Matt Kemp frustrated after being pulled, booed for 0-for-3 performance

Matt Kemp’s frustration was nearly as obvious in his postgame interview as it was when he was yelling in manager Don Mattingly’s general direction after being pulled in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the St. Louis Caridnals Saturday.

Six times Kemp used the phrase “bad at-bat” in reference to his inning-ending strikeout with two runners on base in the sixth inning of a one-run game. Both Kemp and Mattingly said independently that the center fielder wasn’t shouting at his manager when he exited in a double-switch.

“I was just frustrated,” Kemp said. “It had been a bad day for me. I didn’t do much to help the team win. It’s over now.”

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It’s not an offhanded decision that has Dodgers rotation leaning decidedly left

Given the deluge of speculation that Don Mattingly will be fired, the Dodgers manager is happy not to have a choice in one matter.

It’s certainly unconventional to start four consecutive left-handed pitchers, but when Clayton Kershaw starts tomorrow’s series finale with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers will have done so for the first time in four years. Hyun-Jin Ryu picked up a win on Wednesday, Chris Capuano a loss in the series opener against the Cardinals Friday with Ted Lilly going today.

“It’s kind of like having all righties in the bullpen,” Mattingly said. “For us right now, it’s been our healthiest guys. If I had four Kershaws, would you not like that? It’s just how we’re throwing the baseball, not too much that it’s a lot of lefties.”

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Daily Distractions: Debating Don Mattingly’s future.

Don Mattingly

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is on the hot seat in the public eye. (Getty Images)

If you woke up today and read anything about the Dodgers, you might have noticed that one question sits on many lips: Will Don Mattingly be fired?

“Convinced,” writes one.

“I have swung to the side that thinks he will,” writes another.

There was also the more nuanced “it seems very unlikely that Mattingly will make it through the entire season at the helm though, but my prediction here is that he survives another seven days.”

We also had our choice this morning of “I don’t care” and “I do care.” Having options is nice.

Some even believe that the pitching matchups for the Dodgers’ three-game series in Milwaukee (Kershaw-Gallardo tonight; Greinke-Burgos on Tuesday and Ryu-Peralta on Wednesday) have something to do with this debate. Then again, as Baseball Prospectus notes on its daily podcast, “the idea that ‘we’ll give him one more series and see if he turns things around’ – either he’s the right guy or he isn’t! How much new information does that give you about whether he’s the guy that you want for the rest of the season?”

All we know is that it’s too late for the old cliché of “I don’t want it to become a distraction.” It’s become a distraction – if not inside the clubhouse, certainly outside the clubhouse – and acknowledging distractions is what we do every morning.

Some bullet points for a Monday:
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Mark Ellis activated from disabled list; Tim Federowicz optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Mark EllisThe Dodgers activated Mark Ellis from the 15-day disabled list Sunday and optioned catcher Tim Federowicz to Triple-A Albuquerque. Ellis is playing second base and batting second against the Atlanta Braves.

Federowicz has started three games behind the plate this season, two in May since his most recent call-up from Triple-A. He’s batting .176 (3 for 17) with three singles this season. Ramon Hernandez goes back to being A.J. Ellis’ primary backup.

Ellis hasn’t played since straining his right quadriceps muscle on April 26. He went 0 for 4 with a walk in two rehabilitation games with Double-A Chattanooga on Friday and Saturday.

Daily Distractions: Important roster decisions coming. Who will the Dodgers cut?

Jerry Hairston Jr.Mark EllisThe Dodgers are in the market for a pair of infielders.

Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr., currently on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps and left groin, respectively, are expected to join the team at some point during this weekend’s road trip to Atlanta. Both are rehabbing tonight with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.

But to take each off the disabled list means that another player must come off the active roster, and the choices are not obvious. After all, who expected Elian Herrera to get the first call-up when Hairston went on the disabled list two weeks ago?

That said, barring any (more) injuries, these are the four players whose time with the Dodgers may be at least temporarily up:

Luis Cruz. A gifted third baseman/shortstop, Cruz hasn’t hit enough this year to justify being on a major-league roster. In 69 at-bats, he has six singles for a .087 batting average and slugging percentage. Cruz is out of options, so the Dodgers would probably have to designate him for assignment. The prospect of closing the book on last year’s feel good story (and a player whose jerseys are still displayed prominently in the window of the Dodgers’ team store) has become a story in and of itself.

Ramon Hernandez. At 38, Hernandez’s bat speed isn’t what it used to be. He’s batting even below the Cruz Line, at .045, and the Dodgers have two catchers ahead of him on the depth chart. The Dodgers have two first basemen ahead of him on the depth chart, too, in Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Van Slyke. Like Cruz, Hernandez would probably be designated for assignment since he’s been out of options since 2002.

– Van Slyke. Sending Van Slyke out doesn’t make as much sense, given the Dodgers’ need for power and a backup first baseman/corner outfielder, but they’ve cut him loose before. In nine plate appearances, SVS has a single, a home run, two strikeouts and a walk.

Dee Gordon. Like Van Slyke, there are reasons to keep Gordon but history isn’t on his side. The Dodgers never wanted Gordon playing an everyday shortstop role in the majors until he was ready, and Gordon’s .220 batting average and negative UZR (which is actually up from last season) aren’t strong signs of readiness. The Dodgers could easily platoon Cruz, Nick Punto, Juan Uribe and Hairston on the left side of the infield until Hanley Ramirez returns from the disabled list.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers have strength in numbers; quarter-pole records; mock drafts.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is helping the Dodgers in the standings and at the turnstiles. (AP photo)


For all the logical reasons one can cite for the improved attendance at Dodger Stadium — it’s rising faster than Frank McCourt’s net worth — there’s a reason to be surprised.

A 17-22 record comes to mind, as does a list of injured stars that includes Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke (prior to Wednesday). Most tickets aren’t getting cheaper and it’s no easier to get in and out of the ballpark than it was two years ago, when the Dodgers averaged 36,236 at every home game.

Yet the Dodgers’ average attendance of 42,706 through 24 home games is the highest in Major League Baseball. They became the first team to surpass 1,000,000 tickets sold on Wednesday. Their season-ticket base of approximately 31,000 is a major boost. So is Clayton Kershaw, whose six home starts attracted an average of 47,905 fans. The Dodgers’ average attendance in their other 18 home dates: 40,974.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. Just take a look down the freeway and you’ll realize that fan loyalty is no small object.

The Angels are hemorrhaging fans in the midst of their struggles. While their average attendance of 37,232 represents 82 percent of capacity at the smaller Angel Stadium (the Dodgers are at 76.3 percent capacity), these numbers are shrinking. A season-low 31,917 fans attended the Angels’ loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. They’ve averaged about 4,000 fewer fans per game in May than April (34,656 compared to 38,735).

Having been to most home games at both stadiums, I feel confident in writing that fans in Anaheim are leaving games early this season at a Chavez Ravine-like rate — with less traffic to beat. I also feel confident in writing that Angels players and coaches notice this.

The lesson for the Dodgers: Southern Californians will only tolerate losing to a point.

The lesson for the Angels: Trade for Clayton Kershaw.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
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Daily Distractions: Why Zack Greinke probably won’t dive tonight.

Zack Greinke

Maybe the only way Zack Greinke hits the turf is if he’s pulled down. (Associated Press photo)

Zack Greinke can recall diving exactly once on a baseball field. All he remembered Tuesday was that it was on a bunt attempt by Gerald Laird, maybe in 2009, and it didn’t end well for him or the Kansas City Royals.

After some digging, we believe the play occurred in the second inning of a game between the Royals and Detroit Tigers on July 8, 2009. Josh Anderson was on second base, having hit a ground-rule double. Laird attempted to bunt Anderson to third base but popped the ball up toward the pitcher’s mound.

Greinke dove for the ball and missed. He tried throwing to first base to retire Laird, but Laird wound up with a single. Since there’s no video on YouTube or MLB.com, we’ll rely on this descriptive quote from Greinke, courtesy of that night’s Associated Press game story: “That was a stupid play, because it was a terrible bunt. If I catch that, it is a double play, and even then, I made a five-hop throw to first.”

On Tuesday, Greinke said that he could have caught the ball, and turned the double play, if he didn’t dive.

“I feel at least 90 percent of all dives are unneeded,” he added.

Why is all this relevant? Well, Greinke is under strict orders not to dive tonight when he returns from a fractured clavicle to start against the Washington Nationals. The pitcher assured Dodgers manager Don Mattingly that this wouldn’t be a problem, and the play from four years ago is a large reason why.

Also, it was satisfying to uncover the dive Greinke was referring to, like the guy who figured out what day Ice Cube was rapping about in the song “It Was a Good Day.”

Some Hump Day bullet points:
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Ted Lilly set for rehab start in Rancho Cucamonga tomorrow.

Ted LillyTed Lilly will make a rehabilitation start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday. If you feel like you’ve read that sentence before, it’s because you have. Lilly has made six starts for the Quakes between this season and last, and 10 starts for the Dodgers during the same time period.

In two starts for Rancho Cucamonga earlier this season, Lilly went 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA.

This time, Lilly is attempting to come back from a strained right ribcage muscle, which Lilly said hasn’t caused him pain since Monday. The 37-year-old left-hander said he will throw up to 75 pitches.

The Dodgers’ rotation has been battered by injuries this season. Josh Beckett, who was scheduled to start Sunday in Atlanta, is a candidate to go on the disabled list with a groin injury, manager Don Mattingly confirmed Tuesday.

The Dodgers haven’t gotten much out of Beckett (0-5, 5.19 ERA), Triple-A call-up Matt Magill (0-0, 6.92) or Chris Capuano (1-2, 6.60). They are rumored to be interested in free agent Jonathan Sanchez. So there could be room for Lilly in the Dodgers’ rotation once he is cleared to pitch.

Scott Elbert is expected to pitch an inning in relief of Lilly. It will be his third rehab outing as he attempts to come back from elbow surgery.

Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr. are Chattanooga-bound.

Mark EllisJerry Hairston Jr.Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. are tentatively scheduled to begin rehabilitation assignments with Double-A Chattanooga on Friday, then rejoin the Dodgers when they swing through Atlanta.

The Dodgers begin a three-game series against the Braves on Friday.

Ellis ran the bases Tuesday for the first time since straining his right quadriceps on April 27. The Dodgers’ second baseman has been participating in all other baseball activities for more than a week.

Hairston is currently in Arizona rehabbing a left groin strain. Tonight’s game against the Washington Nationals will be the sixth he has missed because of the injury. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Hairston will participate in a simulated game Thursday, and play two defensive innings in the infield and the outfield.

The Chattanooga Lookouts are hosting the Tennessee Smokies for five games beginning Friday.

Zack Greinke will start for the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Zack GreinkeThe Dodgers will activate Zack Greinke from the disabled list, and the right-hander will start tomorrow’s game against the Washington Nationals less than five weeks after he had a metal plate inserted in his fractured left clavicle.

Greinke made only one rehab start last Friday and threw 80 pitches for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. The outing didn’t go well on paper — he allowed six hits, three earned runs and lasted just 4 1/3 innings — but Greinke said he’s comfortable pitching a major-league game three weeks ahead of the original timetable. The team’s medical staff concurred.

“There is some risk,” Greinke said. “There’s risk starting [Clayton] Kershaw today. I’m sure on our team there’s a lot of risk every day. I think it’s well worth the risk we’re taking for my situation.

“If our medical people thought I shouldn’t be pitching, I’d be OK with it. If I had a problem with how I’m pitching I’d be in the minor leagues.”
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