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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Andre Ethier bats seventh for Dodgers in Game 1 of National League Championship Series.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier went 0 for 3 with a walk in four pinch-hit appearances in the National League Division Series. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)


Andre Ethier is back in the Dodgers’ starting lineup tonight, playing center field and batting seventh, for the first time since Sept. 18.

“I just wanted to see how things responded last night,” said Ethier. “I didn’t wake up feeling sore.”

Ethier has been running bases and shagging fly balls in center field for the better part of the last week. His performance in yesterday’s team workout at Busch Stadium, and the health of his left ankle today, counted for a lot.

“A lot of things we’ve seen yesterday we really liked,” Mattingly said. “At first it wasn’t as good as I would have liked but as the day went on, he got better and better out there in center. He goes, does a lot of things, making turns. So it feels like at least he’s back today. We don’t know how he responds after a game of Major League Baseball, not just a workout.”

Ethier was 0-for-3 with a walk in four pinch-hitting appearances in the National League Division Series against the Braves. He’ll swap spots on the bench with Skip Schumaker, who was 3 for 13 (.231) with two RBIs and three walks in the series.

“Worst-case scenario, (Ethier) would be back to a pinch hitter or something possibly tomorrow, then another day off,” Mattingly said. “But the best-case scenario is obviously that he’s going to be able to bounce back and tomorrow he’ll be fine.”

The Cardinals will use the same lineup they used in Games 3, 4 and 5 in the National League Division Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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Daily Distractions: Andre Ethier in center field? ‘If we get it, it’s a nice surprise.’

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance in Game 1 on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Andre Ethier ran out a ground ball to first base on Thursday night, and his left foot didn’t fall off.

Better yet, there seems to be some improvement in the health of the Dodgers’ center fielder, who’s been limited to pinch-hitting duties in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Ethier “could possibly stay in the game if it’s the right situation” if he reaches base in Game 2 tonight.

That’s an important step forward for a player who limped onto the field for warmups Wednesday and still doesn’t look completely right compared to his healthy teammates. Ethier injured his left ankle in early September and has two at-bats in the past three weeks.

Still, Mattingly doesn’t expect to get Ethier back in the outfield before the series ends.

“I haven’t really counted on it,” the manager said Friday. “As the days go on, it just gets better and better. But I’ve really kind of resigned myself to the fact that this guy’s coming off the bench. If I’m able to get that, fine. But I’m trying to get Scott (Van Slyke) some time out there, as far as work. Dee (Gordon) is getting some time in, just in case of emergency. Hopefully this thing just keeps getting better, but we’ll see.

“If we get it, it’s a nice surprise.”

The plan, then, is to keep Skip Schumaker in center field, with Van Slyke the backup. Schumaker is in the Dodgers’ starting lineup for Game 2.

Some bullet points for a National Taco Day:
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Skip Schumaker in center field, Yasiel Puig bats fifth, in Dodgers’ Game 1 lineup.

Ryan Braun

Skip Schumaker is 4 for 9 with a double in his career against Kris Medlen. (Getty Images)

Skip Schumaker will start in center field and bat seventh, as Andre Ethier will be relegated to the bench, for Game 1 of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will load up the middle of the lineup with power bats: Hanley Ramirez is hitting third, Adrian Gonzalez fourth and Yasiel Puig fifth, with Carl Crawford leading off for the first time since Sept. 8.

Puig has batted fifth only once, an Aug. 25 game against the Boston Red Sox. He finished 0-for-3.

There were fewer surprises in the Braves’ lineup, which has had little success against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw in the past.

Four Braves positional starters have career at-bats against Kershaw: Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. They’re a combined 5 for 47 (.106) with 17 strikeouts; Heyward has struck out in all four plate appearances against Kershaw.

Only Mark Ellis hasn’t faced Atlanta starter Kris Medlen among Dodgers position players. A.J. Ellis (1-for-1), Hanley Ramirez (5-for-9), Skip Schumaker (4-for-9) and Yasiel Puig (1-for-3) are a combined 11-for-22 in their careers against Medlen. Adrian Gonzalez (0-for-8), Juan Uribe (0-for-7) and Carl Crawford (0-for-3) are still looking for their first career hit against the right-hander.

The full lineups for both teams:
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Dodgers announce their National League Division Series roster.

Paco Rodriguez

Left-handed pitcher Paco Rodriguez and right-hander Ronald Belisario (right) are both on the Dodgers’ roster for the National League Division Series (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)


Andre Ethier will be on the Dodgers’ active roster for the National League Division Series, the team announced today. So will speedster Dee Gordon and rookie outfielder Scott Van Slyke.

However, utility player Jerry Hairston Jr., pitchers Carlos Marmol, Brandon League and Edinson Volquez won’t be available when the Dodgers begin play tonight in the best-of-five series against the Atlanta Braves.

The availability of Ethier, who injured his lower left leg (including the Achilles heel, ankle and shin) in early September, has been in jeopardy for weeks. Even Wednesday, he was seen limping onto the field for a team workout. He will likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties while Skip Schumaker assumes the starting center fielder’s job.

Conversely, Gordon will likely be limited to pinch-running duties. He’s been taking reps in center field, as has Van Slyke, who gives the Dodgers some power (.803 OPS in 53 regular-season games) off the bench.

The absence of Hairston isn’t a big surprise. He batted .143, with one home run in 42 games, after the All-Star break. A back injury had also been bothering him recently.

A bigger surprise was the inclusion of Chris Capuano, who started 20 games in the regular season, as a left-handed relief pitcher. Ricky Nolasco was chosen over Capuano and Volquez to start Game 4, and Volquez had pitched consistently in a fifth starter’s role while Capuano missed three weeks in September with a strained left groin. The Dodgers already have two left-handers in the bullpen, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez, though Rodriguez has struggled with his control in September.

Still, Capuano didn’t allow a run in three September relief appearances. His final start of August was stellar (7 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K’s against the San Diego Padres), and his experience at age 35 might have played to his advantage.

Right-handers Marmol and League have experience too, and had to be among the toughest decisions for manager Don Mattingly. Marmol went 0-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 relief appearances after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Chicago Cubs.

League, signed to a four-year, $27.5 million deal last fall that made him the Dodgers’ highest-paid reliever, struggled mightily in August and September. He allowed 25 hits in 19 appearances the last two months, including three that left the park. League also has no postseason experience.

The Dodgers’ complete roster (the Atlanta Braves’ roster can be found here):
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