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:

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:
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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:
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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:
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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.
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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.
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After much ado about something, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier join Dodgers’ Game 3 lineup.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez, right with Yasiel Puig, batted .500 (8 for 16) in the National League Division Series. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)

Hanley Ramirez (hairline rib fracture) and Andre Ethier (soreness in lower left leg) passed the test.

After Dodgers manager Don Mattingly declared that both players would be game-time decisions for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Ramirez and Ethier showed enough in pregame drills to earn a spot in the starting lineup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Ethier could be a particularly important weapon today against Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. Only five Dodgers have as many as 10 career plate appearances against the right-hander, and Ethier leads them all in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.361) and slugging percentage (.667). He’s batting fifth.

Ramirez is 5 for 24 (.208) with no extra-base hits in his career against Wainwright, and went 0 for 6 in Game 1 against the Cardinals. He was the Dodgers’ best hitter in the National League Division Series against the Braves, batting .500 (8 for 16) with four doubles, a triple and a home run. He’s batting third.

Yasiel Puig is batting sixth, his lowest position in a starting lineup since he joined the Dodgers in June. Puig has struck out six times in 10 at-bats in the NLCS without collecting a hit. Wainwright has been tough on right-handers throughout his career; this season alone right-handers have struck out 111 times in 457 at-bats against Wainwright and walked only 10 times.

Puig went 1 for 3 with a double and two strikeouts in his only game against Wainwright this season.

For the Cardinals, Matt Adams moves from the cleanup spot to number six, where he’s been against left-handers Francisco Liriano and Clayton Kershaw in these playoffs. Yadier Molina beats fourth.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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Andre Ethier joins Hanley Ramirez as game-time decision for Game 3 of NLCS. Update.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier was limping after chasing fly balls in the Dodger Stadium outfield prior to Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Monday. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier will be a game-time decision for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series after missing Game 2 with an injury to his lower left leg.

He hit several line drives in batting practice and a couple home runs. Covering the full range of center field at Dodger Stadium was a different matter.

Ethier’s range was limited, as he came up limping on a few particularly long runs to the gap. He chose not to jump for a ball that barely cleared the wall in right-center field. Ethier did not limp at any point while attempting to run the bases during batting practice, but he did not approach full speed.

Ethier played all 13 innings of Game 1 in center field, which Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called a “worst-case scenario” in light of the injury. Skip Schumaker was the Dodgers’ center fielder in Game 2 on Saturday, a 1-0 loss, and figures to start today if Ethier can’t.

“We’ll have to see him get out on the field, see what he can do, and we’ll kind of go from there,” Mattingly said during his afternoon media session prior to BP. “Another game-time (decision) or at least after BP or during BP at some point, we’re going to be able to figure out if he’s going to go or not.”

Update (3 p.m.): Ethier said he can play, but wasn’t sure if he would be in the lineup.

“I’m going to go in and talk to Donnie,” he said after batting practice.

Asked how he felt compared to Game 1 of the NLCS, Ethier said, “about the same. I don’t think quite as physically sharp but definitely able to go out there and play and get the job done.”

Andre Ethier scratched from Dodgers’ lineup in Game 2 of NLCS; Hanley Ramirez a game-time decision.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier played 13 innings in center field in Game 1 and will start Game 2 on the bench. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier played 13 innings in his first game in the field since Sept. 13.

That was more than enough for one day — or two.

Saturday, Ethier arrived at Busch Stadium feeling sore and was given a day off in favor of Skip Schumaker in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that X-rays on Ethier’s left leg came back negative, but Schumaker will bat seventh and play center field against his former employer, the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He was sore at the end of the game last night,” Mattingly said, which is something that Ethier wouldn’t admit to when surrounded by reporters in the wee hours Saturday morning.

Regardless, Ethier is available to pinch hit and double-switch late in the game today, Mattingly said.
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