Dodgers Report: Ned Colletti

Hyun-Jin Ryu throws off mound; Dodgers' playoff roster talks 'dragging out a bit'

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
LOS ANGELES -- Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have added a division title to the playoff berth they clinched a week earlier, the postseason roster has quickly emerged as the primary item on their checklist.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was peppered with such inquiries before Friday night’s series opener against the visiting Colorado Rockies. Los Angeles has three games left in the regular season before opening the playoffs next Friday against an undetermined opponent.

Mattingly said he has been huddling with general manager Ned Colletti and his staff, but cementing a playoff roster remains a work in progress.

“We’re having discussions, part of which are kind of dragging out a bit,” he said.

Whether to keep an extra bullpen pitcher or an additional position player is typically the toughest decision for playoff-bound teams, and that’s held true for the Dodgers in their second straight season as NL West champions.

A major snag in the postseason landscape is the status of left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, who’s trying to come back from an ailing throwing shoulder that has kept him out since pitching one inning on Sept. 12.

Ryu (14-7, 3.38 ERA) took a big step forward Friday afternoon, however, throwing off a mound for the first time since the injury.

Mattingly said Ryu was “comfortable” during the bullpen session of about 30 pitches, and the Dodgers plan to bring their No. 3 starter back for a “full-blown bullpen” on Sunday. If he emerges from that workout with no further setbacks, Ryu will throw in a simulated game some time next week.

“All those things still have to be crossed off,” Mattingly said. “So we have to plan accordingly -- with him, without him, if can he start, if he can’t. All those steps are still up in the air, and that’s going to depend on what happens over these next few days.”

As for the pitchers and players on the postseason roster bubble, Mattingly said the next three days could make or break some opportunities. Friday’s starting lineup is stacked with regulars, with only Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and A.J. Ellis not among the starting nine.

“There’s definitely going to be disappointment with certain guys if they’re not on the roster,” Mattingly said. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions.”

Back end of Dodgers' rotation remains in flux

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
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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So far, August trade winds fan L.A.'s hopes

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
ATLANTA – The trade deadline is not what it used to be.

In years past, players could settle in after July 31 came and went, confident they wouldn’t be scrambling to pack up their homes in the midst of the season. Conversely, players stuck in bad situations or on miserable teams were stranded for another few months.

[+] EnlargeKevin Correia
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsThe acquisition of Correia lends credibility to the notion that a team can improve after the trade deadline, something GM Ned Colletti has a knack for doing.
After Kevin Correia made two of his worst starts of the season for the Minnesota Twins on July 20 and 25 in front of a host of other teams' scouts, he figured his chances of escaping the last-place team weren’t great.

"I kind of figured at that point, it [a trade] probably wouldn't happen," Correia said. "But I knew you can clear waivers. It wasn’t something I was thinking about every day, but in the back of your mind, you know it’s a possibility."

Now, August has become nearly as active for trades as July is, with bad teams looking to offload contracts and other teams willing to scoop up the overpaid or underperforming castoffs – once they've cleared waivers -- to fill specific needs. Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has made a niche for himself in August, which is why he didn’t seem to be sweating it too much when he couldn't do anything to shore up the back of the Dodgers' rotation by the deadline.

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Colletti keeps eye out for another pitcher

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
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.

Ned Colletti discusses August trades

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
LOS ANGELES -- Teams have been able to put players on waivers for the past three days and it’s probable the some of those players already have cleared, making them eligible to be traded.

This is the time of year Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti looks to put the finishing touches on his roster. He said he hopes to be able to do the same this season and the Dodgers have clear needs at the back of the rotation and in the bullpen.

Colletti said that, if he makes a trade, it likely would be a smaller-scale strike, nothing like the blockbuster with the Boston Red Sox that brought in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto two seasons ago.

Think along the lines of Marlon Anderson, Michael Young, Ronnie Belliard and Greg Maddux, all post-deadline Colletti moves.

“It may not be the sexiest name on the block, but it may be somebody who can make a couple starts for us or who can get a key hit for us or do something for us,” Colletti said in an appearance on 710 ESPNLA Monday. “The Boston deal a couple years ago obviously was historic not only in its size and contract sizes, but also the time of year. I wouldn’t look for anything like that, but we’re going to continue to look for smaller pieces.”

According to reports, the following players have been placed on revocable waivers (meaning their team can pull them back): Jason Hammel, Wade Miley, Antonio Bastardo, A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez and Kyle Kendrick. So, let the conjecture begin!

If not Dan Haren starting, then who?

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
LOS ANGELES -- Gee, is it August already?

No doubt Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti would like to go back in time and take another crack at the trade deadline after the events of Friday night, when his fifth starter, Dan Haren, continued to pitch his way toward retirement and one potential replacement, Paul Maholm, left the game with an apparently serious knee injury.

Asked about whether Haren, who has a 10.03 ERA since July 1, would remain in the Dodgers’ rotation, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly joked, “Well, [Drew] Butera hasn’t really been built up to pitch yet.”

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports"This is the toughest time in my career," Dodgers starter Dan Haren said after his brutal performance in a loss Friday to the Cubs.
Butera, by the way, is a catcher. He made a couple of emergency relief appearances for the Dodgers earlier this season. So, yeah, the Dodgers don’t exactly have great options for shoring up a fraying back of the rotation.

Asked if the Dodgers would consider looking at minor league options, Mattingly said, “Obviously, we’ll try to do what’s right for everybody. I’m sure Danny’s as frustrated as anybody.”

That is an understatement.

Haren, 33, clearly is not the pitcher he was a few years ago, given a fastball that has lost roughly 5 mph. But he’s pretty much the same guy who was 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in April and is thus a bit dumbfounded at his inability to avoid these kinds of starts with regularity lately.

“I was just embarrassed with my performance. I feel bad for the fans, for the 24 other guys,” Haren said. “Coming into today, I felt really good mentally. I tried to clear my head. Driving to the field, I felt like good things were going to happen. And then the same results came out of it. It’s tough. This is the toughest time in my career.

“I had the bad start last year and was able to turn things around, but it means more this year. With the way we’ve been playing, to be the weak link -- I take a lot of pride in my preparation -- it hurts that much more.”

Thursday’s quiet trade deadline was, in a way, a de facto vote of confidence in Haren and Josh Beckett, who has been dealing with a hip injury and struggled in his two starts since the All-Star break.

It’s not that the Dodgers wanted to leave themselves susceptible to a struggling back of the rotation. But they weren’t willing to give up the prospects for a front-line starting pitcher, and Colletti said there really weren’t a lot of back-end starters being shopped.

So the Dodgers now have limited options:

• Live with what Haren and Beckett can provide them the rest of this season.
• Find an overpriced pitcher who could get through waivers between now and Aug. 31.
• Figure out which of their less-than-dynamic minor league options gives them the best shot.

Maholm probably would have been the next one up, but he went down in a heap while covering first base in the seventh inning. Mattingly said he was sent off for MRI on his right knee, and the Dodgers were bracing for bad news. Maholm has had multiple surgeries on his left knee.

“This was the good one,” Mattingly said.

Nobody really springs to mind in the minor leagues. Zach Lee (5.22 ERA), Red Patterson (5.70) and Carlos Frias (5.01) are the pitchers most often mentioned as possibilities at Triple-A Albuquerque. Lefty Chris Reed (3.32 ERA, 113 strikeouts) might merit a look at Double-A Chattanooga.

Haren struggled early for the Washington Nationals last season before going 6-4 with a 3.27 ERA after the All-Star break. So maybe he can figure it out again if he's given the chance.

Mattingly tried to write off Haren’s first-inning struggles before Friday’s game, because his 7.29 first-inning ERA was his worst coming into the contest. He did all right in the first this time around. Now his worst inning is now the fifth (8.80). Haren hasn’t gotten through a sixth inning since June 30.

Colletti’s inaction Thursday at trade deadline also might have saved a roster spot for one of the struggling veterans in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Chris Perez certainly hasn’t pitched well most of this season. On Friday, he allowed all three of the runners he inherited from Haren to score, giving up a shot off the center-field wall to Welington Castillo, a sacrifice fly to Nate Schierholtz and a sharply hit grounder by Kyle Hendricks that ricocheted off his foot for an infield hit.

Before Friday, Perez had a bloated 5.02 ERA, but he had done a good job keeping inherited runners from scoring, with just 17 percent of them reaching the plate. Still, he has a 1.36 WHIP and, combined with last year’s numbers, doesn’t look like a pitcher who can help the Dodgers get key outs in a pennant race or during playoff games.

What about catchers? Though no one really brought it up around the deadline, you have to wonder if Colletti had any conversations about catchers. The Dodgers’ starter, A.J. Ellis, 33, is batting .194 with zero home runs and, after knee surgery, is beginning to show signs of age in struggling to block balls in the dirt.

Why the Dodgers stood pat

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers were, indeed, involved in talks to try to acquire Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox and David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays, general manager Ned Colletti confirmed after Thursday's deadline passed without the Dodgers making a trade. The Dodgers decided to stand pat and keep their elite prospects.

[+] EnlargeNed Colletti
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsNed Colletti said it would have required the Dodgers giving up two of their top three prospects to make a deal before the trade deadline Thursday.
Colletti said it would have taken more than one of the Dodgers' top three prospects -- Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias -- to land either of those two pitchers.

"Easily," he said.

Lester wound up going to the Oakland Athletics along with outfielder Jonny Gomes for major league slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Price went to the Detroit Tigers as part of a three-team trade. The Rays netted two young major leaguers -- pitcher Drew Smyly and infielder Nick Franklin -- and infield prospect Willy Adames.

"If we didn't think that Joc or Corey or Urias had a chance to be impact players here, they'd be out of here," Colletti said. "You can't always stay in the same place where it's a team built on trades and free agency. This franchise's greatest years were really around teams that came through the system."

Though Boston wound up with Cespedes, Colletti said the Red Sox were asking the Dodgers for "upper-level prospects" in exchange for Lester. The closest equivalent the Dodgers have to Cespedes on the 25-man roster is Yasiel Puig, their best player and, now, their center fielder. Out of the question, of course.

"We didn't have a Cespedes to move," Colletti said. "I guess we could have, but we didn't."

Colletti said he is still hopeful he could add a reliever in August. Such a transaction would require that player to clear waivers, but more teams might become sellers as the division and wild-card races become more defined.

Hot streak fuels need to make trade

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
LOS ANGELES -- Say what you will about Don Mattingly -- and many Los Angeles Dodgers fans seem predisposed toward being critical -- but he has ferreted out the right button to push two straight seasons.

In 2013, he called out his team's effort level and willingness to fight, and that, combined with Yasiel Puig settling in with no lack of either, propelled them into the playoffs with surprisingly little resistance. Then, on June 4, he called out the 2014 Dodgers for selfishness, belaboring the point before the game and putting an exclamation point on it afterward, calling the team "basically s-----."

[+] EnlargeMatt Kemp
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMatt Kemp's resurgence and Yasiel Puig's progression in center field could help convince the Dodgers to trade a prospect.
Since then, the Dodgers are 30-17 (.638), have taken up residence in first place, have the best record in the National League and, after nights like Wednesday's 3-2, 10-inning win over the Atlanta Braves, seem to play with as much togetherness as any team in baseball, the chemistry-famous San Francisco Giants included.

So, will the team's sudden five-game winning streak dim general manager Ned Colletti's desire to add what could be the missing piece to a championship puzzle? It was hard to read Colletti on Wednesday night. He seemed to be saying he didn't find the team's needs particularly pressing when he said, "We're trying to take it from 'good' to 'great,' perhaps. It's not like we've got many holes to fill."

If you're a die-hard Dodgers fan and haven't seen your team play in a World Series in 26 years, this is a good time to ask yourself, "What's wrong with going for great?" In fact, this seems like the perfect time, with the Dodgers finally living up to their vast potential, to wonder whether go-for-broke isn't exactly the right attitude to have about this season.

If you believe Colletti when he says he's not inclined to trade any of the team's top three prospects for any of the players being offered in talks, shouldn't you find that a little disappointing? Yes, the Dodgers have few holes, but one of them is near the back of a rotation that seems to be sputtering out with two months left in the season.

The top three starters, who include the man who piled up 13 strikeouts Wednesday night, Zack Greinke, is an extraordinary starting point. Add Jon Lester -- even at the Dodgers' expense of talented center fielder Joc Pederson -- and now you've got, hands down, the best playoff rotation in baseball, maybe the best in a generation or two.

Former Dodgers infielder Alex Cora tweeted Wednesday night, "Kershaw/Greinke/Lester is too good to be true and for a franchise that last won a WS in 1988, the time is NOW #Dodgers."

Now seems to be as good a time as any to go all-in, with the rest of the National League showing serious signs of mediocrity.

And, let's face it: Where are the Dodgers going to play Pederson even if they do hold onto him? Puig is the Dodgers' best player, he's showing signs he can be relied on in center field and he's signed for five more seasons beyond this one. Colletti said before the game he hopes Matt Kemp is a Dodger "for a long, long time," and Kemp is signed through 2019. Carl Crawford is virtually untradeable, and the Dodgers will be paying him $62 million for three more years after this one.

Giving up two of the Dodgers' best prospects -- say, tossing in Corey Seager or Julio Urias -- would be an overpay to land Lester's services for two months. But trading one -- the guy least likely to have a role next spring, whom some in the organization view as having the lowest ceiling of the three -- seems like a reasonable gamble in exchange for instant World Series-favorite status.

Dodgers make trade deadline seem less relevant

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
SAN FRANCISCO -- The National League West might still be decided based on what the respective general managers of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are able to pull off before Thursday's trade deadline.

And then again it might not.

[+] EnlargeDodgers
Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsThe Dodgers were feeling pretty good about themselves after a three-game sweep of the Giants that vaulted them back into first place.
The Giants have made the only two moves so far, with general manager Brian Sabean scooping up Jake Peavy from the Boston Red Sox for a couple of pitching prospects, and Dan Uggla from the Atlanta Braves' discard pile. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti admitted Saturday that talks hadn't gotten far off the ground and said, "You know what? We may not do anything."

If you've followed Colletti's active track record at this time of year, you know that admission had to hurt.

But it probably hurt a little bit less after he watched his team dominate the Giants for two games and then eke by them Sunday night, 4-3, for a three-game sweep that put the Dodgers alone in first place in the NL West for the first time since July 13.

On Sunday, the Dodgers beat Peavy, which in itself is noteworthy since he was 14-2 in his career against them coming in. Peavy had arrived in the middle of the Dodgers' 5-0 Saturday win, a Clayton Kershaw two-hitter, and made his Giants debut on "Sunday Night Baseball" against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has learned to mimic Kershaw's slider to the disgust of National League hitters of late.

Uggla, by the way, went 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and three errors at second base in the series.

Not that Peavy was bad, not by a long stretch. He gave the Giants a quality start despite one run scoring because of Uggla's error and another scoring because Buster Posey took his time throwing to first after a strikeout on a ball in the dirt, and speedster Dee Gordon alertly broke for home.

"That's tough when you give a good team extra outs, but at the same time that's what being a team is about and I've got to pick up the team and do a better job," Peavy said afterward. "Buster and I are going to need a little time to get used to one another."

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Pitching issues are clear for Dodgers

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
PITTSBURGH -- Many of the Los Angeles Dodgers' top scouts and front-office types, including pro scouting director Rick Ragazzo, were in Pittsburgh the past two nights with the major league team watching the Dodgers from an upper-level suite. They had a bird's-eye view of what their next week figures to look like: traveling the country looking at pitchers.

It's not as if their mandate going into the July 31 trade deadline wasn't clear before Tuesday night. General manager Ned Colletti has stated he's looking for bullpen help and he has admitted lately he's concerned about issues at the back of the rotation as well.

[+] EnlargeJamey Wright
AP PhotoJamey Wright had a rough outing Tuesday, but the Dodgers' bullpen in general hasn't been producing much quality lately.
It would be hard to argue with those two needs after Tuesday night's 12-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Trailing by one run in the eighth inning after a game effort from his offense, manager Don Mattingly allowed reliever Chris Perez to walk four straight batters to force in a run, because he's wary of running his only reliable eighth-inning pitcher, J.P. Howell, into the ground.

Howell leads Dodgers relievers with 46 appearances and Mattingly implied Howell would only be used in games the Dodgers lead.

"We've kind of had to make some decisions with that back end of our bullpen," Mattingly said. "We can't go to him every day."

In an ideal world or even a well-functioning one, you wouldn't have to. You would have more than one good option, an ace lefty like Howell and a reliable righty -- which is what Brian Wilson and Perez were supposed to be, by the way. Tuesday didn't expose the Dodgers' lack of bullpen depth, it exposed their lack of bullpen quality.

Experience isn't a problem. Jamey Wright has been pitching in the majors since 1996. He had a rough night Tuesday, letting Pittsburgh take command of the game on run-scoring hits by Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider. Perez, Wilson and Brandon League have all been closers, but Perez and Wilson have ERAs north of 5.00 and Mattingly seems unwilling to trust League, probably because of situations like Tuesday -- when he came in and allowed a couple of hits to make a bad situation a lost cause.

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Rapid Reaction: Pirates 12, Dodgers 7

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Beckett was the brightest surprise of the first half for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but his story took an ominous turn when he started feeling hip pain in June and went into the All-Star break on the disabled list.

Tuesday, he returned and didn't look like the pitcher with the fourth-best ERA in the National League in a 12-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Combined with some miserable work from the bullpen, the Dodgers' needs entering the trade deadline appear clearer and clearer: add quality to the rotation and bullpen.

How it happened: Pittsburgh hit three home runs off Beckett (6-6), who seemed to shy away from his curveball-first approach after Neil Walker hit one out, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pulled him in the fourth inning after 69 pitches. The Dodgers fought back to tie it at 4-4, but the middle relief didn't hold firm. The Pirates scored four runs off Paul Maholm and Jamey Wright in the sixth inning.

In that inning, Wright hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch and Pittsburgh apparently retaliated the following half-inning. Pirates reliever Justin Wilson was ejected by plate umpire Toby Basner for hitting Justin Turner with a pitch (on his second try). Adrian Gonzalez, who punished St. Louis pitcher Trevor Rosenthal for plunking Hanley Ramirez two days earlier, channeled his anger well again. He launched a two-run home run. That was the Dodgers' first home run since July 9.

The Dodgers continued to rally but came up short against Pittsburgh's bullpen.

Hits: The best thing to happen to the Dodgers over the past few days is the emergence of Gonzalez, who had been mired in a 2-month-long slump. Starting with the hit off Rosenthal, Gonzalez is six for his past nine with two doubles, the home run and five RBIs. It has been his bat primarily that has allowed the Dodgers to apply steady offensive pressure here without Ramirez and Yasiel Puig, who are still nursing hand injuries from that St. Louis series.

Misses: When you have to go to your two long relievers, it rarely bodes well for your chances. Still, Maholm and especially Wright could have done a little more to keep the Dodgers in the game. They combined for 3⅔ innings and allowed seven runners to reach base and four of them to score. If the Dodgers are able to land a reliever before the trade deadline -- one of general manager Ned Colletti's targets -- these two could be pitching to see who gets to keep his roster spot. Chris Perez could be in danger, too. He walked four straight batters to force in a run in the eighth.

Stat of the game: The Dodgers didn't have to use lefty J.P. Howell and that's a good thing. Howell leads the team with 46 appearances and it's no wonder Mattingly goes to him a lot. Howell has made 11 straight scoreless appearances and his 1.30 ERA is ninth among NL relievers.

Up next: The Dodgers go for the series win behind Dan Haren (8-7, 4.30 ERA) Wednesday night at 4:05 p.m. PT. They'll be facing Pittsburgh lefty Francisco Liriano (1-7, 4.43).

Has Andre Ethier now lost his starting spot?

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
LOS ANGELES -- Despite having three of the highest-paid outfielders in baseball, the Dodgers apparently haven't been able to find a solution they're comfortable with in center field.

For the second straight game Friday night, the Dodgers were facing a right-handed pitcher and Andre Ethier was not in the starting lineup. In addition to batting only .250 with four home runs in 279 plate appearances, Ethier grades out as a below-average center fielder in advanced defensive metrics.

The Dodgers moved Matt Kemp out of center field in late May for defensive reasons and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has said he wasn't interested in moving Kemp back to center.

Mattingly said Friday the benching of Ethier is in part due to an assortment of physical ailments Ethier is dealing with, but performance also has clearly played a part.

"He's had some leg issues and other issues. We want to make sure we get him well," Mattingly said.

Some decision-makers within the Dodgers began to wonder during the last trip to Denver and Detroit -- two big outfields -- whether Ethier, 32, has the speed to play center field every day any longer.

Mattingly started Scott Van Slyke in center field the past two games, but Van Slyke, 27, has never been an everyday player and, at 6 feet 5 and 220 pounds, doesn't exactly profile as a typical center fielder either. The apparent loss of confidence in Ethier raises the possibility the Dodgers will eventually promote Joc Pederson from Triple-A Albuquerque. Pederson, who missed time after separating his shoulder, is playing again and is batting .325 with a 1.023 OPS for Albuquerque.

If the plan is to promote Pederson, general manager Ned Colletti might feel compelled to trade one of his veteran outfielders before the July 31 trade deadline, presuming he can find a taker. Carl Crawford was activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday, but Mattingly said Crawford is to remain in a reserve role, at least for now. Crawford, who has good speed, hasn't played center field regularly since 2004, when he was 22. He has a well below-average throwing arm, the reason he plays left field exclusively.

Between Crawford and Ethier, the Dodgers have more than $35 million in salary being paid to reserve outfielders.

It's obvious Dodgers in need of relief

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
LOS ANGELES -- It's July and, in a matter of weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have at least one and probably several new players on their roster, acquired via trade. That player or those players might arrive before the non-waiver deadline of July 31 or they might come after.

But the Dodgers will make moves. Make no mistake. It's just what a front office of general manager Ned Colletti, who's not the sit-back-and-be-patient type, does.

[+] EnlargeBrian Wilson and Don Mattingly
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesBrian Wilson had a rough eighth inning Wednesday, and it's clear manager Don Mattingly would like other options.
And if you've been paying attention to the details this season, you can probably think right along with Colletti, who said recently, "I'd like to get our bullpen squared away, whether it's internally or externally."

The Dodgers need another reliever, preferably the kind you can hand the eighth inning to and feel as if it's in good hands. The latest demonstration was Wednesday afternoon's 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians, in which Brian Wilson turned a one-run lead into two-run deficit while getting one out and allowing five batters to reach base.

Not to pile on Wilson, though the fans certainly were as he left the mound to fairly prominent boos in the eighth inning. Since May 14, Wilson had pitched to a 0.54 ERA, held opponents to a .540 OPS and struck out 18 batters in 16 2/3 innings before Wednesday happened.

But Wednesday did happen and the National League isn't going to let the Dodgers win their division based on what they've done since May 14. Overall, Wilson has walked 21 batters and given up three home runs in 29 1/3 innings this season. Those aren't reassuring numbers and, judging by Wednesday's actions, it's pretty obvious manager Don Mattingly doesn't have total confidence in soft-throwing lefty J.P. Howell as his primary setup man.

Mattingly let Wilson, a right-hander, face left-handed hitting pinch hitter David Murphy though Howell was warmed up in the bullpen, saying, "I feel good with Willy. Willy's been good."

He has, for a while, but he really hasn't been consistently good since October 2013. His velocity isn't what it was in 2013. According to Fangraphs, Wilson's fastball is averaging 92.6 mph, the slowest it has ever been since he arrived in the major leagues in 2006. The command issues, sporadic but real, have been even more worrisome.

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Time to slide Ramirez to third base

May, 29, 2014
May 29
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly seemed to get a little tense the other day when asked to explain the difference between Matt Kemp's struggles in center field and Hanley Ramirez's struggles at shortstop, and why one led to a position switch and the other has not.

Kemp was asked to veer from center and keep walking until he found a position where he could do less damage -- left field as it turns out. Why shouldn't Ramirez be asked as well?

[+] EnlargeHanley Ramirez
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesHanley Ramirez is considered the worst shortstop in the major leagues when it comes to defensive WAR.
If anything, Ramirez is the bigger liability than Kemp. Now that he's healthy and playing in the field every day, the issues that were so obvious in Miami are becoming worrisome in Los Angeles. He has, frankly, been exposed. He's not a shortstop any longer. The advanced defensive metrics paint an absolutely frightening picture for the Dodgers: Ramirez is -10 in Defensive Runs Saved; -6.9 in UZR. He is the worst shortstop in the major leagues, by a wide margin, according to defensive WAR.

Granted, if we take last season as the barometer, Ramirez clearly swings a more impactful bat than Kemp, and the drop-off to the other everyday options at shortstop -- say Erisbel Arruebarrena or Alex Guerrero -- might be steeper than that from Kemp to Andre Ethier.

But still, wouldn't you think the Dodgers have to be considering moving Ramirez to third base, and maybe soon? Their latest medical information on Juan Uribe isn't good. His strained hamstring, Mattingly himself admitted, won't be healthy enough to get him back on the field within the next two weeks and, for all they know, it could be months.

So, why not slide Ramirez to the far left side of the infield and, when Uribe is healthy, use him as in a super-utility role, spelling whomever plays shortstop, playing second base against left-handed pitchers, giving Ramirez a blow at third base once a week or so. He could easily play four or five days a week and the other players would have fresher legs for it.

If the Dodgers really are serious about going all in on their starting pitching -- and that seems like a smart bet if you've been watching these guys throw lately -- they'd be crazy not to at least consider going to their best defensive alignment. The way Dee Gordon has improved at second base, imagine how impermeable this team could be up the middle with Gordon and Arruebarrena turning double plays.

It's simple and doesn't involve shifting Ramirez back and forth, the one thing he has asked the team not to do. Move Ramirez to third and leave him there. It might even take some of the pressure off and allow him to start swinging the bat better.

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Matt Kemp could learn from Andre Ethier

May, 28, 2014
May 28
LOS ANGELES -- "It’s always fluid."

That was the text message I got from Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti after Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. I spent time before the game talking to Colletti about Matt Kemp’s five-game benching and what it meant for the dynamics of the team, both logistically and psychologically.

Within a couple of hours, Carl Crawford was limping around left field after badly spraining his left ankle. A little while later, he would say he’s going on the 15-day disabled list, and all the questions about Kemp being the odd man out were borderline moot. So, presuming the Dodgers don’t plan on using longtime minor leaguer Scott Van Slyke every day, the only question left concerns how Kemp responds to being asked to do something new.

[+] EnlargeAndre Ethier
AP Photo/Jae C. HongAndre Ethier kept the bench warm before Matt Kemp was told to sit. The Dodgers want Kemp to respond the way Ethier did.
The Dodgers know how they’d like him to respond. They’d like him to respond like Andre Ethier did.

See, before this ever became about Kemp, it was –- far more quietly -– about Ethier. The two longest-tenured Dodgers position players are, like Crawford and Yasiel Puig, locked in this uncomfortable four-outfielder jam-up, but for a big chunk of this season, Ethier was the guy on the outside of the lineup looking in.

From May 12 to May 22, Ethier started a grand total of two games.

“It’s uncomfortable, but guys just have to figure out a way to get it done,” Ethier said.

That’s about all Kemp can really do at this point, figure out how to play left field for the first time in eight years, figure out how to catch the ball more reliably than he did for the first two months, figure out how to cut down on his strikeouts, figure out how to get on base more frequently. It’s not about how the team is treating him. It’s about how he treats this opportunity.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’s ready to play Kemp in left field the minute Kemp tells him he’s ready to play left field.

By the looks of it, Ethier stayed ready. He was batting .262 with a .361 slugging percentage when the Dodgers finally decided they had seen enough of Kemp’s sloppy play in center field and inserted him into the everyday lineup. On Tuesday, he mashed a home run and three-run triple in his first two at-bats and, since he got back on the field every day, he’s batting .368 with five extra-base hits.

Mattingly and hitting coach Mark McGwire chatted with Ethier in Washington early this month about his swing.

“We felt he was pushing the ball a little too much instead of dropping the head on it and getting the hammer going,” Mattingly said. “To me, he’s continued to work. Him and Carl both got after it pretty good, fighting for those at-bats. But Andre was playing the least. I just said, ‘Be patient. You never know what’s going to happen.’ He said, ‘It’s a long season.’ He knew the opportunity would come.”

For Kemp to do anything but hold his tongue and play his best, even if it’s awkward at first in a new position, would be a monumentally selfish act and everyone in baseball would view it as just that. The Dodgers, for nearly two months a disappointment, are just now beginning to get a head of steam, having won six of eight games behind absolutely dominant starting pitching.

This isn’t the time for complaints. Those can wait until there’s nothing left to play for.



Clayton Kershaw
21 1.77 239 198
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239