Conventional baseball wisdom holds that pitching takes on greater importance in the playoffs than the regular season, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has lived it.
When he was the New York Yankees’ batting coach from 2004-07, he recalled, “(Robinson) Cano was hitting ninth. It was dangerous. But those clubs didn’t win.”
Mattingly believes the reason was simple.
“We didn’t pitch enough,” he said. “Playoffs are a whole different animal. Short series are always tough, even a seven-game.”
Assuming the Dodgers qualify, who will begin the playoffs in the starting rotation? Mattingly ducked the question for a second straight day Sunday and he can for the moment, with only five healthy starters on the active roster. He won’t be able to if/when Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are all healthy.
This could be the manager’s biggest decision all season, if not in his brief career.
Ted Lilly and Matt Guerrier were scheduled to continue their rehab assignments by pitching tomorrow and Wednesday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Lilly’s outing is in jeopardy, however, after manager Don Mattingly said the left-handed pitcher “didn’t look real good” after a workout Sunday morning.
“I’m thinking Teddy’s not going to make his start,” Mattingly said. “He felt something … I think in his back or something.”
Lilly’s rehabilitation has been up and down. Initially bothered by elbow stiffness, he didn’t face live hitters in a game between May 23 and a July 29 rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. After a brief setback, Lilly tossed one inning for the Quakes on Aug. 14 and two more innings two days later.
He hasn’t faced live hitting since, so if Lilly is able to return to the Dodgers before the end of the season, it will be out of the bullpen.
Shane Victorino was back in the lineup after missing Saturday’s game due to stiffness in his lower back.
He missed a lot while he was out.
Outfielder Carl Crawford, the least important (for this year, at least) of the four players the Dodgers acquired Saturday from Boston is signed through 2017. Crawford had Tommy John surgery Thursday and is out until March of next season at the earliest, so Victorino’s job in left field is safe for now.
A free agent at the end of the season, Victorino repeatedly expressed a desire to re-sign in Los Angeles after arriving July 31 in a trade from Philadelphia. Now, Crawford’s presence poses an obvious problem long-term: the Dodgers have three outfielders (Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp) under contract until at least 2017.
If you couldn’t see the Dodgers’ divisional rivals quaking in their boots after Saturday’s blockbuster trade, their fear became tangible Sunday, when the Arizona Diamondbacks traded starting pitcher Joe Saunders to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Matt Lindstrom.
OK, that’s not at all how it happened. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported that Joe Saunders was placed on waivers last Tuesday and the Orioles had the most interest. It’s unclear if Saunders was claimed by the Orioles, or if he passed through waivers unclaimed and the deal was consummated after that point. Either way, some incarnation of this trade was in the works before the Dodgers got Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto.
The Dodgers are playing two games at Yankee Stadium in 2013 and Vin Scully would like to be there — on one condition.
“If Sandy promises to go with me, I really would like to see Yankee Stadium, and the Dodgers and the Yankees,” he said, referring to his wife of 39 years. “That really gets my imagination stirring. First of all, I’ve never seen the new Yankee Stadium, but just to go back and play the Yankees.”
That could be the most significant addition to the schedule for Scully’s 2013 season — his record 64th with the Dodgers organization.
In an 18-minute pregame chat with media Sunday, Scully touched on a variety of topics.