlins and Rangers gave up on the former top prospect.

Over analyzing complete. We now return you to regular programming.

Photo credit: SD Dirk (Flickr)