Chicago Cubs 5, Dodgers 4: Another Dodgers pitcher has another nagging injury.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)


MESA, Ariz. — Josh Beckett was hoping for more out of his third Cactus League start than three innings and 44 pitches.

Because of a right thumb contusion that worsened as the game went on, Beckett was pulled Friday against the Chicago Cubs before reaching his four-inning, 65-pitch target. The veteran right-hander was already staying away from throwing curveballs, the pitch that gave him the most discomfort, before head athletic trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly decided to pull him altogether.

Beckett doesn’t think the injury is serious but said he’ll visit a doctor next week if needed.

“It’s frustrating but it could have happened at a worse time,” he said. “I think right now we’re dealing with it the best we can. If I need a couple days off, we’ll do that. I just don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The injury isn’t related to the right thumb ligament that bothered Beckett in Boston early in the 2012 season with Boston. That injury affected the inside of his right thumb; this one affects the outside, he said.

Eleven days ago, Beckett’s right thumb “got slammed on the outside of a door,” he said. “Somebody was opening the door and — you know how they have signs that say ‘in’ and ‘out’? Somebody came out the in.”

In spite of the injury, Beckett’s fastball and changeup were effective against the Cubs. He allowed one hit, an infield single by Emilio Bonifacio, walked two and struck out one in three scoreless innings.

Beckett and right-hander Zack Greinke have both been ruled out from making the trip next week to Sydney, Australia, leaving the Dodgers with four healthy starters — Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm — one week before the beginning of the regular season.

Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Dodgers to can get with on four starters until mid-April. Beckett shouldn’t need that long.

“It’s not getting worse but it’s not getting better,” he said. “I’m just going to evaluate, maybe see a doctor again next week.”

After Beckett and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks were pulled with the score tied 0-0, both offenses came awake against the bullpens. Jamey Wright (four runs allowed in the sixth inning) and Javy Guerra (walk, single, RBI groundout in the fourth) allowed all the Cubs’ runs.

The Dodgers (5-9-4) clawed back to make the game close. Miguel Rojas doubled and scored on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon in the fifth inning. Alex Guerrero hit a two-run double off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. Drew Butera hit a solo home run to center field off Alberto Cabrera in the ninth inning to provide the final score.

The box score is here.

Some more notes and observations:
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Dodgers’ second intrasquad game is in the books; pitchers take the spotlight.

Chris Reed and Dan Haren threw two shutout innings, and the Dodgers’ second spring intrasquad game in as many days ended in a 0-0 tie. Paco Rodriguez and Jamey Wright each threw one inning to complete three-inning scrimmage.

Reed allowed a line-drive single to Joc Pederson on his second pitch, then got the better of Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig to end the inning. Crawford was jammed on a four-seam fastball and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, ably turned by Dee Gordon to Chone Figgins to Adrian Gonzalez. Puig struck out swinging on a changeup. “It’s my out pitch,” the left-hander said.

In the second inning, Reed struck out Scott Van Slyke then got A.J. Ellis to fly out in shallow right field. The 23-year-old from Reseda has never pitched above Double-A, but wasn’t ready to bask in his modest achievements.

“I got a taste of it last year in split-squad games,” Reed said, “but anytime you’re out there for the first time in spring it’s big.”

Reed believes he still has some fine-tuning to achieve by the end of spring and is glad he’ll have time to do it.

Haren said the same thing.

“I felt pretty smooth in my mechanics,” Haren said. “The second inning was definitely harder, just because of the sitting down and getting up. That’s the first time I’ve done that. That was a little tough to get used to, but it was good to have that coming into the first (Cactus League) game.”

Some more notes:
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers are starting the 2014 regular season before everyone else — again.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw might have three starts under his belt by the time some teams have played only five games. (Associated Press photo)


ESPN has selected the Dodgers’ first regular-season game in the United States for its first Sunday Night Baseball game of the season.

That sounds simple, but it contains some interesting implications.

The Dodgers were originally going to begin the non-Australia portion of their regular season on Monday, March 31, like every other team. That game — in San Diego — will now be played the night before, on March 30 at 8 p.m. There are no other MLB games scheduled for that day.

Dan Shulman, John Kruk, Curt Schilling and Buster Olney will broadcast the game.

But who will pitch?

If Don Mattingly hasn’t abandoned his start-Clayton-Kershaw-as-often-as-possible mantra since signing his fat new contract, expect Clayton Kershaw to start the game. The Dodgers have nine days between their second game in Australia (scheduled for 7 p.m. Pacific Time on March 22) and their first game in San Diego.

And because the game will be played a day earlier, Kershaw will have four full days of rest before the Dodgers’ home opener on April 4 against the San Francisco Giants. So Dodger fans might be the big winners in all of this.

The losers? Anyone who has a gripe about ESPN playing favorites with certain terms. The Dodgers will be, by far, the most exposed baseball team in March:

Some bullet points for a Panamanian Martyrs’ Day:
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Daily Distractions: With Hall of Fame ballots due tonight, will Don Mattingly remain eligible?

Don Mattingly

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly batted .307 in 14 major-league seasons and won nine Gold Glove awards at first base. (Getty Images)

Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are due tonight. As we’ve previously noted, former Dodgers Hideo Nomo, Eric Gagne, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Greg Maddux and Paul Lo Duca are all on the ballot for the first time. Manager Don Mattingly, hitting coach Mark McGwire and former catcher Mike Piazza are still hanging on.

Many ballots have already been released publicly and the folks at BaseballThinkFactory.org (among others) are keeping tabs on all of them. Remember, a player needs to appear on 75 percent of ballots to be inducted to the Hall, and 5 percent of ballots to remain eligible (for up to 15 years).

While Nomo, Gagne, Lo Duca and Gonzalez have no chance of induction in this or any year, the same can’t be said for the others. Mattingly debuted on the ballot in 2001 and appeared on 28.2 percent of the ballots in his first year. He’s had an interesting journey since, garnering votes from 9.9 percent of the electorate in 2007 then rebounding to 17.8 percent in 2012.

But a 2014 Hall class featuring several statistically qualified candidates (including Maddux, Frank Thomas and holdover Craig Biggio) could count Mattingly among its victims. BaseballThinkFactory.org has Mattingly listed on 4.6 percent of the 87 full ballots to be revealed so far. McGwire (11.5) and Kent (12.6) are teetering toward extinction, while Piazza (73.6) is teetering toward induction.

Maddux has been listed on every ballot so far. No player has been a unanimous selection in the Hall’s history.

Mattingly — and McGwire, for that matter — doesn’t expect to be elected. If he falls off the ballot, it might amount to nothing more than a brief spring-training conversation topic.

Some bullet points for a New Year’s Eve:
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Tampa Bay Rays sign Jamey Wright to (another) minor-league deal.

Jamey Wright‘s deceptively steady career will continue in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Jamey WrightThe free agent right-hander signed a minor-league contract Tuesday with an invitation to spring training, the Rays announced.

The Dodgers let Wright become a free agent after he went 5-3 with a 3.72 earned-run average in 66 games out of the bullpen last season. The 38-year-old was second on the team in appearances (to Ronald Belisario) and games finished (to Kenley Jansen) after being slotted as a middle reliever to start the season.

Actually, Wright didn’t have a slot to start 2012. This is the eighth straight year he’ll enter camp as a non-roster invitee hoping for a major-league job. He beat out John Grabow for the final bullpen spot last year, but had even less of a chance in 2013 with right-handers Belisario, Jansen, Brandon League, Matt Guerrier, and Javy Guerra already on the 40-man roster. The Dodgers also poached free agent left-hander J.P. Howell from Tampa Bay and Wright’s historical success against lefties — no home runs in 139 plate appearances with a .252 batting average in 2012 — might mean he inherits Howell’s role out of the Rays’ bullpen.

A bigger incentive for Wright: He gets a shot with a perennial contender. In a 17-year career playing for nine teams, Wright has never pitched in a postseason game.

Ten Dodgers become free agents.

The Dodgers declined to exercise the 2013 club options on Todd Coffey, Juan Rivera and Matt Treanor.

They join another seven players who became free agents today: Brandon League, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, Jamey Wright, Joe Blanton, Adam Kennedy and Bobby Abreu.

In other words, no big names or surprises for the Dodgers on the first day of free agency. Players can only sign with new teams beginning at 9 p.m. Friday. Between now and then, the Dodgers can re-sign any of their in-house free agents, and they’ve already opened discussions with League’s representatives.

General manager Ned Colletti said that he would like to bring back Choate and Wright, as well, to keep intact a bullpen that finished the 2012 season strong.

Coffey, Rivera and Treanor now fall into the category of Victorino, Kennedy and Abreu: highly unlikely to be on the roster next season.

Blanton is an interesting case. The Dodgers gave him what amounted to a 10-start audition in August and September. In five starts at home, the 31-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Not bad. In five road starts he was 1-3, 6.51. Bad.

I guess that makes Blanton a “known quantity” for a team that is looking to add a starting pitcher. But looking at a free-agent market that now includes Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse  and Hiroki Kuroda (another “known quantity”), the Dodgers probably figure they can do better.

The hot stove is just warming up.

Loss hits Jamey Wright hard.

Jamey Wright was not the pitcher of record in the 4-3 loss last night that officially eliminated the Dodgers from the playoffs.

You wouldn’t know that by the veteran right-hander’s demeanor after the game, when he said he was “fighting tears.”

“It hurts. Hurts bad. It’s a fun season. It’s a September that I never got to experience. For me, it was a good one.”

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Padres 6, Dodgers 5.

Brad Davis’ walk-off double against Francisco Felix –a call-up from the Dodgers’ minor-league camp –scored Beamer Weems and Daniel Robertson and lifted the San Diego Padres to a 6-5 win in the bottom of the ninth inning before an announced crowd of 4,740 at Peoria Sports Complex. [box score]

If those names sound obscure, it’s because they are. The game featured plenty of minor-leaguers on both sides, including six for the Dodgers as a number of regulars got the day off. That included third baseman Juan Uribe, who became a late lineup scratch after a bunted ball hit him in the groin during a practice Tuesday morning.

Juan Rivera hit his team-leading fourth Cactus League home run, a solo shot in the fourth inning off Padres starter Casey Kelly. The Dodgers totaled 15 hits, including three from Rivera, two from A.J. Ellis, Dee Gordon and Andre Ethier.

All of the Dodgers’ projected starters got a day off, and no pitcher –including starter Jamey Wright — pitched more than an inning. Of those, only Wright (1) Ronald Belisario (2), Angel Sanchez (1) and Felix (2) allowed runs.
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Bullpen rumblings: Grabow out, Wright in.

The fortunes turned Monday for a pair of non-roster invitees in Dodgers camp: John Grabow opted out of his minor-league contract, and Jamey Wright was on the verge of signing a major-league contract, pending an official announcement from the team.

Grabow, 33, was among a small group of left-handers competing for one open bullpen spot, but has essentially lost the job to Wright despite not giving up a run this spring.

A native of Arcadia and a graduate of San Gabriel High School, Grabow walked one, struck out seven and allowed just four hits. He was eligible to opt out of his contract as a non-roster invitee as early as Sunday, and the move did not seem to catch manager Don Mattingly by surprise.

“He had an option. He exercised it. We kind of talked about it. Ned’s been talking with his agent,” Mattingly said. “Basically, he could do it at any time. He was basically giving us extra time to keep looking at him. He decided at this time to opt out. He’s been good in camp. Lefties, I always count on seeing them again. I figure we’ll see him somewhere down the line.”

Grabow last pitched one-third of an inning Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.
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Giants 8, Dodgers 4.

Ted Lilly allowed five runs in two innings in his spring debut, and the Dodgers could never catch up in an 8-4 loss to the Giants at Camelback Ranch, their first loss of the spring. [Box score]

Andre Ethier hit his first Cactus League home run, one of nine hits by nine different Dodgers.

Lilly allowed a home run to the first batter of the game, Melky Cabrera, who belted a 3-2 fastball out of the park to left field. The next batter, Emmanuel Burriss, doubled. Brett Pill followed that with another home run off a 2-2 fastball to left-center field.

The Giants increased their lead to 5-0 off a pair of runs in the second inning, thanks to a pair of doubles, a single and a wild pitch.

“It’s spring training but you’re still looking for results,” Lilly said. “I was going into the game with a plan of really just trying to execute fastballs, my fastball to both side of the plate. I didn’t intend to throw too many breaking balls, but when you’re not executing with location, for me, it puts me in a position where I have to throw more breaking balls. I threw more than I wanted to.”

Jamey Wright, Ramon Troncoso (on another Cabrera homer) and Matt Chico each allowed a run in their lone inning out of the bullpen. Josh Lindblom, Michael Antonini and Josh Wall did not.

A few more notes that won’t make tomorrow’s editions:
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