Staying the course

Grady said before the game that the Dodgers need to “stay the course” with their young players and their plan and not stray from it. He asked, part rhetorically and part earnestly, what the Dodgers had been doing since they last won the World Series in 1988, a clear reference to the fact the team’s longstanding method of signing high-priced free agents simply hasn’t worked out, and that the current plan of drafting and developing is the right one. Some will applaud what Grady said, while others will dismiss it. But the Rockies are a perfect example of what can happen when you have a lot of young talent, you’re patient, and you allow it to develop. They endured years of growing pains, including a good portion of this year, but it’s all paying off now.

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Abreu, Furcal, Kent and Penny all done

Tony Abreu (abdominal/groin strain) and Rafael Furcal (lower back) have all been shut down for the season, and understandably so. Why risk further injury when there is so little at stake. Kent, whose hammy has been bothering him all year and who suffered a bruised left leg when he slid into home plate on Tuesday night, will be available only in an emergency. And Penny will NOT make his scheduled start in Sunday’s season finale. Nothing wrong with him, but why subject him to any chance of an injury in such a meaningless game? … Asked Grady about possible coaching changes, and he didn’t really bite. “We’ll see,” is all he said, which to me is a strong indicator that something is going to happen. My guess is Bill Mueller goes back upstairs, so they’ll need a hitting coach, but there could be some other changes, as well. …

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Rockies 9, Dodgers 7

These Rockies are an absolutely amazing story that NO ONE could have predicted when the season began. I rode the escalator downstairs after the game with Jay Alves, their media relations director and a longtime friend of mine, and we were just shaking our heads at the absurdity of it all. I was a backup on the beat for one of the Denver papers the last time these guys won nine in a row back in 1997, which until tonight was a franchise record that could be broken tomorrow, but that came after the club was already out of contention and didn’t make that much of a stir. This is something else entirely. The scary thing is, clubs that make the playoffs after getting on a roll like this tend to stay hot when they get there (remember the 2003 Marlins?), so these guys are by no means looking at an automatic first-round exit. Of course, they have to get there first, and the Padres rallied to beat the Giants tonight, so the Rockies are still a game back in the wild card. … As for the boys, well, they fell to 80-77, and tney better get untracked quickly if they’re going to salvage a winning season. They once had to go at least 3-11. Now, after losing eight of nine, they have to go at least 2-3. But at least they don’t appear to be sleepwalking anymore, like they did last week. Could that have something to do with Grady suddenly playing all the kids? Home runs tonight by Hu, Loney and Delwyn Young, and the other run was driven in on a single by LaRoche. … By the way, they started a new chant after Hu’s homer in the fourth inning: “Huuuuuuuuuu.” As in, “They’re not booing, they’re chanting `Huuuuuuuuuuu.”’

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Tomorrow’s notes

Not a great deal of news today. Ubaldo Jimenez was sticking it to the boys until just now, when Chin-lung Hu, to which the crowd responded with chants of “Huuuuuuuuu” as he rounded the bases. It was his second big-league homer, and it tied the game. By the way, there was a smattering off boos when Grady’s name was announced before the game. Not sure it was warranted, but not sure it wasn’t, either. … Rockies 2, Dodgers 2, end 4

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
Dodgers backup catcher Mike Lieberthal said on Tuesday that he has changed his mind about retiring if the Dodgers don’t pick up his $1.5 million club option for next season. A month ago, Lieberthal said that if he doesn’t play for the Dodgers in 2008, he won’t play anywhere, but he has since opened himself to the possibility of playing for another club.
“I’m not going to retire,” Lieberthal said. “I feel like I can keep playing. I have asked so many people, especially my friends, a few players on this team and my family. They all feel I should keep playing. And I have talked to guys like (former Dodgers catcher) Steve Yeager, who tell me to play until they take (the jersey) off my back. Even if it’s for $1 million, $500,000 after taxes is a nice paycheck.”
The Dodgers have until five days after the World Series to decide whether to exercise the option. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti declined to comment on whether he is leaning one way or the other.
If nothing else, Lieberthal, who will turn 36 in January, should be fresh going into next year. He has started just 17 games this season behind iron man Russell Martin and has entered 14 others defensively. The fact he hasn’t complained about such sporadic playing time might be a compelling reason for the Dodgers to keep him, given that the situation doesn’t figure to change much next season.
“I would like to play more, but there is a stud playing in front of me,” Lieberthal said. “But as hard as he plays, he is probably going to get hurt sometime, even if it’s only for a week or two.”

Injury updates: Shortstop Rafael Furcal’s stiff lower back still hasn’t healed enough to allow him to play. Furcal now has missed seven consecutive games, and each day that passes without him returning to the lineup makes it less likely he will play again this season.
“There would be value is him playing if he is able to play,” said Dodgers manager Grady Little, shooting down the idea that it might be better to simply shut Furcal down for the year.
Furcal has been playing through pain in his left ankle all season.
Meanwhile, infielder Tony Abreu, who left Sunday’s game at Arizona with pain in his hip flexor, hadn’t improved much and was as questionable for the rest of the season as Furcal.
“He is hurt,” Little said. “I don’t know if he will be able to play. He is kind of day to day. We’ll check him and see.”

No difference: Little said the club won’t approach this three-game series with wildcard-contending Colorado any differently than this weekend’s season-ending set with last-place San Francisco, even though there doesn’t figure to be anything at stake for either club in that series.
“We’re going to try to win as many games as we can,” Little said. “What we did last week (a 1-6 trip), there is nothing we can do about that right now. We just have to go forward.”
The Dodgers entered the day trailing the third-place Rockies by four games, leaving them only a remote chance to avoid finishing behind Colorado in the standings for the first time since the Rockies came into existence in 1993. The Dodgers needed to go at least 2-4 to post their seventh winning season in eight years during this decade.

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Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 1

Dodgers finish their road sked with a 39-42 mark. They won six of nine here in the big hangar, which is fairly notable given that the Snakes have gone an incredible 50-31 at home. Today was all about the kids. Juan Pierre was the only guy in the starting lineup that wasn’t a first- or second-year big leaguer, and the boys fairly unloaded on Edgar Gonzalez, the same guy who beat them last Sunday to start the seven-game losing streak. Nice effort by Billingsley today, too, even though he threw 95 pitches and only went 5 2/3. I’m telling you, this kid is a potential No. 1 starter who could become one of the league’s elite starting pitchers as soon as next season. Loney went 3 for 5 with a home run, and Tony Abreu homered in the first inning. … Enjoyed watching that whole Milton Bradley thing unfold in San Diego. I feel bad for Buddy Black, one of the classiest guys in the game, and I’m sure he is beside himself over what happened. But this was the whole story of Milton wrapped up in one instance: he lost his temper yet again, and he got injured yet again. It appears his never-ending tendency to do both of those things is ultimately going to overshadow his talent, his ability and, unfortunately, his career. Thank your lucky stars he isn’t the Dodgers’ problem anymore. … While standing around the clubhouse this morning (one of my greatest talents, by the way), I saw the door to Grady’s office open. Matt Kemp and James Loney were coming out, but Ned, who was having a conversation nearby in the corner of the clubhouse, intercepted them, and the three of them went back in and closed the door again. I guess he wanted to talk to them, too, and I’m sure it was about their comments in response to Kent’s comments about the team’s young players. Let’s hope this thing is finally a dead issue. But mostly, let’s hope it doesn’t come up again next year, because I can’t imagine Kent isn’t coming back when he has a $9 million guarantee. … Dodgers improve to 80-76. They need to go at least 2-4 on the homestand to have a winning season. And while it’s true that you either make the playoffs or you don’t, I still think your final record is an important stat. It’s history, after all. This is my eighth year as a full-time beat guy, and I can still recite the records of every team I have covered (’00 Reds 85-77, ’01 Reds 66-96, ’02 Reds 78-84, ’03 Reds 69-93, ’04 Dodgers 93-69, ’05 Dodgers 71-91, ’06 Dodgers 88-74). I hope the boys feel the same way and play hard to the end — even though that series with the Jints next weekend figures to be rather dull.

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