Dodgers Report: Josh Lindblom

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 3, Reds 1

July, 3, 2012
7/03/12
10:35
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- You'll have to pardon the Dodgers if they had one eye on their game Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night and the other eye on a Class-A game going on about 40 miles east.

That would be Rancho Cucamonga, where All-Star centerfielder Matt Kemp was making his first rehabilitation start with a hamstring injury that has kept him out since the end of May.

For the first time in a while, the view in both places was a good one. The Dodgers beat the Reds 3-1 behind another solid outing from lefty Chris Capuano and some timely hitting by Elian Herrera (2-for-2, 1 run) and recent call-up Luis Cruz (1-for-3, RBI, 2B).

Kemp made it through his game unscathed as well, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and a strikeout. If all goes well the rest of the week, Kemp is scheduled to return to the Dodgers' lineup on July 13, the first day after the All-Star break. And with the way the Dodgers offense has been struggling without him, it can't come soon enough.

The Good:

Snub this. Capuano (9-3) took a no decision in his first game since being snubbed by NL All-Star manager Tony LaRussa, but he still proved a point. Capuano struck out six, walked three and gave up one earned run in six solid innings, matched against fellow All-Star snub Johnny Cueto (3 ER, 7 H, 7 IP).

Shut the door. The Dodgers received bad news before the game about right-hander Todd Coffey, who could be lost for the season because of an elbow injury, but the rest of the bullpen picked it up in his stead, shutting the door on the Reds over the final three innings to preserve the win. Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert, Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen combined to allow just two runners.

Loney loosening up? It's just three games, and we've seen little flashes of this before, but James Loney has quietly gone 4-for-10 over his last three games, including a sharp single in the seventh that started a two-run rally.

The Bad:

Coffey grounded. The Dodgers received terrible news before the game about right-hander Coffey, who suffered a significant elbow injury in Monday's loss and was put on the disabled list. If you missed his trademark sprints in from the bullpen, you might have to catch them on YouTube for a while.

Ethier too. The Dodgers received even more bad news when rightfielder Andre Ethier felt a twinge in his side during a pregame batting session and will probably be out through the All-Star break now, as the Dodgers continue to take a conservative stance and try to get all their regulars healthy for the second half of the year.

Squeezed out? Tony Gwynn Jr. failed to get a squeeze bunt down in the seventh inning and went hitless in three at-bats, making him hitless in his last three games. It wasn't exactly Gwynn's fault though as the pitch came in high and tight. And it didn't turn out badly for the Dodgers, either. The ball got past catcher Ryan Hanigan and Cruz raced home to score.

3 up, 3 down: Mets 5, Dodgers 0

June, 30, 2012
6/30/12
7:22
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Photo Day at Dodger Stadium may have forced the scuffling Dodgers to smile for the cameras and put on a happy face before the game, but the good cheer didn't last long as the club dropped its seventh straight, losing to the Mets 5-0.

It was another ugly game for the Dodgers, filled with anemic offense, poor starting pitching and some shaky defense.

The Mets big blow came in the sixth as Ike Davis blasted a three-run shot off Dodgers starter Nathan Eovaldi to stake the Mets to a 5-0 lead. It was Davis' 11th homer of the season.

The Dodgers managed just three hits off Mets starter Johan Santana and were shut out for the fifth time in their last six games.

In the end, the Dodgers lost at least seven straight games for the first time since August 2008 when they lost eight in a row between Aug. 22-29. After that losing streak, the Dodgers won 12 of their next 13 games.

The Good:

The bullpen. After Eovaldi was chased with one out in the top of the sixth inning, Scott Elbert, Todd Coffey and Josh Lindblom kept the Mets quiet, allowing just two hits and one walk over the final 3 2/3rds innings.

Ellis, Kemp nearing returns. Kind of telling when some of the most positive news of the day comes from the training room where second baseman Mark Ellis and center fielder Matt Kemp are nearing returns from the disabled list. Ellis (leg) played for the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Saturday on a rehab assignment and is expected back toward the middle to end of next week. Kemp said he hoped to return to the lineup July 13, after the All-Star break. Kemp said on Fox's broadcast of the game that he would DH for Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday.

The future? First-round draft pick Corey Seager signed Friday night and toured Dodger Stadium on Saturday. Seager is the second Scott Boras client to sign with the Dodgers in the last two years, following Stanford pitcher Chris Reed, the Dodgers first-round pick in 2011.

The Bad:

Oh-no, Eo! After getting ripped for 10 hits and eight runs in his last outing against the Giants, Eovaldi (0-5) was shaky again against the Mets, losing for the third consecutive outing. He yielded seven hits and five earned runs and couldn't make it out of the sixth inning, further taxing the Dodgers' bullpen. Incidentally, Eovaldi has received the lowest run support of any major league pitcher with a minimum of five starts. The Dodgers have averaged just 0.66 runs in his seven starts.

The future? The Dodgers were reportedly close on a deal for Houston first baseman Carlos Lee, but Lee doesn't seem all that keen on coming over yet. He'd need to waive his no-trade clause to complete the deal and hasn't been inclined to do so. In other words, there's no help on the way just yet.

Offense, offensive again. The Dodgers were shut out for the fifth time in their last six games and managed just three hits. No amount of changing things up before the game could change things. Manager Don Mattingly joked that he wore his socks higher, didn't shave and parked head-in to the Dodgers' parking lot to help change the mojo. But when things are going badly, it takes a lot more than longer whiskers and higher socks to change things. "I keep banging that drum, and I'm going to keep banging it," Mattingly said after the game. "We have to keep getting ready to play and knowing that we're going to come out the other side. I think that's what good teams do. You get beat up like everybody else. It's not an easy thing that we're going through, but that's where we're at. We don't want to lose seven in a row, we don't want to get shutout, but we're not going anywhere."

Brushing a sweep aside

June, 8, 2012
6/08/12
7:32
AM PT


Some notes and stats on the Dodgers, focusing on the week of June 1-7. Many thanks to Baseball-Reference.

A HAPPIER FOUR-GAME SWEEP

One week after being swept in a four-game series at home by the Brewers, the Dodgers went to Philadelphia and took four from the Phillies. It was the first four-game sweep for the Dodgers in Philly since 1946; since then, they had played 27 series of at least four games in Philadelphia without a sweep. It was the Dodgers’ first four-game sweep on the road against any team since 2004 against the Diamondbacks.

JANSEN WORKS HARD

Wednesday was Kenley Jansen’s third straight save, marking the first time all season he’d worked three straight days. He needed a season-high 32 pitches to finish Wednesday night’s game. His 32 pitches were the most by a Dodgers pitcher in a one-inning save since at least 2000 (as far back as complete pitch counts exist).

Jansen saved the first three games against the Phillies, the seventh time a Dodgers pitcher has saved three consecutive road games against the same opponent since the save statistic was introduced in 1969.

HERRERA COMES THROUGH

Elian Herrera drove in the winning runs for the Dodgers Monday night and Tuesday night. He singled off Jonathan Papelbon to break a ninth-inning tie Monday night and then doubled in two runs off Cliff Lee in the eighth inning Tuesday with the Dodgers trailing by a run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Herrera is the first Dodgers rookie to record a go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning or later of consecutive games since Pedro Guerrero on September 28 and 30, 1980.

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3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 2, Nationals 0

April, 29, 2012
4/29/12
4:42
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- In a battle between the two teams vying for the National League's best record, the Dodgers completed an unlikely, three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals on Sunday with a 2-0 victory before 48,753 at Dodger Stadium.

With that, the Dodgers improved to 16-6, marking the first time this season they have climbed 10 games above the .500 mark, and maintained their four-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

In a tense pitchers' duel between the Dodgers' Chris Capuano and the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez, the Dodgers finally broke through with the game's only runs on a two-run single by struggling first baseman James Loney with one out in the sixth inning.

Meanwhile, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly added fuel to his club's budding closer controversy by calling upon Kenley Jansen, usually the team's eighth-inning setup man, to close out the game. Only when Jansen got into immediate trouble, walking Adam LaRoche to begin the inning and then going to a 2-0 count on Xavier Nady, did regular closer Javy Guerra begin throwing in the pen, alongside lefty Scott Elbert.

But after a visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Jansen managed to calm down and finish it off for his second save, securing a victory for Capuano (3-0).

The good

Cruising. Any concerns about Capuano's ability to pitch deep into a game -- the Dodgers actually waited a day to activate Todd Coffey from the disabled list just so they could keep long reliever Nathan Eovaldi around for insurance with Capuano starting -- appeared to be alleviated by the end of the third inning, when the veteran lefty had retired all nine Nationals hitters, striking out five of them. He went on to give the Dodgers 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out nine batters. He cut his ERA for the season to 2.73 -- 1.80 if you remove his first start on April 7 at San Diego.

Once in a blue moon. Loney got a bit hit off a left-handed pitcher. His two-run, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the sixth not only broke up a scoreless game, but also broke Gonzalez's 25-inning scoreless streak, the longest by a Nationals pitcher since the team moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005. It also gave Loney a rare hit against a lefty, leaving him 3-for-19 against them for the season.

Still untouchable. Josh Lindblom retired four of the five batters he faced after relieving Capuano in the seventh. Lindblom, who made the Opening Day roster only because Ted Lilly began the season on the disabled list, has now allowed one run in 13 2/3 innings this season.

The bad

Ethier mini-slump. Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier is hitless in his past eight at-bats with five strikeouts. Ethier interrupted his failure-to-reach-base streak with a couple of walks off Gonzalez in the middle innings, but he still hasn't had a hit since his third-inning single against Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler on Friday night.

Gordon still struggling. Leadoff man Dee Gordon got a rare day off, but he was inserted into the game as part of a seventh-inning double switch, then led off the bottom half with a grounder to short. That ran Gordon's own hitless streak to seven at-bats, during which he hasn't hit a single ball out of the infield.

The end of an era. Well, sort of. Amy Summers, a fixture in the Dodgers public-relations office for more than five seasons, worked her final game Sunday. She's going to work for Time Warner, and she will be missed.

Javy Guerra still has closer's job

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
11:31
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The first question, as it should have been, was with Javy Guerra's physical well-being, the Los Angeles Dodgers closer having been nailed on the left side of his jaw by a line drive in the top of the ninth inning. The quick answer, which came after an on-field examination by assistant trainer Greg Harrell, was that he was fine, which is why manager Don Mattingly allowed Guerra to continue pitching with a tenuous, one-run lead.

[+] EnlargeJavy Guerra
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJavy Guerra was hit on the left side of his jaw by a line drive and ultimately blew a save chance against the Braves.
The eventual, more definitive answer, which came after a battery of postgame tests to rule out a concussion, was also that Guerra was fine. But that came only after an apparently shellshocked Guerra went on to give up three more hits, blow a save for just the second time this season and be tagged with a defeat for the second consecutive evening, the Dodgers losing 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves before 26,345 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

The second question, quite predictably, was whether Guerra will continue to occupy the closer's role at a time when eighth-inning setup man Kenley Jansen, whose stuff, at least in theory, has always been better suited to that role than Guerra's anyway, continues to dominate.

The answer was yes. For now, anyway.

"Javy is the guy," Mattingly said. "Javy has been that guy the whole time. Our ballclub has confidence in Javy. The game will tell us what to do with him. If he gets in trouble there, we will put him in a different spot. But at this point, I'm not going to get into the whole closer thing. Six days ago, or five days ago, it wasn't a question. If you think that after two days I'm all of a sudden going to flip-flop, I'm not."

Guerra, whose jaw was visibly swollen and who admitted he still felt sore, said the pain in his jaw wasn't a factor in the rest of the inning.

"No, absolutely not," he said.

Still, Brian McCann's liner was the second of five consecutive one-out singles by the Braves off Guerra. Although Harrell checked Guerra out and gave Mattingly the OK for Guerra to continue, the fact Guerra later was undergoing tests for a possible concussion would seem to suggest it might have been smart to remove Guerra at that point, even if it was only for precautionary reasons. Besides, when Mattingly ultimately did pull Guerra, the guy he replaced him with was Josh Lindblom, who has been one of the Dodgers' most reliable relievers all season, and Lindblom quickly got out of the jam.

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Of Jansen, Coffey, and Howell

April, 13, 2012
4/13/12
11:43
PM PT


LOS ANGELES -- Before the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled out a 9-8 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night, they watched an 8-6, ninth-inning lead turn into an 8-8 tie. This was the result of Kenley Jansen, usually the team's eighth-inning setup man who was pressed into closing duty because Javy Guerra had pitched three days in a row, coming in and issuing a leadoff walk and then a two-out, two-run, game-tying homer to Chase Headley.

That result itself was somewhat less notable than the fact the fireballing Jansen's velocity was noticeably down, even as he was striking out three batters that inning to raise his average for the season to 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings -- slightly better than the all-time, major league record of 16.2 he set last year.

Jansen has been battling a mild case of flu in recent days, which could have accounted for the velocity drop.

"I've been battling the flu, but that's not an excuse at all," Jansen said. "You still have to make good pitches and keep us in the game and try to help the team win. That is what it's all about."

Both manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt noticed the slight dropoff, but neither seemed alarmed by it. Honeycutt said it might have been due to the cold weather or illness. Mattingly said it might have been the difference in the eighth inning and the ninth, which almost anyone in baseball agrees is fairly huge except for the pitchers who actually pitch in those innings.

"It doesn't feel any different," Jansen said. "You have to treat the eighth inning just like it's the ninth inning, just come in and get the job done."

But catcher A.J. Ellis said Jansen did seem a bit out of sorts at the beginning of the inning, when he walked the first batter, Chris Denorfia.

"He was a little more tentative than I have seen him," Ellis said. "But after that first batter, he was definitely locked back in. He came right back to strike out the next two batters on six straight pitches. Chase Headley is a good hitter, a three-hole hitter in the National League, and that pitch ended up over the middle of the plate.''

Jansen was trying to throw it in on Headley, but said it ran back over the middle. At any rate, the hope is that the velocity drop was a one-time thing -- although he gave up a double to Yonder Alonso after Headley's home run, Jansen still looked pretty unhittable in striking out the three batters he did. If it continues, though, it could become a source of alarm.

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3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 3, Pirates 2

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
10:05
PM PT
Matt Kemp Harry How/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp rounds the bases as he scores one of the Dodgers' three first-inning runs Thursday.


LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers scored three runs in the first inning, then held on for a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates before 28,328 on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, giving them a three-game sweep of the Pirates and their first 6-1 start to a season since 1981, a year that ended with a World Series title.

The Dodgers' bullpen came up huge after starter Chris Capuano was lifted with one out in the sixth, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert, Josh Lindblom, Matt Guerrier and Javy Guerra combining to blank the Pirates on two hits over the final 3 2/3. Guerra picked up his fifth save with a perfect ninth inning.

The Good

Goose egg cracked. James Loney won't go the whole season without a hit. That became official with two outs in the bottom of the first inning, when the slumping first baseman broke out of his 0-for-16 skid with a hard, opposite-field single through the left side, bringing home Matt Kemp from second to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Alas, Loney went hitless the rest of the night and now is 1-for-20, an average of .050.

Getting it done. Elbert, the lone lefty in the Dodgers' bullpen and a guy who struggled with his command in his first two appearances, came on to face left-handed pinch hitter Garrett Jones with the bases loaded, two outs and the Dodgers nursing a one-run lead in the sixth. The Pirates countered with righty-hitting Matt Hague, but Elbert needed just two pitches to get Hague to fly out to center and end the threat. Elbert had allowed two of his three previous inherited runners this season to score.

Well-timed cutdown. For the first time this season, a Dodgers catcher threw out a runner attempting to steal, and it came at a critical point in the game. With Pirates speedster Andrew McCutchen trying to get into scoring position with two outs in the seventh, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis fired a bullet to second baseman Mark Ellis to nail McCutchen and end the inning, preserving the one-run lead. A.J. Ellis has now cut down one of two runners who have tried to steal on him this season.

The Bad

Too much air. Dee Gordon, whose game relies heavily on speed and thus relies heavily on hitting the ball on the ground, made fly ball outs in each of his first three plate appearances, including with two on and two out in the fourth immediately after Capuano worked Pirates starter Jeff Karstens for a walk. Gordon, who is hitting a disappointing .200 with an even-more-disappointing .273 on-base percentage, has to be able to take advantage of his speed at the top of the order, but he has no chance of doing that when he hits high, catchable fly balls.

Running on empty. For the second start in a row, lefty Capuano was dominating through the early innings, then ran out of gas well before he reached 100 pitches. This time, he began to run into trouble in the fifth, when he gave up a solo homer to Michael McKenry and then hit a batter. Once he gave up back-to-back hits to start the sixth and a sac fly that shaved the Dodgers' lead to one run, manager Don Mattingly had seen enough. Capuano was gone after 81 pitches, five fewer than he threw in 4 2/3 innings Saturday night in San Diego. On a positive note, Capuano's ERA went from a ghastly 7.71 to a just-sort-of-not-very-good 5.40.

No-shows (again). For the second night in a row, the Dodgers played in front of a bunch of empty seats, with an official attendance of 28,328. Total paid attendance for the past two nights has been 58,057. Total paid attendance for Tuesday's home opener was 56,000.

Kershaw discusses Opening Day outing

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
4:51
PM PT
SAN DIEGO -- While he warmed up for his Opening Day start against the Padres, Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw looked around to see where he could vomit on the field if he needed to.

Kershaw threw three scoreless innings before he exited because of illness in the Dodgers’ 5-3 victory over the Padres on Thursday night at Petco Park.

Kershaw, the 2011 National League Cy Young winner, said he was feeling better Friday afternoon before the Dodgers’ night game at Petco. He said he no longer felt queasy, but he was still weak and had been unable to eat.

“I felt pretty bad,” Kershaw said, recalling Thursday’s outing. “But I knew I needed to try and go out there, so I tried, and after that third inning, I started getting dizzy and lightheaded and stuff, so I couldn’t really do it anymore.”

Kershaw’s velocity was down, but he struck out three, walked one and gave up two hits in three innings. He said he was unsure what caused the illness.

“I just wasn’t throwing with a lot of effort. [It was] not so much changing mechanics,” he said. “I was basically just doing what my body would let me do. That’s about as much as I could do.”

Kershaw watched the rest of the game on TV at the ballpark. After he threw up during the eighth inning, he said, he felt better and was able to return to the hotel after the game.

“The bullpen picked me up, and they all pitched really well,” Kershaw said. “Happy for [Josh Lindblom] to get that win. That’s cool. We played well, so it was good to see.”

Kershaw said he’s “pretty sure” he’ll be able to start the home opener Tuesday against the Pirates.

“Hopefully, I can get some food down,” he said. “I haven’t been able to eat in a while.”

3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 5, Padres 3

April, 5, 2012
4/05/12
7:19
PM PT


SAN DIEGO -- Despite losing Clayton Kershaw to a stomach flu after the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner gamely battled through three shutout innings, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was just good enough hold the San Diego Padres at bay in a 5-3, season-opening victory for the Dodgers before a sellout crowd of 42,941 at Petco Park.

The Dodgers went ahead to stay on a pair of bases-loaded walks in the fourth inning by James Loney and A.J. Ellis, then put the game to bed on Matt Kemp's two-run homer in the top of the eighth. Javy Guerra, who as a rookie saved 21 games for the Dodgers last season, notched his first one of 2012 by pitching the ninth inning.

Kershaw's early departure forced the Dodgers to go deep into their bullpen in their first game of the season, as he was followed by a parade of five relievers. But manager Don Mattingly didn't call on long reliever Jamey Wright, meaning the Dodgers probably are OK for Friday night's game without calling up additional bullpen help from the minors.

The good

Beast mode. Any concerns about Kemp's high strikeout rate in spring training quickly dissipated as the Dodgers center fielder went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, three RBIs and his first home run of the season, a two-run shot off Padres reliever Brad Brach in the eighth inning that landed atop the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center.

Glove Swag. Dee Gordon might have been robbed of his first triple of the year by a tough official scorer, who ruled three-base error on a ball that ticked off the glove of Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin. But nothing could take away the defensive play Gordon made to end the fourth inning, a diving stop behind the bag and on the edge of the outfield grass. Gordon got to his feet quickly and fired a bullet to first, taking what would have been a clean single to center away from Yonder Alonso.

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Sellers, Lindblom make 25-man roster

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
11:17
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- And then there were 25. Or there will be 25 after the Dodgers make it official Wednesday afternoon. But the team did decide the winners of its final position battles Tuesday night after a 4-1 win over the Angels in the middle game of the Freeway Series.

Infielder Justin Sellers and right-hander Josh Lindblom will make the club. Infielders Luis Cruz and Josh Fields will be reassigned along with lefty reliever Scott Rice before the team leaves Los Angeles for Thursday's season opener in San Diego against the Padres.

Sellers earned the final nod over Fields and Cruz because of his versatility in the infield -- he can play shortstop, second base and third base -- and because he made the necessary adjustments at the plate after hitting just .203 in 36 games last season.

"The biggest thing Justin needs to do is understand who he is as a hitter," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "When you play in basically a pitchers' ballpark, you can't hit fly balls. He's got a little bit of pop, but enough to get him in trouble. He needs to hit the ball low, especially into right field.

"If he wants to be here, you can't lead our team in fly ball percentage at 170 pounds. Matt Kemp hits 'em out over there, but I don't know about Justin."

This spring Sellers took those notes and worked on his approach at the plate. He brought his average up to .310 with an RBI single in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game. When Jerry Sands fizzled this spring and was reassigned to minor league camp, the door was open for Sellers to try to beat out Fields -- who once hit 23 home runs with the White Sox in 2007 and got off to a hot start this spring but fell off toward the end of camp.

"He's earned it," Mattingly said of Sellers. "He's done all the work. From Sells' standpoint, he's the kind of guy that I like because I know he's not afraid of anything and he's going to catch the baseball. He's tough as can be."

Mattingly said it was a "back-and-forth" decision to go with Lindblom over Rice, a 30-year-old non-roster invite who has never pitched in the big leagues.

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Kershaw struggles to the finish line

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
5:19
PM PT


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It might mean nothing, but the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner will leave spring training Sunday afternoon with a bad taste in his mouth.

Whether that carries over to Thursday, when Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers' season opener at San Diego, remains to be seen. But the usually dominating left-hander was anything but in his final Cactus League start Saturday -- which the Dodgers won 9-3 over the Arizona Diamondbacks before a sellout crowd of 12,799, the largest in the two-year history of Talking Stick -- and he wasn't happy about afterward.

"It wasn't very good," Kershaw said. "I gave up runs, and I gave up hits. That usually makes for a bad outing."

Because it was his final spring-training tuneup, Kershaw's prescribed pitch count already was going to be tapered back regardless of the result. Manager Don Mattingly came to get him just after Kershaw struck out Paul Goldschmidt for the second out of the fourth inning, a point at which Kershaw had given up three earned runs and six hits, including a bomb of a two-run homer by Jason Kubel in the first inning.

Kershaw said he was missing his spots and that his slider, which he had struggled with in his previous start six days earlier, still wasn't quite right. But when asked if the slider was a concern now that the regular season is upon him, Kershaw said it isn't.

"It can't be," he said. "April 5 is coming up pretty fast. You have to be ready to go."

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt says he continues to see good sliders from Kershaw intermittently, but that the inconsistency could be the result of Kershaw trying to force the pitch, especially in light desert air where breaking balls tend not to break as much and where simply getting a proper grip on the ball can be tough.

"But he isn't going to make that excuse, and I'm not going to make it for him," Honeycutt said. "As long as he is healthy, that is the main thing. [The slider] isn't something I'm worried about. He is going to continue to work on it until he feels comfortable with it."

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Lilly decision coming, plus other stuff

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
5:08
PM PT
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers likely will decide Friday whether to place veteran left-hander Ted Lilly on the 15-day disabled list to start the season, that decision expected to come after Lilly throws his first bullpen session since he began to suffer from neck stiffness one day last week.

As a result of that issue, Lilly was scratched from his most recent scheduled start Tuesday. While the injury isn't a concern, the fact Lilly's schedule has been thrown off is something of a concern with the team's season opener now just a week away. So far, Lilly hasn't built up his pitch count sufficiently to be ready for the regular season.

As long as Lilly doesn't appear in another Cactus League game, the move to put him on the DL could be backdated to March 26, meaning he would be eligible to pitch on April 10 -- although in that case, he wouldn't pitch until at least April 11 because Clayton Kershaw is slated to pitch the team's home opener on April 10.

Manager Don Mattingly said if Lilly is on the DL, the team will carry an extra reliever until Lilly is activated and that Chris Capuano, who for now is slated to make his first start in that April 11 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, will instead be dropped into what originally was Lilly's spot and pitch on April 7 at San Diego.

In that case, Mattingly said it was possible the Dodgers could go through the other four starters twice before Lilly gets the ball for the first time on April 14 against the Padres at Dodger Stadium. By that time, Mattingly said, Lilly's pitch count could be sufficiently built up with a simulated game and a minor league rehabilitation game.

If Lilly does go on the DL, the most likely reliever to hold down his spot probably is Josh Lindblom because he already is on the 40-man roster, which is full, and still has minor league options, meaning he easily could be sent down when Lilly is ready to be activated.

*****

In the latest indication that he likely will have his contract purchased and be added to both the 40-man and opening-day rosters, Josh Fields played the left field for the first time this spring in Wednesday's Cactus League game, a 3-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox before 5,091 at Camelback Ranch. Fields normally plays first and third base, but he has made 22 major league appearances in left, most recently in 2007.

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Cactus League: Padres 3, Dodgers 0

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
5:19
PM PT


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Offensively, in their final Cactus League game before their only off-day of spring training, the Dodgers performed like a team trying to start its vacation a little early against San Diego Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer, who shut them out on three hits over six dazzling innings. On the mound, though, veteran right-hander Jamey Wright made a loud statement in his bid to capture the only available spot in the Dodgers' bullpen in a 3-0 loss to the San Diego Padres before 6,328 at Camelback Ranch.

With Ted Lilly pushed to the minor league side on his day to pitch because manager Don Mattingly wanted to look at several relievers in the big game, Wright was given a rare start. He responded by pitching two perfect innings, with only one ball being hit out of the infield.

Wright, 37 and almost two decades removed from having been a first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies, is in spring training as a non-roster invitee for the seventh consecutive season. Each of the past six years, he has found a way onto the Opening Day roster of whatever team brought him to camp.

But as he went into last winter a free agent once more, Wright figured the 3.13 ERA he had posted in 60 appearances for the Seattle Mariners last season might mean there would be a guaranteed, major league offer for him out there somewhere.

"That was definitely in the back of my mind,'' he said. "I definitely felt this year would be different. But as soon as you get past the new year and nothing has happened, you're thinking, 'Here we go again.' But whether it was a big league deal or a minor league deal, I wasn't going to come in any differently than I have the past seven years. I still have to get ready and prepare and do my work, especially at my age.''

Mattingly remained non-committal on the subject of Wright making the club, stopping short of even saying that Wright had put himself at the head of a pack that includes the non-roster likes of Jon Grabow, Fernando Nieve and Scott Rice, youngster Josh Lindblom and longtime organizational fixture Ramon Troncoso, who is out of minor league options.

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Morning mishmash from Camelback Ranch

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
10:13
AM PT
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The competition for the right to hold down Blake Hawksworth's roster spot, as long as that spot remains open, is well under way in Los Angeles Dodgers spring training, and the list of candidates seems endless. There are Wil Ledezma, Jon Grabow, Scott Rice, Jamey Wright, Ramon Troncoso and Josh Lindblom just to name a few.

As for Hawksworth, who had to have a second surgical procedure to clean out an infection in his right elbow shortly after he had a first surgery this winter to remove scar tissue and a bone spur, he is only now beginning to play catch and isn't expected to return by April 10, which would be the first day he is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Eventually, though, Hawksworth is coming back from the DL, and he is out of minor league options, so we probably can presume his roster spot will be there for him whenever he is ready to reclaim it.

So is this battle to earn the last bullpen spot on the opening-day roster really just a battle to be a temporary placeholder?

``You say that, but then you might have a guy throwing up zeroes every day,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ``It's a competition. It's hard to say a guy is a placeholder when he throws zeroes every time out there. It's all about opportunity.''

Meanwhile, Andre Ethier will return to the lineup this afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels, and he will play right field. Mattingly had him penciled in at designated hitter as a precaution after Ethier was scratched from a game on Saturday because of stiffness in his back, but trainer Sue Falsone told Mattingly that Ethier not only was OK to play defensively but that he might actually benefit from it because the increased activity could be better for his back than sitting around as much as a DH normally would during a game.

And finally, one leftover note from Sunday:

Although the Dodgers are off to a sizzling start in the Cactus League with a 5-1-2 record -- something that in reality means absolutely nothing -- Mattingly is growing impatient with the unusual number of fundamental miscues.

``For me, we have gotten a little lazy lately,'' he said. ``We have missed some cutoffs and missed some signs. I think it's just that part of the spring where we have to push ourselves to be a little better.''

First-workout observations

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
3:14
PM PT

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Clayton Kershaw, right, throws to Chris Capuano during a spring training workout Wednesday.

Spring training workouts tend to be mundane, and that includes the first one, which for Dodgers pitchers and catchers took place on Wednesday. Half the pitchers threw bullpens, with the other half scheduled to do the same tomorrow (except Ted Lilly, who will arrive late because his wife gave birth Tuesday). No one’s arm fell off. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Mostly, then, for those of us who weren’t actually participating, that first workout was a chance to renew acquaintances after the long winter and, while standing on the sideline, engage in a few conversations. For me, this year, it also was a time to field comment after comment about the length of my hair.

The day began with the usual standing around the clubhouse, for which the daily beat crew was joined by a couple of national writers I hadn’t seen since the winter meetings. We met with Ronald Belisario, and he admitted he had tested positive for cocaine, which was why he couldn’t get a visa to come to the U.S. last year and join the Dodgers.

Then they closed the clubhouse for a meeting, so we returned to the media workroom to write the Belisario story. I filed just in time to make manager Don Mattingly’s morning media briefing. While waiting for Mattingly to emerge, I spent a couple of minutes chatting with assistant general managers, Logan White and DeJon Watson.

Then it was out to the back fields, where a couple of us cornered general manager Ned Colletti for a couple of quick questions and wound up having a casual conversation that lasted about 45 minutes. That’s fairly common with Colletti, a former sportswriter who has an easy, relaxed way about him and likes to spin a good yarn.

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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