Daily Distractions: April Dodger Pride award winners include a couple top prospects.

Corey Seager

Shortstop Corey Seager had a strong month of April at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga (Staff photo)

The end of the month is always a good time to check in on the Dodgers’ farm system, because a good month comes with an award.

The Dodger Pride Awards were created in 2008 by GM Ned Colletti to reward one pitcher and one position player at each level of the system “who play the game with a hustling, smart, aggressive style.” The players and staff on each respective club vote for the monthly awards.

Your April winners:

Albuquerque (AAA)

Pitcher: Henry Sosa posted a 1-0 record with a 2.61 ERA (9 ER/31.0 IP) in April, striking out 21 batters against seven walks in five starts. The right-hander held opposing batters to a .233 batting average (27-for-116), while allowing only one home run in the month. The 12-year professional, who made 10 starts for the Houston Astros in 2011, was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent on December 13, 2013.

Player: Joc Pederson finished April among the Pacific Coast League leaders in several offensive categories including batting average (.398, 2nd), runs (22, T-3rd), hits (39, 1st), home runs (6, T-3rd), and stolen bases (9, T-2nd). On the year, the left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .368 (50-for-136) with 11 home runs and 22 RBI, including a .418 batting average (38-for-91) against right-handed pitching. Through 36 games this season, Pederson has also tallied 15 multi-hit games, including six performances with three or more hits. He entered 2014 as the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America.  

Chattanooga (AA)

Pitcher: Tyson Brummett went 2-1 and allowed only one run in 23.0 innings spanning four April starts, leading the Southern League in ERA (0.39) and ranking sixth in opponents’ batting average (.181). On the season, the former UCLA pitcher is 3-3 with a 0.83 ERA (4 ER/43.1 IP) and has allowed one run or less in six of his seven starts for the Lookouts. With runners in scoring position this season, the right-hander has allowed only four hits (4-for-36), good for a .111 batting average. Brummett signed with the Dodgers as a free agent on February 20, 2014, after being drafted by the Phillies in the seventh round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Player: Scott Schebler drove in 16 runs (T-7th, Southern League) and clubbed five homers (T-2nd, Southern League) in 25 April games. The Iowa native had a .258 batting average with six homers, four triples and 21 RBI, and has excelled in clutch situations, batting .300 (9-for-30) with runners in scoring position. The 23-year-old, a 26th-round draft pick in 2010, was the Dodgers’ 2013 Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year after batting .296 in 125 games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last season.

Rancho Cucamonga (High-A)

Pitcher: Matt Shelton went 1-1 in April with a 1.76 ERA (3 ER/15.1 IP) in eight appearances for the Quakes, limiting opponents to a .228 batting average (13-for-57) and pitching scoreless relief in seven of his eight outings. The Texas native struck out 14 batters and walked only one in April before being promoted to Chattanooga on May 1. The 25-year-old was selected in the 24th round of the 2011 draft.

Player: Corey Seager batted .294 (25-for-85) in April with 10 extra-base hits, while tallying 13 RBI in 20 games. The 20-year-old has raised his average to .333 (40-for-120) with two homers, 11 doubles, two triples and 15 RBI, batting .429 (15-for-35) with a .512 on-base percentage in nine May games. Seager entered 2014 as the Dodgers’ second-best prospect according to Baseball America.

Great Lakes (Low-A)

Pitcher: Michael Johnson posted a 1-1 record with a 1.35 ERA (2 ER/13.1 IP) and a save in eight April appearances. The right-handed reliever limited opposing hitters to a .200 batting average (10-for-50) with 19 strikeouts and five walks. On the season, the Massachusetts native has a 1.47 ERA (3 ER/18.1 IP) and 22 strikeouts in 11 appearances for the Loons. The 23-year-old, a 14th-round pick in the 2013 draft, led the Ivy League with seven wins as a senior at Dartmouth College in 2012.

PlayerJoey Curletta had a terrific April, finishing among the Midwest League leaders in batting average (.368, 2nd), runs (18, T-3rd), hits (39, 1st), doubles (9, T-3rd) and RBI (15, T-6th) in 25 games for Great Lakes. Overall, Curletta has posted a .356 batting average (52-for-146) in 35 games, second among Midwest League hitters, and has seven three-hit performances for Great Lakes. The Arizona native was selected by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2012 draft.

Some bullet points for a Frog Jumping Day:

Continue reading

Dodgers option Pedro Baez to Double-A Chattanooga, activate Clayton Kershaw from the DL.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw made two rehab starts before being activated from the disabled list today. (Jennifer Capuccio Maher/Staff Photographer)

The Dodgers optioned Pedro Baez to Double-A Chattanooga and activated Clayton Kershaw from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. Kershaw will start tonight’s game against the Washington Nationals.

Baez made his major-league debut in the ninth inning of Monday night’s rain-delayed loss to the Washington Nationals. He allowed two runs to score and heads back to the minors with a career ERA of 18.00.

Kershaw hasn’t started since an Opening Day win in Sydney, Australia. He made two rehab starts following the diagnosis of a strained teres major muscle.

Yasiel Puig is sitting out for the second straight day after crashing into the wall in Miami. Adrian Gonzalez is getting his second day off of the season. Here are the lineups for both teams:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Who are the Dodgers without Clayton Kershaw?

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw will start tomorrow against the Washington Nationals. (Associated Press photo)

Since the start of the 2009 season until a month ago, the Dodgers have had the luxury of a healthy Clayton Kershaw at all times. In terms of fWAR, Kershaw has been the National League’s best pitcher during that time period. Being healthy helps a player’s WAR and he certainly helps a team’s won-loss total.

But how much? Who are the Dodgers without their best pitcher? Until recently, that’s been hard to say.

Speaking last August about Kershaw’s credentials for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, Don Mattingly said that “as a manager you see how important (he) is every fifth day. He goes deep into games, saves your bullpen, stops losing streaks, extends winning streaks. you can’t hardly put it — it’s just big. He’s got to be considered.”

It’s been 45 days since Kershaw last pitched. In that time, their run differential is plus-9, their record is 17-14, and their bullpen is taxed. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks have gotten more innings out of their bullpen this season, and the Diamondbacks have played two more games. The Dodgers have needed more innings from their relievers on a per-game basis than any major-league team. That’s partly a function of their eight extra-inning games, which leads the major leagues.

It’s also a function of Kershaw’s absence. Last year, the burden that Kershaw took off the Dodgers’ bullpen was something Mattingly had to imagine; this year it is very real. The proof is in the numbers. While the other starters have picked up the slack (they’re 13-5 with a 3.06 ERA, sixth in MLB), the Dodger bullpen has exuded mediocrity. Their 3.79 ERA ranks 15th and they’re going unusually deep into counts against opposing batters. Only three major-league bullpens are averaging more pitches per plate appearance than the Dodgers’. Their high innings-pitched total doesn’t even tell the full story.

How much impact can Kershaw have on an entire pitching staff — an entire team? We’ll check back in another 45 days.

According to an interview Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti did with ESPN, Kershaw will be cleared to throw 100 pitches tomorrow.

“I think he looked sharper in the two rehab games,” Colletti said, “than he did in Australia.”

Kershaw allowed one run in 6 ⅔ innings in Australia.

Some bullet points for a Cinco De Mayo:
Continue reading

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to begin rehabilitation assignment Friday in Rancho Cucamonga.

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will throw approximately 55 pitches Friday in a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. (Associated Press photo)

Clayton Kershaw will make the first rehabilitation start of his career Friday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

No timetable has been set for his return to a major-league mound, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly confirmed that Kershaw will need at least two rehab starts total. He’s expected to throw approximately 55 pitches Friday — not much more than he threw in a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

“He came out of the bullpen good yesterday and we feel like we’re ready,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to let him go out, even throw that sim game, if we weren’t allowing him just to go pitch.”

Kershaw hasn’t any setbacks in his recovery from a strained teres major muscle in his upper left back since he first threw off a mound 10 days ago.

In case you were wondering, tickets for the game are sold out except on the secondary market (links at the right). Dodgers prospect Julio Urias, 17, is expected to pitch after Kershaw. A Brian Wilson “bobble-beard” giveaway will take place that night.

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will throw bullpen session Tuesday, rehab start next?

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, his next step on the road to recovery from a strained muscle in his upper back.

Kershaw threw approximately 45-50 pitches in a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium. He reported no pain Monday, then backed up his extremely limited self-report by playing long toss in the Dodger Stadium outfield (above). Kershaw threw from roughly the left-field foul line to teammate Dan Haren in left-center, well in excess of 100 feet.

Neither Kershaw nor Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would say what Kershaw’s next step is after Tuesday. If healthy, Kershaw figures to make a rehabilitation start soon.

Single-A Rancho Cucamonga plays three straight home games starting Friday, followed by four straight nearby in San Bernardino. Triple-A Albuquerque has 12 straight home games (with no days off) starting Monday.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who caught Kershaw’s simulated game, said he felt fine Monday. He participated in batting practice for the fourth straight day, but otherwise stayed off his feet and didn’t catch any live pitching.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws pain-free from 75 feet.

Clayton KershawClayton Kershaw threw from 75 feet without pain Tuesday as the pitcher continues to make progress from inflammation in the teres major muscle in his back.

In terms of his throwing program, Kershaw said he’s day to day. For now he plans on throwing from 75 feet again tomorrow.

“Hopefully every day is a little bit of a progression,” he said. “It’s basically ‘if it doesn’t hurt, do it.’ ”

Kershaw said he didn’t throw at all Monday, “my first full off-day in a while.” Other than that, he’s been throwing every day since he was temporarily shut down from throwing when the inflammation was first diagnosed.