Dodgers’ Andre Ethier battling head cold; availability in question for tonight’s game.

It’s hard to say whether or not Andre Ethier is available for the Dodgers’ game tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the clubhouse before the game, it was clear the outfielder was still recovering from a head cold. He said that’s all it is, a head cold, and that his condition is the “same as yesterday.”

Well, according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, Ethier was so sick yesterday that he wasn’t available off the bench.

“We’ve got three guys — I wouldn’t say three — but a number of guys who aren’t recovering like the rest,” Mattingly said.

Ethier and Josh Beckett are two; Mattingly declined to name the third.

During batting practice, Ethier looked like himself, spraying line drives around the field. He hit at least one ball to the warning track.

Given all that, it’s hard to draw a firm conclusion about his availability for tonight. He’s listed on the lineup card as available off the bench.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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Daily Distractions: Why Sunday’s sixth inning encouraged Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez made outs in the sixth inning Sunday, but impressed Don Mattingly in the process. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

The Dodgers hit four home runs Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, but that’s not what had Don Mattingly excited.

Hanley Ramirez can hit home runs. That’s no revelation. Even Matt Kemp, Mattingly said, had his power swing on display from the time he reported to camp, with his high follow-through leaving many pitching machines in Glendale, Arizona with stratospheric ERAs.

No, what had Mattingly excited was the sixth inning.

Ramirez led off with a double into the left-field corner. Adrian Gonzalez was next up, and he hit a ground ball directly into the Giants’ shift. First baseman Brandon Belt fielded the ball and tossed to pitcher Matt Cain covering first base for the out. That didn’t matter to Mattingly, because Ramirez advanced to third base, then scored on a deeply hit sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.

“That was a big run for us,” Mattingly said. “They cut it to 4-2 with a couple homers there. Hanley starts the inning with a double, Adrian gets him over with the ground ball, Andre gets him in. Sometimes last year we didn’t get that done very well. I was encouraged by that tonight.”

Indeed, the biggest complaint about the Dodgers’ offense for the first six weeks of 2013 was its lack of situational hitting. On June 14, the Dodgers were 10 games below .500 and averaging 3.5 runs per game. From June 15 on, they averaged 4.3 runs per game. The arrivals of Yasiel Puig and Ramirez were integral. They added two dimensions the offense lacked, speed and power. More importantly, they didn’t make as many outs as the men they replaced. By extension, the Dodgers had more runners on base and had more success moving them over. Their situational hitting improved.

The Dodgers might never have another inning like the sixth this season. But if it becomes a trend, that’s one less way a lineup full of superstars can fail to score.

Some bullet points for an International Beaver Day:
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Arizona Diamondbacks 9, Dodgers 2: D-Backs’ ‘B’ team batters Dodgers.

The sticker shock of the quality of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lineup quickly wore off, then reversed course.

With a lineup slim on quality major-league talent — Didi Gregorius batted third and Mike Jacobs, who’s played 20 major-league games since 2009, hit cleanup — the Diamondbacks scored nine runs in six innings en route to a win in their last meeting with the Dodgers before Opening Day.

Zack Greinke allowed three runs, Zach Lee allowed four (three were earned) and Chris Perez allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning out of the bullpen. J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow, Kenley Jansen and minor-leaguer Romulo Sanchez combined to throw 3 ⅔ scoreless innings of relief.

A two-run double by Andre Ethier off Arizona right-hander Mike Lee accounted for the Dodgers’ scoring.

Dodgers’ lineup takes on a normal look against the Kansas City Royals.

Dan Haren

Dan Haren will make what could be his final Cactus League start today against the Kansas City Royals. (Associated Press)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The end is near.

If Twitter’s brief, apocalyptic mid-morning shutdown (for “maintenance,” we were told) didn’t hint at the end of life as we know it, the Dodgers’ schedule does — at least for those of us who have been with the team in Arizona the better part of a month.

There are six days and seven games left on the schedule beginning with today’s tilt against the Kansas City Royals in Surprise, Ariz. There’s no Andre Ethier, no Hanley Ramirez and no Dee Gordon or Alex Guerrero in the Dodgers’ lineup. Otherwise, it has a very start-to-the-regular-season kind of look.

“We want to play Dre (to play) probably the last five,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Same with Hanley.”

Yasiel Puig is in right field and Scott Van Slyke in center, a late switch. “We just wanted to see Slyke in center as much as anything,” Mattingly said, dropping the “Van” that makes for so many good last-name puns. “It seems like the right day.”

In one of those great only-in-spring training curiosities, the Dodgers will not use a designated hitter. The Royals will.

Dan Haren is making what ought to be his final Cactus League start. More on him later.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:
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Scary moment as Andre Ethier’s line drive hits Sandy Koufax in the head.

Dodgers special advisor Sandy Koufax was conscious and in good spirits after being struck in the side of his head by a batted ball during batting practice Friday.

Koufax was standing near the bullpen, in foul territory behind third base, when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Andre Ethier. Koufax remained on his feet as the gathered crowd went silent, then sat down in a cart driven by assistant athletic trainer Nancy Patterson, holding an ice pack to his head.

Koufax was quickly driven in the direction of the Dodgers’ minor-league complex. A few minutes later, Patterson and Koufax drove back in the direction of the Dodgers’ main clubhouse. Koufax waved and smiled to the fans as he was carted off.

Update (1:30 p.m.): Koufax said that a CT scan of his head showed no internal bleeding. Other than a cut on his upper-left forehead, Koufax looked and sounded the same.

“I’m fine,” Koufax said. “I never saw (the ball). I don’t know how it got me.”

Koufax joked about wearing a helmet onto the field tomorrow.

“I feel like I’ve got more whiplash than anything,” Koufax said.

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:
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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:
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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:
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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: