Daily Distractions: What will the Dodgers do with their 39th and 40th roster spots?

Miguel Rojas

Miguel Rojas (bottom) could figure into the Dodgers’ infield depth, as the 40-man roster is currently constructed. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers will have 38 players on their 40-man roster once the contracts for J.P. Howell and Juan Uribe are finalized.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Relief Pitchers (13):
RHP Kenley Jansen
RHP Brian Wilson
LHP Paco Rodriguez
LHP J.P. Howell
RHP Brandon League
RHP Chris Withrow
RHP Jose Dominguez
RHP Javy Guerra
LHP Scott Elbert (will likely begin the season on the 60-day DL)
LHP Onelki Garcia
RHP Yimi Garcia
RHP Pedro Baez
LHP Jarret Martin

Starting pitchers (9):
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zack Greinke
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Chad Billingsley
RHP Matt Magill
RHP Stephen Fife
RHP Seth Rosin

Catchers (3):
A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz
Drew Butera

Infielders (5):
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B/SS Alexander Guerrero
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Juan Uribe
2B/SS Justin Sellers

Outfielders (6):
Carl Crawford
Matt Kemp
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Mike Baxter
Nick Buss

Utility (2):
2B/SS/CF Dee Gordon
1B/OF Scott Van Slyke

One trade or one injury between now and Opening Day can shake up the roster. Already, we can count Scott Elbert (who had Tommy John surgery in June) as a placeholder for the 38th spot.

But if you’re Ned Colletti, having filled the big holes already with plenty of free agents still available on Dec. 18, how do you budget those last two spots?

One clue might have come this morning in an interview Colletti gave to 710-AM in Los Angeles. Speaking of the second base position, he mentioned Guerrero, Gordon and Double-A prospect Miguel Rojas as candidates for major-league competition. Rojas is a 24-year-old from Venezuela whom the Dodgers picked up as a minor-league free agent a year ago. One reason why the Cincinnati Reds might have let Rojas go after seven seasons in the organization: He batted just .186/.226/.233 in 44 games at Triple-A in 2012. Rojas batted .233 with 10 steals in 130 games at Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, then batted .235 in the Venezuelan Winter League. He is as defense-first as defense-first second basemen get.

Gordon has less than four innings of major-league experience at second base, but the Dodgers are trying to expand his versatility in the field. He batted .348 with four stolen bases in 12 games in the Dominican League — playing center field. The Dodgers also invited 8-year major-league veteran Brendan Harris to camp on a minor-league contract; that Colletti didn’t mention Harris was probably a simple error of omission.

Still, it was an insight into the Dodgers’ lack of depth compared to spring of 2013, when Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Luis Cruz, Jerry Hairston Jr., Gordon and Sellers were all capable of filling in somewhere.

The Dodgers could keep their final roster spots open, thinking that Harris and Rojas (or someone else) will be able to grab them in camp. Colletti said he’s comfortable making second base a defensive position next season — which was often the case with Mark Ellis anyway. But as long as Guerrero’s major-league ability remains a question mark, this seems to be the Dodgers’ biggest area for improvement.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday:

Continue reading

Daily Distractions: MLB to test new replay system in Arizona Fall League games.

MLB replay

Glendale Desert Dogs players will be among the first to get a first-hand look at baseball’s proposed replay system for 2014. (Associated Press photo)

Baseball’s revamped replay system is about to take its first test-drive.

Select Arizona Fall League games from Nov. 5-9 will be the first to allow manager’s challenges of umpires’ calls. One of the games will feature the Glendale Desert Dogs, the Dodgers’ AFL affiliate. All of the games will be televised on MLB Network, so fan input on social media will likely be swift.

The proposed changes to baseball’s replay system were devised with significant input from former Dodgers manager Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz. A thorough review of the changes, including the guidelines for manager’s challenges, can be read here.

Four things to keep in mind:

1. Arizona Fall League umpires are usually Triple-A umpires, but the games will be observed by select MLB officials and umpires.

2. A spokesperson for the league said that the feedback from the replay experiences at the AFL games will be evaluated by MLB. If any changes are recommended to the proposed system, teams will know by the time their owners vote to implement it in 2014. That vote is expected to take place at the owner/GM meetings, Nov. 11-13.

3. Managers will make verbal indications of their intent to challenge a play. No flags need to be thrown in the process of challenging a call.

4. The camera angles available to AFL umpires won’t be the same as they would be during a major-league game.

A few bullet points for an Antigua and Barbudan Independence Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu named to All-Rookie team by Baseball America.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig (left) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (right), here celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff-clinching win in Arizona on Sept. 19, were named to Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team on Monday. (Associated Press photo)

Awards season is heating up, and Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu are starting to get some ink as two of baseball’s top rookies.

The two Dodgers were part of Baseball America’s 2013 all-rookie team, announced on Monday. Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez was left off the list, which covers both leagues and only left room for one relief pitcher, five starting pitchers, and three outfielders.

Here’s what Baseball America wrote about Puig and Ryu:

OF  Yasiel Puig • Dodgers

Though he plays the game with a flair that rubs some opponents the wrong way, Puig hit .319/.391/.534 to lead all rookies with at least 400 plate appearances in average, OBP, slugging percentage and isolated power (.215). Like Myers, his performance leaves no doubt about future power production in right field, not after belting 27 homers between Double-A Chattanooga and the Dodgers. His arrival in Los Angeles on June 3 also coincided with returns to form by Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez, leading the Dodgers to a 69-38 (.645) record the rest of the way. Pitchers succeeded in expanding Puig’s strike zone early in the year, but he stabilized his hitting approach in August and September, batting .273/.373/.487 with 21 extra-base hits in 54 games and a workable 24-to-46 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

SP Hyun-Jin Ryu • Dodgers

Ryu had no trouble slotting into the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as he transitioned from the Korean major league to the NL. While he didn’t provide the jaw-dropping highs of the other pitchers here—or the impact of Myers or teammate Puig—he did deliver the most innings by a rookie (192) while not hurting himself with walks, home runs or stolen bases. Opponents succeeded on only one of three steal attempts despite Ryu’s heavy diet of changeups (22 percent of the time), sliders (14) and curves (10).

Baseball America also chose Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez as its Rookie of the Year. If that’s any preview of how the Baseball Writers’ Association of America plans to vote — given Fernandez’s credentials, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be — neither Ryu nor Puig will be collecting any hardware on Nov. 11 when the BBWAA announces its rookies of the year.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
Continue reading

Why have the Dodgers shortened their bench in the playoffs?

Through their first seven postseason games, the Dodgers have given at-bats to three position players off their bench: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Michael Young — no Tim Federowicz, Scott Van Slyke or Dee Gordon.

Why the short bench?

“It depends on how the game goes,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “These games have been telling us what to do. When your starting pitching is going deep every day, you don’t use pinch-hitters. Zack went 8, right? Kersh was 7 full. Ryu — when guys are going deep you don’t use pinch-hitters.”

The script changed on Tuesday. Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco was removed after four innings. Schumaker pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, then was removed from the game, so we could see more of the Dodgers’ bench tonight.

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):
Continue reading

San Francisco Giants 6, Dodgers 4

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 12 innings, spanning three starts. (Associated Press photo)

If you looked beyond the final score, beyond Ricky Nolasco‘s struggles, you might have noticed the difference between the playoff team and the non-playoff team Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

San Francisco starter Barry Zito was removed from the game, likely his last as a Giant, after pitching five solid innings with the Dodgers trailing 5-2. Zito did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and he did not react well to being removed in the fifth.

A KCAL camera followed the left-hander as he stomped from one end of the dugout to another. Zito appeared to swipe at a water cooler and hastily discard a paper cup, nothing too crazy and nothing that was too difficult to comprehend. After signing a 7-year contract worth $126 million back in 2007, Zito mostly underperformed (ERA-plus of 86) while his teammates won the World Series twice. Wednesday night might have been his last chance to do something right in a Giants uniform; after 77 pitches, he was done.

Nolasco was Zito’s opposite. He labored through a 24-pitch second inning in which the Giants scored three runs, all on a bases-loaded triple by former Dodger Tony Abreu that might have been a grand slam elsewhere.

A two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning, and an RBI double by Abreu in the sixth, stuck Nolasco with six runs (all earned) in 5 ⅔ innings. He was allowed to throw 95 pitches and pitch into the sixth inning, and it didn’t raise an eyebrow.

For Zito, there was nothing to be gained by his excellence beyond the moment, while giving Nolasco a chance to pitch out of his struggles meant something to the Dodgers, even if they ultimately lost.
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: The case for Zack Greinke, Game 1 starter.

Clatyon Kershaw Zack Greinke

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are arguably best 1-2 combination in the playoffs, but does it really matter who’s 1 and who’s 2? (Associated Press photo)


The world would not fall off its axis if Zack Greinke started the Dodgers’ playoff opener and Clayton Kershaw started Game 2. It would merely seem that way when you think of all the arguments in favor of Kershaw starting Game 1: Kershaw is going to win the National League Cy Young Award; he leads the world in ERA; he’s been the Dodgers’ best starter all season; he’s Clayton Kershaw for goodness sakes!

I’m not about to invoke a sabermetric-versus-old school angle, so this debate will not gain much traction outside of Los Angeles. But there’s a small case to be made for Greinke.

Here are the two pitchers over their last 15 starts:

IP H R ER BB SO BA OPS ERA
108.2 76 23 20 19 106 .198 .516 1.66
102.2 72 18 18 22 89 .197 .539 1.58

Leave out the wins and losses, and it’s not so easy to guess which stat line belongs to which pitcher. (Kershaw, who is 9-4 in his last 15 starts, owns the first line. Greinke, who is 9-1, owns the second.) The small differences are outweighed by the similarities.

The main reason Greinke isn’t challenging Kershaw for the National League ERA title is because he wasn’t nearly as effective in his first 12 starts of the season. Blame a stop-and-go spring training, blame Carlos Quentin — whatever the reason, Greinke’s early-season numbers have hurt his October credentials.

Greinke pitched only two games in April and three in May because of his run-in with Quentin. That carries another side effect: Greinke has made five fewer starts, and thrown 622 fewer pitches than Kershaw, this season. When choosing between a pair of virtual equals on the mound, shouldn’t that count for something? Say the Dodgers’ first-round series goes to five games. If Kershaw needs to start Game 5, that will be 35th start of the season. If Greinke starts the game, it would be his 30th.

You would still see both pitchers at least once in a best-of-seven NLCS, should the Dodgers get that far. Same for the World Series. So the question of who pitches Game 1 is just as much about who pitches a do-or-die Game 5 in the divisional series. If both pitchers are equally capable, why not choose the arm with less wear and tear?

Think of this like the final laps of a NASCAR race. Your car needs new tires. A caution flag is thrown late in the race. You have the choice of staying out or pulling into the pits for a fresh set of tires. Why not pit?

The question is moot, because there is no debate. The Dodgers have already chosen Kershaw for Game 1 and Greinke for Game 2, a decision that passed without much surprise or second-guessing. The rotation is lined up.

It probably wasn’t a coin flip, but it could have been.

Some bullet points to kick off a National Dog Week:
Continue reading

Hanley Ramirez scratched from Dodgers’ lineup, undergoes MRI on left hamstring. Update.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez leads the Dodgers with a .342 batting average and a 1.024 OPS. (Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez wasn’t at Dodger Stadium as his teammates filed out for batting practice Friday afternoon. The shortstop underwent an MRI exam on his left hamstring and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the results might be available later today.

Update (6:15 p.m.) The Dodgers announced that Ramirez has an irritated nerve in his back, which was directly causing the tightness in Ramirez’s hamstring. He received a cortisone injection in his back and is expected to be available to play next week.

Continue reading

How Don Mattingly decided to pinch run Dee Gordon on Tuesday night.

Dee and Didi

Dee Gordon stole second base as a pinch-runner in the 10th inning of the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.


Dodgers manager Don Mattingly second-guessed his own decision-making in the 10th inning Tuesday.

With Adrian Gonzalez on first base and Andre Ethier stepping to the plate with two outs, Dee Gordon was available to pinch-run off the Dodgers’ bench. The slow-footed Gonzalez stayed on first base while Josh Collmenter threw two balls to Ethier. Then Gordon came jogging out to pinch run.

What was the manager thinking?
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: What Tuesday’s walk-off win means for the Dodgers’ October plans.

Scott Van Slyke

Scott Van Slyke (left) gets a Gatorade bath courtesy of teammates Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez during his postgame interview Tuesday. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

With 18 games left in the season, the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the National League West is six. Their competition: A .500 team that just lost back-to-back games in Dodger Stadium and doesn’t appear capable of stringing together more than three wins in a row (the Diamondbacks’ last winning streak of more than three games was a five-game heater back on July 3-7).

That four-game losing streak the Dodgers brought home from Cincinnati suddenly seems less dire.

October seems more real.

With that comes the interesting manner in which Don Mattingly handled his bench in Tuesday night’s 5-3, 11-inning win, and whether it’s a useful template for how the Dodgers shape their postseason roster.

Dee Gordon pinch-ran for Adrian Gonzalez in the 10th inning. Mattingly admitted after the game that he would have pinch-ran Gordon earlier. Before the game, Gordon took ground balls at second base and shagged fly balls in the outfield — an excellent sign that the Dodgers would like Gordon, a natural shortstop, to become more versatile come playoff time.

Scott Van Slyke hadn’t homered in more than three months before Tuesday, and was only Mattingly’s fourth choice off the bench (after Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumaker and Michael Young, who played first base in the 11th inning). One might argue that he was the fifth choice. Nick Punto was set to pinch hit instead of Schumaker had Mark Ellis reached base to lead off the ninth inning.

So did Van Slyke swing himself into an October roster spot with his two-run walk-off shot against Arizona? Maybe. He might need a few more big hits like Tuesday’s.

The factor working against Gordon and Van Slyke is experience. Juan Uribe and Carl Crawford are the Dodgers’ only starting position players who have played in a World Series. Starters Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco have eight combined starts in October. Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario or Brandon League have never pitched in the playoffs.

That’s a huge boost for Hairston, Schumaker and Punto — who have all won World Series crowns.

A few more bullet points for a Wednesday morning:
Continue reading