Reports: Dodgers to re-sign J.P. Howell for two years, $11.25 million, plus option.

J.P. HowellJ.P. Howell will return to the Dodgers for at least two years, according to multiple reports Monday, with the two sides compromising on a third-year option that would pay Howell more than any left-handed reliever on the market this year.

The contract reportedly guarantees Howell $11.25 million through 2015. The third-year option, worth $6.25 million, vests if he makes 120 appearances over the next two seasons. It’s a realistic benchmark for Howell, who appeared in 67 games in 2013, going 4-1 with a 2.18 earned-run average.

In total, the 30-year-old has the potential to earn $17.5 million over the life of the contract – $1 million more than the Rockies gave lefty specialist Boone Logan over the next three years.

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Daily Distractions: The market has been set for J.P. Howell, but will the Dodgers go along?

J.P. Howell

Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell went 4-1 with a 2.18 earned-run average in 67 games for the Dodgers in 2013. (Getty Images)

For a left-handed set-up man like J.P. Howell the market has pretty much been set. Right?

Javier Lopez got three years and $13 million from the San Francisco Giants.

On Friday, Boone Logan got three years and $16.5 million from the Colorado Rockies.

Howell was just a nudge better than those two in 2013 while doing essentially the same task, retiring left-handed batters in close games before the ninth inning. He’s 30; Logan is 29 and Lopez is 36. If the market trend continues, Howell can probably make a good case to earn a little more money than Logan. Say, three years and $18 million.

The Dodgers don’t necessarily see it that way.

They have one left-handed specialist in Paco Rodriguez. Another, Scott Elbert, could be ready to join the team at midseason. Right-hander Carlos Marmol has had good historical success against lefties as well, though the Dodgers haven’t had much communication with him since the off-season began.

Would they like Howell back? Sure. They’ve been more talkative with Howell’s camp than perhaps any left-handed reliever to this point. But general manager Ned Colletti suggested Saturday he isn’t as desperate for help in that area as the Giants and Rockies were when they signed Lopez and Logan, respectively.

“You have to make the right decisions despite sometimes what other teams were doing,” Colletti said, speaking generally about the market for left-handed relievers. “Some teams do it because they don’t have anybody else. It’s something done out of desperation. I get that. We’ve had to do it too from time to time. But (Howell) is another guy we’ve had a lot of conversations with. We’re still trying to get him signed.

“Whether we do or not, we’ll always figure it out. We might not figure it out on Dec. 14.”

After reportedly signing Juan Uribe on Saturday, bolstering the bullpen is Colletti’s top task. The market seems to be pointing in one direction for Howell, but the Dodgers might ultimately decide to go a different direction.

Some bullet points for a Monday morning:
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Don Mattingly likes Edinson Volquez’s numbers more than Chris Capuano’s, won’t say which numbers.

Paco Rodriguez

Pitchers Paco Rodriguez (center) and Chris Capuano (not pictured) aren’t on the Dodgers’ NLCS roster. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)

Chris Capuano said that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told him after Thursday’s workout at Busch Stadium that Edinson Volquez was going to be the team’s long reliever in the National League Championship Series.

“We had to have a guy that could definitely be a long guy and we felt like he was the best long guy against this club,” Mattingly said Friday of Volquez.
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Dodgers announce National League Championship Series roster.

Right-handed pitchers Edinson Volquez and Carlos Marmol are replacing left-handers Paco Rodriguez and Chris Capuano on the Dodgers’ roster for the National League Championship Series, submitted to the league this morning.

Here are the 11 pitchers and 14 position players on the roster:

Pitchers (11)                                                    Position Players (14)

RHP Ronald Belisario                                   OF Carl Crawford

RHP Zack Greinke                                         C A.J. Ellis

LHP J.P. Howell                                             2B Mark Ellis

RHP Kenley Jansen                                      OF Andre Ethier

LHP Clayton Kershaw                                   C Tim Federowicz

RHP Carlos Marmol                                        1B Adrian Gonzalez

RHP Ricky Nolasco                                       IF Dee Gordon

LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu                                           OF Yasiel Puig

RHP Edinson Volquez                                     IF Nick Punto

RHP Brian Wilson                                          SS Hanley Ramirez

RHP Chris Withrow                                        IF/OF Skip Schumaker

                                                                         3B Juan Uribe

                                                                          IF/OF Scott Van Slyke
                                                                          IF Michael Young

Paco Rodriguez says arm feels “great,” but seeks consistency amid struggles.

Paco Rodriguez

Dodgers pitcher Paco Rodriguez said he works on his mechanics every day. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

The Dodgers added left-handed pitcher Onelki Garcia to their major-league roster Wednesday, in part to give southpaws Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell a breather out of the bullpen every now and then.

Coincidentally, Rodriguez and Garcia were practically inseparable in right field Wednesday afternoon while the Dodgers took batting practice. Rodriguez said he was showing Garcia the ropes, so to speak. More details of the conversation between the two 2012 draft picks will appear in tomorrow’s editions.

As for his own left arm, Rodriguez said it’s doing “great.” The numbers show otherwise: In his last five appearances, Rodriguez has faced 16 batters, allowed five hits and walked four (a .563 opponents’ OBP).

One theory for Rodriguez’s struggles is that he’s a victim of overuse. The 22-year-old is tied for the team lead in appearances (70) with Ronald Belisario. But his 51 innings pitched are less than the 88 ⅓ he pitched between college and the professional ranks — including the final 6 ⅔ for the Dodgers — in 66 games in 2012. He insists that the extra four appearances this year, not including an additional 12 spring-training games, haven’t caught up to him.

“My body’s been feeling fine, I’m just a little inconsistent,” Rodriguez said. “My mechanics could be wrong.”

Rodriguez has an unusual delivery — he pauses with the ball behind his head before whipping his arm around — which has been attributed to much of his success. Is it a problem now? That’s been a point of daily discussion with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

“We just talk about it. … It’s just a matter of being consistent and bringing it every day,” Rodriguez said.

“At the end of the year everybody’s tired. It’s all about mindset, how you approach everything.”

Cincinnati Reds 3, Dodgers 2.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig nearly collided on this fly ball, eventually caught by Ethier, in the first inning. (Associated Press photo)

Matt Kemp hurt his hamstring. The starting pitcher, Chris Capuano, suffered a mild left groin strain and was done six batters into the game. Dee Gordon was hit in the back of the neck. Yasiel Puig slid awkwardly in his first game back from a stiff right knee.

Then it was time for the third inning.
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Daily Distractions: The significance of 2-2.

Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers are 38-8 in their last 46 games and need to win two of their next four to join an elite group of major-league teams. (Associated Press)

In his seminal 2000 book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell identified a handful of small phenomena that predict wider epidemics. The Dodgers’ next four games could be one of those small phenomena.

If that seems a bit arbitrary, it is. Play along for a minute anyway.

On SportsIllustrated.com, Jay Jaffe tracked down the 16 major-league teams that have won at least 40 games over a 50-game stretch. Of the 16 teams, 15 reached the postseason and 13 reached the World Series. Two of the 40-win teams reached the World Series after divisional expansion in 1969: the 1998 Yankees and the 1975 Reds. (The 1977 Royals and 2001 Mariners did not.)

Now I don’t know if the 1912 New York Giants, whose 43-7 mark set the 50-game standard, could survive three rounds of playoffs and still win a World Series. I also don’t know if 50 games is the exact Tipping Point for identifying World Series-bound teams, the sample size that separates the champions from the streaky.

What I do know is that if the Dodgers go 2-2 in their next four games, they will do something achieved by only 16 other teams in major-league history — 81.3 percent of whom have gone on to reach the World Series. I like those odds.

Some links for a national left-hander’s day (which might favor Hyun-Jin Ryu tonight against Matt Harvey):
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Dodgers bullpen pushes scoreless streak to 13 ⅓ innings.

The Dodgers bullpen continues to throw zeroes up on the scoreboard.

The once-maligned unit has recorded 13 ⅓ consecutive scoreless innings entering Monday’s game, last allowing a run on Aug. 7 at St. Louis. Opponents are also hitting .093 (4 for 43) with four walks and 12 strikeouts in that span.
Since the All-Star break, the bullpen has a 1.76 earned-run average, the second-lowest in baseball.

“To be honest, I think everyone is contributing at the same time and doing their part,” left-hander Paco Rodriguez said. “The starters are taking us deep into games and are giving us an opportunity to use all our guys in the right situation.

“At the beginning of the year, we worked hard to try to get into rhythm, and we’re just going to try to keep it going now.”

Brandon League isn’t necessarily on thin ice as the Dodgers’ closer.

Brandon LeagueThe ice under Brandon League‘s feet is thicker than you might think.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly offered his second unenthusiastic endorsement for closer Brandon League this homestand Monday, sounding no closer to a long-term solution to the Dodgers’ growing ninth-inning problem.

Asked if League was still the closer one day after giving up two runs in the ninth inning in a non-save situation against the Miami Marlins, Mattingly said, “Yeah, for right now he is. I hate to say it like that but yeah, for now.”
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