Daily Distractions: Now wearing number 11 for the Dodgers, Erisbel Arruebarrena.

Dixie Walker wore number 11 for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1939 to 1947. The jersey changed hands 13 times over the next 22 years, until Manny Mota donned number 11 in 1969. It was his up until his final appearance as a 44-year-old pinch hitter in 1982, a groundout that interrupted Mota’s long tenure as the Dodgers’ hitting coach.

Mota, now 76 years old, is still wearing the uniform in camp these days in an unofficial capacity, much like the man wearing number 2, Tommy Lasorda. Pitcher Guillermo Mota (no relation) wore number 11 briefly as a Dodger in the early 2000s. The number seemed to be reserved for Motas — or at least, players with only four letters in their last name, as if the MOTA could be balanced delicately atop the two digits.

Today, this was hanging in the Dodgers’ clubhouse:

Erisbel Arruebarrena (pronounced Arr-ru-eh-BAHR-ena, as the caption indicates) recently received his U.S. work visa and arrived in camp Thursday morning.

As for the type of player we can expect to see wearing number 11, the bar is as high as a 5-year, $25 million contract.

Minor league games are likely next, writes Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA.com.

I’m not in camp today. I’ll be attending the annual SABR Analytics Conference in downtown Phoenix, where Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte is speaking on a panel discussing medical analysis and injury prevention.

Some bullet points for an National earmuff day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Chemistry, cover boys, and Chet Faker’s new tune.

Yasiel Puig Hollywood ReporterYasiel Puig is this week’s Hollywood Reporter cover boy.

Watch the video included with the story. I think it does a great job peeling back the curtain on the sort of shenanigans that go on inside the Dodgers’ clubhouse all the time — not just between Puig and Juan Uribe, and not just when the Hollywood Reporter is making a celebrity out of a baseball player.

Those kind of antics are often difficult for reporters to put into words, language barrier or not. Even when you quote the banter verbatim (here’s a good example from today between Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto), the light-hearted freneticness of the moment doesn’t always jump out of the page/computer screen in a way that screams “this team obviously has good chemistry.”

But yeah, this team obviously has good chemistry.

Some bullet points for a Pakistani Independence Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Is Clayton Kershaw in the midst of the best season ever by a Dodgers pitcher?

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw didn’t allow a run in eight innings against the New York Yankees on Wednesday. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis gets the bigger picture of his existence as a Major League Baseball player. He doesn’t strike me as an over-the-top baseball historian like Curt Schilling, or a numbers guy like Brandon McCarthy, but he does catch Clayton Kershaw every fifth day. So he gets it.

“We’re spoiled, that’s all I can say, having him on our team and on our pitching staff,” Ellis said after the Dodgers’ 3-0 loss to the Yankees yesterday. “We’re teammates with somebody who’s really, really special.”

Some perspective on Kershaw: His 1.87 earned-run average is the lowest in baseball, and he has a chance to post the first sub-2.00 ERA by a Dodgers pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1966. If the season ended today, Kershaw would qualify for the ERA title (he’s pitched 168 innings) and would own the third-lowest ERA in a single season in Dodgers history. In terms of ERA+, which accounts for how many runs are being scored around the league in a given year, Kershaw is in the midst of the best season by a pitcher in Dodgers history, a hair better than Koufax’s 1966 season.

But Ellis doesn’t need the numbers. He sees it all the time. “The fact that (Kershaw) can come out and reproduce what he does,” Ellis said, “is what makes him the best in the league.”

Onto the bullet points for a Colorado statehood day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Maybe the Dodgers don’t need to make any trades.

Dodgers Red Sox trade

Last year it was Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto. Who will be on a plane to Los Angeles this year?

OK. Time for some numbers.

In July, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has been among the best in the National League in terms of ERA, fielding-independnt pitching (FIP) and batting average against, and they’re getting more run support.

Throw in their MLB-best 18-5 record this month, and the Dodgers look like baseball’s least likely team to acquire a major-league player at the trade deadline. There aren’t any bombshells on the horizon this year, unlike a year ago, when Dodger Stadium was hailing firebombs full of big-name acquisitions.

There is usually room for at least a minor upgrade, of course, and general manager Ned Colletti has mentioned the bullpen as a possible area for improvement. While Carlos Marmol has underwhelmed since becoming a Dodger, number-five starter Stephen Fife can return from his rehab assignment this weekend (his turn comes around Saturday), meaning incumbent number-five starter Chris Capuano could go to the bullpen as a long reliever. That could be the upgrade Colletti aims for.

The Atlanta Braves took one veteran reliever off the market Monday morning, acquiring Scott Downs from the Angels. Other contenders are in the market for relievers too, teams that are probably more hungry for relief pitching than the Dodgers.

For now, at least. Like last year, the horizon is farther away than it looks. The Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett/Nick Punto trade didn’t go down until August 25 of last year. Joe Blanton became a Dodger on August 3.

Inevitably, some deals are being discussed right now that will fizzle, some will go down before 1 p.m. Wednesday, and others won’t be consummated until August. So we won’t really know what team the Dodgers are taking into September until September, though it will probably look a lot like this one.

Some bullet points for a Global Tiger Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: When time zones matter.

"<strong

You don’t realize how much travel can take a toll on a baseball team until a game like Thursday’s, when a Dodgers team that had scored 41 runs in its last four games scored only two against a pitcher who’d never won at Dodger Stadium in his life.

That’s what happened when Mat Latos beat Zack Greinke — who’d never lost at Dodger Stadium in his life.

Of course, there were also times that the Dodgers didn’t look sluggish or lifeless, and the fact that their inbound flight from Toronto touched down at 4 a.m. Thursday may have amounted to nothing more than a convenient excuse for a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

After the game, I asked Greinke if the previous 24 hours were the worst travel he’d experienced in his brief time as a West Coast pitcher. They weren’t, he said, but he didn’t deny that the last year has been an adjustment.

“Travel in the west is definitely not good, but people do it. It’s the only way you can do it,” Greinke said. “Central travel is amazing. You don’t realize it until you’re somewhere else. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Greinke had pitched his entire career in either Kansas City or Milwaukee before being traded to the Angels mid-season in 2012.

The impact of travel is something you might never notice by simply reading the box scores, but if you looked at the Dodgers’ schedule before the season, you would have been wise to circle the game in Toronto followed by the game in Los Angeles 24 hours later.

Looking ahead, there’s some good news: The Dodgers don’t play games three time zones apart on consecutive days after August 22.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Yasiel Puig arrives again; Vin Scully tweets; Manny Ramirez returns?

Yasiel Puig Yankees

Yasiel Puig, left, went 4 for 10 in Wednesday’s doubleheader split against the Yankees. (AP photo)

What’s that old saying?

“There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it”?

Right. It’s commonly attributed to William James, the father of modern psychology.

There’s a newer saying, related to the first. One variation goes, “Nothing really puts a performer on the map like coming up big in New York.” Another contends, “a player hasn’t really proven what he can do until succeeding or failing under the bright lights of New York City.” Here’s one more: “the Bronx still provides the game’s greatest stage, and it is a place that helps make stars and bolster myths.” And when the New Yorker and Bleacher Report can agree on something, it must be true. Right?

If Yasiel Puig indeed thrived on a bigger stage Wednesday, the perception will be that he’s a bigger deal now than when he was belting pitches halfway to Eagle Rock as if he’d been playing in Dodger Stadium all his life. In reality, New York Yankees right-hander Adam Warren is the worst pitcher among Puig’s five home run victims (though the San Diego Padres’ Clayton Richard might object). His opposite-field home run in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory bore no meaning on the outcome of the game, as did his 2-for-5 performance in the Dodgers’ 6-4 loss Wednesday morning.

But perception and reality don’t always line up. If you flipped to ESPN yesterday hoping to catch highlights of Lebron James and Tim Tebow, and saw Yasiel Puig go 4 for 10 against the Yankees, maybe your interest in baseball has been piqued by the ripped Cuban kid from L.A.

Consider the myth bolstered, the star made. Again.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Vin Scully tackles a new medium; Manny Ramirez; links.

Vin Scully

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will be “tweetcasting” during the second Dodgers-Yankees game today. (photo by J.P. Hoornstra)

Vin Scully didn’t make the trip to New York with the Dodgers. A shame, really.

Scully teased us last year with the idea of being behind the mic for a Dodgers-Yankees interleague series in the Bronx. Indeed, he’ll be broadcasting to us this afternoon. Just not from behind a microphone.

Scully will take over the Dodgers’ Twitter account during the second game of today’s doubleheader against the Yankees. They’re calling it a “Tweetcast,” whatever that means.

I personally find the 140-character limit to be a challenge sometimes. Scully, who once had aspirations of being a sportswriter, might master the medium quicker than most of us who Tweet every day. Should be interesting either way.

I can’t remember ever having to rush these through just to beat first pitch. Game 1 (Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Hiroki Kuroda) of today’s doubleheader is on Channel 9 (KCAL). Game 2 (Chris Capuano vs. Phil Hughes) on Prime Ticket at 4 p.m.

Some bullet points for a hump day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: More Yasiel Puig historical footnotes, Biogenesis, etc.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig signs for fans Monday at Dodger Stadium. (Andy Holzman/Staff photographer)

In case you missed it, Yasiel Puig went 3-for-4 with a double, two home runs and five RBI in his second major-league game last night.

To measure Puig’s first two days with the Dodgers against history took longer than the one hour I had on deadline. So here’s a more comprehensive rundown, courtesy of the Dodgers, the Elias Sports Bureau, ESPN and others:

• Puig had the fourth multi-homer game by a Dodger this season (last: Scott Van Slyke, May 17) and his five RBI were the most for a Dodger since Jerry Hairston Jr.’s five RBI on June 9, 2012 at Seattle.

• Puig is the first Dodger player to have a multi-homer game within his first two career games.

• Puig is the first Dodger player to post five or more RBI within his first two career games since Spider Jorgensen knocked in six in his second career game on April 17, 1947 for Brooklyn against the Boston Braves.

• Puig also doubled, joining Jorgensen as the only Dodgers since 1916 to have a three extra-base hit-game within his first two games.

• Puig is the first Dodger player to post multi-hit games in the first two games of his career since Larry Miller on June 21, 1964 (second game of double-header) and June 29, 1964.

• The last MLB player with five or more RBI in one of his first two games was the Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro (six RBI, May 7, 2010 in debut) and the last player with two or more homers through two career games was Baltimore’s Manny Machado with two homers in his second career game (Aug. 10, 2012).

• He is the second player in major league history to have a two-homer, five-RBI game within the first two games of his career, joining Dino Restelli of the 1949 Pittsburgh Pirates.

• He is the second Dodgers player ever to have a two-homer, five-RBI game from the leadoff spot, joining Tommy Brown, who did so in 1950.

• Puig’s first home run landed 443 feet away in left field, the longest home run hit by a Dodger this season.

Tater Trot Tracker confirmed that Puig’s two home run trots were among the fastest all year. I asked Puig if he knew each would go out of the park, or if he was hustling because he thought they wouldn’t. His answer: “I play hard all the time.”

And the beat goes on. Some bullet points for a World Environment Day:

Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Accentuating the positive, and tracking down some former Dodgers.

In my game story last night, I highlighted what ailed the Dodgers in their 5-3 loss to the Giants. (Photo gallery)

To be fair, here’s what the Dodgers did well in their first series of the season:

- Limited the Giants to a .208 batting average;
- Walked only two batters in the three games, while striking out 19;
- Didn’t allow a stolen base, while catching the Giants’ lone attempted thief;
- Turned a league-high seven double plays;
- In lieu of traditional offensive means, they got in the way of three San Francisco pitches.

OK, maybe the last one’s a stretch.

The positives paint a clear picture: the Dodgers pitchers were doing their jobs for the most part and, when they weren’t, the defense was helping out (Skip Schumaker‘s error last night serving as the obvious exception).

Here are some bullet points for an off-day for the Dodgers, except for Chad Billingsley, who will make his debut tonight in Rancho Cucamonga:

Continue reading

Daily Distractions: Picking a new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Mike Piazza ads.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

Continue reading