When the pitcher isn’t pitching well, change the catcher.
That was the thinking behind having A.J. Ellis catch Chris Capuano today for the first time since May 29. While the Dodgers haven’t lost a game started by Capuano since July 4, the left-hander has a 7.53 earned-run average in his last three outings and his rotation spot could be in jeopardy come September. Tim Federowicz had caught Capuano’s last 11 starts dating back to June 19.
“I wanted to kind of mix that up just a little bit,” manager Don Mattingly said. “One start with Ricky (Nolasco), A.J. caught him. Then Fed went back to him. I want to keep the mixture of guys’ playing time the same. Cap’s been OK the last couple times out and I just wanted to change the dynamic just a little bit.”
Second baseman Mark Ellis and center fielder Andre Ethier were both healthy scratches against Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy. Yasiel Puig is playing right field and batting fifth for the first time in his major-league career, while Skip Schumaker is batting sixth and playing center field.
The left-handed hitting Ethier typically sits against left-handed pitchers, and Peavy is almost equally stingy against lefties (.254/.289/.465) and righties (.240/.282/.399).
“I needed Puiggy back there a little bit,” Mattingly said. “It’s easier for me just to move one guy. With the group of guys I have in there today, it’s more balanced.”
Based on an informal press box poll, that might be the first time Mattingly has referred to Puig as “Puiggy.”
Both lineups for the 5:05 p.m. game:
Instead, the manager said he’ll give his starters an extra day of rest.
“We traditionally try to use those days to get guys pitching on their sixth day so everybody gets an extra day,” Mattingly said. “especially this time of year as you get into August. We have no plans of skipping anybody at this point.”
The precocious rookie also changed the narrative on an eventful 48 hours in Miami.
In contrast to Puig’s last two games, Tuesday’s performance was hardly a whirlwind: He played four defensive innings and saw two pitches. It was a minimalist performance that commanded a maximum of attention, the artistic opposite of the $2.5 million orgy of cartoon flamingos and marlins beyond the center-field fence.
The Dodgers are 7 ½ games ahead of Arizona in the National League West. The Marlins are 6 ½ games behind (ahead of?) the Astros for baseball’s worst record and the first pick in next year’s draft. Wins and losses are probably only news if the Dodgers lose today — it will be their first back-to-back losses since June 20 and 21. So there’s that.
There’s something else, actually. Subplots galore.
Tonight’s starting pitching matchup pits a pair of rookies, Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and 20-year-old marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez, who have carved opposing paths to the distinction of National League’s best rookie pitcher. (Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Jim Henderson probably have something to say about this.) The Palm Beach Post notes that at 139 ⅔ innings, Fernandez is approaching his limit of roughly 170 innings before being shut down.
Ryu is starting his 24th game of the season today, and is scheduled to make eight more starts after this one, not including playoffs. His career high is 30 starts, which he compiled six years ago as a 20-year-old in Korea. Ryu would have to pitch another 63 innings to reach his previous career high; assuming he averages seven innings per start, he’ll get there. Direct comparisons are difficult to draw, since Ryu typically threw fewer pitches per inning in the KBO, so it will be interesting to see how the Dodgers handle him in September.
We’re also looking forward to seeing Nate Eovaldi again on Wednesday. More on him in a couple days.
A few more bullet points for a Monday morning:
In July, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has been among the best in the National League in terms of ERA, fielding-independnt pitching (FIP) and batting average against, and they’re getting more run support.
Throw in their MLB-best 18-5 record this month, and the Dodgers look like baseball’s least likely team to acquire a major-league player at the trade deadline. There aren’t any bombshells on the horizon this year, unlike a year ago, when Dodger Stadium was hailing firebombs full of big-name acquisitions.
There is usually room for at least a minor upgrade, of course, and general manager Ned Colletti has mentioned the bullpen as a possible area for improvement. While Carlos Marmol has underwhelmed since becoming a Dodger, number-five starter Stephen Fife can return from his rehab assignment this weekend (his turn comes around Saturday), meaning incumbent number-five starter Chris Capuano could go to the bullpen as a long reliever. That could be the upgrade Colletti aims for.
The Atlanta Braves took one veteran reliever off the market Monday morning, acquiring Scott Downs from the Angels. Other contenders are in the market for relievers too, teams that are probably more hungry for relief pitching than the Dodgers.
For now, at least. Like last year, the horizon is farther away than it looks. The Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett/Nick Punto trade didn’t go down until August 25 of last year. Joe Blanton became a Dodger on August 3.
Inevitably, some deals are being discussed right now that will fizzle, some will go down before 1 p.m. Wednesday, and others won’t be consummated until August. So we won’t really know what team the Dodgers are taking into September until September, though it will probably look a lot like this one.
To put the Dodgers’ 6-0 road trip in perspective — a different kind of perspective — consider that the two teams they swept, the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays, had completely winless homestands too.
Before losing three straight to the Dodgers, the Blue Jays were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays.
After losing three straight to the Dodgers, the Washington Nationals lost three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Take nothing away from the six-game winning streak and what it meant in the standings, but the Dodgers’ four-game weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds should provide a more accurate gauge of how well the team is playing.
Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced his starting rotation coming out of the All-Star break, when the Dodgers will travel to Washington D.C. and Toronto for a pair of three-game series.
If that rotation order holds, Greinke and Kershaw will be the starters July 30 and 31 when the New York Yankees visit Dodger Stadium.
Lilly, who’s been on the disabled list since June 9 with a sprained neck, is 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in five starts this season.
“We talked about some different scenarios,” Mattingly said. “We settled on the one we want. We haven’t talked to Teddy yet.”
The Dodgers placed second baseman Mark Ellis on the 15-day disabled list Monday retroactive to April 27, the day after Ellis strained his right quadriceps muscle running out a ground ball against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ellis has been on the bench, but hasn’t been active for a game since then. “He got a lot better quick then kind of leveled off,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Chris Capuano was activated from the disabled list so he could start tonight’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The left-hander had been on the DL since April 17 with a left calf strain and made a rehab start on Wednesday for Triple-A Albuquerque against Memphis, allowing two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in 5 ⅓ innings.
Prior to his injury, Capuano made three appearances (one start), going 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA.