What might Julio Urias’ role with the Dodgers look like?

 

Julio Urias

Julio Urias ended the Single-A regular season on a 15 1/3 scoreless-inning streak. (Associated Press photo)

Julio Urias‘ manager at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, P.J. Forbes, offered a glowing report to MiLB.com about the 18-year-old pitcher Friday:

I’ve never had an 18-year-old that I’ve played with or managed with that kind of polish with four pitches. You watch him throw a bullpen [session], it’s special. You watch him attack hitters during a game, it’s special. There’s really not enough adjectives to explain or talk about his development this year because it just seems to continue to grow.

From where he started in April, with his struggles through May, as he continued to get better until now, like tonight, he just made it look really, really easy.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was a bit less verbose when asked if Urias had been discussed as a candidate for a September call-up.

“I haven’t heard his name,” Mattingly said.

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Alex Guerrero’s rehab moves to Rancho Cucamonga.

Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero, whose progress to the majors was stunted when then-teammate Miguel Olivo bit off a portion of his ear during a Triple-A game in May, will continue his rehabilitation playing for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Guerrero had been playing games for the Dodgers’ Rookie-level affiliate in Arizona since July 11. He is due to play second base and bat third today for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, who are playing in Bakersfield until Tuesday.

The Quakes’ next home game is Thursday. Dodgers pitching prospect Julio Urias is scheduled to start that game.

Corey Seager and Julio Urias appear in the Futures Game; Seager nearing promotion.

Corey Seager

Dodgers prospect Corey Seager is expected to be promoted to Double-A by the Dodgers after his apperance in the Futures Game today. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Staff photographer)


Dodgers prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias left an impression at the annual Futures Game at Minneapolis’ Target Field on Sunday.

At least one of them won’t be in Single-A much longer.

The 17-year-old Urias became the youngest player to appear in the Futures Game when he pitched the fifth inning for the World team. Urias pitched a scoreless inning, throwing 14 pitches and striking out one batter. His fastball was clocked as fast as 95 mph, according to MLB’s official speed-tracking software, and 97 according to the in-house radar gun.

Seager lined out to end the first inning and was hit by a pitch in his back, but remained in the game, in his only two plate appearances.

Multiple sources confirmed a report Sunday that Seager will be promoted to Double-A Chattanooga after the game.

The Dodgers haven’t made an official announcement, though Seager’s name had been removed from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga’s online roster by Sunday afternoon. He wasn’t on Chattanooga’s roster yet, either.

Seager, 20, is ranked among the top 30 prospects in baseball by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com. He batted .352 with 18 home runs, 70 RBIs and a California League-leading .633 slugging percentage with Rancho Cucamonga.
The Futures Game is showcase game for the top-rated minor-league prospects. The Home Run Derby will be played in Minneapolis tomorrow and the All-Star game will be played there Tuesday.

Daily Distractions: On close calls on the basepaths, has Yasiel Puig run out of luck?

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig has been thrown out on the bases seven times this season. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have seen 15 runners thrown out on the basepaths this season. That’s two fewer than the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals in a statistical category that no team wants to lead.

Yasiel Puig is single-handedly responsible for seven of those misfortunes, tied with Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte for the MLB lead. Puig was doubled off first base in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader in Minnesota. Umpire Tim Welke had a good look at the play from his vantage point at second base. Welke had an even better look at this play in the night game (from Yahoo.com):

With one out, Puig beat out a chopper up the middle that second baseman Brian Dozier threw in the dirt to first base. Chris Colabello couldn’t pick it and the ball hopped past him, with catcher Yosmil Pinto backing up the play. After he ran through the bag, Puig sharply turned his head to the right to check for the ball’s location. It was evident from Puig’s body language that Puig wanted to take an extra base, but when he saw Pinto with the ball, he applied the brakes. If Puig’s left shoulder began to dip toward second, the rest of his body actually leaned right. He never left the baseline, never crossed the foul line. He stopped, turned around clockwise (that’s away from second base), and started walking back to the bag like an innocent man who just had hit an infield single.

When Pinto tagged Puig, Welke signaled that Puig was out. Was that the right call? Judge for yourself.

The Yahoo! article suggested that Welke “seemed to be looking for a reason to call Puig out.” Without interviewing Welke, a veteran of 29 major-league seasons and the crew chief last night, it’s impossible to know that for sure.

Psychology tells us that there might have been a very real phenomenon at work. It’s called the confirmation bias and we’re all susceptible to it at some point, on some level. Reading further into the well-sourced Wikipedia entry on the topic, “even if people gather and interpret evidence in a neutral manner, they may still remember it selectively to reinforce their expectations.”

A player who’s already been thrown out on the basepaths six times in a month (Puig) can be reasonably expected to make the same mistake again. Puig’s mistake in the first game might have reinforced that expectation for everyone in the ballpark, including the second-base umpire. Given a split second to make his call at first base in the second game, Welke could easily have fallen prey to confirmation bias. That’s not an opinion — that’s a real possibility, reinforced repeatedly in scientifically valid experiments. Welke might not have been aware of a possible confirmation bias at work in his own mind. Even if reporters were given the chance to interview him after the game, the interview might not have cleared up the question.

Here’s what we do know: The more outs he runs into, the more Puig hurts his chances of getting the benefit of the doubt in situations like the one Thursday night in Minnesota.

Thursday was still a good day for Puig on the whole. The Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN) said that Puig is the first Dodgers player to reach base eight times in a doubleheader since Bill Buckner against the Giants in 1976.

Some bullet points for a Baby Day:
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Daily Distractions: Red Patterson up, will start second game of doubleheader in MLB debut.

Nick Buss

Outfielder Nick Buss was designated for assignment Thursday. (Associated Press photo)

Red Patterson‘s major-league debut will come in the second game of a doubleheader today against the Minnesota Twins.

The Dodgers selected the contract of Patterson from Triple-A Albuquerque and designated Albuquerque outfielder Nick Buss for assignment. Patterson, who will wear No. 51, was added to the roster as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader. Major-league rules allow teams to dress 26 players in a day-night doubleheader that has been on the schedule for at least 24 hours.

Patterson went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four starts this season with the Isotopes, last pitching on April 24 at Fresno and allowing five runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings in a loss. The 26-year-old has gone 33-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 132 games (58 starts) in five minor league seasons after he was selected in the 29th round of the 2010 draft out of Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Patterson has 432 strikeouts, while walking only 148, in 440.0 career minor league innings.

The Texas native made his first appearance in Major League camp this year as a non-roster invitee and allowed only one run in 11.2 innings (0.77 ERA), going 0-1 and limiting opponents to a .146 batting average (6-for-41). As for the name, shared by a longtime Dodgers PR director, it comes from his hair color. Patterson’s real first name is John.

Buss, 27, had a .261/.330/.391 slash line in 26 games with Albuquerque. He was buried on an outfield depth chart that includes Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke and Chone Figgins. Mike Baxter was designated for assignment in March. Buss went 2-for-19 after making his major-league debut with the Dodgers last September.

Here are the lineups for both teams in Game 1. First pitch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m.

Dodgers:
Gordon 2B
Puig RF
Ramirez SS
Gonzalez 1B
Kemp DH
Ethier CF
Uribe 3B
Olivo C
Crawford LF
Haren P

Twins:
Dozier 2B
Mauer 1B
Plouffe 3B
Kubel LF
Pinto DH
Suzuki C
Fuld RF
Hicks CF
Escobar SS
Pelfrey P

Some bullet points for a World Book Day:
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers won’t play today and Zack Greinke shouldn’t mind.

Zack  Greinke

Zack Greinke was scheduled to pitch in tonight’s game against the Minnesota Twins. (Associated Press photo)

Attention, Target Field shoppers: It’s raining in Minnesota.

It’s raining so much, that the Dodgers won’t play the Minnesota Twins today. The game has been postponed until Thursday at 4 p.m. (PST) as part of a day-night doubleheader, with the first game beginning at 10 a.m.

It couldn’t happen to a better pitcher.

While some hurlers are such creatures of habit that anything more or less than regular rest throws their performance off-kilter, Zack Greinke doesn’t seem to mind the occasional extra day. Tonight’s scheduled starter will presumably take the ball tomorrow night on six days’ rest. Here are Greinke’s career numbers on six days’ rest, via Baseball-Reference.com:

   W-L  ERA  IP    H   R  ER  HR  BB SO  HBP WP BF  WHIP   SO9 SO/W
   11-6 2.72 149.0 144 56 45  12  38 116  6  6  620 1.221  7.0 3.05

Greinke is also in the midst of a ridiculous hot streak that’s seen him pitch at least five innings without allowing more than two runs in 20 consecutive starts, including the 2013 postseason. That’s the longest such streak in the modern era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

His numbers since last July 4: Greinke has a 1.76 ERA, averaging 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings against 8.5 baserunners, and five strikeouts for every walk. So the Twins have that to look forward to.

Some bullet points for a World Wish Day:
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Daily Distractions: MLB clarifies its ‘transfer rule,’ but 7.13 is still baffling to Dodgers catcher.

Major League Baseball gave its players roughly one month to adjust to a new, literal interpretation of its “transfer rule.” Catch the ball, transfer the ball from glove to hand, make sure each of these steps is deliberate enough to be discerned on video review, and you’re good. That sounds simple. In practice, the rule demanded that fielders break a lifetime’s worth of hard-worn habits. Hanley Ramirez got burned on the call once this season, when he lost his grip on the ball after recording what looked like a forceout at second base. The umpire on scene ruled Ramirez didn’t make a catch in the first place.

Friday morning, the league officially changed its mind.

Beginning tonight, MLB announced that umpires will enforce the transfer rule according to a new standard — that is, the old standard. According to a league release, a catch or valid forceout/tag has occurred:

…if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it to be ruled a catch. If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer.

It was too late for Ramirez, but it was nice to see the league act quickly. That said, there’s still at least one rule that the Dodgers would like to see clarified. Ramirez was involved in this one, too.

From my game story last night, in case you missed it, here’s what happened:

With Hanley Ramirez on third base and (Adrian) Gonzalez on first, (Yasiel) Puig hit a ground ball to Phillies third baseman Cody Asche. Asche fielded the ball deep in the third-base hole and threw to home plate, where Ramirez was out by several feet.

Or was he?

Mattingly popped out of the third-base dugout, asking for help. He demonstrated to the home-plate umpire, Mike DiMuro, what he saw from Philadelphia’s Ruiz: A catcher with both feet planted in front of home plate as Ramirez was bearing down.

According to the rule, which was ratified by MLB and the Players’ Association in spring training, “Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.”

The problem for Mattingly was that Asche delivered a perfect strike to Ruiz in plenty of time to retire Ramirez. Hunter Wendelstedt initiated a crew chief’s review and baseball’s two new rules for 2014 suddenly collided, an instant replay being used to determine whether a catcher illegally blocked home plate.

Three minutes and 18 seconds later, the call stood. Ramirez was out.

Just before the next inning, I saw Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz in the dugout demonstrating how to block home plate to pitcher Josh Beckett. After the game, Federowicz was still upset and confused by the sequence of events.

“I honestly thought that call was going to be overturned,” he said. “The only thing in their favor is that (Ruiz) got that ball in plenty of time. He probably got it a good 10 feet before the play. That’s what the final decision was probably on. My whole thing is, why have the rule saying you can’t block the plate without the ball, and he blocks the plate without the ball?”

Here’s a still image, taken from the video of the play, that shows where Ruiz was stationed when he caught the ball (unfortunately I couldn’t grab an image just before Ruiz made the catch):

Hanley  Ramirez

Whether Ruiz is illegally blocking Ramirez’s path to home plate represents a judgment call, too. Could Ruiz be more out of the way of the baseline? Of course. But, as noted at the time, Asche made an accurate throw. If Ruiz plants his mitt in the baseline and his body in foul territory to receive the throw, and Ramirez (who left on contact) sprints home at full speed and slides inside the baseline, Ruiz is in jeopardy of not being able to make the tag.

Maybe Wendelstedt factored this into his judgment. Rule 7.13 goes on to state that “it shall not be considered a violation of this rule if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner.”

Watching the sequence in real time, Federowicz felt that Ruiz didn’t need to lay his right leg in the basepath in order to make the catch. Therefore, Ramirez should have been ruled safe.

“Hanley has nowhere to slide and he’s still out? I guess Hanley’s allowed to hit him in that situation,” Federowicz said. “But again, they scare all these runners from being able to do that. Nobody really knows the correct rule right now.”

Some bullet points for Arbor Day:
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Daily Distractions: ‘Analyzing’ the Dodgers-Diamondbacks ‘rivalry.’

The rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants has coasted for more than a century on a steady undercurrent of organic circumstances. There have been personal grudges (Wilbert Robinson vs. John McGraw), geographical allegiances (Manhattan vs. Brooklyn; San Francisco vs. Los Angeles), beanballs and brushbacks (Juan Marichal vs. John Roseboro). The fan violence is beyond unhealthy but there it is, holding up the ugliest corner of the narrative. It’s raw. It’s real.

And really, what says “raw” and “real” more than this:

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a pool to protect when the big, bad, overpaid Dodgers invade Chase Field for three games starting Friday. You know, when they “renew a rivalry” that has already been renewed three times in spring training and twice in Sydney. To protect the pool, the good people of Phoenix deployed their finest … mermaid, flanked by another woman dressed as the Jolly Green Giant and a dude wearing a Neptune costume. We can only hope that Arizona Sen. John McCain approves.

How seriously can we take a “rivalry” symbolized by a woman wearing a dolphin’s tail?

Seriously enough that MLB.com ran with the headline “Dodgers, D-backs return to ‘pool party’ scene.” The topic will probably get some airtime on Phoenix sports-talk radio. Maybe in Los Angeles too, unless the Lakers decide to “relieve Mike D’Antoni of his coaching duties” (or however someone gets fired these days … do coaches still get fired?).

Here’s a better storyline: Who wants these games more, a 3-8 Diamondbacks team that has been outscored 67-45, or a 6-4 Dodgers team that just split a pair of 10-inning burners against arguably the most talented club in the American League? It’s early April, not an important juncture in the baseball season. Though, for what it’s worth, no team is farther out of first place in any division than Arizona (four games).

Maybe that matters. Maybe it doesn’t. Until someone drops a shark in the pool, let’s not dwell on the pool.

In the meantime, here is the Diamondbacks’ PR director doing some kind of shoulder-shake dance. Or something:

 

Some bullet points for a Siblings Day:
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Daily Distractions: Julio Urias gets his Mexican food, and Dodgers fans in Rancho Cucamonga get their prospects.

Julio Urias

Julio Urias struck out Will Venable and Yonder Alonso and got Chris Denorfia to ground out in his only spring training inning. (Associated Press photo)

This is a rough map of all the Mexican restaurants in Rancho Cucamonga.

Julio Urias is waiting.

On March 15, after he pitched a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres — something Brian Wilson couldn’t do last night — Urias still didn’t know where he would begin the regular season. At least the Dodgers’ prized pitching prospect had no trouble identifying the hardest part of being uprooted to the United States at 16.

“It wasn’t really hard except for the food,” he said in Spanish. “The food was probably the hardest part for me.”

Fortunately for Urias, now 17, there are many options in the neighborhood of the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate in the California League.

As we reported yesterday, Urias will be assigned to Rancho along with 2013 first-round draft picks Chris Anderson and Tom Windle, along with Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2012.

In case you’re counting at home, that’s four of the club’s top 10 prospects (per MLB.com) playing in one spot, about an hour east of Los Angeles.

Urias, Anderson and Windle all finished last season with Class-A Great Lakes, and each saw action in one Cactus League game. The Dodgers drafted Anderson and Windle in the first and second rounds of the 2013 draft, respectively, out of college. Urias was signed as a free agent out of Culiacan, Mexico.

Pitcher Zach Lee and outfielder Joc Pederson will begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque. So will Matt Magill and possibly Onelki Garcia once he’s healthy.

Some bullet points for a Cesar Chavez Day:
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