Monday, March 31, 2014

The Beard WAS weird on Opening Night

Anytime the Dodgers get a lead after seven innings, you have to think the game is over.

Well, the game was over... because Brian Wilson was burned for three runs, and the Padres won 3-1.

I know it was only the third game of the season (so don't confuse the Opening Series with Opening Night or with Opening Day.  This was Opening Night.  Got it?) but it was still pretty shocking to see Wilson give up a towering pinch-hit home run to Seth Smith to tie the game at one.

Unfortunately, the Padres weren't done from there, as Wilson walked Yasmani Grendal, committed an error on Everth Cabrera's bunt, watched both men advance a base on a steal and defensive indifference, and gave up the game-winning two-run single to Chris Denorfia.

For good measure, even the sure handed Adrian Gonzalez botched a grounder from Chase Headley, and Wilson's night was over.  Not even three straight strikeouts from Chris Perez and Paco Rodriguez could make up for this inning from hell: two hits, two errors, and three runs.

And the Dodgers' first loss of the season.

The blown save, or more specifically a blown hold, by Wilson spoiled the great start from Hyun-Jin Ryu.  The Padres made him work the first couple of innings with three hits and two walks, but a bases loaded double play by Yonder Alonso ended the first, and Cabrera struck out with two runners in scoring position to end the second.

From there it was 16 straight set down by Ryu, who was completely locked in.  The last batter he allowed to reach was Tommy Medica on a walk in the seventh, but another DP erased him.  The final tally was seven innings, three hits, no runs, three walks, and seven strikeouts.  He's scoreless through 13 innings this season.

While the focus will be on Wilson, let's not forget that the Dodgers' offense was pretty bad.  The only big hit they got all night was Carl Crawford's two-out single to score Dee Gordon for the 1-0 lead.  Hanely Ramirez grounded out with the bases loaded, and the Dodgers really blew a chance to take control.

Sure enough, four hits and three walks total came back to haunt them at the end.

I'm not concerned about Wilson, because he's just too talented to let one bad appearance derail him.  He simply could not locate a thing, as he was missing way off of both corners.  He spun a fat curveball right down the zone, and to Smith's credit, he lived up to his reputation as a great pinch-hitter with a crushing blow.  That's the way it goes in a close game like this.

In addition to Ryu, I'll take another positive out of this in Perez and Rodriguez, who struck out the side to end the eighth, stranding a couple.  It at least gave the offense a chance in the ninth, though they went down in order.  It does show the depth of the bullpen, as suppose Wilson does go through a rough patch, there are other options for the eighth at least.

Monday is an off day, as this might be the weirdest opening to a season the Dodgers have ever had.  They sit at 2-1 before nearly every other team has played a game yet.  Tuesday they're back in action with Zack Greinke on the mound.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kershaw DL'd, maybe because of Kemp

You read that right.  I think the Dodgers' decision to put Clayton Kershaw on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 23, is in direct relation to Matt Kemp.

Stay with me on this.

You see, a few years before Kershaw inked his massive seven-year, $215 million deal this offseason, it was Kemp who signed for eight years and $180 million after his near MVP season of 2011.  How has that gone since?  Two frustrating years of injuries and ineffectiveness, appearing in 179 between both of those seasons, and not appearing at all in last year's playoffs.

It hasn't been for a lack of effort, as Kemp tried to push himself harder and harder to get back quickly, trying to contribute to the team.  And it hasn't worked, as he only got hurt again, and it was straight back to the DL.

And that's where the problem is.  The Dodgers will simply not allow the same thing to happen to Kershaw. 

No matter how you feel about it, the Dodgers have every right to protect their star and humongous investment.  I don't care how rich they are, $215 million is $215 million.  Kemp has collected on a little over $30 million of his deal the last two seasons, and hardly has anything to show for it, save for a glimpse or two here or there.

The first glimpse of Kershaw this year was his Opening Day (the first one, not the current one) performance against the Diamondbacks in Australia, tossing 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball.  He was all set to go against the Padres on Opening Day (not for the first, but the current one), but then his back started acting up.  To his credit he reported the issue, and to Mattingly's credit, he won't let Kershaw dictate when he's "healthy."  Anyone who has followed Kershaw during his career knows how much of a competitor he is.  And, quite frankly, how stubborn he is as well.

Who else was competitive and stubborn?  That's right - Kemp.

The decision to sit Kershaw for at least a couple of starts was made easier with Josh Beckett able to come off the DL, and the offseason signing of Paul Maholm.  Granted, both of them combined do not equal one Kershaw, but who the heck can equal him?  That's just not realistic.

As the Dodgers play the next few days in San Diego, you'll see the two franchise stars watching in the dugout in Kershaw and Kemp.  And you know what?  That's not a bad thing.  That's a patient thing and a smart thing.  If all goes well, they'll be back sometime in April (Kemp is rumored for the home opener on Friday).

Most importantly, they'll be rested and ready to roll, and the Dodgers will be better off for it.  That's a good thing.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My ultimate Dodgers' lineup for 2014

With news that Matt Kemp is hoping to be back on the field for the home opener April 4, it got me thinking of what the best lineup would be with all the big dogs healthy.  I'm not sure this team will ever be totally healthy, but let's pretend anyway.

I give to you my ultimate lineup, with a rationalization as to why I'm having which player hitting where.

1. Yasiel Puig, RF
Obviously not your prototypical leadoff hitter who will scrap his way on base.  No, he's going to swing away full bore.  But I think having him at leadoff simplifies things for him: see the ball, hit the ball.  Plus, if the guys at the bottom of the order get on and there's two outs, Puig can drive them in with a big blast rather than relying on someone without the power.

2. Carl Crawford, LF
With the speed and fearlessness of Puig on base, Crawford can bunt him over a base, execute a hit-and-run, or swing away and line one into gap then use his own speed.  I think he can handle any one of those roles better than Puig could, as they all call for adjusting to the situation.

3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
He's their best hitter, so it's pretty simple to put him here.  That's a no-brainer.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Last year marked the fourth straight season of at least 100 RBIs, and it would've been seven if he got one more to add to his 99 in 2009.  Even without the power of old, he still gets the big hits, and gives a little more balance to the lineup with right-handed and left-handed hitters.

5. Matt Kemp, CF
Who knows if he'll ever be the same hitter as a few years back, but when he is back, I'm in favor of not placing too much on him at first.  Let him hit #5 to start, as it lessens the pressure on him to deliver right away.  If he does show the ability to stay on the field and play well, then he can start creeping up to the cleanup stop against left-handed pitchers.

6. Juan Uribe, 3B
Let's just hope he can repeat his 2013 performance, and not the previous two years before that.  If he can, then he can provide a decent amount of pop down the order, as he's an all-or-nothing hacker.

7. A.J. Ellis, C
He'll never hit for a high average, but what he can do is make the pitcher work, draw walks, and get on base.  Plus, he has hit double digits in homers the last two years (13 and 10), so he'll deliver the big blow every now and then, like he did in the division clincher in Arizona.

8. Dee Gordon, 2B
I'm actually pretty excited to see if this will happen, as I think Gordon can be very productive in this spot.  If he can get on base more consistently, then he can distract the opposing pitcher with his stolen base ability, and hopefully turn the lineup back over to the top.

9. Pitcher's spot (obviously)
Don't forget, Zack Greinke won a Silver Slugger last year by hitting .328 with three doubles and four RBIs; and Clayton Kershaw had 10 RBIs, including his Opening Day home run to beat the Giants.  So, don't you dare fall asleep on those Dodgers' pitchers!

Ryu gets the nod in San Diego

Here's something you don't see often: a pitcher making back-to-back starts.  That's exactly what Hyun-Jin Ryu will be doing when he gets the ball against the Padres on Sunday night.

OK, so technically he'll be rested about a week after pitching the second game against the Diamondbacks in Australia, but still...

With Clayton Kershaw taking some time off to heal an achy back, Ryu himself was in danger of not being able to go as well.  He cracked the nail on his right big toe running the bases in his first start, which just sounds uncomfortable.  After throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session, mixing in all of his stuff, he declared himself good to go.

It's a cool honor for Ryu, too, becuase I really think he's going to put together an even better season than last year (14-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP).  He already has one win after going five scoreless Down Under, and he might be the best #3 starter in all of baseball.  Since Zack Greinke pitched in the Freeway Series opener on Thursday, Ryu is the natural guy to pitch the second Opening Day.

Speaking of quietly effective, the Padres' Andrew Cashner will toe the rubber in his home park, and unless you're a fan of the NL West or a big fantasy player, you probably don't know him.  But I do, and I know how good he is with a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts last year.  This will be a fun game to watch.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kershaw to sit out the second Opening Day

The Dodgers have just announced that Clayton Kershaw will not make another Opening Day start this Sunday in San Diego, as he will be sitting out with back inflammation.

Mr. Greinke, time to step up.

Anytime you see "Kershaw" and "injury" next to each other, it's immediate cause for concern.  But, I'm not freaking out over this at all.  He said he felt tightness after a workout on Tuesday, and an MRI revealed an inflamed muscle in his upper back.

Not a sore elbow or shoulder.  THAT would be cause for concern.

I would hope this means Zack Greinke will get the call instead, as he would be a clear #1 starter on just about every other team in baseball.  He skipped the trip to Australia with a sore calf, but that was certainly nothing serious either, so I'd expect to see him go.

But then again, if not, Hyun-Jin Ryu is the next logical option, as he'll be on plenty of rest from pitching the second game against the Diamondbacks.  We'll all have to stay tuned to see.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

If the season started today (Part II)...

Back on February 16, I took a look at what I believed the 25-man roster would be come Opening Day.  Here we are over a month later, and while the Dodgers are 2-0 after winning in Australia, they can still tweak their official roster before next Sunday in San Diego.

Once again, here's my look at my best guess who those 25 men will be.

Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Dan Haren
Paul Maholm

Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
Jamey Wright
J.P. Howell
Paco Rodriguez
Chris Perez
Chris Withrow
Brandon League

A.J. Ellis
Adrian Gonzalez
Dee Gordon
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Carl Crawford
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig

Tim Federowicz
Scott Van Slyke
Justin Turner
Chone Figgins

15-day DL:
Matt Kemp
Josh Beckett
Chad Billingsley

Who's In: Chris Withrow, Chone Figgins
Who's Out: Alex Guerrero, Josh Beckett

Not a whole lot has changed since my first look.  One change had to be Beckett getting placed on the DL, as I had him in the rotation originally.  That bumps Maholm up to the rotation, though with the way off days go in early April, who knows if he'll even need to make a start.

Rather than Guerrero starting at second, I really do think he'll end up at Triple-A Albuquerque, while Gordon starts against right-handed pitchers, and Turner against left-handers.  Gordon certainly earned more starts with his electric second game, gathering three hits and scoring twice.

Another reason I believe Guerrero will get some seasoning in the minors is because of the continuing transition to second base.  As Gordon showed in his start, while he was very good at the plate, he also had an error and failed to cover second on an easy double play ball, which are exactly the types of problems Guerrero has experienced this spring.  Let him start everyday at the highest level of the minors, get repetition in the field and at the plate, and look back in about a month and see where he's at.  It's a win-win for everyone.

Of the relievers missing out, I don't see Jose Dominguez or Seth Rosin being in LA.  Dominguez did himself absolutely no favors with his horrendous outing in the second game.  Rosin loses out to the numbers game.  So yes, I see League still getting his shot because of his bloated contract, albeit at the very end of the 'pen, at least we can hope.

Figgins has earned his way due to his versatility and veteran presence.  I'm not totally sure how the backup catcher role will go, but it's not too big of a deal because Ellis starts practically every game anyway.

Dodgers get the sweep, so what did we learn from Australia?

The Dodgers got the results they wanted in beating the Diamondbacks on Sunday (or Saturday our time), holding on for a 7-5 win despite nearly giving it all away at the end.  The bottom line is they're 2-0, and have a chance to get three straight before nearly every other team even plays yet next Sunday in San Diego.

Let's take a look at things we learned from these past couple of games:

* Obviously, the top of the rotation is really, really good.  Clayton Kershaw gave up one run in 6 2/3 innings, and Hyun-Jin Ryu was scoreless through five.  Zack Greinke didn't even make the trip, so when you throw his name into the mix, that's an awesome top three for any playoff series.

* While I still think the bullpen is a huge strength, the middle relief looks like the weak link.  Chris Perez and Brian Wilson were great in the first game, but the parade of relievers on Sunday were not.  Chris Withrow (1 walk, 1 hit), Paco Rodriguez (1 walk, 1 hit), Jamey Wright (2 walks, 2 hits, 1 run), J.P. Howell (1 walk), and Jose Dominguez (2 walks, 1 hit, 3 runs) all ranged from bad to awful.

* To defend the relievers just a little bit, I thought home plate umpire Dale Scott had a very tight strike zone, especially late in the game when everyone just wanted to get out of there.  The close calls did not go the Dodgers' way.  Just thought I'd throw that in there.

* I can understand Don Mattingly wanting Kenley Jansen to face the mighty Mark Trumbo in the ninth inning of the second game, but was a little confused when he expressed how he didn't want Jansen to pitch again.  Paul Maholm was the only reliever who appeared to have a clue, as he struck out Miguel Montero for the second out.  Why not just leave Maholm in, as the worst that could happen would be a two-run shot?  Instead, Jansen got crushed on his first pitch before striking out Gerrardo Parra to end the game.  Just seemed a little odd to me.

* Jose Dominguez better keep his bags packed, because there's no way I envision him staying in LA for the start of the real regular season.  Yes, he throws hard, but so what?  His location was all over the place, and Major League hitters can just sit on his fastball, even in the upper 90s, and tee off.  Not a good appearance for him at all.

* For that matter, perhaps Dominguez's ineffectiveness will spell the return of Brandon League.  Great...

* Yasiel Puig drama is a story that will never go away.  Don Mattingly, along with others, were really pissed at him after the second game.  It's a shame, too, because after pulling an 0-for-5 in the first game, he was great hitting in the two-hole the next game, going 3-for-5 with a double and a couple RBIs.  But then there were the two outs he ran into on the bases, which is just ridiculous at this point.  I bet Mattingly can't wait to get Matt Kemp back if for no other reason to bench Puig when he pulls this crap and still have a great lineup on the field.

* Dee Gordon got the start at second and at leadoff, and boy was he exciting to watch.  He's still learning the nuances of playing second with an error and a botched cover to blow a double play, but at the plate, he had three hits with a double and two runs scored.  He's earned more playing time, that's for sure.

* The bottom line is just like any team, winning is fun, but there's always some issues to sort out.  For the Dodgers, it's Puig and bridging the gap to Jansen in the ninth.  They'll be getting some big guns back in Carl Crawford and Grienke once play resumes next week, and hopefully Kemp soon after, so that will be fun to watch.  As for Puig, stay tuned.  To quote ESPN, it's a "developing story" to say the least.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Vintage Kershaw Down Under

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner says, "You can take that 9.20 spring ERA and shove it!"

If you thought the great Clayton Kershaw was going to get roughed up again like he did in Spring Training, think again.  It was a clean Kershaw start, pitching 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits with seven strikeouts, as the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks 3-1.

Last year, if you recall, Kershaw spun his magic both on the mound and at the plate in the opening game, as his solo homer was the difference in beating the Giants 1-0.  This time around he settled for a single with two strikeouts, and even was gunned down at second trying to stretch that single in the seventh.

About the only time Kershaw was in any sort of trouble was in the first, when the DBacks put two on.  Aaron Hill hit a "single" with an out, which in reality should've been an error at short from Hanley Ramirez.  Paul Goldschmidt, who's an absolute animal, singled to left right after, but a couple of groundouts got the Dodgers out of trouble. 

The lone run came in the sixth on an RBI groundout from Mark Trumbo to score Goldschmidt, who hit a leadoff double.

Another "if you recall" was how the Dodgers had a horrible time for much of last season giving Kershaw any sort of run support, as he only had 16 wins, far fewer than he should've.  So, who would be that guy to step up and give the support in this game?  Yasiel Puig? Adrian Gonzalez? Ramirez?

Nope.  Scott Van Slyke.

Andy's son had a great game, and if it wasn't for some freaky wind conditions, would've ended up with two homers.  He instead settled for a double off the left field wall in the second, then made up for it with a two-run shot that just cleared the wall down the right field line in the fourth.  That's great for a guy who was only starting because Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp didn't make the trip.

Heck, he would've been back in the States himself if not for the other two being out.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.

With both teams stocking up on their relievers thanks to the "exemption" list, Don Mattingly had no problem pulling Kershaw in the seventh at 102 pitches.  Chris Perez got the last out on a fly ball to Puig in right.

Then came what should be an awesome late inning combination to watch throughout the year in Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen.  Wilson was perfect in striking out two, and Jansen earned the save with only one walk.

If you were to be told that Kershaw, Perez, Wilson, and Jansen all appeared in the game without knowing to score, I'm guessing you would think the Dodgers won.  Sure enough, they did.  I'm already excited to keep watching them this year.

We'll wait and see when Kershaw takes the mound next, as the Dodgers open ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball on March 30 in San Diego.  Or, he could take the mound in the home opener against the Giants on April 4.  Or heck, he could pitch both.  If he locates his fastball the way he did today, to go along with his nasty slider, then it doesn't matter who he's facing - they'll be out.

Hyun-Jin Ryu gets the call in the second game, as the Dodgers will look to get greedy and sweep the Australia series.  They'll still be the road team.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gordon could be leading off come Saturday

If you're really into studying Don Mattingly's lineup against Team Australia, then perhaps the leadoff hitter for Saturday is someone we didn't exactly think of.

Dee Gordon led off and played second base today, not Yasiel Puig, who hit right behind him.  Throw in the fact that Carl Crawford didn't even make the trip, and as unlikely as this was amid all the hoopla of the Alex Guerrero signing, Gordon could very well be the man at the top of the order.

I wrote about Gordon's resurgence about a week ago (here's my proof), and I speculated that he'd hit eighth.  At least for today's exhibition game, Mattingly likes the idea of Gordon and Puig at the top, followed by Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Juan Uribe, Scott Van Slyke, and A.J. Ellis.  Since the left-handed Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks has been scratched because of a possible season-ending elbow injury, two right-handed pitchers will start in Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill.  It's not hard to see today's lineup carrying over to the weekend.

And you know what?  Why not?  I'm all for Gordon getting a chance at the top.  He hit .286 this spring with a .326 OBP.  Of his 12 hits, four were triples, and he was a perfect 9-9 in stolen base attempts.  I'm pretty sure that's the type of guy who's earned a chance at leading off.

Keep in mind that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks play two games, so if Gordon stinks in the first game by going 0-for-5, then Mattingly can easily put Puig leading off and drop Gordon to second or eighth.  It's obviously way early in the season (duh), so it's time to see if Gordon can handle the load.

On the flip side, what does this mean for Guerrero?  Well, he could sneak in as the last roster spot, or it could be off to Triple-A to start everyday at second and sharpen his defense as he's still trying to transition from a year off and as a primary shortstop.  That's not a bad thing, as it could very well pay off for him in the future.

Monday, March 17, 2014

30-man Australia roster is set

*** UPDATE ***

To check out the 25-man roster for the two-game set in Australia, scroll down a bit and look at the lineup on the right side where it's all spelled out for you.


The Dodgers have until Friday to set their 25-man roster for the first couple of games Down Under, but for now, here's a look at the 30 men who made the trip overseas:

A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz
Drew Butera

Adrian Gonzalez
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Dee Gordon
Alex Guerrero
Miguel Rojas
Chone Figgins
Justin Turner

Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Scott Van Slyke
Joc Pederson
Mike Baxter

Clayton Kershaw
Hyun-Jin Ryu
Paul Maholm

Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
J.P. Howell
Paco Rodriguez
Jamey Wright
Chris Perez
Seth Rosin
Chris Withrow
Jose Dominguez
Zach Lee
Red Patterson

If I had to venture a guess as to the five who will NOT be on the final roster, I would go with Patterson, Lee, Baxter, Rojas, and Maholm.

Despite the rocky spring from Kershaw, you can still see him giving at least 6-7 innings in the first game, and Ryu can easily give the same.  So, they might only need 4-6 innings of bullpen work between the two games, which is why I see a couple names, if not more, slashed off the bullpen list.

Maholm is only there in case of an emergency to Kershaw or Ryu.  Assuming those two stay healthy (please let them stay healthy!), then Wright can handle the long relief role, and Maholm won't be needed.

As for Rojas and Baxter getting off my list, that's more of a toss up than anything.  I thought maybe Butera would be left off, but maybe carrying that extra catcher isn't a bad idea.  Someone like Figgins is capable of playing in the outfield as well, so there's any extra body to play multiple positions if necessary.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Add Crawford to the "not going" list for Australia

The list of stars not going to Australia is starting to pile up for the Dodgers.  In addition to Matt Kemp (ankle), Zack Greinke (calf), and Dan Haren (not being used), Carl Crawford becomes the latest member to join the growing list.

The reason Crawford is staying back isn't because of injury, it's actually a good one: he's about to become a father for the third time.  His fiance Evelyn Lozada is due any day now.  Congratulations to the both of them on their birth of their first child (Crawford already has two).

For this two-game set, the rosters aren't the typical 25-man one used during the regular season back home.  Instead, both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are allowed to carry a few extra players (I believe up to 30, though I'm not positive on that).  Those "reserve" players can only appear via an injury to someone on the "regular" roster, and that injury must result in a DL stint... I think. 

Forgive me, the rules seem pretty confusing, but I'm fairly certain this is what I've read over the past few weeks.

When it's all said and done, it's looking like the other outfielder with Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier will be Scott Van Slyke.  As Mark Saxon of points out, that will also mean the Dodgers will bring a couple of extra outfielders, such as Mike Baxter, Joc Pederson, or Nick Buss.

I think it will be interesting to see if Don Mattingly gives the start to the lefty Pederson in the second game against right-handed Trevor Cahill of the DBacks.  With the way the outfielders get hurt, and with the tremendous talent of Pederson, it could be a glimpse into the future if they go that route.  We will see.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I like Van Slyke backing up first

Random thought here, but I really like the idea of using Scott Van Slyke backing up first base.  It's a good use of his abilities, and hopefully gets him to stick around LA permanently.

This is something I would bring up on occasion last season.  Rather than dangling him up and down between LA and Albuquerque like a freakin' yo-yo, why not find another position like first base to go along with outfield, keeping his powerful bat on the bench to hit late in games and provide spot starts?  It's a win-win for everyone.

In looking at the Dodgers' official website, he's listed as 6'5'' and 250 pounds.  In comparing him to the rest of the 40-man roster, only Jamey Wright and Seth Rosin stand taller at 6'6", and Hyun-Jin Ryu weighs more at 255.  Of course, take all of this with a grain of salt, especially since Ryu looks lighter and has said so himself, though he wouldn't elaborate on just how many pounds he's shed.

Because of how big of a dude he is, first base seems like a natural fit, something that hasn't been lost on the Dodgers this spring.  I'm glad to see it happening.

As of now, the Dodgers have put him in both left and right field, along with a handful of appearances at first this spring.  With all of the loses the Dodgers have suffered from their 2013 bench (Schumaker, Punto, Young, Hairston), I think Van Slyke lines up perfectly as one of the guys to take over the bench role and spot starting duty.

Let's also remember, too, that Adrian Gonzalez isn't getting any younger.  He'll turn 32 in May, has played in 1,333 games, and had major shoulder surgery not too long ago.  He held up incredibly well last season by appearing in all but five games while putting up 100 RBIs.  I'm certainly not saying he's ready to break down, but I'm not so sure we should expect 157 games out of him again.

I'd like to see Don Mattingly start sprinkling in some starts for Van Slyke at first during the year.  It would obviously come against lefties, as A-Gon hit .273 against them, compared to .303 against righties.  There's already a log jam in the outfield once Matt Kemp comes back, so get Van Slyke comfortable playing first every now and then.  It gives A-Gon some extra rest, and gets a home run threat like Van Slyke more playing time.  Make it happen.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's looking like Kershaw and Ryu in Australia

*** UPDATE ***

It's official.  Don Mattingly will give the ball to Clayton Kershaw in the first game, then to Hyun-Jin Ryu in the next.  Should be fun.


First Zack Greinke complained about having no fun in Australia.  Then he left a start after four pitches due to a strained calf muscle.

Complaining + injury = no trip Down Under.

While Don Mattingly has not made it official, it's sure looking like Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the nod in the two-game set against the Diamondbacks in Australia.  Greinke probably won't even make the trip, which is just fine with him, I'm sure.

When you're scouting the Diamondbacks, you immediately start with the mighty Paul Goldschmidt, who had a monster 2013 by hitting .302 with 36 homers and 125 RBI.  He's also a right-handed hitter, so naturally you wish the right-handed Greinke could match up with him instead of the two southpaws.

Granted, Kershaw and Ryu are not your typical lefties, so it's probably all a wash in the end.

Because of the quirkiness of this trip, both teams are allowed to carry 30 roster members with them in case of injury to the top 25.  Again, nothing is confirmed, but it's looking like Dan Haren will go on the trip, along with Matt "Ball Four" Magill to pitch in an exhibition game against Team Australia two days before the opener.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gordon's second wind

As I sit here waiting for the Dodgers to take on the Reds in some Spring Training action (thanks, MLB Network, for giving this guy from New York some Dodger Love), one thing is starting to hit me more and more: the Dodgers really like Dee Gordon.

How much?  I wouldn't be surprised to see him start the season at second base, while Alexander Guerrero is sent to Triple-A for some seasoning.

The reason is two-fold.  Gordon is really starting to earn it.  We've heard about how he spent the offseason "bulking up."  I'm guessing we'll never know how many pounds he added on considering I've read both 13 and 29.  (If you really want a laugh, click on his fantasy news on his player profile over at and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Talk about confusing...)

While he's only 3-for-12 in the early going, one possible benefit of "bulking up" is that two of those hits were triples in the same game.  That's something you can assume wouldn't have happened last season.  He also has driven in three runs, walked once, and only struck out once.  Not bad.

The other reason is because Guerrero has yet to really take the bull by the horns and claim second as his.  You know what?  That's OK.  I'm sure he's just trying to figure everything out still and putting too much pressure on himself.  He's the long-term answer anyway, not to mention trying to convert from shortstop, so give him time to get it together.  He will.

Gordon is just about to enter his prime as he turns 26 in April.  He's played in 71 games over the past five seasons, and though you may have forgotten, he actually was on the playoff roster last postseason, albeit in strictly a pinch-running role.  So it's not like he hasn't been around big games before.

In addition to being a toothpick, one that would never hold up over the course of a long big league season, his defense has ranged anywhere from bad to atrocious.  Well, he sure looks like he's been doing something about that, as he made a couple of very nice plays from second in a loss against the Mariners on Tuesday.  He also spent the Domincan winter league playing center field, a very smart move on everyone's part.

Perhaps a bit lost in all of the offseason headlines about Clayton Kershaw's enormous contract, Matt Kemp's injuries, and Brian Wilson's hair was the fact that the Dodgers lost pretty much all of their utility players off the bench in Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Michael Young, and Jerry Hairston.  Gordon could be the perfect type of guy to fill one of those roles. 

Better yet, he could start the year at second, show off his improved skills at a position more suited to his skills, and make an impact hitting eighth.  Let's say he starts sprinkling in some gappers to go with all of that speed.  He could have some big games.

I think now is the time to be excited about what he brings to the table.  His career could not have started off any better, which was right before it got a whole lot worse.  If he keeps playing this well the next couple of weeks, don't be surprised to see his name in the starting lineup against the Diamondbacks in Australia.

Let's just call it "Flash, Part II."