Monday, March 29, 2010

Mientkiewicz seeks his release... and is denied

Doug Mientkiewicz has seen the writing on the wall. After being told that Garret Anderson would be the primary left-handed pinch-hitter (pretty much a given when he was signed), Mientkiewicz assumed he had been released and left camp.

The problem is, the Dodgers did not actually release him. They now want him back to camp as insurance for an Anderson injury. As a result, Mientkiewicz is not a happy camper and has asked for his outright release.

It's an understandable request made by Mientkiewicz, who's only looking for a Major League job. But the Dodgers can legally hold onto him until Friday when his opt-out clause kicks in from his Minor League deal he signed in the offseason.

Who knows if there's more to the story than this, but it sure looks like the Dodgers are being pretty petty here. Just let the man go. He was offered a coaching position, but he doesn't want that. And who can blame him. If he thinks he can still play, then let him find his chance.

Hopefully something positive can be worked out here, because he's reportedly still in Arizona.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Padilla to take the hill on Opening Day

Joe Torre has ended the weeks of speculation by naming Vicente Padilla as the Opening Day starter. He'll take the mound on Monday, April 5 in Pittsburgh.

The rotation will be followed by Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda. The fifth starter will then come, but he still hasn't been named yet.

This was a toss-up as far as whom to choose. It seemed like most people believed it was a battle between Padilla, Kershaw, and Kuroda (Billingsley just didn't end the year strong enough to be considered). In the end, Torre went with his hottest hand to close out last season.

If you're looking at spring stats, Padilla is actually the worst of the four. He's given up five runs in 10 innings, good for a 4.50 ERA. Kershaw has also gone 10 innings for a 1.80 ERA, Billingsley 9 2/3 innings for a 1.86 ERA, and Kuroda 14 1/3 innings for a 2.51 ERA. While it's only the spring, those numbers are still pretty encouraging.

Still, I like Padilla getting the ball. He proved last year that he can pitch in big games, as evidenced by two great starts in the playoffs against the Cardinals and Phillies. In the end, it's not really a big deal anyway who gets to pitch first, but it's a nice honor for Padilla, who's very much turned his career around in L.A.

As for the fifth starter, it seems to be a four horse battle: Russ Ortiz, Ramon Ortiz, Charlie Haeger, and Josh Towers. Carlos Monasterios looks like a favorite to stick with the team, but probably in the bullpen. Eric Stults looks like a dead man walking, as he wasn't even mentioned as being in the race.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ask and ye shall receive: Gagne is gone

Eric Gagne's comeback attempt with the Dodgers is over. Gagne asked for and was granted a release of his contract, only a short amount of time after agreeing to go to the minors.

Apparently he had a change of heart.

It's not surprising that any of this happened. He only pitched in 2 2/3 innings this spring, but had a monstrous 20.25 ERA, with six runs allowed on eight hits. And it's also not a surprise that Gagne would rather roll the dice on getting picked up by another big league club.

While reuniting with his old club looked like a good idea on paper, I can't say I'm exactly heartbroken that it didn't work out. All Dodger fans will never forget the incredible run he had in his prime, as he rewrote the record books for closing out games.

Then his arm starting giving him problems, and it was all downhill from there. The biggest blow, in my opinion anyway, was being on the Mitchell Report. Yes, I know he can get in line with the countless other drug addicts that were exposed, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.

Ultimately, Gagne went from being a Dodger hero to just another guy in the long run, much like Paul Lo Duca. And that, my friends, is truly a shame.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

McDonald gets slashed in latest roster cuts

If James McDonald is ever going to figure things out, he'll have to do it in the minors.

McDonald has been cut from the big club after a horrendous spring. Just how bad has he been so far? Try a 20.25 ERA after only 5 1/3 innings pitched. Whoa.

He certainly appeared to be one of the lead dogs in getting that fifth spot in the rotation. For those of you that have forgotten, he was in the same position last year and won it initially. Then the regular season started, and he pitched his way back into the bullpen. An 8.16 ERA in April included 14 walks in 14 1/3 innings.

Once he hit the 'pen, though, he was actually pretty good. Pitching 49 1/3 innings in middle-relief, he put together a 2.72 ERA.

His best bet is that he can find a niche in the bullpen again this season. Although, he most likely be a starter down on the farm, so who knows, maybe he'll get things straightened. But, he sure has a long way to go if this spring is any indication.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wade will miss up to three months

*** UPDATE ***

Wade underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder today
. The original timetable was three months, but with such a complicated procedure, it's looking longer now. So his status for this season is very much in doubt. He'll begin rehab soon.


Cory Wade looked like a breakout star in 2008, putting together an ERA of 2.27 while being a main gun in the bullpen.

Now he's just trying to get his career back on track.

For the second straight year, shoulder problems have hit Wade. Surgery will sideline him for up to three months. The surgery will be exploratory to finally see what the heck is going on.

When he's on, he's pretty darn good. Like I said before, he was looking like a legit setup man in '08. But, he wasn't exactly healthy that year either, sitting out three weeks in August.

Last year was just a disaster all around. He sat out most of spring, landed on the DL twice, and compiled a 5.53 ERA. Thankfully other guys like Ronald Belisario and Ramon Troncoso picked up the slack for him.

He's someone to keep an eye on down the road. If his projected return date is mid-June, he can be a key contributor down the stretch if all is well. We shall see.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Right Field

1. Justin Upton – Diamondbacks
2. Andre Ethier – Dodgers
3. Brad Hawpe – Rockies
4. Will Venable – Padres
5. Nate Schierholtz – Giants

It was a real tough call between Upton and Ethier, but I’ll go with Upton, with the difference being his 20 stolen bases last season. He really had a breakout year, hitting .300 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs. He had 12 errors in the outfield, but has a great arm. He’ll have to prove he’s a superstar now, because he just signed a six-year, $51.25 million deal.

Ethier was Mr. Clutch last year, as time and time again, he bailed the Dodgers out late in games. 31 homers, 108 RBIs, and 42 doubles helped carry the Dodgers while Manny was sidelined. His road stats weren’t nearly as good, so when he gets those up, he’ll be an even bigger threat in the middle of the order.

Hawpe continues to put up big stats for the Rockies, yet rarely seems to get noticed. Last season marked four straight with 20+ homers. Throw in a .285 average, 42 doubles, and 86 RBIs, and it was another huge year.

Venable gets the edge over Schierholtz because Venable seems to have more pop. Actually, neither one of them are any good, but at least Venable hit 12 homers last season. True, he only hit .256, but he has one career error in right field, so that has to count for something.

Schierholtz hit .267, but with a mere five home runs and 29 RBIs in 116 games. He might be a decent player, but can’t hit. And with the Giants’ weak offense, they can’t afford to have too many guys like him dragging their good pitching down.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Center Field

1. Matt Kemp – Dodgers
2. Dexter Fowler – Rockies
3. Aaron Rowand – Giants
4. Chris Young – Diamondbacks
5. Tony Gwynn – Padres

Kemp had a breakout season in ’09, and will look to be one of the leaders for the Dodgers this year. He’s always had a great glove, and was rewarded with his first Gold Glove. At the plate, he hit .297 with 27 homers, 101 RBIs, and 34 stolen bases. He still strikes out too much, but has the look of a star in the making.

Fowler can fly, as he stole 27 bases while anchoring the top of the Rockies’ lineup. He’s not at all a power threat, but uses his speed very well with some mashers behind him. Entering only his second full season, he’s another young player that’s worth getting excited about.

Rowand is the old man in this spot, but still produces well. He’ll forever be known for his defense, as he’s had plenty of big plays in his career. He made the All-Star team with the Phillies in 2007, but his offensive numbers haven’t been the same since. The Giants will need him to pick it up more to get their offense more productive.

Young is a hard guy to figure out. His average has always been pathetic, but he still hit 32 homers three years ago. Then he hit 22 two years ago. Then he his 15 last year. See a trend? In addition, his normally bad average was even worse last year at .212. The Diamondbacks have been successful before, but they’ll really need him to get back on track to get there again.

Gwynn is competing with Scott Hairston to start for the Padres. Does it really matter? I think not. Anyway, Gwynn hit .270 last year and stole 11 bases. And that’s about it. Like I’ve said before, it must be hard to be a Padres fan. Zero light at the end of the tunnel. Ouch.

Giles calls it quits

Brian Giles gave it a go, but his balky right knee was finally too much to overcome. As a result, Giles has ended his comeback try and will instead retire.

It's not like this is huge Dodger news, since he was only on the team for a cup of tea. But it is worth noting because he was one of the more underrated players in recent history.

With Pittsburgh from 1999-2002, he hit 35+ homers each year and made the All-Star team twice. He then had a few more solid season in San Diego before hitting the DL on June 23 of last year and never coming back.

The chances of making the Dodgers were pretty slim anyway, and the signing of Garret Anderson only made it worse. I definitely give him a lot of props for even trying, though. No shame in that.

Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Left Field

1. Manny Ramirez – Dodgers
2. Mark DeRosa – Giants
3. Carlos Gonzalez – Rockies
4. Conor Jackson – Diamondbacks
5. Kyle Blanks – Padres

Even after returning from his 50-game suspension a shell of his former self last year, Manny Ramirez is still the top dog in left field. We all know how great he was to start last year… then how he never got his legs back after. But this year he has something to prove, and for a guy with career totals of a .313 average, 526 home runs, and 1748 RBIs, it’s a safe bet that he can still be a big threat.

DeRosa was a good addition to the Giants for a couple of reasons. One, he’s one of the most versatile defenders in baseball. Two, he has good pop in his bat, something his team desperately needs. His average was only .250 last year, but he still hit 23 homers and 78 RBIs between the Indians and Cardinals.

Gonzalez is a young gun that should become more knows as the season wears on. He came over to the Rockies as part of the Matt Holliday – Huston Street deal. In 89 games, he hit .313 with 13 homers and 16 stolen bases. A full year with plenty of more at-bats will showcase his speed even more.

Jackson had a real down season last year. He played in only 30 games, then was gone the remainder of the season with an odd ailment of valley fever. Before that happened, he hit a lousy .182 with one homer. Hey, if you’re hurt, you’re hurt (or, if you’re sick, you’re sick in this case), so maybe you can just forget about that season and move on. What I do know is that he can get you about 15 home runs and hit around .300 in a good year.

Blanks is like many of his Padre teammates – young and unknown. He was a rookie last season and appeared in 54 games, hitting .250 with 10 homers. He also struck out 55 times. I guess anything’s possible, but it’s hard to imagine getting excited over a guy like this… who starts, no less.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Russ sidelined 4-6 weeks

A.J. Ellis just wanted a chance.

Now he's got it.

Russell Martin will be gone for four to six weeks with a pulled groin muscle. As a result, he'll definitely miss the rest of Spring Training and Opening Day. For a guy that plays in what seems like every game, this is surprising news.

The backup is Brad Ausmus, but he's 40-years-old and not up to the challenges of catching everyday. So, Joe Torre will keep him in the same role while handing over the reigns to Ellis. After playing in only 12 big league games, Ellis is finally given the chance to show what he has.

In looking at last year's stats, he certainly looks like he has something. At Triple-A Albuquerque, he hit .314 with a .438 OBP in 90 games. He has more career walks than strikeouts, so he can be a solid hitter at the bottom of the order to keep innings going.

My guess is once the regular season starts, Ausmus will see more time than usual. After all, he's a former All-Star, and somehow hit .295 in limited action last year. Plus, he's a great defensive catcher.

As for Martin, he worked hard this offseason to try and shake off a pretty bad 2009 by adding 25 pounds of muscle. Now, he'll have to wait a little while longer to show if that helped or not. It's not a good start, but could be much worse. Better to get your injury out of the way now than during the regular season.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Padilla smooth in spring opener

Vicente Padilla got his spring off to a great start by going six up, six down against the White Sox today. New Dodger Reed Johnson drove in a pair, and the Dodgers took the first exhibition game of 2010, 8-3.

Even though the game was at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers were the away team, as the teams will flip-flop those roles tomorrow. Must be nice to not have to travel anywhere the first couple of games.

Padilla didn't exactly face many juggernauts, but he did retire Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko. Most importantly, he said his right leg was just fine. You know, the leg that was shot by his shooting instructor. Let's hope that guy didn't make the trip.

This is spring training, so it's not like it's worth going into great detail about the game. But I will say who did well. Johnson was 1-for-2 with two runs driven in, Manny Ramirez had two hits, and Ramon Ortiz struck out three in two scoreless innings.

Garrett Anderson did not make an appearance, and ditto for old friend Juan Pierre. Perhaps they both will on Saturday.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Shortstop

1. Troy Tulowitzki – Rockies
2. Rafael Furcal – Dodgers
3. Stephen Drew – Diamondbacks
4. Everth Cabrera – Padres
5. Edgar Renteria – Giants

Tulowitzki battled back from an injury-riddled 2008 campaign to put up big numbers in 2009: .297 average, 101 runs, 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, and 20 steals. It took him a year, but he justified the six-year deal he signed after the 2007 season. He was right in the thick of the Rockies’ run to the postseason last year, thanks in large part to red-hot months of August and September. He’ll be even better when he gets his road numbers up.

Furcal also came back from a season full of injuries in ’08 to play in 150 games. His numbers weren’t big for him, hitting only .269 with 12 stolen bases, but a .324 September helped the Dodgers barely hold off the surging Rockies. He’ll be 33 and in his 11th year this season, so he’s not getting any younger. But, he’s still a sparkplug when he’s feeling right.

Drew is entering his third season, and still has the label of someone that can break out at any moment. His power numbers last year were down from ’08 (44-29 doubles, 21-12 homers), but still managed to have 65 RBIs (67 the previous year). Now in his fourth year, the DBacks would like to see him pick it up at the plate and help them be a contender again.

Cabrera is entering his second year, but has already shown flashes of being a good leadoff hitter. In 103 games, he stole 25 bases last year. He had a great August, hitting .290 with a .384 OBP, but seemed to wear down after that. He needs to work on his glove, as he had 23 errors. Still, the Padres don’t have much, so it’s easy to get excited about him.

Renteria is on his last legs, and will have some pressure on him this season to produce. With Juan Uribe waiting in the wings, he’ll need to show that even at 35, he can get it done. The Giants have the pitching, so they need their offense to step up. If he puts up another season of hitting only .250 with five homers, he’ll get yanked.

Dodgers sign Anderson for a bench role

The Dodgers looked to bolster their bench today by signing Garret Anderson to a minor league contract. If he makes the team, his one-year deal will be worth $550,000. If he doesn't, like many others, he can be granted his release at a certain date.

People forget just how good of a hitter Anderson has been. He's had 12 straight years of double-digit home runs, has a lifetime .295 average, and has 2501 career hits. Quietly, he's put together a really good career.

While time has taken its toll, he certainly has something left in the tank. Last year with the Braves, he posted his lowest average at .268, but still had 13 homers and 61 RBIs. Plus he started 123 games in left field, and committed only four errors for a .980 fielding %.

I like this signing because the Dodgers got him for virtually nothing, and they needed a threat off the bench. Even in his 17th year, he still can be a tough out. Plus, I'm sure he'll get some starts in the outfield, as Manny Ramirez will need more time off, and Reed Johnson is the only other outfielder in his way.

This signing is good news for the team, but it's not for Doug Mientkiewicz or Brian Giles. Both are banged up veterans trying to get that left-handed pinch-hitting role. While Anderson isn't a slam dunk to make the team, it sure looks like he has the best chance. And I can't imagine they'd keep even two of those guys.

The bottom line is, the roster spot is Anderson's to lose.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 NL West Preview: Third Base

1. Pablo Sandoval – Giants
2. Mark Reynolds – Diamondbacks
3. Casey Blake – Dodgers
4. Ian Stewart – Rockies
5. Chase Headley – Padres

Sandoval looked like a superstar last year, turning in monster numbers. He hit .330 with 44 doubles, 25 homers, and 90 RBIs. He remained steady all year long, highlighted by June in which he hit .394 with eight homers and 20 RBIs. With a little more help this year, he can help lead the Giants to a possible playoff spot.

Reynolds is feast-or-famine, and he could care less about it. 44 homers, 102 RBIs… and 223 strikeouts! But, throw in 24 stolen bases, and he had a fantastic year. It doesn’t look like the K’s will go away, but when he makes contact, you can rest assured that it will be something big.

Blake is one of the more underrated players in the league, yet remains important to the Dodgers. He hit .280, but takes plenty of walks, which resulted in a .363 OBP. He’ll stroke around 20 homers a year, so he still knows how to make an impact.

Stewart is very similar to teammate Clint Barmes – low average, good power. 25 homers and 70 RBIs made up for a .228 average. A former first round pick in 2003, he is still young enough to get that average up.

Headley is another young player, and had a pretty decent season last year. He appeared in nearly every game and hit .262 with 12 homers and 64 RBIs. It’s too bad he plays in such a difficult park to put up big numbers, but like Stewart, has plenty of time to improve.