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Tag:Los Angeles Dodgers
Posted on: June 27, 2010 7:20 pm
 

Torre, Rodriguez meet, chill evaporates

LOS ANGELES -- For those who can't get enough of the Joe Torre-Alex Rodriguez Cold War, we have news of a thaw.

As the Yankees were preparing to take the field here before Sunday night's game, Rodriguez approached Torre by the batting cage and the two of them chatted for about 45 seconds. As they did, Torre held onto the handshake until the end, looked him in the eye and appeared to deliver a message that Rodriguez seemed eager to digest.

"It was just a convenience thing before that," Torre said a few minutes later as to why he and Rodriguez hadn't spoken this weekend when several other Yankees -- Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and others -- had made it a point to come over and visit during batting practice on Friday.

"He came over and he was who he always is," Torre continued. "I was never uncomfortable with Alex. I just told him again, I said, 'I hope you got my message about sort of getting that monkey off of your back.'

"He's a good kid. He's a good kid and, to me, I think too much is always made of this stuff. I think we know in our hearts what goes on."

Torre said nothing came up about the book he co-authored with Tom Verducci in 2009, The Yankee Years, that portrayed Rodriguez in an unflattering light.

"First of all, anything that was concerning him and me in the book had already been in the public," Torre said. "There was never anything Alex could have read in that book that he hadn't talked to me about. And even the stuff that Tom Verducci found out about the A-Fraud thing, players were doing that in front of him. They were kidding with him. That was just a jab. They always jab in the clubhouse all the time.

"So it was never anything that was a behind-anybody's-back thing. We never did anything behind anybody's backs in that clubhouse. That's why I never really had any concern that he wasn't talking to me because I knew that wasn't the case."

No word yet from A-Rod, by the way -- he went onto the field for batting practice right after meeting with Torre.

Posted on: June 17, 2010 12:40 pm
 

Dodgers' Furcal to bereavement list

CINCINNATI -- The Dodgers won the first two games of their series here and moved into first place in the NL West, but they lost their leadoff man overnight Wednesday. They've placed shortstop Rafael Furcal on the bereavement list and are not sure when he'll return.

Furcal notified manager Joe Torre around 1 a.m. Thursday that he has an ailing family member and needed to return to the Dominican Republic. By 8 a.m. Thursday, Furcal was on a plane home.

"One of those things that came up in the middle of the night," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "That's pretty much life."

Furcal, hitting .305 in 40 games this season, had gotten hot recently. He punched out five hits in the series opener here Tuesday night and, since returning from the disabled list on May 25, has batted .302 with two homers and 12 RBI in 21 games.

The Dodgers are unsure of when he'll return -- bereavement list rules state that a player must miss a minimum of three games -- and Torre said he'll mix and match leadoff men in Furcal's absence. Blake DeWitt was batting first in Thursday afternoon's series finale here.

Posted on: June 15, 2010 7:22 pm
 

Dodgers place Billingsley on DL

CINCINNATI -- An already thin rotation became even more threadbare for the Dodgers on Tuesday when they placed right-hander Chad Billingsley on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin.

Billingsley was scheduled to start Thursday's series finale here against the Reds. Instead, rookie John Ely will do that, and another rookie Carlos Monasterios will start Friday's series opener in Boston.

Posted on: May 16, 2010 8:29 pm
 

Dodgers keep winning, hold breath for Ethier

The most significant thing about the Dodgers' seven-game winning streak is found behind the numbers:

They've put all of that together without shortstop Rafael Furcal (strained hamstring) and opening day starter Vicente Padilla (right elbow soreness), who are on the disabled list, and they've won the last two games without Andre Ethier (fractured right pinky).

The Ethier loss is still fluid, and the Dodgers will not know until later this week whether they'll have to place him on the disabled list.

If he misses significant time, it will make life tough on the Dodgers because, as Sunday's games started, Ethier led the NL in all three Triple Crown categories: Batting average (.392), home runs (11) and RBI (38). In fact, he leads the majors in two of those categories -- average and RBI.

Manager Joe Torre said following Sunday's 1-0 win in San Diego that the plan is to "wait a couple of days" and "let some of the soreness come out. Then we'll see what he can do with it and decide if that's enough.

"The last thing I want is for him to go out and do something and get into bad habits."

Ethier injured himself in the batting cage before Saturday night's game while in the midst of his regular pre-game routine. Torre said Ethier's right pinky finger -- on his bottom hand as the lefty swings the bat -- always has had a tendency to slip off the knob and sort of fall behind the bat handle. That leaves the bat handle threading through Ethier's right ring and pinky fingers.

The fracture is in the area of the first knuckle of Ethier's right pinky -- the one closest to the fingernail.

Torre said the trainers will place the finger in "some kind of splint" to immobilize it and hope it calms down in a day or two.

"A lot depends on what we find out over the next couple of days," Torre said. "As far as his comfort level."

In the midst of this, the Dodgers received excellent starts this weekend from Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley and are 12-3 since April 30 -- the best record in baseball since that date.

"It's big because we've put a streak together for ourselves where we've played good baseball and gotten good pitching," Torre said. "We were fumbling around early trying to get a good feel."

"It's been good," said first baseman James Loney, whose clutch home run helped win Saturday's game.

The Dodgers now are 17-7 in games when they hit at least one homer, and 3-10 when they don't homer.

One other significant stat: They're now 12-3 in games against NL West opponents. Cleaning up within the division is exactly how they won the NL West in 2009: They went 46-26 against the Padres, Giants, Rockies and Diamondbacks.

Posted on: April 29, 2010 5:56 pm
Edited on: April 30, 2010 12:10 pm
 

Angels' Hunter advises Kemp on Dodgers' flap

Veteran Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, dismayed over his friend Matt Kemp being called out by Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti this week for poor defense and regressing since signing a two-year, $10.95 million contract, says he intends to call Kemp and offer some quick advice.

"I'm going to make a phone call and tell him to keep his cool," Hunter, 34, told CBSSports.com Wednesday night before flying home to Texas to spend Thursday's off-day with his family. "I don't know what was said or why it was said, but it's something you keep in-house.

"That's one of my buddies right there. I know he plays the game hard. I thought he was a pretty good outfielder."

The outgoing Hunter over the years has become a mentor to several young players around the game, and he and Kemp have become especially tight over the past year.

They spent some time together this winter, with Kemp staying at Hunter's house in Dallas for two weeks while the two worked out at the Athlete's Performance Institute.

Kemp, 25, got to know Hunter's family then, and the two Los Angeles center fielders continue to talk "once or twice a week", according to Hunter.

Colletti's comments to KABC radio in Los Angeles this week started a firestorm of emotion around the Dodgers, and Colletti did not back down a day later when, among other things, he told reporters in New York, "If this is the last day of the season and people are voting for the Gold Glove, his name is not even on the ballot. It's a shame that he would go from where he was a year ago to revert back to when the ball goes up in the air and you're not sure where it's going, or if it's going to get caught."

Though Kemp, Colletti and Dodgers manager Joe Torre talked following the team's series-ending loss to the Mets in New York on Wednesday, Kemp's agent, the former big league pitcher Dave Stewart, fueled the controversy by ripping Colletti in Thursday's Los Angeles Times.

Hunter, an 11-year veteran, just shook his head Wednesday night.

"Hopefully, this will make him a better man and he'll come back stronger," Hunter said of Kemp. "Ned Colletti is his boss. I've never heard of a GM calling a player out like that. I'm just in awe right now. Matt needs to be the bigger man and not come out and say anything.

"All Matt Kemp can do is go out and play ball, and play hard. I know from talking to him all the time, he plays hard. He wants to win."

Hunter said he checks in with Kemp by phone regularly "just to see how he's feeling, where his head is at."

Right now, it may take a few extra conversations to gauge that.

Posted on: April 27, 2010 8:24 pm
 

Willis and Pierre: The path of friendship

Juan Pierre is godfather to both of Dontrelle Willis' daughters, little Adrianna Rose (3) and Bianca (1), giving the White Sox outfielder and the Detroit pitcher one more common bond in a couple of careers that have followed strangely (and intriguingly) similar arcs.

Best buddies from their early days in the Florida organization, both Pierre and Willis emerged as key figures in the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship run, had varying degrees of success afterward ... and then each man, for different reasons, hit the skids over the past two seasons before getting a renewed chance this year.

Like many of us at various times in our careers, their jobs turned sour and their strength of character was severely tested.

Except, well ... with Willis now in the final season of a three-year, $29 million deal and Pierre in the fourth season of a five-year, $44 million contract, maybe their challenges are a little different than those of most working stiffs.

"Come on, is it really that tough?" Willis asks of the challenges he and his buddy have faced over the past couple of years. "Really, in the grand scheme of things?"

Unlike a lot of guys, the affable Willis gets an 'A' for his perspective.

Yet, even that doesn't fully take away the sting when a guy can't -- or isn't -- performing.

Pierre, who had played in all 162 games over five consecutive seasons, became the odd-man out of the Dodgers' outfield in 2008 when they acquired Manny Ramirez.

Willis, who had been traded to Detroit, suddenly couldn't throw strikes for the Tigers in 2008.

Pierre could have sulked and demanded a trade when Manny took his playing time. And while he did have his moments of moodiness as a fourth outfielder in '08, he came to camp in '09 determined to make the best of the situation -- and this positive attitude aided in making Pierre hugely instrumental in sparking the Dodgers to first place in the NL West when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for a dirty performance-enhancing drug test.

Willis was so bad for Detroit over the past couple of seasons that he landed on the disabled list twice in 2009 -- for something called "anxiety disorder."

Yet each man persevered and is hoping in 2010 to come out the other side. Willis opened the season in the Tigers' rotation. Pierre is in the White Sox outfield after Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti, in a class move, kept his promise to try and find a spot for Pierre where his playing time would increase.

"We hit it off because we have the same personality," Willis says. "We get to the field early, we work, we expect a lot of ourselves.

"Sometimes things are a blessing in disguise. We handled [the tough times over the past two years] with class. And now there is a situation for both of us where we're both turning it around.

"I don't think Juan would be in that situation if he didn't stay focused. It's made me proud. It's a testament to what kind of man he is and what kind of teammate he was."

Pierre, playing left field, is off to a slow start in Chicago, hitting .222 with a .282 on-base percentage. He does have nine steals in 18 games.

Willis, 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in four appearances (three starts), like Pierre, impressed teammates last year with his upbeat attitude despite tough personal times.

"We're not here to rock the boat," Willis says of he and his buddy Pierre. "We want to get along. Our work ethic speaks for itself. To give your best effort, that's all you can ask for whether you're a player, a writer, whatever."

Both within and outside of their own clubhouses, it's not difficult to find people rooting for both Willis and Pierre, so much so that yes, Willis says, he often feels the love.

"I appreciate it," Willis says. "I wasn't down when I was struggling. Everything was fine at home. Just because I was struggling doesn't mean everything was going bad. My family is good.

"It's one of those things where when you struggle, people think everything is wrong in your life. And it's not. I told Skip [manager Jim Leyland], 'Thanks for the opportunity.'

"I really like my teammates, this coaching staff, and the city of Detroit. I'm from Oakland, and Detroit is similar. I do feel a lot of people pulling for me, and I really appreciate it. And I think Juan is the same.

"We're really thankful."

Likes:  Sure is going to be entertaining watching the near-future gyrations of the agents for Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez after Ryan Howard signed his five-year, $125 million extension. ... This hilarious item in The Onion the other day: True Yankees, Regular Yankees to Now Wear Different Uniforms. Among the beauties in the story: "To have Javier Vazquez don the same pinstripes as Mariano Rivera or Jorge Posada is…well, it's unthinkable," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said as Curtis Granderson modeled the sterile, black-and-white uniform with a large, boxy, non-interlocking "NY" stitched across the front of the chest. ... Really enjoyed Adventureland, a film about a high school graduate having to forego dreams of a European trip before starting at an Ivy League school when his parents have a financial setback, leaving him to a summer job at a Pittsburgh-area amusement park in 1987. Lots of funny (and painful) stuff. James Brennan and Kristen Stewart are terrific. It's out on DVD now and definitely worth catching.

Dislikes: The one television show my wife loves that will drive me out of the room every time: Glee.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Me and some guys from school
"Had a band and we tried real hard
"Jimmy quit and Jody got married
"I shoulda known we'd never get far
"Oh when I look back now
"That summer seemed to last forever
"And if I had the choice
"Yeah, I'd always wanna be there
"Those were the best days of my life"

-- Bryan Adams, Summer of '69

 

Posted on: April 22, 2010 11:59 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2010 6:06 pm
 

Short Hops: Bullpens reaching critical mass

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

 Where legendary manager/raconteur Casey Stengel once groused, "Can't anybody here play this game?", Dave Trembley (Baltimore), A.J. Hinch (Arizona), Trey Hillman (Kansas City), Ron Washington (Texas), Lou Piniella (Cubs) and Fredi Gonzalez (Florida) are among the skippers anguishing through today's modern translation: "Can't anybody here pitch in the late innings?"

Nearly three weeks in, and bullpens in each of those places range from blown up to still-smoldering. While the issues and problems are disparate, there are a couple of things in play here.

One, as Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher suggests, some relievers are still attempting to settle into the regular season's erratic workload after pitching regularly scheduled stints throughout spring training.

Two, the spectacular number of blown saves in Baltimore (two conversions in six opportunities), Texas (two in five) and Kansas City (four in nine) add grist to the argument against rigidly locking your closer into the ninth innings. Sometimes, the eighth inning is the game-changer. Sometimes it's the seventh.

"The way the bullpen sets up today, you've got a closer for the seventh inning, a closer for the eighth inning and a closer for the ninth inning," Butcher says.

So, given the nature of specialty bullpens, in an era when there are no Goose Gossage-style closers who can get seven or eight outs, maybe what's needed is less managing-by-the-book and more imagination. Maybe if the Royals, for example, summoned Joakim Soria sooner rather than later, they wouldn't have suffered four of their first five losses in games in which they led in the seventh inning.

In Texas, Frank Francisco has been removed as closer in favor of Neftali Feliz. In Baltimore, Mike Gonzalez, who blew save opportunities on both opening day and in the Orioles' home opener, went to the disabled list with a shoulder strain (and in his place, Jim Johnson has blown two of three save opportunities).

The 2-14 Orioles have lost five games in which they've led in the eighth inning or later. Texas has lost four such games. Kansas City starters already have been cost five wins because of blown saves (including two each for Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister), while Arizona, Milwaukee, Florida and Cubs' starters have lost four victories to blown saves.

The Diamondbacks suffered back-to-back walk-off losses on April 15 (Blaine Boyer, at Los Angeles) and April 16 (Juan Rodriguez, at San Diego). Then, Arizona's pen was hammered for five ninth-inning St. Louis runs Wednesday in what at the time was a tied game.

The Cubs' plight caused Lou Piniella to move erstwhile ace Carlos Zambrano from the rotation to eighth-inning set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol in an absolutely stunning move of desperation. Through Tuesday, the Cubs had surrendered 16 eighth-inning runs, a major-league high. They also had allowed 32 runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined, also the most in the majors.

"A vast majority of these games are decided in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings," Piniella explained -- as opposed to, say, the first-through-sixth innings, when Zambrano (and Greinke and Dan Haren and Kevin Millwood) usually is on the mound.

This continues, some brave manager -- Washington with Feliz? Gonzalez with Leo Nunez? -- is going to call on his closer to protect a one-run lead in the eighth instead of the ninth, out of self-defense if nothing else. And maybe that will be the start of a new -- and welcome -- trend.
 Biggest culprits in blowing up opposing bullpens? Detroit this season has caused a whopping seven blown saves, while the Dodgers have caused six. Though, as manager Jim Leyland noted Thursday in Anaheim, it would make life far easier for the Tigers if they'd start scoring on starting pitchers.

 Regarding the scorched-earth pen in Texas, the Rangers already have lost five games they've led in the seventh inning or later this year. Last year, they lost only six of those games over their 162-game schedule.

 Baltimore hitters with runners in scoring position: A big-league worst .155 (17-for-110). And .103 (6-for-58) with RISP and two out.

 Chad Billingsley has a 7.07 ERA lodged in his throat after surrendering seven runs and seven hits to Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Joe Torre says it looks like the pitcher has confidence issues and Billingsley says his confidence is fine. Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Billingsley had command issues, Billingsley said he didn't. And in other news, the Dodgers say the earth is round and Billingsley says it's flat. This all had better get worked out, pronto.

 The suddenly reeling Giants, who went from 7-2 to getting swept by the Padres, face contenders St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado in a homestand beginning Friday and are perfectly set up for the Cards: Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain are lined up to start.

 The Twins, according to sources, had what they viewed as a workable deal to acquire Padres closer Heath Bell after Joe Nathan was hurt this spring but veered away because they were nervous over character issues. Bell's outspoken manner at times can grate on teammates.

 When is this guy going to get some work? Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton has converted his only save opportunity this season, and though he's only appeared in six of 15 games, one scout who has watched him this year and in spring training raves about him. "Mariano Rivera still sets the bar, but Jonathan Broxton right now is every bit as good," the scout says. "I saw him this spring and I've seen him this year, and je just comes in pumping strikes at 96 miles an hour."

 Glad to see baseball came to grips with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's hoodie. Now let's move on to the maple bat issue before somebody gets decapitated.

 Sure wish Milton Bradley would quit giving everybody so much material. Now the Chicago landlord who sued Bradley for $44,000 in unpaid rent over the winter alleges that Bradley also caused $13,900 in damage to the condo with wine, food, juice and coffee stains as well as paint stains.

 One thing I neglected to mention last week while reviewing the Twins' superb new Target Field: The excellent touches extend all the way to the crew responsible for the in-game music, especially the inspired choices of playing clips of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive during key moments for the Twins in the late innings and Bruce Springsteen's Long Walk Home after losses.

 Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker may have a crack pinch-running candidate in-house and not even know it: Congratulations to Reds media relations guru Rob Butcher, who sets the bar in his day job, for not only completing the Boston Marathon on Monday but for doing so in 3:24:59. That's 7:49 per mile!


Posted on: April 5, 2010 2:31 pm
 

Look for this on the highlights tonight

Unless you were watching it already: Fabulous running catch by Pittsburgh left-fielder Lastings Milledge to rob Andre Ethier of extra bases with one out in the third inning Monday. Milledge had a long run before making the grab practically over his shoulder on the left-center warning track.

Pretty cool way to spend his 25th birthday, by the way. Milledge, not Ethier.
 
 
 
 
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