Dodgers 2, Astros 0

Big-time performance from Chad Billingsley, who shut out the Astros on three hits over 7 1/3 innings, ran his record to 4-0 in four starts this season and sliced his ERA to 2.05. This guy is really blossoming into a true staff ace, and it couldn’t come at a better time with Hiroki Kuroda on the DL and the bullpen so shaky that starters almost HAVE to pitch deep into games. Billingsley hasn’t failed one time this year to give the Dodgers at least six, and tonight he became just the second Dodgers starter this year (Randy Wolf on April 12) to pitch into the eighth. I must say, though, that the Chadster is getting a bit sensitive when it comes to the postgame questions. I asked him what the difference has been this year, and he was quick with this answer:
“I pitched well last year, too.”
Well, yes, you did. But you didn’t pitch like this. Without looking into what some of the other guys around the league are doing, I have to say this guy is at least a strong candidate for N.L. Pitcher of the Month honors. And if he keeps this up, he has an excellent chance of winning more games than he did last year, when he led the team with 16 victories.
it also was a big night for Jonathan Broxton, who hadn’t pitched since last Friday. Just as he was then, he was asked to get five outs. This time, it was a little more adventurous, what with the tying runs being in scoring position when the game ended, but he never blinked. He appears to have developed into a big-time closer, with the unflappable personality to match. He credits his WBC experience with that, because he pitched well under what he says was the enormous pressure of representing the USA. Whatever the reason, he is a different pitcher than what he has been in past seasons.
Dodgers go to 11-5 and now lead the Pods by 1 1/2. At the Rockies tomorrow, Eric Stults against Aaron Cook. Dodgers dominated the Rockies in a three-game sweep last weekend, but the Rox are a different team at Coors Field. Game starts at 6:10 L.A. time.
By the way, Kuroda did throw off a mound before the game and will do so again on Saturday.

Transcript of Ned Colletti’s interview with XM/Sirius

This took place today. Just received the transcript in my in-box. Most notable thing is he says Dodgers haven’t closed the door on signing Pedro Martinez. Here it is, I believe in its entirety:

Today (April 23, 2009) on the MLB Home Plate channel on SIRIUS XM Radio, hosts Jody McDonald and Jim Duquette spoke with Dodgers GM Ned Colletti about the team’s pitching staff.

Host, Jim Duquette: “The pitching staff has gotten off to a terrific start and you never know what to expect from the youth but, obviously, it looks like you guys knew what you were talking about.”

Ned Colletti: “Well, it’s still real early. Our last couple of games in Houston have been a touch disappointing. We’re pleased we’re 10-5. I think the pitching will be always on our mind all year long, guys. Even as well as we pitched before the last two games in Houston I felt that we needed at least one, if not two, more veteran, well, one starter, one reliever to help us through it. But we’re pleased with where we’re at right now. [Clayton] Kershaw has been real good at times. [James] McDonald is getting better after a rough start in Arizona and, of course, [Chad] Billingsly I think is blossoming into one of the better pitchers in the league.”

Host, Jody McDonald: “You mentioned those veteran starters you might have an eye on. I know that you were linked to Pedro Martinez and talked to him at some point earlier this year back in spring training. Do you put a weekly phone call in just to see if Pedro’s still concentrating on coming back, if his price tag has come down a little bit?”

Ned Colletti: “Well, we’ve stayed in touch. I won’t say it’s scheduled or it’s weekly but we’ve stayed in touch and we’ll continue to stay in touch. You can never shut off an option and he may be an option for us at some point in time but we’ll have to wait and see how that all fairs itself out.”

Host, Jim Duquette: “Do you think at this point the likelihood, if you were going to get a starter, it would be that free agent route? It’s a little bit early to be making trades, right?”

Ned Colletti: “Yeah, right now teams aren’t really, the trade talk, as you know, is really quiet at this point of a season. I think there’ll be maybe more opportunity in June than there has been in the past depending on teams’ economics. Right now the best way to fix a problem is probably internally and we’re looking at some guys in triple-A. We signed a lot of major leaguers to minor league deals so part of our solution may be in Albuquerque right now. But right now trying to make a deal would be pretty tough to do. You’d probably have to overpay to get somebody’s attention.”

“The Show” airs nationwide every weekday (4-7pm ET/1-4pm PT) exclusively on SIRIUS XM’s MLB Home Plate Channel (XM channel 175 and SIRIUS channel 210 with the “Best of XM” programming package).

Jeff Weaver to go into ABQ rotation, couple of injury updates

Weaver will make his first start on Saturday at New Orleans. The reason for this is that the front office wants the option of calling him up for EITHER the rotation or the bullpen, and right now, his innings and pitch count aren’t sufficiently built up for starting in the majors. … Also, Cory Wade ended up pitching in an extended spring-training game today, NOT a simulated game. He will do another one on Saturday, after which there is a chance he will skip his minor-league rehab entirely and rejoin the Dodgers in San Francisco on Monday. And Hiroki Kuroda was going to play catch today, and if he felt good enough, he was going to get on a mound. I apologize, but I had too much going on pregame to notice whether he actually did so or not. But Stan Conte said before BP that Kuroda had only thrown at 50-60 percent so far, that he hoped to get him to 80-90 percent soon and that he needs to be pretty close to 100 percent before he goes out on a rehab.
“This is the type of injury you can’t push through,” Conte said.

A random thought regarding the Dodgers’ bullpen problems

This isn’t something I’m hearing from a source, either on the record or off. It’s pure speculation on my part. But I’m wondering if Jeff Weaver might be in a big-league uniform pretty soon. He has had four relief appearances at ABQ, two of them really good, two of them mediocre. But it dawns on me that the ONLY reason he didn’t make the team out of spring training was that there wasn’t a 40-man roster spot available. There technically still isn’t one, but one could be cleared quickly by moving Mkz to the 60-day DL (he is going to be out at least that long). It is becoming increasingly apparent that there aren’t many guys in the current crew down there in the bullpen whom Joe Torre feels he can trust in a key, late-inning situation, and last night, he all basically admitted that he doesn’t trust Hong-Chih Kuo right now in an eighth-inning setup situation, which was the exact role Kuo was supposed to have coming into the season. If nothing else, adding Weaver would bring a more veteran presence to the group. Once again, just a thought.

Astros 6, Dodgers 5

First question to Joe Torre after the game was why it was Ronald Belisario out there with a one-run lead in the eighth inning (he let it get away) instead of Hong-Chih Kuo, the guy who was supposed to fill that role all season. What Joe said, in that way that Joe is so good at of saying something without really saying it, is that he doesn’t feel he can trust Kuo right now with a game on the line.
“We’re still working on that with him,” Torre said. “He is all right physically, but we’re just trying to get him into a situation more toward the middle of the game before we get him into the back end of a game.”
Kuo seemed understanding of that, given that he failed to get out of the eighth inning of both of his two most recent appearances and retired only one of the six total batters he faced in those outings. He hasn’t been in a game since Friday.
“I’m just trying to get ready for every day and get myself ready for whenever they want me to pitch,” he said.
Belisario was standup about letting this one get away, said he wasn’t nervous at all, but I have never seen a guy who wasn’t nervous throw a wild pitch while trying to INTENTIONALLY WALK somebody. Come to think of it, I have never seen ANY pitcher throw a wild pitch while trying to intentionally walk somebody, so maybe I should cut Belisario some slack.
Good effort by Randy Wolf tonight, got through seven strong innings on just 91 pitches. But he blamed himself for the loss based on the fact that just after the Dodgers scored four in the sixth — back-to-back solo HRs by Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier and a two-run shot by Casey Blake, all of Roy Oswalt — Wolf walked Lance Berkman to start the bottom half, leading to a two-run inning that tied the game.
Dodgers fall to 10-5, still lead the Pods by one. Chad Billingsley vs. Wandy Rodriguez tomorrow at 5:05, should be an all-Rodriguez battery for the Stros unless Pudge is given the night off for some reason.

Today’s pregame tidbits

Hiroki Kuroda is going to play catch today, and if he comes out of that OK, he will throw another bullpen tomorrow. Cory Wade is going to throw a simulated game at Camelback Ranch tomorrow, and if he comes out of that OK, he’s going to start a rehab assignment at high Single-A Inland Empire this weekend and possibly return to the Dodgers when he becomes eligible on Tuesday. Jason Schmidt is going to stay in extended spring training at least a little while longer, so his rehab is on hold. … Balloting for this year’s All-Star teams officially began today. If you can’t get to a ballpark (or even if you can), you can vote on line at mlb.com. … Ned Colletti said today he is no longer looking for another bench player from outside the organization, so Blake DeWitt will stay in the majors for the time being. Colletti indicated that while getting DeWitt enough at-bats remains a concern, Joe Torre has been doing a good job of getting him a decent number of them. … Finally, Forbes magazine released its annual valuation rankings of major-league clubs, and the Dodgers were fourth. They have a current value of $722 million, according to the publication. You can check out the whole list at the following web address:

www.forbes.com/mlb

Minor League Baseball to lease Dodgertown, Craig Callan to manage it

At least they found a use for the place, and this is a great move for Craig, who gets to stay home in Vero Beach. You may recall a post here a couple of weeks ago after Craig resigned as the Dodgers’ vice president in charge of spring-training and minor-league facilities. Here is the release, although I’m not entirely sure where it’s from. A buddy emailed it to me. … Also, thanks to all for the advice on the laptop. I went cheap just because it was SO cheap that I couldn’t pass it up, and also it’s the same brand and model (Compaq Presario) that I had such good luck with the last time.

Minor League Baseball to Operate Dodgertown
(Craig Callan Hired to Manage Facility)

VERO BEACH, Fla.-Minor League Baseball (MiLB) has agreed to terms with
Indian River County and the city of Vero Beach, Fla., that will be
incorporated into a memorandum of understanding on a five-year partnership
to lease and operate the Dodgertown baseball complex. Financial terms of the
partnership were not disclosed.

MiLB, which has set an all-time attendance record in each of the last five
seasons, plans to host a number of events, both sports and non-sports
related, on a year-round basis at the complex. Some of these include
baseball camps; youth, high school and college tournaments; umpire camps;
groundskeeper camps; fantasy camps; conferences; and other baseball-related
programming.

The 65-acre facility, where the Dodgers played their spring training games
from 1948-2008, consists of five full baseball fields, including Holman
Stadium; two half fields; indoor and outdoor batting tunnels; offices; and
training rooms. The site was also the home of a Class A Florida State League
club from 1980-2008.

Among its other amenities are a conference center; restaurant & lounge;
Olympic-size swimming pool; basketball court; tennis courts; game room;
movie theater; and 88 hotel-style villas.

“We’re extremely proud to partner with Indian River County and the City of
Vero Beach to operate and maintain this historic, socially significant
facility,” stated Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner. “In addition
to providing an influx of business for the community through the events we
will attract, we look forward to becoming a vital member of it.”

“We’re hoping we have the same relationship and community presence that we
did with the O’Malleys and the Dodgers,” said Indian River County
Commissioner Wesley Davis. “The economic benefits of a year-long facility
will be the highest and best use for historic Dodgertown.”

“The City Of Vero Beach anticipates a strong mutually beneficial partnership
with Minor League Baseball,” remarked Vero Beach City Manager Jim Gabbard.
“We have been very impressed with the organization and its leadership. We
expect a long relationship that will create opportunities for fans to see
high caliber baseball in the historic Dodgertown venue.

“We also anticipate Minor League Baseball to have a significant positive
impact on our local economy. As the years pass, we believe that this
relationship between local government and Minor League Baseball will be an
example of cooperation and friendship that we enjoyed for over 60 years with
the Los Angeles Dodgers,” added Gabbard.

In a related move, Minor League Baseball has hired Craig Callan to manage
the property, beginning May 1. Callan had been the director of the complex
since 1988 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, until recently retiring from the
organization.

Astros 8, Dodgers 5

Clayton Kershaw insisted after the game that he felt comfortable on the mound, that he was getting ahead of hitters and that they were just hitting good pitches. I’ll buy that to an extent. It also could be that the Astros were just a better-hitting team than the Giants, whom Kershaw shut down on one run and one hit over seven innings in his previous start last Wednesday night. At any rate, the eight-game winning streak — which some Houston TV or radio reporter, I’m not sure which, thought was a perfectly appropriate topic to ask about AFTER the game to both Torre and Kershaw, both of whom seemed justifiably bewildered by it — is over. Also over is my 3 1/2-year old Compaq Presario, which isn’t completely dead (after all, I’m typing on it now), but it’s at least time for last rites. It gallantly fought through one final evening, but I’m heading to Best Buy or Staples or whatever I can find in the morning to seek out a replacement. Sounds like a tax deduction to me. I was told by the Astros’ IT guy, who spent about three hours trying to patch this thing together just enough to get me through the night, that 3 1/2 years is a life well lived for a laptop, particularly one that gets banged around the way a baseball writer’s typically does. But all good things must come to an end. … Dodgers fall to 10-4. Pods losing to the Giants 6-2 in the eighth. Good pitching matchup tomorrow night, Randy Wolf against Roy Oswalt, 5:05 L.A. time.