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.
The plan to have him make a rehab start at Inland Empire tonight was actually scrapped several days ago, but no one bothered to tell the media until today. He threw 89 pitches in an extended spring training game today. It ended when Schmidt was hit in the left leg by a line drive. But his removal was precautionary, and he isn’t believed to be injured.
“We made the decision that we wanted to get him more arm strength and extend him a little more before he went down,” Dodgers trainer Stan Conte said. “We were shooting for 90-plus pitches a couple of times before we sent him on a rehab. He felt pretty good. His last couple of outings have been good as far as command goes.”
He’ll make at least one more extended-spring start before going on a rehab. The saga continues. …
Also, there doesn’t seem to be any big reason for tonight’s lineup shuffle other than Joe wanting a right-handed batter in the cleanup spot against Jonathan Sanchez.