Daily Distractions: Will a day off cure what ails the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp?

Matt Kemp gameday view

(courtesy of MLB.com)

By the looks of things, the Dodgers ought to worry less about Matt Kemp‘s mechanics at the plate than what’s going on inside his head.

That image, courtesy of MLB.com’s Gameday tool, shows Kemp’s final at-bat Tuesday against Jason Marquis. Appropriate to the picture, the bat did not leave his shoulders. Kemp took an 83-mph slider, an 88-mph sinker, and an 82-mph changeup for strikes, ending the sixth inning with a whimper.

I didn’t have a chance to speak to Kemp after the game, but Kemp typically isn’t introspective in the midst of a slump. Most hitters aren’t; if they could explain why they were slumping, they would be hitting the ball better. Based on that sixth-inning at-bat, it would be tempting to pin Kemp’s problem on poor pitch selection. It might not be that simple.

Here’s how Marquis struck out Kemp to end the third inning:

Matt  Kemp

In this at-bat, Kemp’s pitch selection is pretty good. He took two pitches low and out of the zone with two strikes (#3 and #4), then swung a pitch (#5) that might have been a strike — it was about an inch higher than the pitch before. Yet Kemp missed. You have to wonder what he was thinking on the second pitch of this at-bat, a swing-and-miss on a slider over the fattest part of the plate.

Kemp saw two sinkers from Marquis in his first at-bat. The pitch chart isn’t integral here — Kemp took a ball 10 inches off the plate then flew out to right field on the second pitch, which was in the strike zone. Both pitches were sinkers.

By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Kemp should have figured he wasn’t getting any fastballs from Marquis. Yet he took three breaking balls in the strike zone without swinging the bat.

Don Mattingly said after the game that he’s considering giving Kemp a day off, even though the Dodgers have an off-day Thursday. The manager seems to believe Kemp’s slump (he’s hitting .185) begins and ends between his ears.

“Matt’s pressing pretty good,” Mattingly said. “Tonight he seemed really frustrated. The game didn’t help. It’s one of those games that you jump behind early, nothing kind of seems to go your way, and he seemed to be — obviously it didn’t go very good for him.”

From struggling superstars to …

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Despite appealing suspension, San Diego Padres’ Carlos Quentin might miss Dodgers series.

Major League Baseball is expediting Carlos Quentin’s appeal of his eight-game suspension and could rule on the matter today, according a report on the U-T San Diego website.

Writes Padres beat writer Bill Center:

If the appeal process isn’t completed there is also a strong chance that the left fielder will drop the appeal and begin his suspension Monday.

“Major League Baseball is very aware of the situation,” a source in the league office said Saturday. “I think everyone would like to see a little time between the incident and Quentin’s next appearance at Dodger Stadium.”

The Padres visit the Dodgers for three games beginning tomorrow.

Update (11:30 a.m.): Quentin is not in the Padres’ lineup today, will drop his appeal and begin the eight-game suspension immediately. That means he won’t play in the series at Dodger Stadium. The Padres’ next series in Los Angeles is June 3-5.

Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke broke his left collarbone in a benches-clearing brawl when Quentin charged the mound and tackled Greinke to the ground Thursday night at Petco Park. Greinke is expected to miss the next two months after undergoing successful surgery Saturday. Jerry Hairston Jr. was also suspended one game and fined for his role in the brawl, and has appealed the ruling with MLB.

MLB suspends Padres’ Carlos Quentin eight games, Dodgers’ Jerry Hairston Jr. one; both appeal.

Carlos Quentin has been suspended eight games, and Jerry Hairston Jr. one, for their roles in Thursday’s benches-clearing brawl in San Diego.

Both players have appealed their suspensions and will continue to play until the league issues its decision on the appeal. That means that Hairston and Quentin could be in the lineup Monday, when the Dodgers host the Padres at Dodger Stadium.

Quentin and Hairston were both fined an undisclosed amount.

Matt Kemp and Zack Greinke avoided supplemental discipline for their roles in the melee. Both were ejected, along with Hairston and Quentin, who began the brawl by charging Greinke after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning. (Video here).

Dodgers’ Zack Greinke will have surgery tomorrow, expected to miss eight weeks.

ZackxGreinkeThursday’s brawl in San Diego will cost Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke eight weeks on the disabled list because of a broken left clavicle.

Greinke was examined by team Dr. Neal ElAttrache today in Los Angeles and underwent a CT scan on his left clavicle. It was determined that he should undergo surgery to place a rod in the clavicle to stabilize and align the fracture.  The surgery will be performed tomorrow by ElAttrache and team Dr. John Itamura at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles.

Greinke suffered the injury Thursday night in San Diego when the Padres’ Carlos Quentin charged Greinke after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning.

Quentin hasn’t been suspended by Major League Baseball for now and is in the Padres’ lineup tonight against the Colorado Rockies in San Diego.

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Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke fractures clavicle in brawl with San Diego Padres.

When the Dodgers retained a surplus of starting pitchers in anticipation that their top five would not make every start this season, they could not have imagined a scenario like the one that unfolded Thursday night.

Zack Greinke left his start against the San Diego Padres after fracturing his left clavicle in the midst of a benches-clearing brawl that started when the Padres’ Carlos Quentin charged the mound after being hit by a Greinke pitch in the sixth inning.

Here’s the video of the brawl from tonight’s broadcast:

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Eric Stults vs. Chad Billingsley presents an intriguing Padres-Dodgers pitching matchup.

Chad Billingsley

It wasn’t that long ago that San Diego Padres left-hander Eric Stults started against his former team. On Sept. 4 of last year, Stults limited the Dodgers to seven hits and one run in six innings at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers wound up losing that game 6-3 in 11 innings when John Ely imploded (the first time) in his first major-league game of the season.

Afterward Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’d seen enough soft-tossing left-handers for a season. “We’re kind of seeing the same guy and not making enough adjustments,” he said. Turns out that the Dodgers weren’t alone in their misery facing Stults, who went 3-1 over his final four starts of last year, including two wins over the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Stults shut out the Mets for five innings to win his only start of 2013. For a guy who was relegated to Japan after being cut by the Dodgers in 2009, it’s a nice little comeback.

Stults will be opposed by Chad Billingsley, who was officially activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. Interesting to note that both pitchers broke into the majors with the Dodgers in the same year (2006). Billingsley would start 100 games over the next four seasons for the Dodgers. Stults started 24 during that same span before the teams parted ways.

Don’t forget, the game will not be on Prime Ticket tonight but you can still watch it on local cable.

Here are tonight’s full lineups:

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Dodgers pitcher Shawn Tolleson feels fine, won’t miss time with knee injury.

Shawn Tolleson‘s injury Tuesday appeared to be scarier than it was.Shawn  Tolleson

The right-hander, who left the Dodgers’ game against the San Diego Padres after hearing a “pop” in his left knee, said Wednesday that “everything checked out good” in tests.

“It kind of spooked me,” Tolleson said. “I didn’t want to test it or throw another pitch or anything. … Today there’s no swelling, no soreness.”

Tolleson said he felt the pop as he was releasing the ball and extending as he released the pitch to the Padres’ Gregorio Petit. He iced the knee overnight and was walking normally today.

“Today I’m just going to kind of take it easy, play catch, not do a lot else,” he said. “Tomorrow I should be good to go.”

Daily Distractions: Three things about Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu; Pads and PEDs; a Trevor Bauer/Chan Ho Park rap battle?

Hyun-Jin Ryu Sandy Koufax

Hyun-Jin Ryu got the star turn in the media today. I likened him to a circus performer, the way he’s calmly and confidently performing these acts of non-pitching prowess under pressure. Here are three things about Ryu that I didn’t include in my story for today’s papers:

1. He’s really broken up about not pitching for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic. “One thousand percent — I really wanted to play in the WBC. But I felt obligated to the L.A. Dodgers,” Ryu said through an interpreter.

2. Ryu might have let Don Mattingly beat him at ping pong. “In their country it’s not polite to beat the manager, and he wanted me to tell him that,” pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “He couldn’t tell him but I could tell him.”

3. What did Sandy Koufax tell Ryu to do differently with the curveball? “Deeper into my hand,” Ryu said. “Instead of pushing with my thumb, deeper so then I can let the ball come out” over the index finger.

Here’s some of the buzz in spring training today:
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Daily Distractions: Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson; minor-league signings; Scott Rolen update.

Jackie Robinson was born 94 years ago today in Cairo, Georgia. To commemorate the occasion, Google baked a birthday cake with 94 candles on top made Robinson the “doodle” on its home page today.

We’ll be writing a lot about Robinson this year. The 66th anniversary of his major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers is April 15. Three days earlier is the planned release date of “42,” the biopic starring Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. You can view the trailer here.

In light of this week’s news about a Miami-based PED lab that claimed several major-leaguers as clients, I’ll take this space to point out that Robinson was neither a drinker nor a smoker – let alone a juicer.

An often-overlooked local landmark is the plaque commemorating Robinson’s boyhood home at 121 Pepper Street in Pasadena. (There’s no home there now, just a plaque, as the home was torn down in the early 1970s.) Feel free to leave a present there today. Or a doodle.

Lots of links today:

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Why the Dodgers radically altered their lineup.

The Dodgers’ lineup got a last-minute makeover Wednesday, giving it an unfamiliar look for today’s game against the Padres:

Herrera LF
Punto 2B
Kemp CF
Gonzalez 1B
Ramirez SS
Cruz 3B
Rivera RF
Treanor C
Harang P

Two of the changes were brought on by injury. Shane Victorino was originally leading off, but his injured left wrist is preventing him from batting right-handed — the side he needs to bat from against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard. Second baseman Mark Ellis is ill and undergoing IV treatment today, manager Don Mattingly said.

The other changes weren’t. A.J. Ellis isn’t catching a day game after a night game, as usual. Andre Ethier is 4 for 28 with a double and four RBIs in his career against Richard, and .215/.270/.321 against all lefties this season, so he’s out in favor of Rivera (who’s 0 for 8 lifetime against Richard.
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