Dodgers Report: Tim Federowicz

Dodgers missing too many pieces to roll

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
CINCINNATI -- At a pivotal point in a pivotal game, the team with the $239 million payroll took its chances with the bats of Tim Federowicz and Miguel Rojas. It had Drew Butera and Jamie Romak on the bench, standing by.

To the surprise of few, things didn’t work out well during a 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds Thursday afternoon. Don Mattingly took his one big shot, using Scott Van Slyke to pinch hit, he struck out and it was pretty much time to board the charter flight home.

No knock on those players, by the way. They’re all young guys hungry to get a major-league foothold. Give them enough at-bats and they might prove serviceable at this level, but their track records haven’t exactly hinted at MVP seasons to come.

The Dodgers are at a moment in their season where they’d like very much to hit, “Go,” and instead they keep rolling a “No.” All the momentum of a fast start to this road trip sort of fizzled when they lost the last two games in Cincinnati, shut down by Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon. You can blame a lot of things, but you’d be crazy not to look in the trainers’ room for the main answer.

Pluck four everyday players off any team in the majors and see how much momentum they can generate. The Dodgers, for the moment, are without Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis, Juan Uribe and, for the next couple of games at least -- and maybe a whole lot more -- Hanley Ramirez.

They’re playing significantly shorthanded, but are they also playing significantly short of maximum effort? Reds utility man Skip Schumaker told the Cincinnati Enquirer his team felt “lucky” to have missed some of the Dodgers’ regulars in this series, but he also questioned some Dodgers players desire to play.

“We're lucky we got the split against a very good team over there -- that's a very talented, dangerous team,” Schumaker said. “That lineup is very good. When certain guys want to play, it's even better.”

Ramirez got a shot of strong anti-inflammatory medicine in his right shoulder Wednesday. There is a mandatory 48-hour waiting period before he can play again. So, he could be back as soon as Saturday, but Matt Kemp went down a similar path with the same injury last season and wound up spending time on the disabled list. The way the Dodgers have misled the media and their fans about injuries all season suggests Ramirez might not be back any time soon.

Ellis figures to be activated Friday. So, that will help. Uribe and Crawford seem like they’ll be out for at least another week.

So, much as their fans might want them to get hot right now, with the San Francisco Giants finally showing signs of slowing, they’re being pretty honest that it may not happen, not for a while.

“I mean, people expect us to win every game, win 10 games in a row,” Zack Greinke said. “It’s possible, but I mean we’re over .500, I think we’re in the playoffs as of now. We can do better, but jumping all over everyone when we’re facing the second-best team in baseball right now, the Giants, and doing what we can...Like I said, you can’t win 10 games in a row every time.

“We’ll go on a streak, but we’ll probably go on another bad streak, too, before the season’s over.”

There will be the usual flurry of angry tweets about Mattingly’s late-game moves. With runners at the corners and nobody out in the seventh, he let Federowicz and Rojas bat and neither could advance a runner 90 feet. Then, with two outs, he pinch-hit Van Slyke for Greinke, who was rolling and had thrown just 72 pitches. Van Slyke struck out.

Hitting for Rojas made more sense in one regard, because a fly ball would have tied the game then. But using Van Slyke would have basically emptied Mattingly’s bench since Chone Figgins would have had to play shortstop; and Mattingly didn’t view Figgins as more likely to hit a deep fly ball than Rojas, so he didn’t use him in that spot either.
Once again, the wrong personnel make a manager look bad.

So, Mattingly just has to wait for some players to come back and hope that, by the time they do, his team has enough to run down the Giants. Relying on the wild card seems a silly thing to do for a team this expensive, this packed with expectations and pressure.
He saw the cliff his lineup fell off after Andre Ethier Thursday and he’d like to stay as far from the edge as possible.

“If you’re totally healthy, toward the back end you’re into Uribe and Ellis and things like that. Obviously, it changes it a little bit,” Mattingly said. “But that’s who we are right now, and we’re going to get healthy.”

If they do and they still don’t get on a roll, it’s time to start examining Schumaker’s comment a little more closely.

Dodgers reach to minors for catching help

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
It has been a different kind of season for Tim Federowicz, who seemed to cement himself in the backup catcher role last season but has already been optioned to Triple-A twice this season. The Dodgers sent him down again Wednesday in favor of veteran catcher Miguel Olivo, who was hitting .390 with four home runs and 18 RBIs for Triple-A Albuquerque.

Federowicz, who has been doing a lot of the catching with A.J. Ellis working his way back from knee surgery, has no one to blame but himself. He was batting .109 in 50 plate appearances.

Olivo, 35, was on a minor-league deal, so the Dodgers had to make room on their 40-man roster to get him to the major leagues. They transferred Chad Billingsley to the 60-day disabled list, another indication that his rebound from Tommy John surgery hasn’t gone as well as it appeared it might in spring training.

Billingsley received an injection of platelet-rich plasma in his right elbow last week and is hoping to resume his throwing program this week. He felt discomfort in his elbow during a throwing session in San Francisco. MRI results showed tendinitis.

Olivo, a 10-year veteran, hasn’t played in a major-league game since June 12, 2013. He reportedly walked out on the Miami Marlins two days after that, upset about a lack of playing time. The Marlins responded by placing him on the restricted list, where he was not paid and could not sign with another team.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 4, D-backs 1

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20

LOS ANGELES -- Josh Beckett set the pace. Yasiel Puig finished the race.

Beckett was marvelous for the Los Angeles Dodgers as he continues to work himself into pitching shape. He threw five scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out seven Arizona Diamondbacks en route to a 4-1 Dodgers victory Sunday at Dodger Stadium. He threw 83 pitches.

In his past two starts, Beckett has pitched 10 innings and hasn't given up a run.

An inning after Beckett departed, the Dodgers' offense got moving. Carl Crawford tripled home Dee Gordon, and Arizona manager Kirk Gibson decided to intentionally walk Adrian Gonzalez to face Puig with two outs.

The move did not work. Puig obliterated a Josh Collmenter cutter for a line-drive home run, giving the Dodgers a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning.

How it happened: For a second consecutive game, the struggling Dodger outfielders provided the big hits. Crawford's RBI triple followed by Puig's three-run home run were all the team needed to take the rubber game of the series.

Hits: That hit wasn't Puig’s only highlight. He dropped jaws in the second inning when he tracked down Miguel Montero's hit down the right-field line, spun and threw off his back foot to nail Montero at second base for the out.

Misses: Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz committed his second catcher's interference of the season. There have been five catcher's interference calls this season, and the Dodgers have committed three.

Stat of the game: Gonzalez doubled in his first at-bat, extending his hitting streak to 15 games.

Up next: The Dodgers host the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday and draw ace Cliff Lee, who threw a complete game in his most recent start. Paul Maholm takes the ball for the Dodgers.

Rapid Reaction: Dodgers 2, Giants 1

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers evaded the dreaded sweep in San Francisco with a 2-1 win over the Giants on Thursday afternoon by getting another strong start from Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is vying with Zack Greinke to be the Dodgers’ fill-in ace while Clayton Kershaw is out.

The Dodgers weathered another stormy ninth inning by closer Kenley Jansen, who had a key wild pitch, gave up a run and allowed the tying run to reach second before getting pinch hitter Brandon Crawford to fly out to end it.

The Dodgers chased San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner in the fifth inning by driving up his pitch count.

How it happened: That April 4 start -- the shortest of Ryu’s career -- is becoming more mysterious by the day because he has yet to give up a run in any of his other four starts. He had the Giants off balance all game, inducing weak contact and cruising through seven scoreless innings without swing-and-miss stuff. The Dodgers offense stayed quiet but scratched out a couple of runs to prevail. It was a low-scoring, tense series that made for good drama.

Hits: One way you survive key injuries is by getting contributions from the players who fill in. That was the case Thursday. Tim Federowicz, thrust into the primary catcher role by A.J. Ellis’ knee injury, singled home the Dodgers’ first run in the second. Justin Turner, playing shortstop in place of Hanley Ramirez, led off the fifth with a double and scored to pad the lead.

Misses: For the second game in a row, a Dodger outfielder simply missed an easy fly ball. It was Matt Kemp on Wednesday, Yasiel Puig on Thursday. In Puig’s case, he was doing his usual taunting basket catch when he took his eye off it. He made a spectacular recovery and chucked the ball to second to get a force out anyway. He also made a brilliant over-the-left shoulder grab after getting fooled on Gregor Blanco’s knuckling liner over his head and came out of nowhere to steal a bloop hit in the eighth. Overall, Puig had a major positive impact on defense.

Stat of the game: Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 12 games by sneaking a single into right field to drive in Turner and give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

Up next: The Dodgers have a chance to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks miserable this weekend. They’ve already beaten them in all five meetings this season, and the Diamondbacks are 4-14 overall. Friday, Greinke (3-0, 2.76 ERA) opposes Arizona lefty Wade Miley (2-2, 5.04 ERA).

Dodgers spread baseball gospel at beach

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
SYDNEY -- A group of Australian little leaguers were asked who they were most excited to meet on the Dodgers. After a few quiet seconds, one of them piped up, "Ryan Kershaw!"

Clearly, there's a little work to do in spreading the gospel of America's pastime to the Australian youth.

In fact, that is a pretty good way of describing the whole point of this Opening Series Down Under. Wednesday, the Dodgers played their part in that mission, with a group of their younger players visiting one of the most famous, most beautiful beaches on earth -- Bondi Beach -- to mingle with two little-league teams from the Sydney suburbs.

Teresa Fletcher had her two boys, Jack, 6, who was wearing a Dodgers cap and Luke, 9, who was wearing a Diamondbacks hat. They play for the Ilawong Marlins. Teresa Fletcher said her family was watching the news on TV Tuesday night when a clip of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl from last June was shown. Nice way to hype this weekend's series, huh?

[+] EnlargeDrew Butera
AP Photo/Rick RycroftThe Dodgers' Drew Butera got a demonstration in paddleboard rescue from an Australian lifeguard during the team's visit to Bondi Beach.
"I said, 'Oh, no, none of that,' " Teresa Fletcher said.

If you've ever been around two young boys, you know exactly what she was feeling. They don't need any more prompting to start fighting again.

Emma Green, 13, was at Bondi Beach, too, to mingle with the Dodgers. She's 13, but she has been playing baseball since she was 5. A club baseball team visited her elementary school and gave a demonstration and she was hooked. Green's mom woke up the other day and her daughter was in front of the TV watching a U.S. spring training game. It was 3 a.m.

So, yeah, there are some kids in Australia who have caught the baseball bug. Many of the little-league families I met were planning to attend one of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks games or one of the exhibitions against the Australian national team.

Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz looked as if he was having a good time in his sunglasses and flip-flops mingling with the Australian kids. He said most of them asked him how he liked Australia so far, but he didn't get much probing about the intricacies of catching. He sensed more enthusiasm than knowledge.

"A lot of them said they like it better than cricket, so that's good," Federowicz said.

The players got something out of it, too, in addition to spending time with some charming kids. They took a boat ride back to their hotel that featured stunning views of the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. First, they stopped to pose for pictures with a comely young blond lifeguard. She gave catcher Drew Butera a demonstration in paddleboard rescue and he looked pretty pleased with it.

Adrian Gonzalez walked up a few minutes later in sunglasses and a backward baseball cap. He was just visiting Bondi Beach when he ran into the Dodgers goodwill mission. He good-naturedly posed for a few photos. The beach sweeps to the south and then climbs some stone stairs to a sweeping view of the beach and those to the south, with rocks and the dark blue Tasman Bay dominating the senses. Mark Trumbo, the Arizona Diamondbacks new outfielder, was hanging out enjoying the view. He said it reminded him some of Newport Beach, not far from where he grew up.

It appears the players are enjoying this Australia trip more than they thought they would.

Nolasco's outing doesn't worry Mattingly

September, 14, 2013
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has a lot to worry about lately.

Ricky Nolasco? He’s at the bottom of the list.

[+] EnlargeRicky Nolasco
AP Photo/Reed SaxonRicky Nolasco had his worst outing since he was traded to the Dodgers in early July, but manager Don Mattingly insists he's not too worried about the starter's struggles.
Nolasco had his worst outing since he was traded to the Dodgers in early July, lasting 1 ⅓ innings Saturday night before he was lifted in the 19-3 victory by the San Francisco Giants, the most runs ever scored in the 51-year history of Dodger Stadium.

Nolasco, who had surrendered a combined five earned runs in his previous five starts, was pegged for five against the Giants.

“If he was a younger kid or something, I’d be worried about him a little more,” Mattingly said of Nolasco. "But he’s been around long enough to suck one of these up and know next time out’s a totally different thing.”

Before allowing the first seven San Francisco batters to reach base safely, Nolasco said he felt great warming up.

“That’s the funny thing about this game,” he said.

He managed to limit the Giants to three runs in the first inning, but the wheels came off again in the second. With one out, five more batters reach base consecutively before Mattingly had seen enough. Five relievers combined to finish out the game, combining for 12 earned runs along the way.

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Dodgers catchers enjoying rare synergy

September, 6, 2013
Ron Karkovice was a first-round draft pick and a highly touted defensive catcher, but for much of his career he was stuck behind Carlton Fisk. It wasn’t until Karkovice was 28 years old (and Fisk was 44) that he finally got an opportunity to be the Chicago White Sox starting catcher.

Fisk, it has been said, was none too eager to foster Karkovice’s improvement. Such a dynamic is common in major-league clubhouses, with veterans typically wary of losing their jobs to younger talent.

The Dodgers have tried to pre-empt such an issue on their team by asking A.J. Ellis to help Tim Federowicz along.

“That’s one thing we’ve been talking about, that his job partially is to bring Fed up,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Really, we’re asking him, ‘Train Fed to take your job and then fight him off.’"

Ellis, 32, has been the Dodgers’ primary catcher for the past two seasons. Federowicz, 25, is in his first full season.

Ellis’ catcher’s ERA of 3.10 is the best in the majors, tied with his former teammate Russell Martin of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Federowicz, without the luxury of catching Clayton Kershaw when Ellis is healthy, isn’t far behind with a CERA of 3.49. He has become the personal catcher for Ricky Nolasco, who has been one of the hottest starters in the league.

Ellis said he is just returning a favor.

“I wouldn’t be the major-league catcher I am without the help of Brad Ausmus,” Ellis said. “I latched onto him and he mentored me on how to become a major-league catcher, how you need to handle yourself and how you need to prepare and what your main priority is.”

Eleven of Federowicz’s 35 starts have come since Aug. 1 and his emergence (he’s also batting .333 in his last 16 games) has allowed Ellis to get more rest than he did a year ago, when he fell into a major batting slump in September. Ellis admitted in 2012 that he had begun to wear down mentally. That should be less of a problem down the stretch this season.

Schumaker powers victory over Cardinals

August, 7, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- After the Los Angeles Dodgers' 15-game road winning streak came to an end on Tuesday, Clayton Kershaw stood in the visitor's clubhouse at Busch Stadium and simply shrugged his shoulders when asked what the end of the streak meant.

"It just means we need to start a new one tomorrow," he said.

The Dodgers did just that Wednesday night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 13-4, powered by a six-run second inning. The onslaught came on the heels of Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller getting knocked out of the game after he was struck by Carl Crawford's liner on his right elbow after throwing his second pitch of the game.

Jerry Hairston Jr. got things rolling with a bases-loaded single to left that scored Tim Federowicz and Dee Gordon. Skip Schumaker closed out the inning with a single to left that scored Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez.

Schumaker singled to center again in the seventh inning to score Andre Ethier and would score later in the inning on a Gordon single to right. He put the finishing touches on the blowout with an RBI single to left to score Ethier. Schumaker finished the night going 3-for-6 with four RBIs and one run.

The series against the Cardinals has been a homecoming of sorts for Schumaker, who is still a fan favorite in St. Louis after being on the Cardinals' World Series championship teams in 2006 and 2011 before being traded to the Dodgers last December.

He was given a loud ovation before his first at-bat and was constantly shaking hands with employees and fans around Busch Stadium before the game.

"I'm happy that someone else wanted me and [Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak] gave me an opportunity to go somewhere they needed me," Schumaker said. "It was a good situation for me. I've had more playing time here than most likely I would have gotten over there just because their lineup is so heavy and deep."

Schumaker came to the Dodgers shortly after Mark McGwire was hired as the hitting coach. McGwire was the Cardinals' hitting coach the previous three seasons and highly recommended him to the Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

"We looked at him as a little bit of a platoon guy at second base with Mark Ellis," Mattingly said. "He hits .300 lifetime against righties and we also thought he could play center field. That's his natural position. So if something happened to Matt [Kemp], I don't think we all agreed that Andre could play center, so we had Skip who could play any of the outfield spots and was able to platoon at second base a bit."

In addition to second base and center field, Schumaker has also appeared at left field, right field and designated hitter for the Dodgers and has even pitched a couple innings.
Schumaker won't steal many headlines this season, but he's exactly the kind of player Mattingly had in mind when he was envisioning this season's roster.

"You want guys that are good teammates and are fitting into their roles," Mattingly said. "You don't want to have 24 guys who all think they should be starters. It puts you in a tough spot. It's good to have great players sitting on the bench, but if they're not playing and not happy and they're disgruntled, your team gets messed up."

Beginning to resemble who they thought they were

June, 25, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- If things stay as they are -- nobody goes down and Carl Crawford is back in a couple of weeks -- the Los Angeles Dodgers soon will be dealing with the hassle of finding enough at-bats to keep all their hitters happy.

Let that one sink in.

For a team that has struggled to field enough healthy bodies, divvying up playing time for good players won't exactly be a depressing task. The Dodgers are as deep as they have been all season, with the possible exception of the first two weeks of the season, and it has shown with this four-game winning streak, the latest being Tuesday night's 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants.

The Dodgers hadn't won four in a row all season until Tuesday. Not that it wasn't white-knuckles time, thanks to the Dodgers' faltering bullpen. Brandon League, pitching because Kenley Jansen had worked three games in a row, gave up three straight hits to open the ninth inning and had to be lifted for Paco Rodriguez after the Giants scored two runs and had the tying run at second with two outs.

Rodriguez snuffed out the rally, the game ending on Marco Scutaro's deep drive to center field. After Matt Kemp caught it, he slapped the wall in celebration.

The Dodgers' lineup had its deepest look of the season with Kemp returning from the disabled list before the game. Kemp batted fifth behind two of the hottest hitters in the game, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig.

Puig, who provided the pop Monday, had a quiet evening by his standards -- aside from some wobbly fielding in his new position, left field -- but Ramirez continues to mash. He hit another line drive so hard it carried out for a home run, this one clanging hard off the left-field foul pole.

It may have been the hardest-hit ball in baseball this season. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the ball left the ballpark in 2.97 seconds, the fastest a ball has left a stadium in the majors this year. Ramirez hit a similar ball in San Diego last weekend.

Ramirez is 14-for-30 (.467) with four home runs and 10 RBIs in his last seven games.

The only player still missing from the Dodgers' projected Opening Day lineup is the leadoff hitter, Crawford, who is expected to be out another two weeks and appears to have a more-than-adequate replacement in Puig.

The game began with an improbable pitcher's duel. Tim Federowicz was the first baserunner of the game. He reached on a leadoff double in the third inning and scored on Mark Ellis' home run to left field.

The Giants tied it after Buster Posey hit a sinking liner over the left-field wall. The Giants started the fifth with a promising rally when the first two runners singled off Stephen Fife and advanced on a wild pitch, but Fife got the next three batters, one run scoring on Andres Torres' grounder to second.

Does Yasiel Puig's exuberance make him a target?

June, 12, 2013
LOS ANGELES -- Baseball is played within a vague medieval hierarchy.

If you are a rookie, you are to behave as if you were paint coated on a wall. You can be seen, but you shouldn't be heard. And, above all, you shouldn't make a spectacle of yourself.

Yasiel Puig
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsYasiel Puig plays baseball with a sense of showmanship, something the Dodgers have been concerned about since spring training.
Yasiel Puig comes from another baseball culture, a freer, Cuban style, and he refuses to play by the blue-collar code of this country's game. In the minor leagues, he was famous for his bat flips, even in batting practice. Already, he has developed a dugout dance with Luis Cruz or Hanley Ramirez after he hits home runs.

I happened to spend some time in the Arizona clubhouse the past couple of days talking to pitchers for some stories I'm working on and I noticed at least one of them had taken keen notice of Puig's dugout jubilation. He pointedly compared it to the way Bryce Harper plays -- hard and aggressively, but without showmanship.

If Ian Kennedy intended to knock Puig down before he hit him in the nose and, eventually, sparked an ugly brawl in the Dodgers' 5-3 win Tuesday night, it probably had more to do with Puig's displays than the fact Cody Ross had been nicked by Zack Greinke earlier.

In fact, the Dodgers have been concerned about Puig's showmanship since spring training. Then again, Don Mattingly fretted over whether Ramirez's "I-See-You" stunt would draw unwanted pitches up and in.

"We knew at some point somebody was going to try to knock [Puig] down," Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz said. "They say it wasn't intentional. You hit a guy in the face, we take it personally."

The Dodgers, rightly, rallied to the side of their teammate. And, presuming Puig doesn't cross the line and mock an opponent, try to gain an unfair advantage by stealing signs or do something unnecessarily malicious on the field, the opposing teams just need to get over it.

By the looks of these first nine games, he's not going anywhere.
LOS ANGELES -- Nowadays, baseball fans are sophisticated enough to recognize that a pitcher's win-loss record doesn't tell you much.

Clayton Kershaw might be 5-4, but he's still among the front-runners to start next month's All-Star Game for the National League. Early as it is, no one would count him out of the Cy Young mix.

[+] EnlargeClayton Kershaw
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw has an ERA of 1.93 yet has only five victories on his record to show for it.
But that doesn't mean it sits well with him -- or with his manager -- that he has a 1.93 ERA and is stuck on five wins. Kershaw wasn't great in Wednesday night's 6-2 loss to the San Diego Padres. By his standards, he was far from it. The Padres have a knack for spoiling good pitches, getting into favorable counts and hitting Kershaw. They managed seven hits, including a Jedd Gyorko home run, and three walks.

Kershaw this season has had to be virtually perfect to get a win. In his five wins, he has given up a total of ... one run. That means he has had to put up a 0.22 ERA to get those wins. The Dodgers have scraped together 2.68 runs per start for him, fourth-worst run support in the league.

Kershaw had a little bit of a snicker in his voice when he said, "We scored less than they did tonight, so I've got to not give up so many runs," and he later elaborated on some of the frustration he's feeling these days when he was asked about his barely-better-than-mediocre record.

"Yeah, for sure it bothers me, because that means the team's not winning," Kershaw said. "I don't know if your question is individually or not, but I don't give two ... I don't care about that at all. I just want to win games. We're not winning games. It's not very fun. I haven't won in a long time, so it's very frustrating."

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Young talent spurs Dodgers

June, 5, 2013
LOS ANGELES -- Somebody asked Don Mattingly whether Yasiel Puig can maintain this .625 hitting beyond the first two games.

"I didn't think he could do it all spring training," Mattingly said. "I'm not going to say there's anything he can't do."

While Puig's impact has been the most dramatic, he's not the only young player helping the Dodgers in this modest uptick in their play. Catcher Tim Federowicz and outfielder Scott Van Slyke have taken advantage of opportunities created by injuries to veteran players and contributed.

Federowicz has two home runs and a double in three games this month. Van Slyke is second on the Dodgers with five home runs despite having played in only 18 games.

Just a few months ago, Van Slyke looked like a man without a future. He had been hoping to make the club as a fourth outfielder, but instead learned he had been taken off the 40-man roster when the Dodgers traded for veteran utility man Skip Schumaker. The Dodgers apparently soured on the 26-year old after he batted .167 in 27 games for them last year. He had a conversation with his father, Andy, a three-time All-Star outfielder in the 1980s that helped put things in perspective.

"He told me the first two years into his playing career, he still felt a little anxious," Van Slyke said. "It wasn't until his career accelerated that he began to feel less nervous. It takes time to feel comfortable in the big leagues."

Mattingly says he has noticed Van Slyke and Federowicz playing with more confidence this time up, particularly Federowicz. No argument from the players.

"I'm up there thinking through my at-bat a little bit instead of having the game speed up on me," Federowicz said. "I'm actually hitting the ball the way I do."

Here are lineups for Wednesday's game with the San Diego Padres:

San Diego
1. Chris Denorfia CF
2. Everth Cabrera SS
3. Chase Headley 3B
4. Carlos Quentin LF
5. Jedd Gyorko 2B
6. Kyle Blanks RF
7. Jesus Guzman 1B
8. Yasmani Grandal C
9. Jason Marquis RHP

1. Yasiel Puig RF
2. Skip Schumaker 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Hanley Ramirez SS
5. Andre Ethier CF
6. Scott Van Slyke LF
7. Juan Uribe 3B
8. Tim Federowicz C
9. Clayton Kershaw LHP

Quick take: Dodgers 9, Padres 7

June, 4, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- In the first game of Yasiel Puig's career, he started the Los Angeles Dodgers' engine.

On the second day, he was the Dodgers' engine.

Puig, the Cuban émigré who continues to push and shove his way to instant stardom, plowed through the San Diego Padres' pitching in a 9-7 Dodgers win Tuesday night. Puig went 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double and five RBIs.

The Dodgers have had some remarkable rookies over the years, but nobody has made a splash exactly like this. Puig became the first Dodger ever to have a multi-home run game within the first two days of his major league debut.

He also showed more of the pure, dangerously explosive energy that has made him so intriguing to the Dodgers since he batted .517 in spring training. A baserunning blunder in the first inning cost them a run. He threw a ball away for an error after missing a cutoff man. He ran so hard on his second home run, he was practically to second base by the time it cleared the wall. It was a line drive.

The Dodgers don't want Puig thinking he has to turn their fortunes around by himself, but for the last two days he's looked more than willing to try.

The Dodgers were trailing 5-2 in the fifth inning when Puig swung at Clayton Richard's first pitch and sent it whistling through the night air and roughly 20 rows deep in the left-center field bleachers for the three-run home run that tied the score. He gave the Dodgers a crucial cushion an inning later when he swung at the second pitch from reliever Tyson Ross and sent it slicing hard to right field and narrowly over the fence for a two-run homer.

The rest of the Dodgers' lineup seemed to respond to Puig's energy. Catcher Tim Federowicz, batting .161 coming in, hit a two-run home run, singled and scored two runs. Luis Cruz, slumping all season, had an RBI double and scored two runs.

Puig's electric evening practically extinguished the other storyline coming in: the Dodgers' first time facing Carlos Quentin since he charged the mound and broke Zack Greinke's collarbone. Nobody threw at Quentin and he didn't look too uncomfortable in the box, going 3-for-5 with a home run.

Injuries shuffle the deck again

May, 30, 2013
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- An assortment of injuries, minor and less-minor, have put the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster in limbo.

Catcher A.J. Ellis strained a rib-cage muscle swinging before Wednesday's game and won't be available for a couple of days, so the team recalled Tim Federowicz from Triple-A. However, Federowicz might not stick around long.

The Dodgers also will need an everyday center fielder to replace Matt Kemp while he's on the 15-day disabled list and the most likely candidate is Tony Gwynn Jr. Manager Don Mattingly said the team isn't considering Double-A outfielders Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson, both of whom are viewed as longer-term prospects.

Andre Ethier moved over to play center field Thursday, but that was a stop-gap solution until the Dodgers recall a minor-league center fielder, Mattingly said.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers held out Matt Magill from Thursday's start in Albuquerque in case he's needed to replace Hyun-Jin Ryu in Colorado on Sunday. Ryu took a grounder off his foot while pitching a two-hit shutout Tuesday, but Mattingly said it's unlikely he'll miss Sunday's start.

Got all that?

OK, here are lineups for Thursday's game in Anaheim:

1. Carl Crawford LF
2. Mark Ellis 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Scott Van Slyke RF
5. Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
6. Andre Ethier CF
7. Tim Federowicz C
8. Ramon Hernandez DH
9. Nick Punto SS

1. Erick Aybar SS
2. Mike Trout CF
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Mark Trumbo RF
5. Howie Kendrick 2B
6. Alberto Callaspo 3B
7. Chris Iannetta C
8. Chris Nelson DH
9. J.B. Shuck LF
If you hadn't noticed, Clayton Kershaw is kind of consistent.

He led the league in ERA in 2011, he led the league in ERA in 2012 and, through the first six weeks of 2013, he's leading the league in ERA.

That kind of repetitive excellence doesn't happen by accident. Kershaw is diligent before the game and focused to an extreme during the game, those traits combining with his natural gifts to make the perfect storm, a hitter's bad dream.

An underrated part of Kershaw's success: catcher A.J. Ellis, who is with him start after start, thinking his way through a lineup so Kershaw doesn't have to and helping create an environment in which the Dodgers' ace can thrive. Two days after Kershaw's 11-strikeout masterpiece against the Washington Nationals, we caught up with Ellis to see what it's like to work with the the brilliant young lefthander:

Q. How does your close personal relationship with Clayton play into your on-field chemistry?

A. I think we’re both really professional guys and, when the game starts, it’s about winning that game, so we’ve got that in common. He’s very diligent in his pregame preparation, knowing the hitters. I have my ideas. We have a meeting before the game to bounce ideas off each other. We kind of go from there. Then, it’s up to me to feel how the game is going, what pitches are working for him and try to stay on that same page.

Q. Can you tell us more about that pregame meeting?

A. Usually, he’s very particular and he dictates. He watches a lot of video, studies these hitters he’s going to face. Basically, he runs the meeting. It’s him, myself and [pitching coach] Rick Honeycutt. Usually it’s an hour and 45 minutes before first pitch. He runs through the lineup, he tells me what he wants to do with the leadoff hitter, what he thinks, what he sees, and 95 percent of the time, we just kind of move on to the next guy. There are a couple times when Rick or I will add something like, “This guy’s really bad on two-strike sliders,” or, “This guy, you can beat him away late. You can catch him looking away.” He’ll kind of push back a little bit, but it’s a really good meeting.

Q. So, once the game starts, it’s your job to think your way through the other team’s lineup, applying the advance scouting report, and to let him concentrate on the mechanics of making pitches?

A. The one thing we do as catchers, myself, Tim Federowicz and Ramon Hernandez, we all look at the other team before the series starts, break down their strengths and weaknesses. The hard part is trying to match that up with what he wants to do. There will be certain times when you’ll say, “This guy’s a really good hitter on fastballs inside,” but if his strength is throwing fastballs inside, there will be times when we have to say, “You know what? Here’s what the report says, but we’re sticking with your strengths.”

Q. [Tuesday] night, he had the good curveball early. When he has that, do you think, “It’s over?”

A. Almost. It’s a great feeling to have, when you know he has a feel for it, because it’s a pitch we use early, but mainly we use it with two strikes. He’s got the feel to throw that thing just behind the strike zone that ends up a ball. It’s such a part of his repertoire, such a tough pitch to make contact on. Yet it’s such a hard pitch to lay off. It has so much break on it.

Q. So, is it just a matter of getting to two strikes and then, "Good night, drive home safely?"

A. With that pitch, especially [Tuesday] night, my job was pretty simple. Just put the No. 2 down, because that was probably the best feel he’s had for his curveball all season. If he’s got that one, the strikeouts are going to pile up.

Q. He’s an intense guy when he’s pitching, I guess. What are visits to the mound like?

A. He’s very to-the-point, very matter of fact, basically, “What are you doing out here? What do you want to talk about?” Basically, that’s it. There’s no room for any fluff or anything else. I rarely have to go out there. He’s so good at staying in the moment and he’s so good at calming himself down when the game gets fast. He’s really good at controlling the pace of the game. He knows when he’s got a good rhythm going, so it’s time to get going, going, going. He knows when it’s time to back off and slow down. My job when he pitches is to stay out of the way and let him do his thing.

Q. Can you see him change, day by day, as his start gets closer?

A. He’s the exact same guy for four days. He’s a great teammate, a leader on this team. He’s always on the top step cheering on his teammates, working relentlessly to get ready for his next start, but his personality is fun, really energetic, positive always. But I’ve never seen somebody who can change so totally. From the time you see him in the parking lot on his game day, it’s like a light switch is turned and do not talk to him about anything other than that night’s hitters and what’s going on. There is a focus and intensity that is unbreakable. That was the great thing for me, seeing him on Opening Day hit that home run in the eighth inning and to see the smile on his face running around the bases and then to see him try to refocus. That never happens. He always stays in it.

Q. Have you worked with other pitchers who are the opposite, like to joke around the day they’re pitching and keep things loose?

A. There are a lot of guys who are very talkative the day they pitch, have a lot to say, are very energetic and just want to talk and talk. Everybody’s got a different personality and everybody gets ready in a different way.

Q. Does your hand hurt after catching Clayton, or any of the other hard throwers?

A. Not so much. The mitts they make for us nowadays are so strong and protective. I wear a batting glove under my hand. My hand hurts more from getting broken bats sawed off at the plate.

Q. Do catchers get enough credit for when a guy pitches well?

A. I don’t think there’s any place for us to get any credit. They’re the ones out there doing the work. It’s up to us to just get on the same page. There’s a rhythm of the game thing, but it’s all about their execution and what they’re able to do. I’m more than willing to give all the credit and then shoulder the blame if things don’t go well. I won’t say anybody can catch Clayton, but it’s not a difficult task, because he’s so unique and special.

Q. Do you ever hear any funny comments from hitters when Clayton is pitching?

A. A lot of opposing pitchers when they hit. They’ll see a pitch and be like, “Well, this’ll be fast,” or they’ll strike out on a curveball and be like, “Really? A curveball?” The hitters, I would guess, don’t want to give any impression that they’re intimidated.



Yasiel Puig
.296 16 69 92
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239