Dodger Thoughts: Scott Elbert

Remembering 2011: Scott Elbert

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
8:55
AM PT

Scott Rovak/US PresswireScott Elbert (14)
The setup: A year ago, it wasn't clear whether Elbert would pitch in the majors again. In 2010, he appeared in one game for the Dodgers, on May 29, faced six batters, walked three and allowed a hit and a run. Two days later, he was sent back to Albuquerque. In June, he left the Isotopes for undisclosed personal reasons and ended up not pitching in a professional game again until the Arizona Fall League in October. "I obviously have to earn my stay (in Los Angeles)," he told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I know where I stand. I have to fight and earn that respect back."

As one of the final roster cuts before Opening Day, Elbert was sent to Albuquerque, where he struck out 16 in 14 1/3 innings but allowed 23 baserunners. However, with the Dodgers' bullpen depleted, he was recalled May 11.

The closeup: Very quietly, Elbert turned over a new leaf and then some. In his season debut with the Dodgers, Elbert pitched one inning against Arizona and struck out the side. He pitched 7 2/3 innings over 11 games, striking out eight, before he gave up his first run of the season, while stranding six of eight inherited runners. A rough two-game stretch followed in which he allowed five runs, representing more than half of his 2011 total. By the time the season ended, Elbert had made 47 appearances and was unscored upon in 42 of them. He had a 2.43 ERA in 33 1/3 innings with 34 strikeouts against 42 baserunners. Problems flared slightly in September, when he walked six (compared with eight in the previous 3 1/2 months combined) and allowed five of 10 inherited runners to score (compared with seven of his previous 23). But overall, Elbert's season was an unexpected pleasure, one of the undertold great stories hidden in the Dodgers' strange 2011 season.

It is true that Elbert pitched better against lefties (.267 on-base percentage, .250 slugging percentage) than righties (.344/.382), facing almost equal amounts of both.

Coming attractions: For the first time, Elbert, 26, will arrive at Spring Training with a major-league job waiting for him, a chance to build upon the progress he showed this past season.

Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesJamey Carroll had four hits at the plate Saturday - here was his fifth. He upended Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth inning to break up a potential double play and cause a throwing error.
1) I don't even want to think about what would have happened if Tony Gwynn Jr. hadn't been in left field at the end of Saturday's 11-7 Dodger victory. For a look at the catch, head to Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness.

2) Speaking of defense, now I understand what the scouts were saying about Dee Gordon's. His ability to make spectacular plays is enough to convince you that he is the real deal at shortstop. And from what I've seen, he has been solid on the routine plays in his first week as well. Even more than the speed, Roadrunner's defense has gotten me believing in him.

3) There's still the matter of Gordon's bat. In 23 at-bats, Gordon has seven hits and seven strikeouts, zero walks and zero extra-base hits. His batting line makes Aaron Miles, who got his sixth double and third walk of the season Saturday like Adam Dunn.

Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesAaron Miles throws out Eric Young Jr. in the third inning Saturday.
4) Speaking of Miles, I totally get Tony Jackson's musings at ESPNLosAngeles.com about whether Miles and Jamey Carroll have earned more playing time. My quibble would be grouping Miles and Carroll together. Carroll (.378 on-base percentage, .381 slugging percentage) has absolutely earned a spot ahead of Juan Uribe – let Uribe try to prove himself as a hero off the bench. Miles (.319 on-base percentage, .350 slugging percentage), owner of the emptiest .300 batting average in Dodger history, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A., isn't an upgrade over Casey Blake when Blake is healthy. Blake sat out Saturday's game with a stiff neck.

5) Still, if the Dodgers started a lineup of Miles at third, Gordon at short, Carroll at second and platooned Blake and James Loney at first, how much would you object?

6) Scott Elbert and Colorado are not friends. Elbert in Denver the past two seasons: 12 batters faced, nine baserunners (.750 OBP). Elbert everywhere else the past two seasons: 30 plate appearances, seven baserunners (.233 OBP).

7) Carroll moved into eight place in the National League batting race, joining Matt Kemp (third) and Andre Ethier (fourth). The last time the Dodgers finished a year with three of the top 10 in batting average was 1955, with Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo and Duke Snider. The last time the Dodgers had three .300 hitters was 2006 with Rafael Furcal, Kenny Lofton and Nomar Garciaparra. (Here's a full list of Dodger .300 hitters.)

8) Don't miss this morning's note about the Dodger Thoughts comments.

* * *
  • Don Newcombe was interviewed by Scott Bair of the North County Times.
  • We started talking about this in the Dodger Thoughts comments Saturday: MLB is mulling a realignment that would send an NL team (say, Houston or Florida) to the AL and possibly eliminate divisions altogether, with five playoff teams per league, reports Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Keith Olbermann takes down the idea at his baseball blog.
  • Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo are doing well on their minor-league rehab assignements, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The Hector Gimenez dream has been put in storage. Gimenez, who had been on the disabled list, cleared waivers and has been assigned to Double-A Chattanooga. Juan Castro has accepted his assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness argues that it's time to give A.J. Ellis a chance. Of course, that was true before the Dodgers signed Dioner Navarro to a $1 million contract in the offseason.
  • Randy Keisler, who won a contract with the Dodgers via their open tryout this spring, pitched seven innings of one-run ball to win his second straight game for Albuquerque on Saturday. Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner has the story.

Icon SMI/US PresswireRubby De La Rosa and Scott Elbert brought relief from the minors.
The kids have come to the rescue of the Dodger bullpen, and not nearly enough has been said about it.

Jonathan Broxton went on the disabled list May 6, followed within 10 days by Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Blake Hawksworth. To replace them, the Dodgers brought up Kenley Jansen (who had temporarily gone down to Chattanooga), Scott Elbert, Javy Guerra and Ramon Troncoso.

Another week later, the Dodgers dispatched mop-up man Lance Cormier and replaced him with Rubby De La Rosa. Then in the past week, Jansen went on the disabled list and was replaced by Josh Lindblom, who made his major-league debut with an inning in the finale of the Colorado series Wednesday.

Of the replacements, Troncoso was the veteran with all of 177 1/3 career innings. The combined career experience of Jansen, Elbert, Guerra, De La Rosa and Lindblom was 39 2/3 innings. Their average age: 23 1/2. Think about it – more than half of the bullpen handed over to runts.

Here's how they've done, including the 3-0 Dodger loss to Colorado, in which the bullpen followed Jon Garland's six-inning, three-run start with shutout ball:
  • Jansen: 7 2/3 innings, 13 baserunners, four earned runs (4.69 ERA), 13 strikeouts, 0 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Troncoso: six innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), two strikeouts, 2 of 5 inherited runners scored
  • Guerra: seven innings, nine baserunners, two earned runs (2.57 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • De La Rosa: five innings, four baserunners, one earned run (1.80 ERA), five strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
  • Elbert: 4 2/3 innings, six baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), seven strikeouts, 1 of 6 inherited runners scored
  • Lindblom: one inning, two baserunners, no earned runs (0.00 ERA), no strikeouts, 0 of 0 inherited runners scored
Total: 31 1/3 innings, 40 baserunners, seven earned runs, 32 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 3 of 16 inherited runners scored

That's remarkable, especially considering we can assume that we can possibly attribute three of the seven runs allowed to the shoulder inflammation that sent Jansen to the disabled list.

The news that Padilla is expected to return to active duty Friday will, barring injury, start pushing the runts back to the minor leagues, but each has made the case to stay with the big club. Considered a weakness less than a month ago, the Dodger bullpen will in less than 48 hours have eight effective relievers to choose from, with more to come as Broxton, Kuo, Hawksworth and Jansen get back on their feet.

The other noteworthy thing is that with all the injuries, Dodger manager Don Mattingly has basically been forced to throw the idea of a designated closer out the window, instead bringing in pitchers simply based on the situation rather than their title or status. Unshackled from a pecking order, the Dodger kids haven't suffered – they've thrived. Jansen, Guerra and De La Rosa have all finished close games, while Elbert and now even Lindblom have pitched in situations where giving up a single run could be a killer. De La Rosa, whose destiny remains starting pitcher, could be a circa-1992 Pedro Martinez-like smokejumper, giving you a couple innings at a time as long as there's sufficient rest in between.

Message to Mattingly: Do yourself a favor. As the veterans return to the pen, don't get caught up in who your closer is. Just keep doing what you're doing. Manage according to the situation, not according to resume.
Jeff Roberson/APPeople walk through a Joplin, Mo. neighborhood Monday completely destroyed by a tornado Sunday evening. The tornado killed at least 89 people and injured hundreds more.
The Dodgers passed along word that the family of relief pitcher Scott Elbert, who was born in Joplin, Mo. and went to high school in nearby Seneca, escaped being affected by the devastating tornado that hit Joplin this weekend. My best thoughts go out to the victims of the tragedy.

Elbert told Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that his family lives in Seneca, which is just north of the Arkansas/Missouri border, several miles south of Joplin. Elbert himself now lives in Phoenix.

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesScott Elbert threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes.
Although there was another sad performance from the offense (including the end of Andre Ethier's on-base streak) and another disappointing inning from Ted Lilly, a four-run second in today's 4-1 Dodger loss, let's take some time to cheer for Scott Elbert. The lefty, whose season went so awry a year ago, got off to a great 2011 start for the Dodgers by striking out the side in the eighth inning.

Javy Guerra made his major-league debut in the next inning and allowed a one-out single and nothing else.

* * *

Update: Contrary to initial reports, Rafael Furcal did not bat right-handed Saturday for Albuquerque, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Sunday, Furcal doubled leading off the game on the way to a 1-for-4 day. He also made an error.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo has struck out eight of the 27 batters he has faced this season, while allowing 12 baserunners.
As far as the result of tonight's game goes – a 2-0 shutout of Pittsburgh – as long as Hiroki Kuroda is pitching shutout ball for seven innings, not even giving in when he wild-pitched the tying runs into scoring position in bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers will do just fine. Now if Kuroda had committed the unforgivable sin of allowing two runs in his seven innings, it might have been another story ...

But the bigger news of the day wasn't the Dodgers' doubling their win streak to two, or Andre Ethier extending his on-base streak to 35 games, or Jerry Sands' RBI double following an intentional walk to Rod Barajas and his sub-.300 on-base percentage.

It was Hong-Chih Kuo being placed on the disabled list for the second time this season and sixth time in his career, for a period that is expected to be significantly longer than the 15-day minimum. From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
... The official reason for the move was anxiety disorder, something that wasn't revealed by the club until 20 minutes before Wednesday night's game with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, well after media access to the clubhouse and manager Don Mattingly was customarily cut off until postgame.

In announcing the move to the media earlier, Mattingly was conspicuously vague in describing what is wrong with Kuo.

"There isn't much of the story I can really share with you today," Mattingly said. "We're just kind of waiting at this point for approval from Major League Baseball on the verbiage ... that we want to basically talk about." ...

... Through Monday, Kuo had pitched three times in four days. For the season, he has an uncharacteristic 11.57 ERA in nine appearances and an even more uncharacteristic six walks in 4 2/3 innings, albeit with eight strikeouts. Kuo said Tuesday that he felt fine physically and that he wasn't sure why he had been struggling so much with his command, and Mattingly said Tuesday that Kuo continued to tell team officials he felt fine physically."When you're talking about Kuo, he is basically always hurting," Mattingly said Wednesday. "It's just at what level. His elbow is always hurting. It never goes away, really. It's just how much he can deal with. It is always there. ... When I say he doesn't complain, it means that in talking with [trainer] Stan [Conte], when he says he is good to go, that means he can deal with it. His 'I'm OK to go' is different than being 100 percent.

"But he isn't good to go [now]."

Mattingly offered a definitive "no," when asked if Kuo was retiring, but he was noncommittal on whether Kuo might pitch again anytime soon. ...

Kuo's career has always been living on a thin line, and my appreciation for how much he has contributed to the team knows few bounds. I'm betting we haven't seen the last of him, but there's just no telling when we'll see him on the mound again.

Called up to replace Kuo is a man whose career hit a mighty big speed bump of its own last year, Scott Elbert. Elbert has got his strikeouts going, and will do as well as his control allows. Here's more from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
... In 14 1/3 innings, Elbert has issued nine walks with 16 strikeouts. Seven of his eight earned runs allowed have come in two appearances.

He said his problems generally occurred when he was asked to pitch a second inning of relief.

"Mentally, I was prepared for one inning, which was my fault," he said. "I should be prepared for anything."

Elbert has had six previous Major League callups, but he said this one is different.

"I feel more relaxed," he said. "It's something that comes with maturity and nature, if that's what it means to be special," he said. "I'm not a new face to them. I'm not working to try to do too much. Let them hit it and put it in play. I've grown up a little bit. A lot of it is seeing my two kids and having patience with them.

"I just have to be myself and not worry what anybody else things about me. It's part of growing up." ...


The Dodgers still might be forced to make another bullpen promotion, if Blake Hawksworth can't make a quick recovery from his groin injury (an MRI, reports Jackson, showed nothing serious).

Jake Roth/US PresswireDespite a 7.23 ERA last year with St. Louis, Mike MacDougal has taken advantage of Dodger injuries to carve out a chance at a roster spot.
On the last off day before the start of the season, this seems like a good time to check in on how the Dodger 25-man Opening Day roster is shaping up.

On track (18):

Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly

Relief pitchers (5): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen

Catchers (1): Rod Barajas

Infielders (4): James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (4): Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames

Likely (3):

1) Casey Blake, 3B: The latest news on Blake sounds about as good as one might have expected – inflammation with no evidence of a muscle strain. So while anything could happen, we won't assume that he'll be on the disabled list March 31.

2) Mike MacDougal, RP: A 0.00 spring ERA, veteran's moxie and all the positive things people are saying about him in the press make MacDougal this year's most likely prize off the scrap heap.

3) Dioner Navarro, C: A.J. Ellis can still be optioned to the minors, so we'll put him aside. Though Hector Gimenez presents an alternative, Navarro seems safe.

Roster spot battles (4):


Norm Hall/Getty ImagesAn .847 spring OPS has helped make Hector Gimenez a longshot as opposed to a no-shot.

1) Jay Gibbons vs. Xavier Paul vs. Trent Oeltjen, OF, vs. Hector Gimenez, C/1B: Gibbons' spring has been a nightmare, to the extent that Tony Gwynn Jr. might already have passed him in the pecking order for playing time. Xavier Paul, seemingly healthy and performing better as the month goes on, is now adding to the pressure while the eyesight-plagued Gibbons tries to solve his vision problems. A third-party candidate is Trent Oeltjen, who has been hitting all spring – and we'll even leave open the possibility that Gimenez could take this spot instead of a sixth outfielder. Chances: Gibbons 45%, Paul 35%, Oeltjen 10%, Gimenez 10%.

2) Aaron Miles vs. Ivan De Jesus Jr. vs. Justin Sellers vs. Juan Castro, IF: A veteran has the automatic edge when you're talking backup infielder, so it seems safe to knock out De Jesus and Sellers, neither of whom have seized the day. Miles has had a better spring than Castro and is also centuries younger. Castro has that Brad Ausmus-like zen quality that Ned Colletti admires, but Miles has sufficient experience to fill the role. Chances: Miles 80%, Castro 10%, De Jesus 5%, Sellers 5%.

3) + 4) Ron Mahay vs. Scott Elbert vs. Ramon Troncoso vs. Lance Cormier, RP, vs. John Ely vs. Tim Redding, SP, vs. position player: These two final spots seem very much up for grabs at this point, compounded by the uncertainty over whether the Dodgers will start the year with four or five starting pitchers, and whether they'll start with 11 pitchers overall or 12.

If they keep a fifth starter, it's still an open battle. Both Redding and Ely can be sent to the minors, though the difference is if Redding is placed on the major-league roster, he would then have to clear waivers before he could go to Albuquerque (once, say, Vicente Padilla or Jon Garland was healthy). The Dodgers can yank Ely up and down this year at will.

Both Ely and Redding started the spring excellently, then faltered (like every other Dodger starter in the past week). Ely is on the upside of his career but with something to prove; Redding is on the downside of his career with something to prove. My guess is that even if Ely wins the job, the Dodgers won't want him to lose his rhythm by pitching in long relief during the opening days of the season – meaning he would start the season in the minors and then come up April 12 when he is needed. I'm not sure they'd have those reservations with Redding.

Among the lefthanders, Mahay finally had a decent inning Tuesday, though the four batters he faced had 19 career major-league homers. Still, it's hard to imagine that, short of a 180-degree turnaround, the Dodgers are ready to rely on Elbert, who has walked nine of 20 batters he has faced this spring.

Troncoso has outpitched both lefties, though I'm not sure the Dodgers are convinced he's all the way back from his 2010 struggles. If he were, he and MacDougal would exchange places. Lance Cormier has gotten little attention while throwing four innings and allowing seven hits while striking out one, but he remains in the running.

And then there's the chance the Dodgers go with an 11-man staff and keep six guys on the bench. Gimenez, anyone?

If the Dodgers were making their final cuts today, I'd predict they keep two relievers at the outset and fly Ely to San Francisco on April 12. Chances: Troncoso 45%, Mahay 45%, Cormier 30%, Ely 30%, Redding 25%, position player 20%, Elbert 5%.
Cubs 5, Dodgers 3 (10)

Highlights:
  • Chad Billingsley (above) went 3 2/3 innings before giving up the first earned run allowed by a Dodger starting pitcher this weekend. He allowed four baserunners and struck out two.
  • Ramon Troncoso retired all four batters he faced (one admittedly on a dicey umpire's call) and has allowed one hit in 3 1/3 shutout innings. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more on Troncoso's growing chances of making the Opening Day roster.
  • The platoon of Jay Gibbons (wearing awesome big white sunglasses, the best Dodger eyewear since Eric Gagne) and birthday boy Marcus Thames went 2 for 5 with an RBI double (by Thames).
  • Aaron Miles tripled in his only at-bat.
  • Ivan De Jesus, Jr. made a nice backhand grab running into the outfield, drawing a big smile from the Cubs' third-base coach, Ivan De Jesus, Sr.

Lowlights:

  • Justin Sellers committed a double-error (bobble and bad throw) on the Dodgers' first defensive play of the game.
  • Right fielders Xavier Paul and Jerry Sands combined for a golden sombrero.
  • Luis Vasquez the Magician made the game disappear when he allowed a two-run walkoff homer to D.J. LeMahieu in the bottom of the 10th.

Sidelights:

  • In the above-referenced piece by Jackson, he addresses the James Loney situation.
    Although the tightness in first baseman James Loney's knee isn't serious and Loney tentatively is expected back in the lineup by Wednesday, the momentary scare did underscore the fact the Dodgers don't have a lot of depth at Loney's position.

    Third baseman Casey Blake and outfielders Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames all have some experience -- but not a lot of it -- at first base, and Mattingly said any or all of them could be a viable alternative if Loney were to be lost for, say, two or three games. But if Loney suffered a major injury that sidelined him for a month or more?

    In that case, Mattingly said, the Dodgers would have to bring up a first baseman from the minors. And the most likely candidate would be Russell Mitchell, a third baseman by trade who also can play left and right field but played all of 13 games at first for Triple-A Albuquerque last year.

    "We feel like Russ can be pretty flexible," Mattingly said. "He can handle himself out there, and he has actually played some second. He even did some catching in the Instructional League, so we feel like we could trust him with catching. That emergency third catcher can be pretty valuable in the National League because it allows you to maybe pinch run for your catcher without having to get nervous about not having another catcher left on the bench." ...
  • Ken Gurnick of MLB.com and Steve Dilbeck of the Times have more on Loney.
  • The Dodgers' starting baseman is still healthier than the Angels' Kendry Morales, notes Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Angels might turn to Triple-A power hitter Mark "Don't call me Dalton" Trumbo, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Times.
  • Scott Elbert is working on a mechanical adjustment, writes Gurnick, who adds that Jamey Carroll will miss a few days of game action after being hit by a pitch on his right index finger (X-rays were negative).
  • Josh Suchon says that he and his new KABC 790 AM talkmate Joe Block will be the broadcast team for Dodger games on Prime Ticket this Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Mullet Mania: Jackson gave us a hint this morning, but later came the full story on Travis Schlichting's new 'do from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
    I understand that this is going out on a fragile limb above a pool shared by sharks and alligators, but I witnessed the greatest mullet in baseball history Sunday morning, and I refuse to believe otherwise.

    Randy Johnson may have sported the curly afterbirth on his neck, and John Kruk may have rocked the accompanying gut, and Troy Tulowitzki may have had the ironic twist to his charity mullet, but nobody – nobody – can compete with the absolute resplendence that topped Travis Schlichting's head on Sunday. ...
Royals 11, Dodgers 5

Highlights:
  • Tim Redding pitched three shutout innings, giving him five for the spring with three strikeouts.
  • James Loney went 2 for 2.
  • Relievers Ramon Troncoso and Carlos Monasterios pitched shutout ball.
  • Jamie Hoffmann (1 for 2) is now, like Loney, 4 for 8 this spring.
  • Juan Castro hit a three-run home run.
Lowlights:
  • Scott Elbert had a nightmare outing, walking four of the five batters he faced. From Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.:
    ... With assistant GM of player development DeJon Watson in the broadcast booth with Charley Steiner, Elbert was missing the strike zone every which way. Elbert came in the game in relief of Jon Link in the fifth inning, then pitched into the sixth. Watson spoke of how Elbert got more consistent in his delivery over the winter, and was able to show two dominant pitches in the Arizona Fall League, but as those words were being spoken Elbert was missing the strike zone quite often. Elbert faced five batters, and walked four of them. He threw 21 pitches, only five of them for strikes.

    On the broadcast, one could hear Watson rooting for Elbert, the Dodgers' 2009 minor league pitcher of the year, even as he was struggling. Watson said Elbert has great stuff that is "electric through the strike zone," and Watson seemed to take Elbert's outing in stride. "He’s having a tough outing today, but I think you’ll see better outings from Mr. Elbert in the future," Watson said. Elbert better hope so; he has faced 10 batters this spring, and walked six of them. He did strike out two, and the other two batters didn't hit the ball out of the infield, but Elbert needs to show some control before he even sniffs the 25-man roster. ...
  • Jon Link was charged with three runs while getting two outs; Luis Vasquez was charged with four runs while getting three outs.
  • Aaron Miles had a double but made his second error of the spring.
  • Xavier Paul struck out twice, dropping to 1 for 8 this exhibition season.
  • Juan Castro hit a three-run home run.
Sidelights:
  • Clayton Kershaw, not yet eligible for arbitration, signed his one-year 2011 contract for the expected figure of $500,000. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. In fact, every man on the 40-man roster has now been signed for 2011, with Ronald Belisario having his contract renewed and then getting placed on the restricted list.
  • The adventures of Dee Gordon, again courtesy of Mr. Stephen:
    There was a funny moment in the fifth inning, when Mike Moustakas lofted a foul pop near the photography well adjacent to the back of the Dodger dugout. Aaron Miles was in pursuit of the ball, but Dee Gordon, who was not in the game and sitting on the steps of the dugout, tried to evade Miles by moving out of the dugout. Instead, Gordon got the way of Miles, who was unable to make the catch. Watson, who was in the booth with Charley Steiner, could be heard saying something like, "Jesus criminey" or something to that effect.
  • Remarkable: Larry Granillo researched "Peanuts" comic strips for Baseball Prospectus and found Duke Snider was mentioned twice (once with Willie Mays, once with a host of players), compared to three mentions for Mickey Mantle and Mays combined, once for Mantle alone and four times for Mays alone (including the famous spelling bee episode).
  • James Loney fares a bit below average in David Pinto's defensive statistical rankings of first basemen from 2006-10 at Baseball Musings.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted photos of the new grass being installed at Dodger Stadium.
  • Charlie Sheen meets Ron Swanson x John Wooden: The Sheen Pyramid of Greatness.
  • Juan Castro hit a three-run home run. From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
    When he left the game after five innings and returned to the clubhouse, this note was posted on the bulletin board:

    "Juan Castro: Please report to [Dodgers trainer] Stan Conte after the game for a mandatory steroid test."
Update: Jackson writes about Castro and Elbert.
Kim Klement/US PresswireIn the past three seasons, Lance Cormier has allowed a sub-.700 OPS against left-handed batters, including 26 extra-base hits in 486 plate appearances.
Outside of the left-field conundrum, the Dodgers' biggest question mark for Spring Training might be how they will address the task of getting left-handed batters out with their almost completely right-handed bullpen. No one wants to see Hong-Chih Kuo relegated to facing only lefties, and the only other left-handed thrower on the 40-man roster is the uncertain Scott Elbert.

Three non-roster invitees to major-league camp are left-handed: 39-year-old Ron Mahay, achy-hamstringed Dana Eveland (whose career 5.74 ERA will apparently be sidelined for weeks after Thursday's injury) and Wilkin De La Rosa, who has never pitched about Double-A. After that, you start dipping down into the minors for developing players like James Adkins.

With Ronald Belisario's absence seemingly opening up a roster spot, Mahay would seem to be the default candidate. He had a .520 OPS allowed against lefties last season. But the previous two seasons, his OPS allowed against lefties was above .700 — which isn't terrible, but isn't exactly the kind of authoritative performance you're looking for when you really want someone to come in and get that guy out.

I got to wondering if there were any righties among the Dodger relievers who were reliable against lefties. Here's a chart of the bullpen candidates' OPS allowed against lefties over the past three seasons in the majors:

2010 PA/2010 OPS 2009 PA/2009 OPS 2008 PA/2008 OPS
Belisario86.793 122.720   
Broxton123.626 148.414 126.800
Colon5.650 94.713   
Cormier162.718 180.671 144.667
Elbert42.000 40.699 141.000
Eveland59.802 60.999 170.646
Guerrier102.649 120.525 126.801
Hawksworth185.886 76.724   
Jansen51.586      
Kuo69.271 40.524 98.557
Link16.962      
MacDougal391.353 124.760 24.858
Mahay68.520 111.743 110.721
Monasterios188.709      
Padilla166.590 352.837 385.944
Redding   282.860 402.808
Schlichting39.465 9.905   
Troncoso99.823 157.751 84.707
Villarreal      68.862

Some observations:
  • The Dodgers have a few righties who seem consistently effective against their opposite numbers: Jonathan Broxton, Matt Guerrier and, based on a small sample size, Kenley Jansen.
  • Oh, and another guy who probably isn't on your radar ... late signee Lance Cormier.
  • Based on only his one season, Carlos Monasterios offers an intriguing first impression — though looking at the chart, you can see how much these numbers can fluctuate. Look at what happened to Ramon Troncoso, for example, or moving in the other direction, Vicente Padilla.
  • For extreme small-sample candidates, there's Roman Colon and Travis Schlichting. Consider at your own risk.

If the Dodgers decide that Kuo, Broxton, Guerrier, Jansen and Padilla are all effective against lefties, they could decide to go without a second left-handed pitcher — especially if they also think Cormier is worth a roster slot. It might still be Mahay's spot to lose or Scott Elbert's spot to win, but Cormier might be this year's guy you least expected.

Jerry Sands works on his game

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
9:17
AM PT
Bryan Smith of Fangraphs is at the Arizona Fall League, and shared these impressions of Dodger minor league player of the year Jerry Sands:
... I try not to be results-based in my batting practice “scouting” analysis, but it’s a lot more art than science, and I’m no expert.

Which brings me to an interesting scouting conundrum that popped up today, seeing the Phoenix Desert Dogs take batting practice for the second consecutive day. If you used just those two days, and those 40 swings, to make completely definitive judgments about players, there’s no question you would arrive at the fact that Austin Romine has more power (be it raw or present power) than Jerry Sands. The person who saw just 40 swings would, trust me, be shocked to learn that Romine hit just ten home runs this year where Sands hit 35.

You would be shocked because they have taken totally different approaches to the batting cage over the two days. For Sands, the focus has been hitting the ball the other way. At first, I thought maybe Sands was primarily an opposite field hitter, but given the sheer number of balls he’s hit towards right field in two days, I’m convinced it’s the orders he was given by the Dodgers. This is a guy not out there to show that he can hit the ball 400 feet, but working on improving his game by spraying balls around the park.

If you read the whole post, you'll see Smith was less impressed with Dodger minor-leaguer Matt Wallach.

In game action, Sands has a .484 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage (no homers) over 31 plate appearances, with only four strikeouts. From what I can tell, reports of Sands getting a lot of time at third base have been overblown.

Ivan De Jesus, Jr. has a 1.076 OPS, while Trayvon Robinson is at .971. On the mound, Javy Guerra and Scott Elbert have each allowed a run in four innings. Elbert, whom it appears might be converted to relief for good, has had better control his past two outings.

* * *

On the anniversary of a divorce, Josh Fisher writes: "Jamie McCourt filed for divorce a year ago today, and we cannot say it's been a banner year for the organization in any way. Not on the field. Not in the newspapers. Not on the farm. The Dodgers will be back, of course. You just can't keep a club with its built-in advantages down forever. But we will spend the next months (but hopefully not years) determining whether the club moves forward under McCourt direction or otherwise. Still, if nothing else, the McCourt divorce stands out as another unfortunate example of what happens when everything that can go wrong...well...does."
If it seems I've been publishing a lot about a pitcher who got two batters out with the Dodgers in all of 2010, it's because I find Scott Elbert's derailment one of the bigger stories of the year. But with his appearance in the Arizona Fall League, it was inevitable he'd start to shed some light on his situation, and both Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com talked to him.

Here's a Jackson excerpt:
... After (Tuesday's) game, Elbert was asked about the reason for his absence this summer, when he was gone for about a month. He didn't offer much in the way of clarification.

"It was just some personal issues I had to attend to," he said. "I can tell you right now, it had nothing to do with baseball. It was just a lot of personal stuff I had to take care of, and that's about it." ...

But he appears to have hit a sort of reset button on his career. He credited Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and assistant GM Logan White, who heads the scouting department and was responsible for drafting and signing Elbert, with being supportive during his ordeal.

Although Elbert's first AFL appearance on Tuesday was a mixed bag when it came to the results, he said his shoulder felt strong.

"It was just nice to be back out there," he said. "We have been on a consistent schedule with [Dodgers trainer] Stan [Conte] and the minor league physical therapist, and I have been going in every day and trying to get it right."

Elbert said he is hoping to receive an invitation to big league spring training, which is automatic if he stays on the 40-man roster this winter. Although he was a starter at Albuquerque this year before his departure, all indications are that the Dodgers now view him as a reliever, and given the bullpen issues the team had this year, that could bode well for Elbert in his effort to secure a spot on the Opening Day roster.

"To be honest, I would like to be a reliever," he said. "If that is going to be my job, then that is what I will prepare for. ... I don't ever think [starting] is out of the question, but I have always been known as a high pitch-count guy, and if I'm able to bring that down and go deeper into games, maybe I can be a starter again. Nothing is ever out of the question in this game." ...
Scott Elbert returned to competitive action today, pitching an inning in relief today for Phoenix in the Arizona Fall League. The Desert Dogs lost to Mesa, 8-3. (Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com will have a writeup later today.)

Elbert walked his first batter, who came around to score on a single and sacrifice fly. He threw 19 pitches, 12 for strikes.

Jon Link started for the Desert Dogs and allowed a run in three innings (51 pitches). Justin Miller (the young prospect, not the older, tattooed veteran then was tagged for five runs in two-third of an inning, forcing manager Don Mattingly into a pitching change.

Ivan De Jesus, Jr. and Trayvon Robinson each had a hit. Former Dodger prospect Andrew Lambo singled twice and scored two runs for Mesa.

* * *
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness published a detailed proposal for addressing the Dodgers' pitching concerns amid all the usual (and unusual) constraints.
  • Baseball America reports on the Dodgers' signing of minor-leaguer Brant Stickel, making him the lone University of Calgary Dino in professional baseball. The school's website has more details.
  • Who are the hardest-throwing free-agent relievers? Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has a list.
The Arizona Fall League throws out its first pitch of 2010 today, and Dodger fans might pay it a little more mind than usual. Not only is this Don Mattingly's first official gig at the helm of a baseball team, the Phoenix Desert Dogs, but there are a couple of key players to watch:

1) The Dodgers' minor-league hitter of the year, Jerry Sands, will be tested out at third base.

2) The Dodgers' minor-league mystery of the year, Scott Elbert, will be tested out on the mound.

Other organization members on the Desert Dogs of Phoenix (or is it the Dogs of Phoenix Desert) are Javy Guerra, Jon Link, Justin Miller the Younger, Matt Wallach, Ivan DeJesus, Jr. and Trayvon Robinson. A few of these guys will be competing for major-league jobs in 2011.

Phoenix has its first game against Mesa at 12:35 p.m.

* * *
  • Logan White will interview for the Mets' vacant general manager slot, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Jackson adds the following about surprising rumors in recent days that the Dodgers were pushing White out the door.
    ... As recently as 10 days ago, rumors surfaced that White, whose current contract is set to expire at the end of this month, was on the verge of being fired by the Dodgers. White told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Oct. 1 that he was aware of those rumors but hadn't been told anything official and that he planned to continue working as usual until he was told not to.

    "I'm still working," White said at the time. "I haven't been told anything [different]. There is a lot of innuendo and rumor out there, and I hate to even address some of those because they are so ridiculous."

    Those rumors appear to have been the result of confusing White with another Southern California amateur-scouting chief. The Los Angeles Angels had fired their scouting director, Eddie Bane, along with three of his scouts, on Sept. 29. Multiple sources said Monday the Dodgers have every intention of re-signing White and keeping him around in his present role if he isn't hired as a GM by another club. ...
  • Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passes along these interviews by reporter Maria Serrao with Scully himself.
  • Friend of the Dodger Thoughts family Daniel Paul has passed along this link to some Dodger caps his son Harry designed. Click the link and rate the cap.

Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don't say this lightly, is a mess.

It's not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it's going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It's a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn't pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team's top player won't be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won't mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:
  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton's final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don't non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn't seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn't helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that's about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million -- a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit -- committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It's for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he's finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he's not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it's out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You're always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it's going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

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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