Dodgers Report: Albert Pujols

Ryu rewards Dodgers' patience

May, 28, 2013
LOS ANGELES – First, there was the picture that circulated on the Internet of Hyun-Jin Ryu at In-N-Out Burger with a platter of three hamburgers in front of him and one in his hand. Then, he got to Arizona and couldn’t keep up with the other Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers in their first conditioning runs.

Once he’d been there awhile, he approached pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and said he preferred not to throw between starts. Typically, major-league starters throw a fairly strenuous bullpen session two days after they pitch.

[+] EnlargeRyu
Harry How/Getty ImagesHyun-Jin Ryu is 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA. On Tuesday against the Angels, he recorded his first shutout, allowing just two hits.
The Dodgers’ $62 million investment must have had some people wondering if he was going to work for the money when he first showed up.

“He came in with his way of doing things and wanted things a certain way,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “When you’ve had success, why would you change it. It’s been a pretty good decision not to push our way on him.”

The lax treatment of the Dodgers’ rookie left-hander from Korea has its limits, though.

“We can’t just let them do whatever they want or they would be doing nothing, really, for the most part if you just let them,” Mattingly said. “Certain parts of the program he has to do like everyone else.”

He may not have a chiseled physique -- the first comparison Dodgers scouts made of him was to a young David Wells -- but who really cares so long as he keeps pitching like him? He’s two months through his first season as the pioneer Korean professional leaping straight to the major leagues, and it couldn’t have gone much more smoothly.

Ryu is 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA, and Tuesday was the epitome of his surprisingly breezy cultural exchange. He may be a rookie technically, but be real: He's an eighth-year pro and you can tell he knows how to set hitters up.

He has noted the primary difference between major league hitters and those of the Korean Beaseball Organization is that the Americans are “very aggressive” and “just have brute strength.”

That certainly was the case Tuesday with Ryu facing a muscular collection of Los Angeles Angels hitters, all right-handed: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick. It didn’t matter, because Ryu can use aggression against the perpetrator. He mixed a popping 93-mph fastball with a high-70s changeup and low-70s curveball to baffle them all night.

Ryu allowed just two hits in nine innings.

“I didn’t think my first shutout would come this early in the season,” Ryu said.

Just stay out of his way and this could be just the beginning.

LOS ANGELES – Derek Jeter slid into second base, called timeout and had a few seconds to chat with Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr.

Like the rest of baseball at that time -- late May of 2004 -– Hairston was aware of how badly the New York Yankees captain was struggling.

Through 184 at-bats, Jeter was hitting .190 and -– yes -– getting booed at Yankee Stadium.

“I turned to him and said, 'DJ, you all right?,'" Hairston said. “He goes, ‘Oh yeah. I’m a bad boy.’ And that’s the mindset you want.”

Matt Kemp said he has had conversations with several future Hall of Fame players as his struggles have dragged through the season’s first two months. He wouldn’t say who he has spoken to, but he said they’ve all given him the same advice.

“That I can hit and you’ve got to believe you can hit and it’ll come back,” Kemp said. "All I’m going to do is continue to work, grind this thing out and continue to try and help my team in any way possible.”

Kemp, 28, is batting .253 with two home runs, 17 RBIs and a .637 OPS in his first 186 at-bats. On Tuesday, for the first time since 2010, Kemp was not hitting second, third or fourth for the Dodgers in a game he started. Don Mattingly moved him into the No. 5 hole.

If he wants to have another such conversation with a Hall of Fame-caliber player, he won’t have to get all the way to second base tonight. Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was batting .227 with a .646 OPS after his first 185 at-bats. He didn’t hit his first home run as an Angel until May 6.

A year ago, reporters were asking Kemp about Pujols’ struggles and whether he had become a better player than Pujols.

“I was like, ‘Hell no, are you serious?’" Kemp said.

By the end of last season, Pujols was batting .285 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs -- career lows, but far from shabby.

“That’s not bad,” Kemp said. “If I can do that, that’s a successful season right there, I think.”

In 2004, by the way, Jeter rebounded to bat .292 with 111 runs scored.

Hairston took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon and sent the following message to his followers: “Our CF is coming off a tough surgery. keep believing in @TheRealMattKemp and all us.”

Hairston has had surgery on his left shoulder and said it can take months to regain full trust in it. He said he tweeted support because he didn’t want the booing to get out of hand.

“I didn’t want it to become the chic thing to do,” Hairston said. “Matt has given this city so much at such a young age. I see how much Matt puts into it.”

Here are lineups for Tuesday night's game against the Angels:

1. Erick Aybar SS
2. Mike Trout CF
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Mark Trumbo LF
5. Josh Hamilton RF
6. Howie Kendrick 2B
7. Alberto Callaspo 3B
8. Chris Iannetta C
9. Joe Blanton RHP

1. Carl Crawford LF
2. Mark Ellis 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Andre Ethier RF
5. Matt Kemp CF
6. A.J. Ellis C
7. Juan Uribe 3B
8. Luis Cruz SS
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu LHP

Dodgers vs. Angels: Who has the edge?

January, 24, 2013
Who knows, maybe this is the season it finally happens. The Dodgers, having spared no expense, will field a balanced, dangerous team and feel like they are positioned for a World Series run. The Angels, who jacked up their already formidable power with the surprise acquisition of Josh Hamilton, have similar aims.

If there really is to be a Freeway Series in 2013, a lot of things have to go right for both teams. But the team that made -- and makes -- the best personnel decisions likely will go further into October.

Let's break down the key areas of both rosters to try to decipher which team is better constructed to play longer into 2013.

Starting rotation

This is the part of the discussion in which Dodgers fans get to gloat and Angels fans have to just sit there and marinate. You could argue -- in fact, you don't really even have to -- that the Dodgers have better pitchers in all five spots.

We know this because one of the Angels starters, Joe Blanton, couldn't have cracked the Dodgers' seven deep. We also know this because one of the Dodgers' starters, Zack Greinke, almost helped the Angels make the playoffs.

Jered Weaver is perfectly ace-like. About 25 teams would put him at the top of their rotation. He has finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three years running and even got a couple of MVP votes last year -- always a cool accomplishment for a pitcher. He won 20 games, had a sub-3.00 ERA for the second season in a row and usually gives you more than 200 innings. And we won't even hold the .250 and .241 BABIPs from the past two seasons against him. Weaver is a fly ball pitcher and he relies on mishits to pitch deep into games. He gets strikeouts when he needs them, which is quite often, actually.

The only reason he doesn't get the edge is that Clayton Kershaw might be the best pitcher in baseball. We don't need SABR to tell us that. It's not that scientific. For the past two seasons he led baseball in ERA and was in the top three in WAR for pitchers. If he's not the most dominant pitcher in baseball, he's in the team photo and it's a small team (probably Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander).

So, the Dodgers get an edge in the No. 1 department, though it's a fairly slight edge because of Weaver's competitiveness and consistency. "Slight" isn't the right word for the rest of the Dodgers' edge in starting pitching.

Greinke has never come close to touching his 2009 Cy Young season, but neither has just about any other active pitcher. Greinke flirted with a sub-2.00 ERA, led the league in ERA+ and WHIP. Nobody could square him up. He gave up 0.4 home runs per nine innings. He was mediocre the following season, probably in part because of a personal crisis, but has gone 31-11 with a 3.63 ERA the past two years. Is he worth $147 million? Is any pitcher? He's as good a No. 2 starter as there is out there.

(Read full post)

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 5, Angels 2

June, 12, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- Juan Rivera drove in four runs, three of them with a tiebreaking, three-run, tiebreaking homer on the first pitch from the Los Angeles Angels' Jerome Williams in the bottom of the eighth inning, to lift the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 5-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 55,279 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Rivera's decisive home run against his former team capped a four-run rally in the eighth against Williams, who had dominated the Dodgers all night to that point. That rally had begun after second-base umpire called Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon safe on a two-out stolen-base attempt, drawing a passionate argument from Angels manager Mike Scioscia -- although televised replays appeared to show Gordon getting his hand on the bag just before Angels second baseman Maicer Izturis tagged him on the left side.

The good

Whatever works. With two outs and a man on third in the top of the first inning, the Dodgers employed a dramatic shift on switch-hitting Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales, who was batting from the left side against Aaron Harang. Morales hit what would have been a hard single up the middle and would have driven in the run. But instead, the ball was hit directly into the glove of Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon, who never had to move and threw out Morales easily at first to end the inning and save the run.

Eight-five-million-dollar defense. Hours after finalizing his five-year, $85 million contract extension -- and one inning before delivering a game-tying, RBI single at a critical point in the game -- Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier made a diving catch of a sinking line drive by Maicer Izturis to end the top of the seventh, stranding Angels runners on first and third and saving at least one run at a point when the Dodgers already trailed 2-1.

Not his fault. Harang wasn't exactly dominating, but he wasn't exactly bad, either. In fact, with the Dodgers playing their 19th consecutive game without an off-day, Harang gave them length -- he went seven innings and threw a season-high 118 pitches -- and a strong performance, allowing zero earned runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts and whacked his ERA down to 3.59.

The bad

So close. In the top of the third, an inning in which he suddenly had trouble finding the strike zone, Harang appeared to have escaped another jam when Morales, again with the shift on, hit a grounder right to second baseman Adam Kennedy with the bases loaded and two outs. But the ball appeared to take a bad hop, and Kennedy wound up booting it for an error, allowing Morales to be safe at first and Jerome Williams to cross the plate with the first run of the game.

Adding insult. With the Dodgers rallying in the fourth -- they already had scored once to tie the game -- Kennedy stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and one out. But then, Kennedy snuffed out that threat by grounding into an inning-ending double play.

Victimized again. And then, Harang's defense let him down again in the sixth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Williams hit a grounder that Kennedy fielded flawlessly. But when Kennedy tried to flip to second for the force, Gordon was late arriving. Gordon still got there in time for the out, but in his rush to get there, he failed to catch the ball, allowing Morales to cross home with the Angels' second run, making it 2-1.

3 up, 3 down: Angels 3, Dodgers 2

June, 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' maddening inability to beat the crosstown Los Angeles Angels continued on Monday night, Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen giving up a two-out, RBI single to Albert Pujols in the top of the ninth to stick the Dodgers with a 3-2 loss before 50,559 at Dodger Stadium.

The hit came with Mike Trout on second and first base empty, leading to the question of whether Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would have been better off ordering an intentional walk to Pujols with Mark Trumbo on deck. But Trumbo began the night hitting 70 points better than Pujols, so Mattingly rolled the dice and lost.

The Dodgers (39-23) lost to the Angels for the 16th time in 22 meetings dating back to the 2005 season. In losing for just the second time in their past eight games overall, the Dodgers saw their lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West shrink to 4 1/2 games.

The good

Turn on a dime. The Dodgers appeared to be in immediate trouble against their longtime nemeses, the Angels loading the bases with one out in the top of the first. But immediately after Chris Capuano issued a five-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick went after the first pitch, grounding into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers then scored twice in the bottom half to grab an early lead, the big blow a bloop double by Elian Herrera over the head of drawn-in third baseman Alberto Callaspo.

Waking up. Dee Gordon, the Dodgers' embattled leadoff man, may finally be emerging from his long offensive doldrums. The fleet shortstop reached base in each of his first three plate appearances (walk, double, single), scored a run and stole a base, and he now has hit safely in nine of 11 games this month, with a decent .280 average (12-for-43).

Just A.J. being A.J. Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis walked four times, a career high, in four plate appearances. He never got past first base and actually got picked off after the third one, but it was another example of why he is one of the most underrated offensive players not only on the Dodgers roster but in the N.L. Ellis began the day third in the N.L. in on-base percentage at .422 and tied for sixth in the league with 30 walks.

The bad

Not so opportunistic. Through the first four innings, the Dodgers were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, including a run-scoring groundout by Ethier in the first inning. That also included wasting a leadoff double by Dee Gordon in the third, Garrett Richards coming up with back-to-back strikeouts of Ethier and Bobby Abreu after Gordon had gotten to third with one out. Even when the Dodgers finally did get a hit with a man in scoring position in the fifth (their ninth such at-bat), it wasn't really a hit. By the rules, Abreu was credited with a single when his two-out ground ball hit Gordon in the back for the final out of the inning.

Failure multiplied. On the night news broke of his new five-year, $85 million contract extension, Ethier's June swoon continued, and at the worst possible time considering the Dodgers need him to pick up the slack during Matt Kemp's absence. In his first four at-bats, Ethier grounded out and struck out three times, each of the first three at-bats coming with at least one runner in scoring position. Ethier still leads the N.L. in RBI with 52, but for June, he is hitting .119 (5-for-41) overall, with 15 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances. And oh, by the way, Ethier also allowed Trout to take an extra base on his game-tying, two-out, RBI single in the sixth, Ethier overthrowing the cutoff man with a rainbow to the plate that had absolutely no chance of cutting down Erick Aybar.

What happened? And speaking of June swoons ... Capuano's performance was far worse than his pitching line would indicate. He was charged with just two runs in five-plus innings, but he lived on the edge all night, the Angels stranded eight baserunners during the first five innings, six of them in scoring position. Of the 25 batters Capuano faced, 12 of them reached base via hit or walk. More alarming is the fact that a trend seems to be developing: Capuano was 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA through the end of May, but in three June starts, he is 1-1 with a 5.87 and hasn't lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings in any of them.

Rain-soaked notes from Sunday

March, 18, 2012
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A little while before the skies opened up over the desert and prematurely ended Sunday's Cactus League game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels, a 1-1, 5 1/2-inning tie before 13,648 at Camelback Ranch, Albert Pujols grabbed his stuff and headed up the leftfield line after the top of the fourth inning, his prescribed two at-bats already in the books.
On his way past the Dodgers dugout, though, the celebrated Angels first baseman stopped and chatted for about 45 seconds with Don Mattingly.
``I have kind of gotten to know Albert the last couple of years,'' the Dodgers manager said.
Mattingly, who lives in Evansville, Ind., and Pujols, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., each are heavily involved in charities. Mattingly is affiliated with Youth First, an Evansville-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youths and families. Pujols and his wife head up the Pujols Family Foundation, which seeks to help those affected by Down syndrome.
Mattingly buys a table at one of the Pujols Foundation annual fundraising events in St. Louis, and Pujols reciprocates for Youth First.
``We have gotten a chance to talk over the last few years,'' Mattingly said. ``I met his family, met his wife. He is just a great guy. ... Albert is a genuine guy. What he seems to be is what he is. He does a lot of work and puts in a lot of time (with the foundation).''

The Angels' Dan Haren got credit for a rare Cactus League complete game after pitching four perfect innings against a Dodgers lineup that didn't include Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Juan Rivera or James Loney. Haren then gave up the tying run in the fifth when Adam Kennedy led off with a double and scored on Juan Uribe's single, and the game was called immediately after the top of the sixth. Haren came in having pitched five shutout innings and allowed one hit in two previous starts this spring.

Chris Capuano, who figures to be slotted fifth in the Dodgers rotation this season, made his third Cactus League start and limited the Angels to two hits over four innings, retiring the final 11 batters he faced after Mark Trumbo gave the Angels an early lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the first.

After the game, the Dodgers (8-4-4) added four cuts to the four they made in the morning. The afternoon casualties all were non-roster players: catchers Gorman Erickson and Matt Wallach, infielder Lance Zawadzki and first baseman Jeff Baisley. ... Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to make his third Cactus League start, throwing about 80 pitches, against the Cleveland Indians on Monday in Goodyear, but there is more rain and unseasonably cool weather in the forecast.



Yasiel Puig
.309 12 51 53
HRA. Gonzalez 14
RBIA. Gonzalez 60
RY. Puig 53
OPSY. Puig .916
WZ. Greinke 11
ERAC. Kershaw 1.78
SOZ. Greinke 127