Dodgers Report: Jose Dominguez

Why adding a reliever still makes sense

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
10:25
AM PT
The Los Angeles Dodgers are, at long last, where they expected to be all along. They got to the summit when Arizona lost late Monday, helping them complete an arduous 98-game climb. Until Monday, they had not been alone in first place all season.

Whether you think it took far too long to get there or that their .808 pace for the past month-plus has been an inspirational comeback -- or both -- they still haven’t accomplished anything. They still haven’t broken their four-year playoff drought or lived up to the expectations of a record payroll.

And, no doubt, general manager Ned Colletti still doesn’t think they’re the finished product, if a team is ever a finished product. So, he’ll be working to add the finishing touches before the July 31 trade deadline.

But where should his efforts take him?

Names are dropping off the board at a fairly brisk pace, considering there is still more than a week to go before the deadline. The Dodgers got things started when Colletti traded three fringe pitching prospects for Miami Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. The other big name commonly bandied about on the pitching market, Matt Garza, was traded to Texas. According to reports, Alfonso Soriano is close to going back to the Bronx.

Unlike most teams hovering around .500, the Dodgers have few discernible holes. For one thing, you can practically scratch them off as potential suitors for any position players. Yeah, they could always look to upgrade at third base, but Juan Uribe has done a serviceable job there. They don’t need any bench players. Their outfield is overstocked, but not overstocked enough -- given Matt Kemp’s health -- to part with Andre Ethier just yet.

Could they use a starting pitcher? Probably, but it hardly seems like a pressing concern. Nolasco makes their four-deep among the best (and most expensive) in baseball. Chris Capuano has been erratic, but if the Dodgers acquire a No. 5 starter, is he going to be so much better than Capuano (or Stephen Fife) over those last 12 starts or so, that he’d decide whether the Dodgers make the playoffs?

Seems unlikely. And, if the Dodgers do reach the postseason, the fifth starter usually shifts into a long relief role anyway, if he makes the roster at all.

What’s that leave?

Even relief pitching seems like less of a concern than it did two weeks ago. With Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez settling into middle-inning roles, Kenley Jansen thriving as the closer and Ronald Belisario stabilizing, the Dodgers’ bullpen has, in fact, been a major strength since early July. Who knows, maybe Brandon League will get his mechanical issues ironed out and begin to chip in, too.

But, despite all that, it certainly looks like Colletti would like to add another veteran. It's kind of his thing. Since he arrived, Colletti has landed Elmer Dessens, Scott Proctor, George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Randy Choate and League in mid-season trades.

The latest reports suggest Colletti’s scouts have been heavily studying the Milwaukee Brewers, with the supposition being that they’re interested in closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Seems to add up. Rodriguez has 304 career saves, pitched in a World Series when he was 20 years old and still has good enough stuff, with an average fastball of 91.1 mph according to Fangraphs. Plus, he hasn’t been a closer for most of the past few years, so he likely wouldn’t balk at a subordinate role.

He has baggage stemming from arrests for attempted assault and domestic violence in the past few years, and he rankled many of his Angels teammates with what some viewed as a me-first attitude.

He’s also a free agent in November, so the Brewers probably won’t demand premium prospects and, given their place in the standings and the loss of Ryan Braun for the year, they’re probably more than motivated to move him.

Carlos Marmol hasn’t been particularly impressive trying to work his way back at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He has nearly as many home runs and walks allowed (three) as strikeouts (four).

It seems unlikely the Dodgers would go after one of the other ex-closers available via trade, Kevin Gregg. After all, they could have had Gregg for the price of a roster spot in April and passed, so would they really part with young talent to land him now, after a few good months?

Rodriguez looks like a fairly probable candidate for the Dodgers’ bullpen, but there are probably a half-dozen other names the Dodgers have had discussions about. If they add one more arm, great. If not, it’s nothing to get worked up about. If the past month is any indication, they could have one of the more complete teams out there.

Grading the week

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
11:08
AM PT
It has been precisely one month since the fateful day, June 22, when everything changed.

The Dodgers’ magic carpet ride continued with a road sweep in Washington coming out of the All-Star break that gave them 20 wins in their last 25 games and carried them to the threshold of first place.

There’s really not much you can nitpick when a team beats Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann in three straight on the road. The Dodgers got ace-like starting pitching, perfect relief and, on Sunday, an attacking, deep lineup.

In the Dodgers’ happiest imaginings over the spring and winter, this is the team they envisioned.

GradeSCORING

It was as if Matt Kemp had all this pent-up energy as he waited to join the feast and he dug in wholeheartedly, with three hits, including a home run and a double Sunday. Just his luck, he also injured his ankle and could be lost for at least a few days.

But the Dodgers certainly look capable of giving it a healthy go without the man who was their best player going into April and might one day be again.

In fact, the Dodgers now are perfectly capable of withstanding the loss of Kemp and Yasiel Puig, the Cuban sensation who has come simmering back down to earth in a nasty slump.

Hanley Ramirez, who hit .486 with two home runs in the series, just can’t be stopped right now. It’s more than him, though. Mark Ellis is warming up, Carl Crawford looks like he’s snapping out of his funk.

This is a dangerous team and it could be more dangerous if Kemp can manage to stay on the field and Puig isn’t in some lasting tailspin.

Grade: A-

Grade DEFENSE

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke did what they’ve been doing lately, pitching the Dodgers into position to win, but the bullpen, collectively, had the most impressive showing. Dodgers relievers, much-maligned for three months, didn’t allow a run over the weekend and have had a blistering July.

Oh, and Kershaw also pitched a scoreless inning in the National League’s All-Star game loss.

General manager Ned Colletti continues to search other teams’ rosters for a veteran reliever before the July 31 trade deadline and Carlos Marmol continues trying to work his way back, but if Brandon League can get his issues ironed out, the Dodgers are showing signs they could have all the arms they need. Young hard throwers Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez have solidified things considerably.

And, until Ramirez’s fifth-inning error Sunday, the Dodgers -- typically sloppy in the field -- managed to catch and throw the ball without incident.

Grade: A-

GradeDECISION-MAKING

Who knows, the Dodgers’ best decision this season might have been inactivity. Just when it seemed the public pressure would be too much to bear, team president Stan Kasten and general manager Ned Colletti withstood it and declined to fire manager Don Mattingly.

Mattingly still has his detractors. It's just that fewer people are listening to them now that the Dodgers have made up nine games in the standings in 30 days.

Mattingly had a fairly quiet series, which is as it should be. He benched Puig for Sunday’s game, which seemed reasonable given his cold streak and the fact Kemp again gave him four healthy everyday outfield options. Now that Kemp is out for a while, the Dodgers hope Puig can make an adjustment or two and tap back into his power.

Then, maybe Mattingly will have another riddle to solve. So far, the four-outfielder dilemma has been a mirage because they've rarely all been healthy at once.

Grade: B+

GradeGRIT-METER

One thing that can make a team intimidating to opponents is a bullpen filled with high-velocity guys. Teams know that, if they don’t get to the starter, they’re going to have nothing but uncomfortable at-bats as they try to rally.

With Withrow and Dominguez added to the mix, the Dodgers have five relievers who can either work in or touch 95 mph. That’s grit.

Grade: B+

Grade STATE OF CONTENTION

With the probable exception of the San Diego Padres, anybody really could win the NL West. The Dodgers’ move has simply tightened things up even further, with the San Francisco Giants in fourth place, but just 5 games out of first place.

What the Dodgers have going for them, of course, is momentum. As long as that lasts, it looks like it would be foolish to bet against them reaching the postseason. They’ve also made the wild-card standings relevant again now that they sit just one spot out of a spot, 4 games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who come to L.A. next week.

Grade: B+

Grading the week

July, 1, 2013
7/01/13
12:33
PM PT
The music blasting from the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse Sunday night was reminiscent of the team that began the season with championship aspirations in April that quickly faded by May and early June.

Hanley Ramirez and Ronald Belisario were taking pictures of themselves after putting on summer attire more appropriate for a pool party than a baseball clubhouse. Yasiel Puig, who hasn’t been in the big leagues for a month, was giving advice to fellow 22-year-old Jose Dominguez, who hasn’t been in the majors for a week.

For the first time since the beginning of the season, the Dodgers looked and sounded like contenders.

Given the way the team has played the past week, it’s not surprising. The Dodgers have won eight of their past nine games to pull within four games of first place in the National League West, the closest they have been since May 3, when they were 3 1/2 games back. The Dodgers also closed out their recent homestand going 6-1, by far their best of the season.

GradeSCORING

While the focus has been squarely on Puig for the past month, the most consistent Dodger over the past two weeks has been Ramirez.

Ramirez has a 12-game hitting streak, his longest in three years. He is batting .477 (21-for-44) with five homers and 15 RBI during the streak, which began June 19. Since then, he leads the National League in batting average, hits, homers, RBI and on-base percentage.

Puig hasn’t been too shabby himself, finishing the greatest first month any major leaguer has had since Joe DiMaggio in 1936. He established a career high with four hits, going 4-for-5 Sunday with two steals, a double and his first triple.

Since being called up on June 3, Puig leads the majors with 44 hits and leads the National League with a .436 batting average and a .467 on-base percentage. He’s also ranked in the top three in home runs (seven), runs (19), slugging percentage (.713) and total bases (72).

Puig and DiMaggio are the only players in major league history with at least 40 hits and four home runs in their first calendar month in the majors. Puig's 44 hits in June are second only to DiMaggio's 48 in 1936, and are the most hits ever in one month by a Dodgers rookie. DiMaggio, however, had 126 at-bats in his first month and had an average of .381 while Puig had 101 at-bats and has a .436 batting average.

Grade: A-

GradeDEFENSE

The one area the Dodgers never thought would be a concern entering the season was their pitching. Well, that was before injuries ruined what had been a deep rotation.

One of the biggest reasons the Dodgers have turned their season around, however, is their pitching staff, which is finally healthy and pitching like many thought they would. Dodgers starters have a 2.86 ERA over the past 24 games, and the Dodgers are 13-11 over that time.

Not only is the front of the rotation solid with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but Stephen Fife has established himself as a quality starter as well. Fife went seven innings Sunday for the first time in his career, giving up only four hits and striking out five. It was also Fife's first scoreless outing in the majors and since returning on June 3, his ERA is now 2.21.

Things haven’t been perfect. With Chris Capuano on the mound, the Dodgers gave up a 16-1 stinker to the Phillies on Friday. A trio of errors by the Dodgers outfield in the ninth inning on Sunday nearly cost them a win. But things are beginning to look up for the Dodgers, who have been able to overcome their mistakes more times than not over the past week.

Grade: B+

GradeDECISION-MAKING

Things are finally looking up for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, whose job has become infinitely easier now that his players are healthier. Funny how that works, right?

Mattingly is now in a position where a he can field a lineup he is comfortable with and have confidence that it will produce. After Sunday’s game, Mattingly compared his lineup to playing Monopoly.

“I just think we're a little more dangerous,” Mattingly said. “Every time you roll through there, you've got [Yasiel] Puig. Then you've got to get through Adrian [Gonzalez] and Hanley [Ramirez] and so on. It's like trying to get through Boardwalk and Park Place when you have all those hotels up there.”

The Dodgers have also gotten younger and more athletic during the past week, calling up relievers Chris Withrow and Dominguez, proving their commitment to make a run now. Scouts have raved about Dominguez since spring training, and he didn't disappoint in his first outing Sunday. Dominguez threw 10 fastballs, with all but one hitting at least 99 mph on the radar gun, including a 101-mph fastball that struck out Delmon Young.

Grade: A-

GradeGRIT-METER

One night after the Phillies beat the Dodgers 16-1 on Friday, the Dodgers took the field again and quickly fell behind 1-0 after a Chase Utley solo shot in the top of the first inning. The Dodgers responded when Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning.

When the Phillies tied the game in the ninth inning, the Dodgers responded again. This time, Ramirez scored the winning run on A.J Ellis’ single to right field as the Dodgers claimed their second walk-off win of the season and recovered from one of their most demoralizing losses with one of their more dramatic victories.

It has taken longer than most thought, but the Dodgers are starting to play with the kind of grit Mattingly was preaching about in April.

Grade: B

GradeSTATE OF CONTENTION

After a 6-1 homestand winning eight of their past nine games, the Dodgers are now within four games of first place in the National League West. Just eight days ago, the Dodgers were 9 1/2 games out of first place and 12 games under .500. Now the Dodgers are looking at possibly being .500 and in first place in the division by the All-Star break.

Grade: B-

Yasiel Puig just keeps on rolling

June, 30, 2013
6/30/13
4:25
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- The summer of Yasiel Puig continued Sunday with seemingly no end in sight.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' rookie sensation had a career-best four hits with two singles, a double and a triple, finishing a home run shy of the cycle while also stealing two bases and scoring two runs.

His performance helped the Dodgers defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-1, capping off a 6-1 homestand that pushed the Dodgers to within four games of first place in the National League West.

Just eight days ago the Dodgers were 9 1/2 games out of first place and 12 games under .500, and now the Dodgers are staring at possibly being .500 and in first place in the division by the All-Star break.

Their recent run has been sparked largely by the play of Puig and Hanley Ramirez, who extended his hitting streak to a season-long 12 games. He singled to left to score Puig in the fourth inning for the first run of the game and scored later in the inning on another single to left by Matt Kemp.

After Ramirez's RBI in the fourth, he was batting .500 since June 19 and leads the National League in batting average, hits (21), homers (five), RBIs (15) and on-base percentage since that time.

Sunday, however, much like it has been for the month of June, was all about Puig. The 22-year-old phenom has 44 hits this month, which is the most for a Dodgers rookie in a calendar month. It's also the second-most in major league history for a rookie, behind only Joe DiMaggio's 48 in 1936.

Puig's first month has been historically good. In fact, DiMaggio is the only other player in league history with at least 40 hits and four home runs in their first calendar month in the majors.

The Dodgers also got a solid outing from Stephen Fife, who went seven innings for the first time, giving up only four hits and striking out five. It was also Fife's first scoreless outing in the majors and his ERA since returning on June 3 is now 2.21.

As good as Fife was, the biggest star on the mound, however, might have been 22-year-old Jose Dominguez, who made his major league debut Sunday in relief of Fife. Scouts have raved about Dominguez since spring training and he didn't disappoint in his first outing since being called up Saturday. Dominguez threw 10 fastballs, with all but one hitting at least 99 mph on the radar gun, including a 101-mph fastball that struck out Delmon Young.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239