The move was made after the game, in which he ate up 2 1/3 innings to save the bullpen from further decimation after the short start by Eric Stults. Elbert wound up posting a 7.11 ERA in three starts since his April 18 callup from Choo-Choo town, and one of those netted his first big-league win. This move clearly was made to clear a roster spot for Cory Wade, but Joe Torre said after the game that Wade won’t be activated until they have one final conversation with him tomorrow just to make sure he is fine. I should have known something was up when I saw traveling secretary Scott Akasaki having a lengthy conversation with Elbert in the clubhouse after the game.
Joe Torre hinted at two things after the game.
First, when KABC’s Josh Suchon asked him about the way Eric Milton, Jeff Weaver and Shawn Estes have been pitching in Triple-A, Torre SEEMED to say one or more of those guys might be in the rotation soon — especially with Stults, McDonald and Kershaw having given up a combined 19 ER in 12 1/3 IP this time through the rotation.
“We would certainly like to do something that gives us just a little more depth and maybe a little more length,” Torre said.
Then, when a couple of Taiwanese reporters asked Joe about Kuo’s status after Kuo finally turned in a solid performance tonight — he pitched a perfect fifth inning with the Dodgers trailing 5-0, the exact sort of situation Joe had been trying to find to get him into — Joe said Kuo eventually will be the eighth-inning setup guy again.
“Kuo was good,” Torre said. “Hopefully, we can build on that. He ideally can pitch the eighth inning, and I wouldn’t be afraid to have him close if Broxton is unavailable. But I think we’re probably a few outings away from putting him back in that spot.”
Tim Lincecum was simply too much for the boys tonight. That’s about all you can say about this one. Dodgers fall to 14-8, still lead the Pods by 2 1/2 and start an 11-game homestand with a four-game series against the Pods beginning tomorrow night. James McDonald against Josh Geer at 7:10. Oh, and Friday night’s fireworks them is Vegas Night.
Torre said the main reason he wanted JP to bat ninth is that if he gets on base, he will have a better chance to steal with Rafael Furcal at th plate than with Eric Stults batting. JP had a funny comment about the whole thing when asked if Joe had explained to him why he was batting ninth.
“I would be willing to bat 11th as long as I’m in that lineup,” he said. “He doesn’t have to explain anything to me.”
Also, Cory Wade was fine today after his one-inning rehab start at IE last night. He will be activated before tomorrow’s game, and it seems probable that Scott Elbert will be sent out to make room. And speaking of the minor leagues, Shawn Estes has pitched his way onto the organizational radar. He threw six shutout innings for ABQ last night and is now 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA — and just four walks in 19 innings — in four starts. The Dodgers now have three veteran major-leaguers down there in Estes, Eric Milton and Jeff Weaver, all of whom are viable candidates to help this club sometime this season, assuming enough 40-man roster spots can be cleared.
Not to brag on myself, but your humble correspondent was the first reporter to ask Joe Torre during spring training whether, on the nights when JP is in the starting lineup, he would consider batting JP ninth and the pitcher eighth. Well, tonight, he is actually doing it (not that I’m claiming he is doing it on my suggestion, because I’m sure that isn’t the case). Anyway, the rationale is that you can still bat Manny third so he comes up in the first inning, but in subsequent innings, you have three table-setters hitting AHEAD of Manny so that Manny, in effect, is batting fourth. And before anyone suggests it, no, it ISN’T because Joe thinks Eric Stults is a better hitter that JP.
Stults becomes the first Dodgers starting pitcher not to bat ninth since Don Drysdale batted seventh on Aug. 15, 1965 against Pittsburgh. That day, according to Elias Sports Bureau, catcher John Roseboro hit 8th (1-for-4) and shortstop John Kennedy hit 9th (0-for-2, BB, K). The Dodgers lost 4-2, and Drysdale went 0-for-2 with 2 strikeouts before being pulled after 6.0 innings of work.
By the way, Ethier is back in the cleanup spot, Martin drops to sixth.
This might have been the first game this year in which it could be truly said that Manny Ramirez was the central figure in a Dodgers’ victory. He was on base five times tonight, including a pair of two-out walks with nobody on base early and three doubles late. The last two of those doubles led off innings with the score tied, and each time, Ramirez ended up scoring the go-ahead run. The big one was the ninth. After Russell Martin struck out, Andre Ethier, easily the Dodgers’ MVP for this first month of the season, worked a 10-pitch at-bat against Bobby Howry, then drove a double off the left-centerfield wall for his 21st RBI of the season, and it’s tough to remember a bigger one. Matt Kemp followed with an RBI triple, and the Dodgers had all the runs they would need. First blown save of the season for Jonathan Broxton, although he was asked to get five outs, coming on with a one-run lead, two on and one out, and he walked two of the first three batters. Will Ohman wound up pitching a perfect ninth for just the third save of his career. Lost in all the late-inning confusion was the performance of Chad Billingsley, who gutted his way through 7 1/3 innings on a night when he clearly wasn’t at his best. He dodged bullet after bullet, proving once again that he is maturing as a pitcher because he now has the ability to improvise. Dodgers go to 14-7 and stay 2 1/2 up on the Pods. Eric Stults against Tim Lincecum tomorrow night at 7:15, so good luck.