Daily Distractions: MLB owners approve expanded replay for 2014.

Umpires huddle

Photo by Getty Images

Get ready for the “manager’s challenge.”

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced that a new instant replay policy was adopted Thursday morning by MLB owners, beginning next season, that would allow one manager’s challenge in the first six innings and two more beginning in the seventh inning. The challenged calls would be reviewed by an off-site crew at MLB headquarters in New York. Balls and strikes would not be subject to review.

The policy is expected to be formally adopted at the next owner’s meetings in November.

The net benefit to the game could be a good one. The policy is a success if a bad call never decides the outcome of a game (or a perfect game) again.

Yet you wonder how much slower the games will be as a result of the policy and how soon — not if — MLB will make the inevitable tweaks to the system. It’s not likely that baseball gets this right on the first try.

Some more bullet points for a Dodgers off-day:
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Andre Ethier (calf tightness) scratched from Dodgers’ starting lineup against Mets.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier is batting .241 (7 for 29) since getting hit with a pitch by Chicago Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop on Aug. 4 (Getty Images)

Andre Ethier was scratched from the Dodgers’ starting lineup before Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets because of tightness in his left calf.

Ethier wasn’t at the ballpark during clubhouse media availability and did not take batting practice on the field with the rest of the Dodgers on Tuesday. It’s possible that he would be able to get in a late round of batting practice indoors, but manager Don Mattingly was noncommittal when asked if Ethier would be available off the bench.

Ethier was hit in the calf late in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win over the Cubs on August 4. Mattingly said the outfielder has been dealing with tightness in the area ever since. The pain worsened to the point that Ethier visited a doctor Tuesday; a better update on the severity of the injury should be available after the game.

Skip Schumaker took Ethier’s place in center field and was inserted directly into the fifth spot in the lineup against the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey. Schumaker is batting .286 against right-handers this season compared to .287 for Ethier. Both have one single in their career against Harvey — Ethier in three at-bats, Schumaker in six.

Harvey enters the game second in the National League in earned run average (2.09).

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:
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers reportedly sign Brian Wilson to minor-league contract.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson has appeared in two major-league games since the end of the 2011 season. (Getty Images)


According to multiple reports this morning, the Dodgers have signed former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson to a minor-league contract.

Wilson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2012, tried out for the New York Mets in January but was unimpressive. Pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery typically need 12 to 18 months to fully recover, sometimes more, so it stands to reason that Wilson has improved considerably in the last six months. He tried out recently with representatives from several teams in attendance; conveniently for the Dodgers, Wilson lives in Southern California.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was the Giants’ assistant general manager in 2003, when San Francisco took Wilson in the 23rd round of the June draft. Evidently Wilson bore some resemblance to his pre-Tommy John self at the recent tryout, beard and all.

As we reasoned yesterday, the Dodgers don’t really need to add a player with the non-waiver trade deadline about 24 hours away. They still might make a trade. But signing a pitcher who’s appeared in two games since the end of 2011 — to a minor-league deal, no less — isn’t the kind of impact move that contenders gear up for at the trade deadline, regardless of his reputation or facial hair. Wilson’s resumé includes more saves from 2008 to 2011 (163) than any pitcher in baseball.

Rather it’s a move that signals the Dodgers are looking ahead to the postseason. Wilson has 10 games of postseason experience, all with the Giants during their 2010 World Series run. That year, he saved six games in seven opportunities. Wilson would still have to be added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster between now and October but, as was the case with Carlos Marmol, it makes sense for a contending team to stockpile former closers as Plans A, B and C should Kenley Jansen falter, or fall victim to illness (like last year) or injury.

The Dodgers have that luxury with Brandon League, Marmol and now Wilson.

Onto some bullet points:
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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:
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Daily Distractions: Contemplating Kershaw contracts; Dodgers-Yankees; Yasiel Puig.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is looking for a lot of money in his contract extension. But we knew that already, right? (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are talking about a contract extension. One side or both might be getting antsy.

At least, that’s often the case when the terms of a deal are leaked to the media: To achieve something that negotiation cannot.

Kershaw said the leak came from the Dodgers’ camp, not his. Regardless, there’s not a whole lot we can read into the reports on CBSsports.com and FoxSports.com, mainly because the two stories differ on the dollar amounts being discussed and the likelihood of a deal happening in the near future.

If — and this is a fairly big if — Kershaw is seeking “about $225 million,” as CBSsports.com reports, he probably wouldn’t prefer the 10-year or 12-year contract structures mentioned on FoxSports.com, which would almost certainly lock in Kershaw to a longer term than he’s seeking. Those terms were more likely to have been proposed by the Dodgers. Again, this assumes the two reports are both drawing their separate information from reliable sources.

Is it wise to invest 12 years in a 25-year-old pitcher who has already thrown more than 1,000 major-league innings? In any player?

These are legitimate questions here. The Dodgers have probably asked them internally. At some point, we might discover what conclusion they reach. Does Kershaw think he’s worth 12 years and $300 million? Ask him yourself in about an hour.

Some bullet points for an Autistic Pride Day:

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Dodgers recall Tim Federowicz and place Chris Capuano (calf) on the 15-day disabled list.

Chris Capuano

Chris Capuano collided with Jason Marquis and fell down covering first base in the first inning. He wasn’t injured on that play, but stayed in the game and strained his left calf muscle running to cover the bag in the second.

Chris Capuano was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, ruling him out for the next time the Dodgers will need a fifth starter. That spot wouldn’t necessarily come up until the Dodgers’ April 27 home game against the Milwuakee Brewers, but manger Don Mattingly said he would like to use the fifth starter on April 24 at Citi Field against the New York Mets to give Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett an extra day between their next two starts.

Ted Lilly returned to the team one day after making a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session in two days. He’s done making rehab starts and is poised to take the fifth turn in the rotation.

“If he slots in, everybody kind of gets an extra day,” Mattingly said. “We really like doing that.”

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Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on former Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera.

Mariano RiveraI’m a sucker for applying the Kevin Bacon Game to baseball. Stephen Strasburg was a teammate of Ivan Rodriguez, who was a teammate of Nolan Ryan, who played with Ken Boyer, who played with Stan Musial. Boom.

So today’s a good day to mention that Mariano Rivera, who will retire at the end of the season, was a rookie in Don Mattingly‘s final year as a player with the New York Yankees.

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Reports: Yankees sign Juan Rivera.

Juan RiveraJuan Rivera‘s days as a Dodger seemed over from the moment the final out of the season was recorded. The 34-year-old was a free agent and Ned Colletti already had a backup corner outfielder under contract in Jerry Hairston Jr. (and later, Skip Schumaker).

It became official Monday, with multiple reports out of New York that Rivera signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees, the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela 17 years ago.

In 109 games last season, Rivera batted .244 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs. It was a disappointing follow-up to his 62-game audition as a Dodger in 2011 (.274/.333/.406) in a year the Dodgers could have used him with injuries befalling Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and Shane Victorino, Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn Jr. doing little with their playing time.

The Dodgers purchased Rivera’s contract after he was designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays on July 12, 2011, then got a one-year $4 million contract after the season. The Dodgers chose to buy out Rivera’s contract for $500,000 rather than exercise his option for 2013.

Morning briefing

The New York media is already feasting on Manny Ramirez’s trip to the Big Apple.

The Daily News’ Roger Rubin and Times’ Chris Hine attended Joe Torre’s charity gold tournament Monday in Briarcliff Manor. They bring similar perspectives. Rubin’s piece discusses how, amidst the Manny madness, Torre himself will judge accomplishments from the steroid era; Hine’s focuses on how Torre has been able to navigate the Dodgers through the first half of the season. MLB.com’s Jared Diamond was there as well.

An interesting blurb from Ken Gurnick on the Dodgers’ get-out-the-vote effort for Matt Kemp: “The Dodgers are attempting to enlist two of Kemp’s NBA friends, Trevor Ariza and Sheldon Williams, via their Twitter accounts in hopes of enrolling all of their followers to vote for their buddy.”

In other news, the LAT’s Kevin Baxter has an interesting story on Manny’s stomping grounds.