Dodgers release Miguel Olivo, two days after brutal fight with teammate Alex Guerrero.

Miguel Olivo

Miguel Olivo was released by the Dodgers on Thursday. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers released Miguel Olivo on Thursday, two days after the catcher slugged teammate Alex Guerrero and bit off a portion of his ear in the middle of a Triple-A game in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Olivo had been suspended by the Albuquerque Isotopes on Wednesday. The Dodgers have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

The 35-year-old was only added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in April after a somewhat tumultuous spring training. Olivo signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers in January and received an invitation to the major-league camp. Despite batting .263 (5 for 19) in limited Cactus League playing time, Olivo was returned to the minor leagues as the Dodgers opted to keep three catchers (A.J. Ellis, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz).

Olivo requested his release at the time but ultimately accepted an assignment to Albuquerque, where he batted .368 (28 for 76). After Ellis was placed on the disabled list and Federowicz struggled to hit major-league pitching, the Dodgers purchased Olivo’s contract May 1 and let him start six of the next 10 games.

But Olivo struggled to hit too. He struck out nine times in his last 13 at-bats while failing to collect a hit. When Ellis was activated from the disabled list May 14, Olivo was optioned back to Albuquerque. Tuesday marked Olivo’s fourth start since returning to the minors.
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Daily Distractions: On close calls on the basepaths, has Yasiel Puig run out of luck?

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig has been thrown out on the bases seven times this season. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have seen 15 runners thrown out on the basepaths this season. That’s two fewer than the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals in a statistical category that no team wants to lead.

Yasiel Puig is single-handedly responsible for seven of those misfortunes, tied with Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte for the MLB lead. Puig was doubled off first base in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader in Minnesota. Umpire Tim Welke had a good look at the play from his vantage point at second base. Welke had an even better look at this play in the night game (from Yahoo.com):

With one out, Puig beat out a chopper up the middle that second baseman Brian Dozier threw in the dirt to first base. Chris Colabello couldn’t pick it and the ball hopped past him, with catcher Yosmil Pinto backing up the play. After he ran through the bag, Puig sharply turned his head to the right to check for the ball’s location. It was evident from Puig’s body language that Puig wanted to take an extra base, but when he saw Pinto with the ball, he applied the brakes. If Puig’s left shoulder began to dip toward second, the rest of his body actually leaned right. He never left the baseline, never crossed the foul line. He stopped, turned around clockwise (that’s away from second base), and started walking back to the bag like an innocent man who just had hit an infield single.

When Pinto tagged Puig, Welke signaled that Puig was out. Was that the right call? Judge for yourself.

The Yahoo! article suggested that Welke “seemed to be looking for a reason to call Puig out.” Without interviewing Welke, a veteran of 29 major-league seasons and the crew chief last night, it’s impossible to know that for sure.

Psychology tells us that there might have been a very real phenomenon at work. It’s called the confirmation bias and we’re all susceptible to it at some point, on some level. Reading further into the well-sourced Wikipedia entry on the topic, “even if people gather and interpret evidence in a neutral manner, they may still remember it selectively to reinforce their expectations.”

A player who’s already been thrown out on the basepaths six times in a month (Puig) can be reasonably expected to make the same mistake again. Puig’s mistake in the first game might have reinforced that expectation for everyone in the ballpark, including the second-base umpire. Given a split second to make his call at first base in the second game, Welke could easily have fallen prey to confirmation bias. That’s not an opinion — that’s a real possibility, reinforced repeatedly in scientifically valid experiments. Welke might not have been aware of a possible confirmation bias at work in his own mind. Even if reporters were given the chance to interview him after the game, the interview might not have cleared up the question.

Here’s what we do know: The more outs he runs into, the more Puig hurts his chances of getting the benefit of the doubt in situations like the one Thursday night in Minnesota.

Thursday was still a good day for Puig on the whole. The Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN) said that Puig is the first Dodgers player to reach base eight times in a doubleheader since Bill Buckner against the Giants in 1976.

Some bullet points for a Baby Day:
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Dodgers recall Jose Dominguez, option Chone Figgins to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Jose Dominguez

Jose Dominguez made just three appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque since his last appearance with the Dodgers on April 5. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers bolstered their depleted bullpen Monday by recalling right-hander Jose Dominguez from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioning utility player Chone Figgins to Albuquerque.

Coming into Monday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Dodger relievers ranked second in MLB in innings pitched. Dominguez is healthy and well-rested. He’s made just five appearances in the last 17 days — three since his last game in a Dodgers uniform April 5. Four days later, the Dodgers optioned Dominguez to Albuquerque when Josh Beckett was activated from the disabled list.

Dominguez has allowed four earned runs in three appearances for the Dodgers this season.
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Daily Distractions: Philadelphia Phillies offer a visit from the Dodgers’ past and hypothetical present.

Tony Gwynn Jr.

Tony Gwynn Jr. batted .245 in 239 games with the Dodgers from 2011-12. (Getty Images)

When the Dodgers host the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-game series this week, the past and the hypothetical present converge.

Tony Gwynn Jr. played 239 games for the Dodgers from 2011-12. By one metric, he was the team’s best defensive outfielder during that time. Gwynn was a serviceable hitter until somewhere around June 2012; he batted .180 after June 1 of that year. Gwynn gave way to Shane Victorino, then Carl Crawford, and wound up spending all of 2013 in Triple-A.

Gwynn signed with Philadelphia last November (for a modest $900,000) and made the Phillies’ Opening Day roster. Gwynn doesn’t start against left-handed pitchers, so we might not see him in the series until Zack Greinke starts Wednesday. The platoon seems to be working; Gwynn is batting .292 this season.
The success might also stem from his jersey number. After going his own way since he broke into the majors in 2006, Gwynn is wearing his father’s number 19 for the first time in his career.

So about that “hypothetical present.”

The Dodgers were rumored to be interested in their opponent today, Cliff Lee, at the 2012 trade deadline. They traded for Joe Blanton instead and missed the playoffs. Last year Lee went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA and made the National League All-Star team. Sounds like a missed opportunity.

Then again, given the Phillies’ reluctance to trade any of their high-priced, high-risk veterans (Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley), it’s no surprise that Lee is still in Philadelphia. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has shown no intention of rebuilding his aging roster. Lee might be no less untouchable today than he was in the summer of 2012. His team, meanwhile, is 8-10 in the young season.

Lee, 35, is owed a total of $50 million between this year and next. The Dodgers opted to put that money toward signing Greinke instead and dealt their expendable prospects to Boston for Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

To think: Maybe if Lee became a Dodger, the Punto Era might never have existed.

Hypotheticals are fun.

Some bullet points for a Grounation Day:
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Spring training ends poorly for Dodgers’ Dan Haren.

Miguel Rojas

Miguel Rojas, who grounded out on this at-bat Saturday, finished spring training with a .387 batting average, second on the Dodgers to Justin Turner’s .389. (Associated Press photo)

ANAHEIM — Dan Haren‘s final spring tuneup was one to forget.

The right-hander allowed all six Angels runs in a 6-2 Dodgers loss before an announced crowd of 43,553 at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

The Dodgers resume regular-season play tomorrow in San Diego. It’s the Padres’ first game of the season. Opening Day for most major-league teams is Monday.

Last weekend, the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks twice in Sydney, Australia and have a regular-season record of 2-0. They came back and lost two of three to the Angels, officially finishing spring training with a 7-12-5 record.

Haren didn’t go to Australia. Since the Dodgers only needed two starting pitchers (and kept Paul Maholm for insurance), Haren stayed behind and pitched minor-league spring training games in Arizona.

The playing environment changed dramatically Saturday. Haren went from games with no official statistics and no names on the back of players’ jerseys to a sold-out stadium. The change seemed to have caught him by surprise.

The Angels scored two runs in the first inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Albert Pujols and David Freese. In the second inning, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun hit back-to-back home runs.

Trout’s home run came on a hanging split-fingered fastball, Haren said, while almost all of the Angels’ other hard hits came off his cut fastball. Haren allowed six hits in two innings.

“It was just kind of getting it a little bit flat,” Haren said of his cutter. “I have to have the mindset of driving it down and away to a righty rather than just leaving it out there.

“I’m going to throw quite a few of them in the bullpen. I need to get that sharpened up. My other pitches were actually OK. I struggled with it last start too in the minor leagues. I threw a bunch in the last inning of that game.”

Haren starts Wednesday in San Diego, the finale of the three-game series with the Padres. His final major-league spring training ERA: 6.00.

“It’s the last one that doesn’t count,” Haren said. “No use thinking about it too much. I got some work in. It’s been a while since I felt like I’ve been on a mound, it seems like, at least in a real game. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I feel OK. Just flush it down and move on to the next one.”

Said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: “I’m glad it’s tonight and not Wednesday.”

The Dodgers scored both of their runs in the third inning on a two-run double by Chone Figgins. Most of the starters played only two defensive innings.

It was a good day for the Dodgers’ bullpen. Against almost entirely major-league competition, they combined for six scoreless innings: One by Brandon League, three by Matt Magill and two by Red Patterson.

The box score is here.

A few more notes:
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The Dodgers’ 30-man travel roster to Sydney, Australia: A closer look.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero was on the Dodgers’ plane to Sydney, Australia, but might not be on the Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

In case you missed it somehow, the Dodgers announced their travel roster Sunday before boarding a flight to Sydney, Austrlia.

I didn’t have time or space for a longer analysis of the 30 names yesterday, but one is probably needed.
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Daily Distractions: What’s next for the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia?


The Dodgers are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I type this blog entry. (I’m in Los Angeles. My skin isn’t Arizona-level dry anymore. It feels nice.) See for yourself: FlightAware.com is tracking the Dodgers’ airplane.

They will have a workout within a few hours of their arrival in Sydney, Australia and roughly another 60 hours before they play their first game against the Australian National Team. All this is by design — specifically, a design to get the players adapted to a time zone 18 hours away. The Dodgers even consulted with NASA, which is a great story for another day.

In the meantime, the club will attend a welcome gala and take a tour of Sydney Harbor. And, ideally, sleep a lot. If any of this makes for good copy it will probably be unplanned. I’m arriving Friday, the morning after the exhibition game. If the Dodgers want to play it boring until then I won’t complain.

Here is the Diamondbacks’ traveling roster. They are bringing 31 players because one, Ryan Rowland-Smith, is an Australian native who will also play for the Australian National Team in its exhibition game Thursday against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a St. Patrick’s Day:
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Chicago Cubs 5, Dodgers 4: Another Dodgers pitcher has another nagging injury.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)


MESA, Ariz. — Josh Beckett was hoping for more out of his third Cactus League start than three innings and 44 pitches.

Because of a right thumb contusion that worsened as the game went on, Beckett was pulled Friday against the Chicago Cubs before reaching his four-inning, 65-pitch target. The veteran right-hander was already staying away from throwing curveballs, the pitch that gave him the most discomfort, before head athletic trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly decided to pull him altogether.

Beckett doesn’t think the injury is serious but said he’ll visit a doctor next week if needed.

“It’s frustrating but it could have happened at a worse time,” he said. “I think right now we’re dealing with it the best we can. If I need a couple days off, we’ll do that. I just don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The injury isn’t related to the right thumb ligament that bothered Beckett in Boston early in the 2012 season with Boston. That injury affected the inside of his right thumb; this one affects the outside, he said.

Eleven days ago, Beckett’s right thumb “got slammed on the outside of a door,” he said. “Somebody was opening the door and — you know how they have signs that say ‘in’ and ‘out’? Somebody came out the in.”

In spite of the injury, Beckett’s fastball and changeup were effective against the Cubs. He allowed one hit, an infield single by Emilio Bonifacio, walked two and struck out one in three scoreless innings.

Beckett and right-hander Zack Greinke have both been ruled out from making the trip next week to Sydney, Australia, leaving the Dodgers with four healthy starters — Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm — one week before the beginning of the regular season.

Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Dodgers to can get with on four starters until mid-April. Beckett shouldn’t need that long.

“It’s not getting worse but it’s not getting better,” he said. “I’m just going to evaluate, maybe see a doctor again next week.”

After Beckett and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks were pulled with the score tied 0-0, both offenses came awake against the bullpens. Jamey Wright (four runs allowed in the sixth inning) and Javy Guerra (walk, single, RBI groundout in the fourth) allowed all the Cubs’ runs.

The Dodgers (5-9-4) clawed back to make the game close. Miguel Rojas doubled and scored on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon in the fifth inning. Alex Guerrero hit a two-run double off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. Drew Butera hit a solo home run to center field off Alberto Cabrera in the ninth inning to provide the final score.

The box score is here.

Some more notes and observations:
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Chone Figgins, Justin Turner in Dodgers’ lineup against the Cincinnati Reds.

Tim Wallach will manage the Dodgers for a second straight day with Don Mattingly away, and two non-roster invitees are in the lineup against the Cincinnati Reds: Justin Turner and Chone Figgins.

In the next three days, the Dodgers will have to make a decision on their travel roster for Sydney, Australia. By extension, the 25-man roster will have to be mostly settled. It’s telling that Turner (at first base for the first time in a Cactus League game this spring) and Figgins (in center field) are in the lineup, and Alex Guerrero is not, with Dee Gordon starting at second base.

If the Dodgers wanted him to get at-bats in order to prepare for a fast-approaching season, Guerrero would probably be in the lineup. Instead, the not-so-early indication is that Figgins and Turner have the inside track on utility roles, Gordon is the Opening Day second baseman, and Guerrero might not be ready for major-league duty in the eyes of the organization (a view held by several evaluators I’ve spoken to before and since Guerrero arrived in camp).

There haven’t been any formal indications about any of this from within the organization, but we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Outfielder Matt Kemp was scheduled to play in a minor league intrasquad game for the second straight day at 12:30 p.m. on the back fields of Camelback Ranch. Kemp had six at-bats and played in the field for the first time yesterday in a minor league intrasquad game and ran the bases.

Minor league players suiting up today include: RHP Red Patterson (#78), LHP Fu-Te Ni (#83), RHP Juan Gonzalez (#94), C Kyle Farmer (#92), INF Darnell Sweeney (#84), INF Ozzie Martinez (#87), INF Daniel Mayora (#88), INF Jamie Romak (#90), OF Jon Garcia (#89), OF Trayvon Robinson (#91) and OF Aaron Bates (#95).

Here are both lineups for the 1 p.m. game:
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Dodgers 7, Royals 5: Minor leaguers clobber the Kansas City bullpen, Van Slyke homers, Haren pleased with results.

Scott Van Slyke

Scott Van Slyke hit a home run that cleared the 400-foot marker in center field at Surprise Stadium on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

SURPRISE, Ariz. — There’s a good reason not to take spring training statistics seriously, a reason that was on full display Tuesday at Surprise Stadium.

Louis Coleman made 27 appearances out of the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen last year. He allowed just two runs, posting a puny 0.61 earned-run average for the season. The right-hander has 117 career appearances and has only once allowed more than three runs to score in a single inning.

But in the ninth inning against the Dodgers, Coleman was pulverized by several players who have never made a major-league at-bat. Alex Guerrero hit a triple off the top of the center-field fence, roughly 400 feet from home plate. Joc Pederson walked and Noel Cuevas (surprise!) followed with a three-run home run. Aaron Bates (who has 11 career major-league at-bats) and Trayvon Robinson singled. The inning ended on a diving catch of a Mike Baxter line drive to right field.

That’s how the Dodgers (5-6-4) rallied from their second deficit of the game to beat the Kansas City Royals 7-5.

Scott Van Slyke hit a two-run home run to deep center field in the eighth inning, his second Cactus League home run. In another spring anomaly, Dodgers right-hander Javy Guerra was the winning pitcher in his worst outing of the year. He allowed two runs (one earned) in the eighth inning, as well as two hits and a walk.

Dodgers starter Dan Haren allowed seven hits, all singles. Haren issued a walk, he said, on an experimental cut fastball that missed the corner to Lorenzo Cain. It was one of 11 walks in the game.

“He’s down and still under control,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Haren. “Looks like he’s controlling the strike zone for the most part. The guy was fairly tight behind the plate, we thought, but both ways. He was consistent, but a lot of those balls were good throws that were down in the zone, just not getting them.”

Haren was pleased with the results, too.

“Last year, beginning of the year, I was haunted by the home run, just leaving too many balls up out over the plate,” he said. “Second half, I was keeping the ball down and getting results more like today — a lot of ground balls.

“It’s more of just a mindset, more of an execution thing. Making sure when I miss, I miss down in the zone like I did today. Trying to work to get ground balls and in big spots not trying to do too much. If I have to walk a guy, I walk a guy. … The split is more of a waste pitch, but last year at the end of the year, I threw any pitch in any count.”

Haren said he felt well enough to throw another inning, but is a bit more tired than usual for this point in spring. The Dodgers still haven’t decided whether or not Haren will be on the flight bound for Sydney on Sunday.

If Haren isn’t on the plane, he hopes that “maybe (I can) take an extra day or two where I can back off a little bit because I’ve pushed it hard to this point.”

The box score is here. Some more notes and observations:

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