Daily Distractions: Dodgers aren’t counting on Matt Kemp to appear in Sydney games.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp hasn’t begun running in spring training. The Dodgers depart for Australia on March 16. (Associated Press photo)

Don Mattingly solved the “The Four Outfielder Problem.” For two games, at least.

The Dodgers’ manager doesn’t believe that Matt Kemp will be available for the Dodgers’ season-opening trip to Sydney, Australia on March 22. Kemp hasn’t been cleared to run on flat ground and won’t be until he undergoes an MRI exam next week.

“I don’t think we’re — we’re not hopeful for Australia,” Mattingly said. “The MRI next week … will let us know where he’s at.”

Kemp is facing live pitching on a minor-league field at Camelback Ranch today. Throughout spring training he has been able to maintain his weightlifting regimen and exercise on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill.

But that is different from running on flat ground, or patrolling the outfield, or turning around first base.

“It’s just the fact that he hasn’t been on the grass, running and cutting,” Mattingly said. “How long that takes, once they clear him to start that type of thing, that will be a progression.”

For now, expect an outfield of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig in Australia — if all are healthy.

Some bullet points for an International Mother Language Day:
Continue reading

Andre Ethier’s name will grace Union Rescue Mission learning center.

A spokesperson for the Union Rescue Mission said that the facility’s learning center will be renamed for Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier and his wife Maggie.

In December, we reported that Ethier made a $75,000 donation to the URM, where he’s been a regular off-season volunteer. At the time, he was given the choice of having his name painted (in various forms) on the wall of the fourth-floor learning center. His choice: “The Andre and Maggie Ethier Learning Center.”

Daily Distractions: As bullpen market settles, Brian Wilson reportedly ‘close’ to settling with Dodgers.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson posted a 0.66 earned-run average in 13 games as a Dodger. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff photographer)

In the midst of all that pesky logic that preached pessimism, there was always this shred of hope for the Dodgers: Brian Wilson never insisted on closing in 2014.

Not publicly, at least.

Here’s what I wrote on Oct. 31:

It’s reasonable to expect the Dodgers will enter the bidding for Wilson. Just don’t be surprised if a team desperate for a closer (Detroit? Cleveland? Arizona?) guarantees more money and more years to a pitcher who’s saved one game the past two seasons.

Well, Detroit appears to have entered and exited the picture. The Tigers are reportedly close to signing Joe Nathan to be their closer, in part because their Plan A didn’t work out:

And, according to multiple reports Tuesday morning, Wilson is close to rejoining the Dodgers.

After the Dodgers declined to tender an offer to Ronald Belisario before last night’s 9 p.m. deadline, the need for a set-up man to Kenley Jansen became clear. And if Brian Wilson was keen on staying close to his Southern California home, why not Brian Wilson? He had a 0.66 earned-run average in 18 games after joining the Dodgers midway through the 2013 season, with his velocity increasing as the season progressed. He also threw six shutout innings in the playoffs.

Those stats would be nearly impossible to maintain in 2014, but he doesn’t appear to be regressing after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2012.

The closer market is settling quickly this off-season. If Wilson and Nathan leave the board, only Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney would remain among free agents who closed full-time in 2013. Heath Bell and Jim Johnson have been traded in the last 24 hours.

I mentioned John Axford as a possible replacement for Belisario. Re-signing Wilson wouldn’t necessarily rule that out, and with this sense of humor you hope it doesn’t:

 

Some bullet points for an International Day of Persons with Disabilities:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: How the Dodgers might apply principles of chemistry and platooning to their $58.3 million outfield.

Carl Crawford Matt Kemp

Can Carl Crawford (left) and Matt Kemp (right) be happy under a four-man outfield platoon? The Dodgers might be counting on it. (Associated Press photo)

A couple opinions floating around today about what to do with the Dodgers’ four-outfielder conundrum: 1, Trading Andre Ethier is the most likely route; 2, Keeping everyone is the safest bet.

Maybe there’s another way we can look at the Dodgers stockpiling outfielders. It’s not unlike the strategy used a year ago by Oakland A’s, who entered last season with five viable starting outfielders (Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, Josh Reddick and Chris Young).

Since it was the A’s, this personnel strategy was dissected under the market-efficiency microscope, then praised when Young underperformed, Cespedes and Crisp went down with injuries in April, and Reddick took his turn on the DL in late May. None of them were owed the kind of money Ethier, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig will earn in 2014 — $58.3 million, excluding any contract bonuses — but the A’s still won 96 games, four more than the Dodgers.

Don’t dismiss the integral role that club chemistry played in keeping the A’s outfielders happy with the platoon arrangement. Probably not coincidentally, Oakland recently signed former Dodgers infielder Nick Punto — a chemistry guy, a platoon guy.

With the Dodgers, the market-efficiency prism need not apply. That doesn’t mean that stockpiling outfielders (and starting pitchers, for that matter), hedging against the inevitable injuries, and counting on chemistry to abide in times of health, isn’t a wise personnel strategy worth the time of a team with a $215 million-plus budget.

The A’s walked into their situation more intentionally than the Dodgers, who probably didn’t count on the injuries that added up to 99 outfield starts for players other than their top four in 2013. Heck, general manager Ned Colletti might have traded Ethier, Kemp or Crawford by now if cost and health concerns were not enough to inhibit a rival GM from making a knock-me-down offer.

That hasn’t happened yet. It probably won’t. Whenever a reporter asks Colletti an outfield-related question that begins with “if everyone’s healthy…” his response usually begins with some variation of “do we know that everyone’s going to be healthy?”

So maybe the Dodgers backed into this desirable situation. That doesn’t make it undesirable.

Some bullet points for an Evacuation Day:
Continue reading

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti talks Juan Uribe, Alexander Guerrero, outfielders.

Juan Uribe

Juan Uribe is still the Dodgers’ preference to be the everyday third baseman in 2014, according to general manager Ned Colletti. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti divulged some of the Dodgers’ off-season plans Tuesday in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. There were no major revelations, but these were among the talking points:

1. The Dodgers would prefer to re-sign Juan Uribe to fill their starting third base job.

2. Plan B could involve moving shortstop Hanley Ramirez or second baseman Alexander Guerrero out of those positions, and/or acquiring an infielder through trade. The organization isn’t there yet. No mention of Guerrero’s recent health concerns.

3. The Dodgers aren’t shopping any of their outfielders, but that is one area in which Colletti “would like to get younger if possible.” (In other words: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are much more available than Yasiel Puig right now, which isn’t news.) Multiple teams are inquiring about the Dodgers’ outfielders and Colletti is listening to offers.

You can listen to the interview here:

Daily Distractions: Onelki Garcia undergoes arthroscopic procedure on left elbow.

Onelki Garcia

Onelki Garcia made three appearances for the Dodgers following his first major-league call-up in September. (Getty Images)

Before Clayton Kershaw wins the National League Cy Young Award tomorrow — as close to a sure thing as there in this year’s BBWAA awards — leave it to the Dodgers to fill the week with injury news.

Left-handed reliever Onelki Garcia had arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow Friday, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. According to the team, it was “a basic clean out procedure and spur removal.” Garcia is expected to be throwing in about 5 to 6 weeks and “should be competitive” by the beginning of the regular season.

Garcia made his major-league debut with the Dodgers in September after being added to the 40-man roster from Triple-A Albuquerque. In three games, the 24-year-old from Cuba allowed two runs in 1 ⅓ innings, walking four batters and striking out one.

Matt Kemp had surgery on his left shoulder and left ankle in October, and is currently rehabbing at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.

Some bullet points for a Tuesday:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp making progress in surgery rehab.

Chad Billingsley

Chad Billingsley is able to throw from 120 feet at 75 to 80 percent effort, his agent said Monday. (Associated Press photo)

The agent for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Chad Billingsley said Monday that both players will be able to participate in spring training activities from the start of camp.

Dave Stewart, the former Dodgers pitcher who now represents both players, said that the road back will be slower for Billingsley, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in April.

“I think (the Dodgers) will be conservative,” Stewart said, “but (Billingsley) will be starting with everybody else in spring training.”

Stewart said that Billingsley believes he’ll be able to pitch in games starting in April. The 29-year-old right-hander underwent the ligament replacement procedure April 24; the Dodgers didn’t announce a specific timetable for Billingsley’s recovery at the time, only that pitchers typically return to competition in 12 months.

For now, Stewart said that Billingsley is throwing from 120 feet at 75 to 80 percent, and hopes to start throwing off a mound in January.

Kemp is already at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, recuperating from October surgeries on his left ankle and left shoulder. Kemp had arthroscopic surgery Oct. 24 to remove several spurs and a loose body, and do a microfracture on the talus bone in his left foot. He’s expected to be in a walking boot “for another couple weeks,” Stewart said.

Some bullet points for a Veteran’s Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: It’s open season on Dodger outfielder trade speculation.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp originally sprained his ankle on July 21. He had surgery in October but is expected to be healthy in time for Opening Day of 2014. (Associated Press photo)

If you had Nov. 8 in the pool for “which day does the internet explode with ideas for resolving the Dodgers’ four-outfielder situation with a trade” … you probably have a strange, uncontrollable gambling habit.

Also, congratulations.

In the absence of something tangible to report — which will be true for most of the 151 days between the end of the World Series and the beginning of the 2014 regular season — there is the tangible difficulty of going into a season with four outfielders who deserve to start, and no DH rule to keep the fourth one happy. That’s where the Dodgers stand now.

That wasn’t a problem in the second half of 2013. All four battled injuries of some magnitude. Matt Kemp played one game between July 5 and Sept. 16, then missed all of the playoffs with an ankle that required surgery. Carl Crawford missed 30 games at midseason. Andre Ethier missed most of September. Yasiel Puig injured his knee and hip in September, but at least avoided missing significant time.

Kemp will enter spring training in 2014 coming off shoulder and ankle procedures, so there’s some reason for the Dodgers to be cautious. He turns 30 next September. Crawford and Ethier will both be 32.

But just what if all four maintain their health next season? Don Mattingly was asked this question deep into his awkward end-of-year press conference.

“We didn’t play with four the whole year,” he said. “It would be hard talking about something that’s a possibility for next year. You’re always looking to improve. You never know what happens before the year’s over. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Number of games, how you mix and match … it’s just something you have to talk about with guys.”

That the problem is purely hypothetical hardly dismisses the fact that it would be a problem for a manager to satisfy four outfielders owed more than $61 million in combined salaries next season. Mattingly’s answer didn’t exactly downplay the potential for a problem.

To the hot stove action: It’s believed that Puig is untouchable. To trade Kemp, Ethier or Crawford, “general manager Ned Colletti will need to be creative, but it’s not as if he’s embarking upon mission impossible,” writes Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com. There’s also the opinion that maybe Puig shouldn’t be untouchable.

Writes Jesse Spector of SportingNews.com: “It’s valid for the Dodgers to shop Kemp and see what the market might hold, but he’s not a player you trade unless you’re absolutely blown away. When that doesn’t happen, because of the effect of a lost 2013 season on Kemp’s trade value, then it’s time to call around about Ethier or Crawford, and eventually make the best deal possible – most likely, that would mean dealing Ethier.”

“To do it,” writes Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com, “the Dodgers are going to clearly have to eat a lot of salary. But money is the least of the Dodgers’ concern.”

Buster Olney and Jim Bowden of ESPN.com weighed in on the possibility of Tampa Bay trading pitcher David Price, with the Dodgers a possible suitor. Both seem to be anticipating a winter trade rather than one next summer, and Bowden believes it would cost the Dodgers multiple prospects rather than an outfielder, which the Rays probably can’t afford. Unless that outfielder is Puig.

Some bullet points for a three-day weekend:
Continue reading

On making adjustments, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez, and both lineups for Game 5.

Hanley Ramirez Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier (left) and Hanley Ramirez (right) are both in Don Mattingly’s starting lineup for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. (Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)


If there was one buzzword taking flight on the lips in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Tuesday night, it was “adjustments.” Carl Crawford dropped the “A-word” after the Dodgers dropped Game 4. So did Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, making adjustments is less a cliche than the difference between the possible end of the Dodgers’ season, and a possible Game 6 on Friday in St. Louis.
Continue reading

Some pregame numbers, lineups, and injury updates for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Are the numbers on Ricky Nolasco‘s side tonight? It depends on what numbers you like.

In his last three starts against the St. Louis Cardinals, the right-hander is 3–0 with a 0.36 ERA against the Cardinals.

And yet, here are his numbers (courtesy of baseball-reference.com) against current Cardinals hitters:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA ▾ OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Jon Jay 15 13 7 1 0 0 2 0 1 .538 .571 .615 1.187 1 0 0 1 0
David Freese 12 12 6 1 0 0 1 0 3 .500 .500 .583 1.083 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Holliday 27 26 12 3 1 2 7 1 2 .462 .481 .885 1.366 0 0 0 0 2
Carlos Beltran 53 47 16 0 0 1 3 6 11 .340 .415 .404 .819 0 0 1 0 0
Daniel Descalso 14 13 4 1 0 0 0 1 2 .308 .357 .385 .742 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 12 11 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .273 .333 .273 .606 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Carpenter 6 5 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 10 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 157 144 49 6 1 3 14 9 26 .340 .387 .458 .845 2 0 1 2 3

One more stat on Nolasco: He’ll be starting on 20 days’ rest. In his career, Nolasco is 9-8 with a 4.79 ERA when pitching on six or more days’ rest; he was 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in such situations in 2013.
Continue reading