Dodgers Report: Josh Beckett

Back end of Dodgers' rotation remains in flux

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
6:27
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- If there is one constant in the way Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti explains the building of a championship roster, it’s that you can never have too much pitching. And when it comes to the playoffs, those arms are particularly precious commodities. The starting arms, even more so. Matchups on the mound can swing the course of a series, and there’s no such thing as being too flush with riches. Obviously, there’s more to a win or loss than who takes the hill first, but the potential advantage marked by a team’s respective starters can be huge.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesThough he's been inconsistent since the All-Star break, Dan Haren's showing against the Mets on Friday bolstered his case to remain in the Dodgers' rotation.
With that in mind, by declining to surrender coveted prospects such as Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias in a deadline deal for the likes of Jon Lester or David Price, the Dodgers’ front office was implicitly expressing strong faith in the team's chances throughout the playoffs with the (presumably healthy) trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, plus a fourth starter.

Which fourth starter will that be? For now, no idea.

For most of this season, that role was Josh Beckett’s to lose, but a likely season-ending hip injury threw that plan for a loop. It’s ultimately manager Don Mattingly’s call to make, but to a large degree it’s also “dealer’s choice,” a choice made by the pitcher who proves himself most likely to deal when it matters most.

The field, for the time being, consists of Dan Haren, Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez, a trio that come Tuesday will have started three times over the Dodgers’ past four games. Their recent time on the mound also reflects the crapshoot nature of this situation.

Haren, whose post-All-Star-break showing has been turbulent enough to induce motion sickness, made a statement on Friday against the New York Mets, showing the Dodgers they should hold off on burying him just yet.

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Greinke gets win, confident moving forward

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
11:48
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Adrian Gonzalez smacked a three-run homer in the fifth inning of Saturday's 7-4 win for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the visiting New York Mets, and tied a season high with five RBIs. Defensively, he ended the fifth inning with a brilliant scoop of Dee Gordon's throw, stretching every bit of his 6-foot-2 frame up the first-base line, completing a double play and saving a run. Gonzalez was without question the star of the game.

The focus of it, however, was on the mound.

[+] EnlargeZack Greinke
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesZack Greinke insisted his elbow was not bothering him after he threw 105 pitches in a victory over the Mets on Saturday.
That's where Zack Greinke, his regular starting slot pushed back from Thursday because of discomfort in his pitching elbow, was back at work. On a Dodgers team built around starting pitching -- where the offense has generally looked better on paper than in practice -- Greinke is arguably L.A.'s second-most important player. It's difficult to imagine them doing significant damage in the postseason without their All-Star righty strongly backing MVP candidate Clayton Kershaw.

Understanding that, fans can be forgiven for getting a little antsy hearing "sore" and "elbow" used in the same sentence in reference to Greinke, even if an MRI exam has shown no structural damage. Even if Greinke says, in the grand scheme of things, he's fine.

"You guys aren't going to believe me, because I got pushed back a couple of days, but it really hasn't bothered me when the game's been on the line," Greinke said after throwing seven innings and 105 pitches Saturday, giving up four runs (three earned) and nine hits. "It doesn't affect any of my pitches, so it really isn't a big issue."

He's right -- the questions aren't going to stop, even though manager Don Mattingly says Greinke, unlike many other players, can be trusted to tell the truth about his physical state at any given moment.

"He's really honest," Mattingly said before the game. "He'll let you know."

Saturday, all the feedback was positive. "I checked on him after the sixth," Mattingly said. "'How you feeling?' And he says, 'Perfect.'"

The evidence backed the answer, too.

"You see the ball coming out of his hand, you see his pitches [are] the same, you see him locating, and it just makes you feel like if you don't know, if you don't get all the little inside information, you don't think anything's wrong with this guy," Mattingly said.

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Dan Haren has another good day

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
11:45
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- It's all about the now for Dan Haren. He looks back on the past few years and sees disappointment. He looks ahead and can't see much of anything, just a haze of unknowns. So, what else does he have to lean on but the day at hand?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are hanging on tight in these touch-and-go times for a starting rotation that was a shining beacon three weeks ago and, at the moment, has only one bright light, Clayton Kershaw. It's going to take more than one bankable starting pitcher, great as he is, to get them where they thought they were heading.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsDan Haren needs only 30 innings this season to trigger a $10 million contract option, but he'd rather the Dodgers win the division.
So, getting Haren straightened out would be nice. And he'd love nothing more than to be that guy again. He'd love nothing more than to help the Dodgers reach the playoffs and, after that, who knows?

It has been a grind of a season for Haren, 33, but three of his past four starts have been strong, leading to the suggestion, however fleeting, that he can be a part of this team's final drive. He might have to be, with Zack Greinke trying to pitch with a sore elbow and two other starters on the disabled list.

Ask Josh Beckett about pitching for the moment. He was among the best starting pitchers in baseball for three months. Now, after a serious hip injury flared up, his season is probably over and his career just might be, too. Beckett is only one year older than Haren, and Haren has actually pitched about 100 more innings in his career.

"I have to be able to step up," Haren said. "I've been one of the five guys all year and, however many starts I have left, they have to be as good as they can be."

Two seasons ago, Haren was on an Los Angeles Angels team that had just signed one of the game's greatest players, Albert Pujols, and was a heavy World Series favorite. They finished third. Last year, Haren was supposed to be the final piece of a starting pitching puzzle that would make the Washington Nationals perhaps the most dominant team in the National League. They finished second, 10 games out, and went nowhere in October.

Don't you think Haren would love a chance to help get his hometown team into the playoffs? Oddly, if he does just that he might find he has the option of continuing the run for another year. Haren went seven strong innings in the Dodgers' 6-2 win over the New York Mets on Friday night, cruising after Curtis Granderson's leadoff home run.

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Battered pitching staff doesn't sink hopes

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
11:54
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke politely refused to talk about it, shaking his head and smiling before he walked off.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wouldn't offer much more detail about whatever is ailing Greinke's pitching elbow.

Asked if Greinke would make his scheduled start Thursday, Mattingly said after the Dodgers' 8-6 win over the San Diego Padres, "It's nothing that we would talk about right now. It's a possibility."

[+] EnlargeDodgers
Richard MacksonThe Dodgers provided enough offense to win Tuesday's game, but that might need to be the norm if their pitching staff keeps taking injury hits.
So, there is a "possibility" that the Dodgers' second-best pitcher will be healthy enough to stay on his regular turn in the rotation.

If that possibility doesn't pan out and Greinke misses a start or goes on the disabled list, the Dodgers' pitching rotation will be: Clayton Kershaw, best pitcher in baseball; two guys who cleared waivers before being traded to L.A.; an unnamed pitcher from Triple-A who will take Greinke's spot; and Dan Haren, a banged-up veteran clinging to his spot.

In other words, get used to more of what the last two games have brought. The Dodgers were behind 2-0 after nine Haren pitches Sunday and lost. They were behind 3-0 after 16 Kevin Correia pitches Tuesday and won.

It's going to take some offensive resiliency to weather this storm of pitching injuries.

Greinke's elbow is easily the Dodgers' biggest worry if it indeed proves to be an injury that keeps him out for more than a start or two. But Dodgers trainers have been busy trying to get enough healthy bodies and arms onto the mound lately.

The Dodgers now are all but conceding that Josh Beckett (hip) is lost for the season. Hyun-Jin Ryu (strained gluteus) has begun playing catch, but his return date remains a mystery. Paul Maholm is out for the season after knee surgery. So, if Greinke goes on the DL, that would be four of the Dodgers' top six starters on the Opening Day depth chart out of action.

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Dodgers can be cautious with Ryu

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
9:48
PM PT
ATLANTA -- Hyun-Jin Ryu says he thinks he's going to be OK. He said through an interpreter that he felt good enough to "jump right back on the mound," about an hour after he left the Los Angeles Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves because of a strained right gluteal muscle Wednesday night.

But in the same breath, he remarked, "You also want to be cautious with it," and the last thing the Dodgers want to do is to err on the side of reckless with one of their most important assets.

[+] EnlargeHyun-Jin Ryu
AP Photo/John BazemoreHyun-Jin Ryu left Wednesday's game because of a leg muscle injury and the Dodgers figure to take a slow approach with his return.
Ryu, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw have been the heartbeat of the team all season long, and so even if this injury amounts to just a fleeting pain in the you-know-what, it seems like a pretty good bet Ryu will miss his next scheduled start. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seemed to be suggesting just that before he veered back into less committal territory in keeping with the team's tight lid on injury news.

"Anytime a guy comes off that quickly and kind of waves to the dugout, to think that five days later, he's going to be pitching ... I'd just be guessing," Mattingly said. "We need to get some info."

They'll get a bit more information Friday after Ryu undergoes an MRI exam and meets with team doctor Neal ElAttrache.

But count on them to take a big-picture view and hold him out, unless the injury simply vanishes in the next few days. They have earned the right to be cautious in mid-August with an eye on late September and October.

Even though they lost a game in the standings after a frustrating loss -- they nearly rallied off lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel before it ended in Matt Kemp's double-play groundout -- they still lead the San Francisco Giants by five games. And, with veteran Kevin Correia ready to step right in for another start after pitching six strong innings in his Dodgers debut Monday, the team has an option it didn't have only a week ago. It also helps that Dan Haren has stabilized his season.

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Mattingly seeking stability in rotation

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
6:49
PM PT
MILWAUKEE -- By trading for Roberto Hernandez and putting Josh Beckett on the disabled list, the Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping things ultimately can pay off in the bullpen.

Beckett's struggles in the rotation upon returning from the disabled list in July because of a hip issue have caused the Dodgers to take multiple preventative measures. First, Dan Haren and Beckett had to be separated in the rotation because pitching back-to-back had put a strain on the relievers.

The next move was to acquire Hernandez this week and send Beckett to the DL, possibly for the rest of the season.

If Hernandez hits his stride and Haren can duplicate the solid performance he had against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, the bullpen will be able to settle into their roles, with plenty of rest in between outings.

"Just look at how Danny's able to go into the eighth inning the other day," manager Don Mattingly said. "That's huge for us. I think it's another day that you have to try to get three innings out of your pen or something."

With Haren struggling in late July, Mattingly took the step of skipping his turn in the rotation and slotting him in after Clayton Kershaw and before Hyun-Jin Ryu.

"It wouldn't mattered if it was Hyun-Jin or Zach [Greinke] or Clayton, we had to get somebody in between them so we weren't two days in a row at the edge of your seat thinking you may have to get four innings out of your pen," Mattingly said.

The Dodgers are sixth best in the National League when it comes to innings pitched form the bullpen at 332 1/3, and Mattingly hopes the latest rotation movement can help improve that number. The Cincinnati Reds' bullpen has the lowest number of innings at 292.

Colletti keeps eye out for another pitcher

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
7:51
PM PT
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few hours after adding depth to their already formidable starting pitching staff, Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he has his eye on at least one more hurler.

"As I've said many times, you better have enough of everything," Colletti said Thursday from the dugout as the Dodgers took batting practice before their series and regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Angels.

Colletti wouldn't identify which pitcher is on his radar, but landing his target will likely require a trade, as the NL West-leading Dodgers are currently 30th on the waiver-wire waiting list and 15th among NL teams.

Colletti traded a pair of to-be-named minor leaguers to acquire right-hander Roberto Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies earlier in the day. He's hoping the 33-year-old will reap benefits similar to the moves he made late in the 2009 season.

Vicente Padilla joined the Dodgers in August of that year and went 4-0 down the stretch, then pitched seven shutout innings in winning the clinching game of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. Jon Garland was also acquired late in that season and contributed a 3-2 record and 2.72 ERA, though he was left off the playoff roster.

Hernandez, who went by the name Fausto Carmona until 2011, brings a 6-8 mark and 3.87 ERA, winning his past three decisions.

"We've got seven weeks left in the regular season, and anytime you can add somebody who can not only give you innings but give you quality, you have to take a shot at it," Colletti said.

Colletti said he had been in discussions with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro regarding a deal, but the move for Hernandez was accelerated when veteran right-hander Josh Beckett felt more discomfort in his hip while warming up for Wednesday's game against the Angels.

"I knew I had to get it done quicker, before I sat here and said that Josh was [injured], so Ruben couldn't hold me up for even more [trade assets]," Colletti said.

Hernandez won't have much time to get acclimated to the Dodgers' clubhouse, as he's scheduled to take Beckett’s spot in the rotation and start Friday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers as the Dodgers continue their nine-game trip.

"I'm excited to see what we're going to get tomorrow," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a ground ball guy, a sinker ball guy. … He’s going to be at his best when he's down in the strike zone. If he's going good, you're going to see the ball on the ground a lot."

Beckett was scheduled to have an MRI exam sometime Thursday evening, and the Dodgers will then decide whether to place him on the DL. Beckett is 6-6 with a 2.88 ERA, throwing a no-hitter back in May.

Stock watch: Matt Kemp stepping up

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
12:32
PM PT

RISING

Streaking
Matt Kemp, RF: Where did all this power come from? Kemp hit eight home runs in his first 98 games and he has hit six in his last nine games. Since the All-Star break, Kemp is batting .344 with a 1.097 OPS. It’s a good thing the Dodgers didn’t trade him. With Adrian Gonzalez slumping and Hanley Ramirez only sporadically productive, his hot hitting has given the Dodgers what little middle-of-the-order production they’ve been getting, which isn’t much.

Dan Haren, RHP: Don’t count the big right-hander out just yet. Fans and media were clamoring for the Dodgers to yank him from the rotation and with perfectly justifiable logic. Haren had a 10.03 ERA over five starts, but he made some adjustments and dominated his old team, the Angels, Wednesday night. Haren needs to be practically perfect to succeed with his 87-mph fastball these days, but the minor tweaks – pausing in his delivery and mixing in more curveballs – look like promising starting points for a second-half revival. He did it last season.

Kenley Jansen, RHP: It looks like the ninth inning is in good hands. Opponents are batting .138 and Jansen has 11 strikeouts and just one walk since the All-Star break. His saves are scary at times, but his stuff is so overpowering he almost always gets the job done. On Wednesday, he had the tying run at second with nobody out and blew Mike Trout away with a 96-mph fastball right down the middle before mowing down Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, too.

FALLING

Slumping
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: For a guy whose production is among the steadiest in baseball year to year, Gonzalez has been wildly streaky this season. It looked like he was turning his season around in July, but August has been grim. He’s 1-for-17 with one walk this month. If he doesn’t turn it around soon, Mattingly might want to consider using Kemp in the No. 3 spot in the lineup and shifting Gonzalez back to fifth.

Josh Beckett, RHP: The Dodgers landed veteran starter Roberto Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies in a waiver trade Thursday and, after Haren’s performance Wednesday, it looks like Beckett’s spot might be the one Hernandez eventually takes. Beckett clearly isn’t the same since he has been pitching with an injury to his left hip. He is 1-2 with a 6.55 ERA in his last five games. Every time he pitches, it taxes the Dodgers’ bullpen for days. He’s averaging less than 4 2/3 innings in those starts.

Hanley Ramirez, SS: Unless his value has fallen so far that he would return on a one-year deal, it would be absurd for the Dodgers to re-sign him at this point. His defense at shortstop has reverted to sub-par and the Dodgers have slick-fielding options in-house now. Plus, on the horizon is one of their best prospects, Corey Seager, who is batting .339 since arriving at Double-A Chattanooga. Oh, and Ramirez, who is finally healthy, is batting .194 since July 29. He’s not exactly helping his cause in free agency.

Series preview: Cubs at Dodgers

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
6:00
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- This weekend's series against the Chicago Cubs stands out on the Los Angeles Dodgers' schedule. It will be the Dodgers' only three games out of their first 30 coming out of the All-Star break against a team with a sub-.500 record.

Not that that guarantees anything, but it's a fortuitous time for the Dodgers to be starting their Nos. 4 and 5 starters. They'll also be missing the Cubs' best pitcher, Jake Arrieta.

Rather than trade for a starter at Thursday's deadline, the Dodgers elected to keep their best prospects and hope that Dan Haren can bounce back and that Josh Beckett is healthy. The evaluation period begins this weekend.

Haren (8-8, 4.49 ERA) will be pitching on eight days rest Friday when he faces the Cubs, who are starting Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 2.33). The Dodgers gave Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5, 3.44) an extra day of rest and he usually benefits from those. Saturday, he'll be opposed by Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1, 3.38). The Sunday game features Josh Beckett (6-5, 2.74) and Edwin Jackson (5-11, 5.79).

The Cubs are 4-9 since the All-Star break and they just traded their best utility man, Emilio Bonifacio, and reliever James Russell to the Atlanta Braves for minor-league catcher Victor Caratini. They're coming off their first winning series at Wrigley Field since early June, though it came at the expense of the woeful and injured Colorado Rockies.

The Dodgers were 6-1 against the Cubs last season and outscored them 28-11.

Kemp's bat hushing trade chatter

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
12:09
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- As the hours slip away until Thursday's 1 p.m. PT trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers' needs and lack thereof seem to come more crisply into focus with each inning they play.

In his past four starts, Josh Beckett has looked a lot more like the declining mid-30s pitcher of early 2013 than the comeback player of the year candidate he resembled for most of the first half of this season. He couldn't make it out of the fifth inning Tuesday night, needing 105 pitches to get 13 outs. With Dan Haren struggling and Beckett's health in doubt as he pitches through a potentially serious hip condition, it's pretty clear now the Dodgers will land a starting pitcher -- or at least go down to the wire trying.

[+] EnlargeMatt Kemp
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsMatt Kemp is batting .397 in his last 17 games and hit two home runs Tuesday to power the Dodgers over the Braves.
And, no matter what Matt Kemp's agent says, it's going to be almost impossible for the Dodgers to trade his client between now and Thursday. Yes, there's the massive contract that makes it a tough sell to other teams, but there's also this: What if Kemp is slowly getting back to being the player who dominated the National League three years ago?

Is it happening? Who knows? Is it possible? Why not?

It certainly looked like a different Kemp, a vintage Kemp, smacking two home runs in the Dodgers' 8-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. When Kemp is at his best, he has nearly effortless power to center and right fields. Both of Tuesday's home runs came to the opposite field. When Kemp hit his second home run, a high drive to center, he finished with his trademark high finish.

Maybe it's the comfort level of moving back to a position he knows -- right field. Maybe it's just distance from those two offseason surgeries and the confidence that comes with having a sound shoulder and ankle. Maybe it's something else entirely, but the Dodgers are getting massive production from their outfield these past four days, amid their longest winning streak of the season, so why would they willfully tamper with that as they get closer and closer to prime playoff positioning?

Kemp is batting .397 with a double, triple, two home runs and 13 RBIs in his past 17 games. He has remained dismissive of any questions about his future, saying after Tuesday's game, "I've talked about rumors. I'm not talking about any trade right now. I'm with the Dodgers."

The last time Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart, spoke on the topic, he told CBSSports.com, "Sometimes change is good. This might be the time to change."

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Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 8, Braves 4

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
10:58
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- For a team with the best record in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers took their time putting together a four-game winning streak. On Game 107, they finally got it done.

The Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves 8-4 on Tuesday night, successfully riding the momentum from their weekend sweep to San Francisco. The Giants lost again, so the Dodgers now lead the NL West by three games, their biggest lead of the season.

How it happened: Josh Beckett struggled again, continuing to raise the question of whether the Dodgers need to acquire a starting pitcher before Thursday's trade deadline. Boston's ace, Jon Lester, was scratched from his Wednesday start amid a flurry of trade rumors, many of which included the Dodgers.

The Dodgers' offense, re-energized during the streak by the return of Yasiel Puig from a hand injury, rallied from a couple of deficits and put the game away late. Puig went 4-for-5, finishing a home run shy of the cycle, and Matt Kemp had a pair of two-run home runs.

It was a generally festive night at Dodger Stadium. In the second inning, the team announced that Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully would return for his 66th season in 2015.

Hits: It's beginning to feel as if it would be folly to trade Kemp at this point, perhaps his most productive stretch in about two years. Kemp lined a two-run home run to right field in the second inning and lifted a deep home run to center in the seventh. In his past 17 games, Kemp is batting .397 with a double, triple, two home runs and 13 RBIs. He's starting to do some of the things he used to do at the plate and, now that he's safely tucked in right field, isn't hurting the team defensively much.

Misses: The Dodgers continue to say Beckett is healthy enough to pitch. He said after his previous start that he wouldn't use his ailing left hip as an excuse. It certainly seems to be an issue, however. From April 25 to June 26, Beckett had two outings that lasted five innings or less. Since June 26, about the time news broke that he was dealing with a torn labrum in the hip, each of his four outings has been five innings or less. He struck out at least six batters in 12 of 13 outings until June 26. Since then, he hasn't struck out more than five in any outing. It looks as if he's unable to execute his pitches as well as he did before the injury cropped up.

Stat of the game: Kemp went 103 plate appearances and 26 games between home runs until the second inning. He went two plate appearances without one going into the eighth inning.

Up next: The series continues Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. Zack Greinke (12-5, 2.74 ERA) goes for the Dodgers opposite Atlanta left-hander Alex Wood (7-8, 3.44).

Source: Pederson not dangled for Lester

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
6:07
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The Boston Red Sox have a contingency plan in place should Jon Lester be traded before his scheduled Wednesday night start. Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters the team would call up Brandon Workman from Triple-A Pawtucket in such a scenario.

Could Lester, in fact, make his next start for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have yet to announce a starter for Saturday's game? Rumors continue to swirl that the Dodgers are in discussions about Lester, but one scenario -- that they would trade top outfield prospect Joc Pederson in a deal for Lester -- was shot down by a Dodgers source Tuesday.

Boston has had minimal offensive production from its outfielders this season and has few minor-league options on the horizon.

"I'm not expecting anything huge," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said about trade possibilities before Tuesday night's series opener against the Atlanta Braves. "We just want to keep our club going the way we want it to go."

Josh Beckett's performance Tuesday night could impact the urgency general manager Ned Colletti approaches discussions for a starting pitcher. If Beckett returns to his April-through-June form and his bothersome left hip holds up, Colletti might feel more comfortable standing pat. The team is skipping Dan Haren's spot in the rotation -- thus Saturday's vacancy -- hoping the rest will allow him to pitch as well as he did early in the season.

Colletti has also said he's in search of help for the bullpen.

Stock watch: Pitching issues arise

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
6:00
AM PT

RISING

Streaking
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: The Dodgers went nearly two months with spotty production from one of their middle-of-the-order bats, but Gonzalez has had a good trip (8-for-22, two doubles, a homer, five RBIs and four walks). The dramatic shifts teams have been employing on Gonzalez have had an effect, but it looks as if he's learning to deal with them and getting into a more comfortable groove. He plays an important role, the steady backdrop against which streakier hitters like Yasiel Puig best function.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP: It's not that Sunday night's start in St. Louis was so great. By his standards, it was sub-par. He had little idea where many of his pitches were going and, on a good night, he certainly doesn't give up a home run to a hitter such as Peter Bourjos. But he clearly won some points with his teammates for retaliating when Hanley Ramirez got hit by a Carlos Martinez pitch. Kershaw handled it exactly as the Pittsburgh Pirates did a couple of nights later. He hit the next batter he faced, Matt Holliday, in the back. It should have been over at that point. Teams protect their best hitters whether they were thrown at intentionally or not. Call it medieval. It's the game. Kershaw has a little more Bob Gibson in him than many people realize.

FALLING

Slumping
Dan Haren, RHP: Dodgers fans may not have him to kick around any longer. The Dodgers are taking advantage of a couple of off days to skip his turn in the rotation. If they're able to land a starting pitcher between now and July 31, they might skip more than a turn or two. His future in the Dodgers' rotation is in doubt, put it that way. Then again, Haren is a competitor and, if he's given more opportunities, he just might battle his way back into the picture. Let's not forget, he was 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in April pitching with the same stuff.

Josh Beckett, RHP: His Tuesday start, in which he didn't make it out of the fourth inning, can be written off because of rust. But he's also pitching with a torn labrum in his hip that has undergone some pretty serious treatment and endures. At 34, there is a lot of wear and tear on that body. The Dodgers are keeping their fingers crossed he can keep it together for two to three more months, but the way he's talking lately, that seems doubtful.

Fringe relievers: Few teams have six or seven lockdown relievers. Virtually every team has a soft underbelly in the middle innings. But the Dodgers' is softer than many and, when they went on a record spending spree to fix their bullpen last winter, it wasn't supposed to be this way. Chris Perez, Paul Maholm and Jamey Wright, like Haren, are on alert. The Dodgers are also looking for relief help and none of their spots is guaranteed. Their money is, but not the job.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 5, Pirates 2

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
7:19
PM PT


PITTSBURGH -- Coming off an emotionally draining series in St. Louis followed by a flight through the wee hours of the morning and facing two upcoming games with the shaky back of their rotation, the Los Angeles Dodgers needed a win Monday night in Pittsburgh.

They got it and managed to keep pace with the San Francisco Giants for a share of first place in the NL West.

How it happened: The Dodgers broke out of their offensive malaise with 12 hits and had their biggest scoring outburst since July 8. Hyun-Jin Ryu gave them another stalwart outing, holding the Pirates to two runs on five hits over seven innings.

And being lucky doesn’t hurt, either. During their biggest inning in about three weeks, here in the fourth, they had two cooperative hits off ex-Dodger Edinson Volquez. A.J. Ellis’s grounder up the middle banged off the second-base bag and ricocheted into right field. A Justin Turner grounder took a bad hop and deflected off third baseman Josh Harrison for a two-run double.

Hits: Dee Gordon didn’t have much time to recharge at the All-Star Game. In addition to the usual demands of being an All-Star, he had a big family contingent in Minneapolis to usher around. But his energy level seems good so far out of the break. The Dodgers leadoff hitter has seven hits in 15 at-bats, including two doubles, and has scored a couple of runs, which have been hard to come by for the Dodgers lately. Gordon continues to dazzle at second base. He nearly robbed Andrew McCutchen of a hit in shallow right field, and he made a brilliant play up the middle to take a hit away from Harrison.

Misses: Andre Ethier had a nice night in St. Louis on Sunday, but he has been unable to maintain any momentum all season. He went 0-for-5 and is batting .143 in his past 10 games. He also is stuck on four home runs with August just nine days away, and that’s never a good look for someone who plays virtually every day, especially an outfielder. People wonder if the Dodgers will trade one of their outfielders. That’s easier said than done.

Stat of the game: The Dodgers have gone eight straight games without hitting a home run. That is their third-longest homerless stretch in the past 20 years. The most recent power drought of greater magnitude came from June 22 to July 2 in 2012. The payroll wasn't quite the equal of this season’s team.

Up next: Josh Beckett (6-5, 2.26 ERA) will come off the 15-day disabled list to start Tuesday night, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly confirmed. He will be opposed by Pittsburgh right-hander Vance Worley (2-1, 3.38) in a game that begins at 4:05 p.m. PT.

Stock watch: Kershaw chasing Hershiser

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
6:00
AM PT

RISING

Streaking
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: On June 13, the Arizona Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill doubled to left field to drive in Chris Owings and cut the Los Angeles Dodgers' lead to 2-1 in the third inning. It didn't seem all that remarkable at the time, but in retrospect, that was the last time anyone had a meaningful hit off Kershaw. His next game was a near-perfect no-hitter (with 15 strikeouts) against the Colorado Rockies and, entering Thursday night's game against the San Diego Padres, Kershaw is riding a 36-inning scoreless streak, the longest by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser set the major league record of 59 in 1988. How good has Kershaw been over those 36 innings? Put it this way: He has 45 strikeouts and five walks.

Dee Gordon, 2B: In an era when many veteran players look for every excuse not to attend the All-Star Game, Gordon couldn't be more thrilled to have received the invitation. In fact, he told reporters he felt like crying when manager Don Mattingly told him. You've got to love that, and you’ve got to love the fact that Gordon got himself into the game with a late push that was all his doing -- not a campaign by the PR staff. He is batting .367 in July. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who will manage the NL team, will be glad he has Gordon if the game is close late, because if Gordon gets on base -- or is used as a pinch runner -- he could decide the outcome by stealing a base or two and scoring a key run.

Yasiel Puig, RF: Another Dodgers All-Star, Puig is showing signs of pulling himself out of the desperate power outage he endured in June. Perhaps he was just trying too hard to make it to Minneapolis? He seems to have settled down, to be chasing fewer pitches out of the strike zone and to be making better contact. After going all of June without a home run, Puig is batting .272 with four doubles, a triple and a home run in eight games in July. Most likely he will be the only Gillette Home Run Derby participant who has one home run in his past month-and-a-half, but he will be hitting batting practice, after all.

FALLING

Slumping
The veteran starters: Josh Beckett, 34, resurrected his career in the first half and, just a couple of weeks ago, looked like an All-Star lock. Dan Haren, 33, had kept the Dodgers in every game he started until things started getting a little wobbly a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Dodgers don't know what they can expect from either one of them in the second half, sending general manager Ned Colletti scurrying to drum up trade talks for starting pitchers. Beckett is on the 15-day disabled list because of a left hip impingement and Haren has a 5.40 ERA in his past seven starts.

Matt Kemp, LF: Carl Crawford is soon to return from the disabled list -- maybe Thursday -- and Kemp, once again, will have to compete for playing time. His at-bats have been all over the map lately. He was 0-for-16 going into the final Colorado game, then went 7-for-9 in the next two games, but came back down to earth Wednesday in Detroit with some unproductive at-bats. Overall, he's batting .242 in his past eight games and Mattingly figures to feel some pressure to get Crawford into games. Both players are confined to left field for now, so it's pretty obvious Kemp will be the odd man out from time to time. The Dodgers, after all, aren't going to pay Crawford $21 million and never play him, will they?

Hanley's health: Is he ready to go, or isn't he? Hanley Ramirez has gotten more than three plate appearances in a game only four times since June 23 -- a span of three weeks -- and two of those were as the designated hitter in Detroit. He has generally hit well enough to support his playing time, but are the Dodgers better off just putting him on the disabled list, letting his shoulder and calf heal and trying to get by with Miguel Rojas' limited offense for a while -- say, through the All-Star break? It seems like a relevant question, particularly since Rojas is a major upgrade defensively.

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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