Scott Elbert optioned to Chattanooga

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.

Giants 9, Dodgers 4

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.

More rationale for the batting order

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.

Tonight’s lineup: Matt Kemp sits, Juan Pierre bats ninth

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.

Furcal 6
Hudson 4
Ramirez 7
Ethier 9
Loney 3
Martin 2
Blake 5
Stults 1
Pierre 8

Dodgers 5, Giants 3

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.

Jason Schmidt still in extended spring training

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.

Hong-Chih Kuo no longer fits into eighth-inning setup role

Call me lazy or whatever, but rather than typing this twice, I decided to simply go ahead and write it up for tomorrow’s paper and then copy/paste it here. So just ignore the dateline.

SAN FRANCISCO — One day after he declined for the second time in the past week to bring in eighth-inning setup man Hong-Chih Kuo to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Dodgers manager Joe Torre finally acknowledged before Tuesday night’s game with the San Francisco Giants that the role doesn’t necessarily belong to Kuo anymore.
With reliever Cory Wade due to come off the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, Torre said he is the likely heir to the role. But Torre added that Wade will need to get back into the flow of pitching regularly in big-league games before he is given the job full-time. Until then, it appears the assignment will be doled out on a game-by-game basis.
Wade’s most recent appearance before being sidelined by bursitis in his right shoulder was on April 11 at Arizona.
“Cory would be that guy,” Torre said. “I also think I could flipflop both him and (Ronald) Belisario. I’m not sure I want to do that with Cory until he is back a while. But that would be ideal to do that, yeah.”
The problem with Kuo is his history of arm problems. He underwent two Tommy John surgeries while still in the minor leagues, he missed most of 2007 with injuries to both his shoulder and elbow, and he missed the final two weeks of last season and the first round of the playoffs with elbow soreness.
That basically prevents Torre from using Kuo in the way an eighth-inning setup man normally would be used. Torre is still reluctant to use Kuo in consecutive games, and one of the reasons he didn’t use him in Monday night’s loss to the Giants was because of the cold weather. In fact, while Belisario was pitching, blowing the one-run lead and losing the game, and Will Ohman was warming up in the bullpen, Kuo was warming up in the indoor batting cage.
Add to that Kuo’s recent inconsistency — in his past three appearances, eight of the 12 batters he has faced have reached base — and it becomes clear that he doesn’t fit the role.

Another screw-up by your humble correspondent

If you read this morning’s paper, I mentioned that the wild pitch Ronald Belisario threw in the eighth inning last night “should have been” a passed ball charged to Russell Martin. Well, no, it shouldn’t have been. In my haste to make deadline — and, I must admit, in trying to find whatever evidence I could to support my premise that Belisario was more the victim of bad luck this time than of his own bad pitching — I got that wild pitch confused with another wild pitch earlier in the game by the Giants’ Barry Zito. THAT was the one I felt the official scorer botched, that should have been a passed ball. My apologies … and my apologies to Russell Martin. … Much nicer day today. Still cold, but not nearly as windy as last night. Was a beautiful day in the city today.

Giants 5, Dodgers 4

We got an explanation on the ball that Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier screwed up in the first inning. As I mentioned here earlier, it was extremely windy here tonight, and it was a loud, howling wind — loud enough that neither Kemp nor Ethier could hear the other calling for the ball. That was why neither of them backed off on the play.
“We couldn’t hear each other,” Kemp said. “I don’t even remember (exactly what happened). A lot was going on at that moment. It was a tough ball. (Second baseman Orlando Hudson) said we were both calling it and we didn’t hear each other. I don’t know what to really say about it. (It was) the wind. The elements out there were pretty crazy. But no excuses. That ball should have been caught by one of us.”
Kemp also made no excuses for the next ball, which he misjudged into a triple for Randy Winn.
“It just took off. It had a weird little spin on it, and it just got away from me. But the ball should have been caught.”
It led to a three-run inning for the Giants. If both plays had been made, Randy Wolf would have had a one-two-three inning.
What happened in the eighth inning, with Ronald Belisario on the mound, is laid out in detail in tomorrow’s paper, so no need to revisit it here. In case you were wondering, Joe Torre’s explanation for why he didn’t bring in a well-rested Hong-Chih Kuo, the Dodgers’ designated eighth-inning setup man, to set up in the eighth inning was all the right-handed hitters the Giants had coming up. I’m starting to wonder whether Kuo really IS the eighth-inning setup man for this team.
Anyway, Dodgers fall to 13-7 and 2 1/2 up on the Pods. Giants now just three back. Chad Billingsley against Jonathan Sanchez tomorrow night, 7:15. Billingsley is 4-0 in four starts, but more importantly in this case, he is 3-0 in three starts following Dodgers losses. He not only pitches like an ace, he pitches like a stopper, too.