Dodgers non-tender pitcher Ronald Belisario, making him a free agent.

Ronald BelisarioThe Dodgers signed Ronald Belisario as a free agent on Jan. 16, 2009. On Monday, they declined to tender him a contract before the 9 p.m. deadline for arbitration-eligible players, making him a free agent again.

The intervening four-plus years were hardly quiet.
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Daily Distractions: Tender deadline looms at 9 p.m. tonight.

Ronald Belisario

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (left) and pitcher Ronald Belisario (right) are both arbitration eligible. (Associated Press photo)

By 9 p.m. tonight, A.J. Ellis, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen will have been tendered a contract by the Dodgers. That much we know. The deadline for teams to tender a contract to their arbitration-eligible players is fast approaching, and the Dodgers won’t leave Kershaw, Ellis and Jansen behind.

We don’t know how much the Dodgers will offer each player, how much they’ll ultimately sign for, or if Ronald Belisario — the final remaining member of the Dodgers’ arbitration-eligible class — will get an offer at all. MLBtraderumors.com made some predictions here.

So far, the Dodgers have only dipped into the free-agent market for a starting pitcher, Dan Haren. But they had enough interest in adding a right-handed reliever that they were among the first teams to offer a contract to Joe Smith. Smith ultimately signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract with the Angels.

Did the Dodgers hope to replace Belisario with Smith, a sinker/slider pitcher who rarely exceeds 90 mph on the radar gun? Or do they still see a need for a power arm to complement Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez, and any other right-handers who might be in the mix for 2014?

Belisario’s lousy September (7.94 ERA, .842 opponents’ OPS) obscured what was previously a solid year. Statistically speaking, the Dodgers had one of the National League’s better bullpens in 2013. Bringing back everyone, or attempting to, isn’t out of the question.

Three other arbitration-eligible Dodgers already agreed to contracts for 2014. Scott Elbert signed for $575,000 for 2014 with up to another $100,000 in possible incentives on the table. Drew Butera and Mike Baxter both signed for $700,000.

That’s three down, three (or four) to go.

Some bullet points for a Laotian National Day:
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Daily Distractions: IBWAA announces its end-of-season awards finalists.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu (center) was honored at an awards gala in Korea yesterday. Lots of awards these days. (Photo by Jun Park/Asia Society)


The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America was founded here, in the awards capital of the world, so naturally the IBWAA gives out awards at the end of the season. This year there are “finalists” too, just like the BBWAA has “finalists” who really represent the top vote-getters in each category.

The IBWAA has more categories, and more Dodgers, than the BBWAA awards. Clayton Kershaw (National League Cy Young), Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu (NL rookie of the year), Don Mattingly (NL manager of the year), and Kenley Jansen (best NL reliever) are all in the running for the virtual awards.

Jose Fernandez and Adam Wainwright are the other Cy Young finalists, same as the BBWAA awards. Fernandez is the other rookie of the year finalist. Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are the other finalists for best reliever. Fredi Gonzalez and Clint Hurdle are other manager of the year finalists, (same as the BBWAA.

Winners will be announced as follows:

Relief Pitcher, Friday, November 8, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Rookie, Monday, November 11, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Manager, Tuesday, November 12, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Cy Young, Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
MVP, Thursday, November 14, 2013, 11:00 a.m. PST.
Some bullet points for a Thursday afternoon:

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Was Kenley Jansen warm in the 13th inning?

Kenley Jansen

Carlos Beltran’s walkoff single off Kenley Jansen (background) lifted the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 win Saturday. (Associated Press photo)

It’s a fair question.

The temperature at Busch Stadium was in the low 60s when Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow allowed a bloop single to St. Louis Cardinals pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso in the early hours Saturday morning. That’s when Jansen said he began to throw in the bullpen, having not thrown a warm-up pitch at any point prior to the 13th inning.

Was it tough to stay warm?

“Yeah kinda,” Jansen said, “but you’ve just got to keep being strong out there.”

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Daily Distractions: Sizing up the umpires for the Dodgers-Atlanta Braves National League Division Series.

Marvin Hudson

Umpire Marvin Hudson (center) and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (right) have met before. (Getty Images)

Major League Baseball assigned John Hirschbeck’s crew to the Dodgers-Atlanta Braves National League Division series and is comprised of Laz Diaz, Marvin Hudson, Bill Miller, regular season crew chief Tim Welke and Hunter Wendelstedt.

It’s inherent to the circumstances that these supposed to be some of the best umpires in MLB. If not, they would be relaxing at home while another crew umpired the series. That said, it’s easier to cherry-pick their flaws than their successes. This also makes for better blog reading.

Welke is responsible for one of the worst safe/out calls against the Dodgers you’ll ever see.

Wendelstedt’s strike zone has drawn heavy criticism in the past. Decide for yourself: The blog Strike Zone Maps allows you to compare umpires’ strike zones on certain days (To me, Wendlestedt’s appears to be more consistent, and less forgiving for pitches outside the strike zone, than many.) Baseball Heat Maps confirms that Wendlestedt’s strike zone doesn’t reward too many balls out of the rulebook-defined strike zone.

Miller ejected Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Aug. 1, one of his three ejections in 2013 and one that happened so quickly I didn’t realize it at the time. (For comparison’s sake, Chad Fairchild led MLB umpires with eight.) Welke, Wendlestedt and Hudson have each ejected four players or managers this season.

These are all good talking points for a slow news day, but we might not hear their names again once the games begin — if they’re doing their jobs.

Some bullet points for a Botswanan Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: To Hanley, or not to Hanley?

Hanley Ramirez

The Dodgers are 35-37 this season when Hanley Ramirez isn’t in the starting lineup. (Associated Press)

At some point this month, maybe tomorrow if the Dodgers have clinched a playoff berth by then, Don Mattingly will be asked how he balanced winning September games with keeping injured players intact for October. The answer was not obvious when the sun rose and it wasn’t any clearer when Hanley Ramirez was listed third in the batting order for today’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mattingly told reporters in Phoenix on Wednesday that Ramirez likely would be out of the lineup today. Ramirez isn’t fully recovered from the irritated nerve that led him to receive a pair of cortisone injections over the weekend, and watching him run the bases has been painful at times. It’s abundantly clear he isn’t healthy.

Yet playing Ramirez can’t be a simple matter of keeping him fresh; he’s 6 for 15 with four runs scored and an RBI on four or more days’ rest this season. Dee Gordon is healthy, so far as we know. So are Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr., who’s been taking ground balls at shortstop recently.

Here’s a better stat: The Dodgers are 52-28 with Ramirez starting, but 35-37 without him. Simply put, they are an average team without Ramirez in the lineup.

Run him into the ground, and Ramirez won’t be in the lineup at all in October.

Don’t play him at all in September and there might not be an October — at least, it’s felt that way at times recently.

At some point, we’ll find out how the thinking goes in the manager’s office.

Here be some bullet points for a National Speak Like a Pirate Day:
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Postgame thoughts: Dodgers 4, Marlins 1.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke pitched eight innings and didn’t walk a batter in the Dodgers’ 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday. (Associated Press photo)

There was a time not too long ago that “Bad Zack Greinke” existed, like other pitchers prone to bipolar performances.
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Daily Distractions: Let’s go streaking.

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen retired 27 straight batters, a streak that ended Thursday night. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have racked up a lot of streaks lately, enough to put a fraternity house to shame. The top five, in my opinionated order:

1. 15 straight road wins. This streak ended Tuesday in a 5-1 loss, curiously the only game in St. Louis started by Clayton Kershaw, the presumptive Cy Young award favorite. The Dodgers fell three games short of a major league record but created eight bottom-of-the-ninth save situations in the process, making a hero of Kenley Jansen. More on him … now.

2. Kenley Jansen’s 27 straight outs: This one ended last night, ensuring that Mark Buehrle‘s record of 45 straight batters retired is safe. (Bobby Jenks still holds the record for relievers with 41.) Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA.com charted each out today, while Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance reminded me that the streak began rather inauspiciously in Toronto.

3. Fourteen straight series at .500 or better (10 wins, 0 losses, 4 ties). Managers tend to think in terms of series, and players do to an extent, but I think for many fans this concept is harder to grasp. Consider that when the streak began June 23, the Dodgers were in fifth place in the National League West. Since then, the Dodgers have only played one team (Arizona) that was in first place at the time of the series — so they were all series that a good team would expect to win. The Dodgers simply weren’t a good team when the streak began.

4. Eleven straight wins in one-run games. Again, this is largely due to Jansen and a bullpen that has held batters to a .179 batting average since the All-Star break. Paco Rodriguez has faced 33 batters in the second half and five have reached base.

5. Yasiel Puig‘s 16 straight games reaching base. Nobody’s talking about this one because it’s only 16 games, but those 16 games have seen Puig walk 12 times and reach base at a .520 clip. He’ll go for number 17 tonight.

Some bullet points for a Singaporean Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: How Ned Colletti plans to upgrade the Dodgers’ bench.

Andre Ethier reacts happily to scoring the game-winning run Tuesday. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

When Yasiel Puig was in the midst of his historic first week with the Dodgers, one question hovered around the team: What would the Dodgers do if all four outfielders were healthy?

Since then, the question has quietly faded into the background. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Puig have been healthy enough to play in the same game exactly once. That game ended with Kemp spraining his ankle and going back on the disabled list, and he’s still there.

So with the trade deadline set for 1 p.m. today, the Dodgers are expected to keep all four outfielders.

I asked Ned Colletti about it anyway, and his response was interesting.

“You always talk about addressing your bench,” he said. “That’s something we think about, but when you get your four outfielders back, you’ve got somebody that’s not starting that game, that’s obviously a really good problem.”

Basically, Colletti turned the question of how to handle the four-outfielder situation into a question about how to upgrade the Dodgers’ bench. The answer is that either Kemp, Crawford, Puig or Ethier becomes a bench player as soon as Kemp comes off the disabled list (and Don Mattingly said Tuesday that he plans to play Kemp as soon as he comes off the DL). It makes sense; the Dodgers won’t be able to acquire a better bench player in a trade today without mortgaging their farm system. And — getting way ahead of ourselves here — if the Dodgers advance to the World Series they will have an obvious choice for a designated hitter sitting on their bench, a luxury few National League teams enjoy when they play in an American League park.

The likely takeaway: Ethier isn’t going anywhere today and the Dodgers aren’t likely to add a position player. They aren’t closing the book on adding a starting pitcher, but are not desperate for change with Chris Capuano pitching adequately for a number-five and Stephen Fife preparing to come off the DL. (The teams that pull the trigger on last-minute deals usually do so with a sense of desperation.)

There are some question marks in the bullpen in Carlos Marmol (13.50 ERA) and Chris Withrow (nine career games), but there are also reinforcements waiting in Brian Wilson and Jose Dominguez. So don’t be surprised if the Dodgers stand pat.

Some bullet points for a trade deadline day:
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Dodgers officially sign Brian Wilson.

Brian WilsonThe Dodgers officially announced a one-year, major-league contract with free agent right-hander Brian Wilson this afternoon. The former Giants closer will report to the Dodgers’ facility in Glendale, Arizona to begin his comeback from Tommy John surgery.

“The one thing we’ve talked about is that power quality arm on the back end,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “This is another guy that gives us that, we think, (who can) get the ball to Kenley [Jansen]. It’s one of the areas we felt could still help us.”

In his prime Wilson was a three-time All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011) and saved a major-league high 163 games from 2008-11. He saved six games in seven tries during the 2010 postseason, and was on the mound when the Giants clinched their 2010 World Series victory. He pitched only two games in April 2011 before having the season-ending surgery.
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