The eight-starter experiment was basically a big game of “what if”: What if Chad Billingsley‘s elbow doesn’t hold up? What if Ted Lilly isn’t the same pitcher he was pre-surgery? What if the best pitcher in Korea can be one of the best pitchers in the United States? What if he can’t?
Here’s another “what if”: What if the Dodgers hadn’t gone out and acquired Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and entered this season with the same collection of starters they had a year ago?
Now you’re looking at Nathan Eovaldi stepping into the fifth starter’s job to replace Billingsley. Oh, wait. Eovaldi hasn’t pitched since spring training because of a shoulder issue. He’s on the 60-day disabled list (currently the Miami Marlins’ problem). Come on down, Stephen Fife.
He leads the Senior Circuit in batting average (.464), on-base percentage (.531), is tied for fourth in OPS (1.246), tied for eighth in runs (8) and seventh in stolen bases (2).
Less than 10 games into the season, we can cherry-pick a few more eye-raising stats.
Three Dodgers – Mark Ellis (4.83), A.J. Ellis (4.67) and Andre Ethier (4.32) – are among the top eight in pitches per plate appearance. The Mark McGwire effect? Maybe. Adrian Gonzalez is seeing the seventh-fewest pitches per plate appearances in the NL, 3.30, tied with some kid named Bryce Harper. Yet somehow Gonzalez has more walks (4) than strikeouts (3) this season.
As for Ethier, who turned 31 yesterday, he’s batting .429 against left-handed pitchers and .182 against righties. His lefty-righty splits were .222 and .325 last year.
On the flip side, Matt Kemp‘s batting average is .167.
Clearly, the guy doesn’t belong in the big leagues.
Here are some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
Carl Crawford is playing his third straight game in left field tonight as the Dodgers visit the Kansas City Royals in Surprise.
The Dodgers didn’t want to pencil in Crawford as their Opening Day left fielder until he passed a threshhold for throwing distance, mentioned previously at 125 feet. He has passed that threshhold “and he’s still got five days of throwing,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noted Monday. That’s great news for Crawford, who underwent Tommy John surgery just last August and was initially speculated to be out until May.
That’s not great news if you were hoping to see Yasiel Puig in left field come Opening Day.
Dee Gordon will start at shortstop today against the Cincinnati Reds, and Carl Crawford will make his debut in left field tomorrow against the Chicago White Sox, as the Dodgers explore options for their Opening Day lineup.
In case you missed it, I wrote about Carl Crawford‘s return to the Dodgers yesterday. It was an emotional one. He’ll be back in the lineup today against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch, leading off as the designated hitter. He’s expected to do the same tomorrow against the A’s. Crawford said Monday morning that he’s still pain-free in his surgically repaired left elbow.
As sometimes happens, there wasn’t room in the paper for everything I wrote. Here’s what you missed:
Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford will DH in a minor-league game again today. He did the same yesterday and his seven plate appearances “went good,” in Crawford’s words. (Major-league players on rehab assignments are allowed to bat once an inning, in different spots in the order, in minor league games.)
“My timing’s getting better,” Crawford said. “I took a a few good swings. I’m starting to track (the ball) a little bit.”
If he had to hit in a major-league game tomorrow? “I think I’d be OK,” Crawford said.
Update (9:30 a.m.): Crawford may get to find out. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that he may use tomorrow’s home game against the Milwaukee Brewers to get Crawford his first at-bats of the spring. The Dodgers also have a split-squad road game scheduled for 1 p.m. against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If Crawford doesn’t play tomorrow, he could DH in Monday’s home game against the Diamondbacks. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson has already disallowed use of the DH in a game once this spring, but use of the DH in spring games is determined by the home manager, regardless of whether the game is in an American or National League park.
“Even though I want the pitchers to hit, Carl takes precedence,” Mattingly said.
For the third straight day, Crawford will test his throwing from approximately 90 feet, the same distance he was throwing from when team trainers temporarily shut down his rehab program two weeks ago.
Crawford underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last August and remains questionable to play Opening Day. He hasn’t appeared in a game since August 19, 2012.
Carl Crawford took his first swings against live pitching on Feb. 25, but was shut down four days later.
Carl Crawford was scheduled to face three live major-league pitchers Tuesday, teammates J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League. He saw about 20 pitches each from Howell and Jansen, pouncing off one Jansen pitch that bounced off the left-field fence. Then Crawford walked off the field along with coaches and a trainer; League had to face a pair of Dodgers minor-league hitters instead.
Rick Renteria, manager of Team Mexico, stops for an interview after his team’s 10-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday. If you watched this interview on TV in Mexico, now you know who that goofy-looking guy with the cell phone camera was.
The Dodgers are hosting the Texas Rangers today. Scott Van Slyke is starting at first base in his first call-up to the major league side since being demoted from the 40-man roster last year.
Keep an eye on the Rangers’ bullpen. Former Dodger Josh Lindblom, traded last year to the Philadelphia Phillies for Shane Victorino, is scheduled to pitch for Texas. Not many 25-year-old middle relievers can say they were traded for two former All-Stars, but Lindblom can (Victorino and Michael Young).
Three significant bits of injury news were widely reported out of Glendale this morning (I’m in Tempe) that I’ll pass along:
1. Zack Greinke, feeling better today after missing yesterday’s start with a flu, will throw a bullpen session Friday and pitch Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
2. Carl Crawford took 50 swings off a tee today and told reporters he felt fine.
3. Scott Elbert felt fine one day after throwing on flat ground for the first time since elbow surgery in January.
Carl Crawford took his first swings against live pitching on Feb. 25, but was shut down four days later. (Subpar Instagram photo by J.P. Hoornstra)
Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford, whose hitting and throwing programs were postponed last Friday, will resume baseball activities tomorrow, manager Don Mattingly said.
Technically that’s one day ahead of schedule. Five days ago Mattingly said that Crawford would be shut down for a week because of nerve irritation in his left arm.
But Crawford has been symptom-free for three days and got the green light to hit off a tee tomorrow.
“He’ll be monitored, though,” Mattingly said. “He’ll be more on a rehab program … the number of swings taken, exactly what he can do. It’ll start there, in the cage. It’ll be controlled.”
If that goes well, Mattingly said that Crawford will be allowed to throw. He had been throwing from up to 90 feet at the time of the setback. Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left (throwing) elbow last August and has a target of playing by Opening Day, April 1.
“He’s been able to do everything — track balls, stay in shape, running, all the baserunning stuff — everything basically but throw and hit,” Mattingly said. “That’s obviously pretty important stuff, but there are other areas that he’s able to continue to work.”
Carl Crawford’s status for Opening Day is in jeopardy after the Dodgers’ left fielder was diagnosed with nerve irritation in his left arm. He will not be able to throw or hit for seven days.
“It challenges Opening Day,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters in Glendale.
Crawford flew to Los Angeles on Thursday night to have his elbow examined by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
The club said the irritation developed from increased intensity hitting live pitching and is not uncommon for a player attempting to return from Tommy John surgery. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery on Crawford’s left (throwing) elbow last August.