Two blockbuster trades that seemed inevitable a week ago became official Thursday after an issue with Matt Kemp’s physical caused an awkward delay.
The Dodgers continued a furious Winter Meetings trade spree Thursday morning by dealing Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Kemp, a star outfielder and the Dodgers’ longest tenured player, has been informed of the trade, which has not been announced by either team because it is still pending approval from the league.
Soon, Kemp will be heading south along with catcher Tim Federowicz in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and pitcher Zach Eflin, according to multiple reports.
The full story is here.
Some decisions were made Tuesday, when five players were given permission to return either to their off-season home or the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Arizona.
A few more decisions have been made in the last 48 hours:
In a sense, it’s the antithesis of a low-pressure scenario: The rubber match of a three-game September series against the best team (by record) in the National League.
“You’re not looking at him to be Kershaw and go 8 or 9 (innings),” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I think that we’re looking for him to give us a quality start, get us through the lineup a couple times hopefully and see where we’re at.”
Frias has allowed nine runs in 14 ⅓ innings this season, all in relief, for a 5.65 ERA. Already in his brief major-league career he’s thrown six pitches (fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, slider, curveball) and that typically plays better for a starter than a reliever.
Not coincidentally, Tim Federowicz is starting at catcher for the first time since June 12. Federowicz caught Frias so often in Triple-A Albuquerque this season, he joked that he’s practically Frias’ “personal catcher.”
“He’s been going six or seven innings every start,” Federowicz said. “I’ll get him there.”
Just a reminder: The game begins at noon on SportsNet LA and MLB Network (outside the SNLA markets).
Of all the transactions the Dodgers made Monday, when rosters were allowed to expand past the previous 25-man limit, only one could be considered a surprise.
Infielder Carlos Triunfel, whom the Dodgers claimed off waivers from the Seattle Mariners in April, was designated for assignment.
By removing Triunfel from the 40-man roster, the Dodgers were able to add Joc Pederson to their 40-man roster. Pederson was joined by infielder Alex Guerrero, catcher Tim Federowicz and pitcher Yimi Garcia on the Albuquerque-to-Los Angeles express Monday. Infielders Miguel Rojas and Erisbel Arruebarrena and pitcher Carlos Frias are expected to arrive in the Dodgers’ clubhouse tomorrow.
Pederson and Garcia will be making their major-league debuts.
Before Saturday’s game, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly provided the closest thing to a clue about who will be called up from the minor leagues on Monday, when teams are allowed to carry every player on their 40-man roster to every game for the remainder of the season.
(As an aside, the Dodgers play a September series in Chicago against the Cubs. Wrigley Field’s visiting clubhouse is the smallest in the major leagues. This could become baseball’s equivalent of a clown car and I can’t wait to find out how it’ll look.)
Mattingly didn’t name names, but said “I think it’s maybe five or six (players),” noting that injuries could affect the number.
A.J. Ellis was back in the Dodgers’ lineup Friday, 19 days after he sprained his ankle celebrating Josh Beckett‘s no-hitter in Philadelphia.
Ellis is batting .170/.350/.213 in a season limited by injuries to 15 games. The 33-year-old catcher missed 39 days in April and May after undergoing a procedure on the mensicus in his left knee.
As a group, Dodger catchers rank near the bottom of the league in batting average (29th, .185), on-base percentage (27th, .268), slugging percentage (29th, .275) and weighted on-base average (29th, .247) this year. Tim Federowicz, who has the worst on-base percentage of any major-leaguer with at least 50 plate appearances, was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Ellis.
Ellis might give the Dodgers’ lineup a dimension it missed in his absence.
“Over the course of last year, the last couple years, even when his average may not be jumping out at you, he’s always a guy that gives you a tough at-bat every day,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He makes a pitcher work. I think we’ll look forward to that. It just gets another ‘quality out’ when you make an out.”
Ellis’ 4.37 pitches per plate appearances in 2013 were the most by any major-league player with at least 400 plate appearances.
A.J. Ellis spoke in somber tones Monday as he described one of baseball’s all-time freak injuries. An old adage was certainly at play: It’s only funny if it doesn’t happen to you.
Ellis sprained his ankle Sunday while the Dodgers ran out to congratulate Josh Beckett for his no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Ellis didn’t catch the game — Drew Butera did — but Ellis leaped and landed on Butera’s discarded catcher’s mask in the midst of the celebration.
“I knew right away it was more significant than other ankle rolls I’ve had in the past,” Ellis said. “I immediately came in, saw (Dodgers head athletic trainer) Stan Conte, got an x-ray which came back negative, treated it the entire flight home yesterday, and came in this morning.
“I woke up and called Stan this morning I didn’t think I would be able to play the next few days just because of the way I felt. Probably best for the club to get another catcher up here. So I’m beyond frustrated, still kind of shocked and just ready to get back in the rhythm of things, whenever that might be.”
The Dodgers recalled Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Albuquerque with Ellis on the 15-day disabled list. Ellis was scheduled to meet with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache to determine the severity of the injury and a timetable for recovery.
Major League Baseball gave its players roughly one month to adjust to a new, literal interpretation of its “transfer rule.” Catch the ball, transfer the ball from glove to hand, make sure each of these steps is deliberate enough to be discerned on video review, and you’re good. That sounds simple. In practice, the rule demanded that fielders break a lifetime’s worth of hard-worn habits. Hanley Ramirez got burned on the call once this season, when he lost his grip on the ball after recording what looked like a forceout at second base. The umpire on scene ruled Ramirez didn’t make a catch in the first place.
Friday morning, the league officially changed its mind.
Beginning tonight, MLB announced that umpires will enforce the transfer rule according to a new standard — that is, the old standard. According to a league release, a catch or valid forceout/tag has occurred:
…if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it to be ruled a catch. If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer.
It was too late for Ramirez, but it was nice to see the league act quickly. That said, there’s still at least one rule that the Dodgers would like to see clarified. Ramirez was involved in this one, too.
From my game story last night, in case you missed it, here’s what happened:
With Hanley Ramirez on third base and (Adrian) Gonzalez on first, (Yasiel) Puig hit a ground ball to Phillies third baseman Cody Asche. Asche fielded the ball deep in the third-base hole and threw to home plate, where Ramirez was out by several feet.
Or was he?
Mattingly popped out of the third-base dugout, asking for help. He demonstrated to the home-plate umpire, Mike DiMuro, what he saw from Philadelphia’s Ruiz: A catcher with both feet planted in front of home plate as Ramirez was bearing down.
According to the rule, which was ratified by MLB and the Players’ Association in spring training, “Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.”
The problem for Mattingly was that Asche delivered a perfect strike to Ruiz in plenty of time to retire Ramirez. Hunter Wendelstedt initiated a crew chief’s review and baseball’s two new rules for 2014 suddenly collided, an instant replay being used to determine whether a catcher illegally blocked home plate.
Three minutes and 18 seconds later, the call stood. Ramirez was out.
Just before the next inning, I saw Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz in the dugout demonstrating how to block home plate to pitcher Josh Beckett. After the game, Federowicz was still upset and confused by the sequence of events.
“I honestly thought that call was going to be overturned,” he said. “The only thing in their favor is that (Ruiz) got that ball in plenty of time. He probably got it a good 10 feet before the play. That’s what the final decision was probably on. My whole thing is, why have the rule saying you can’t block the plate without the ball, and he blocks the plate without the ball?”
Here’s a still image, taken from the video of the play, that shows where Ruiz was stationed when he caught the ball (unfortunately I couldn’t grab an image just before Ruiz made the catch):
Whether Ruiz is illegally blocking Ramirez’s path to home plate represents a judgment call, too. Could Ruiz be more out of the way of the baseline? Of course. But, as noted at the time, Asche made an accurate throw. If Ruiz plants his mitt in the baseline and his body in foul territory to receive the throw, and Ramirez (who left on contact) sprints home at full speed and slides inside the baseline, Ruiz is in jeopardy of not being able to make the tag.
Maybe Wendelstedt factored this into his judgment. Rule 7.13 goes on to state that “it shall not be considered a violation of this rule if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner.”
Watching the sequence in real time, Federowicz felt that Ruiz didn’t need to lay his right leg in the basepath in order to make the catch. Therefore, Ramirez should have been ruled safe.
“Hanley has nowhere to slide and he’s still out? I guess Hanley’s allowed to hit him in that situation,” Federowicz said. “But again, they scare all these runners from being able to do that. Nobody really knows the correct rule right now.”
Some bullet points for Arbor Day:
The fact that this was even a possibility, 15 days after the catcher had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, is a bit mind-boggling. Ellis has been taking batting practice regularly, caught Kershaw’s bullpen session Tuesday, and is running on an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill — the same one that got Matt Kemp in shape during spring training.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that the initial 4-6 week timetable is still in play for Ellis, but that could change soon enough.
In the meantime, a couple trends have emerged. Drew Butera has caught three of Zack Greinke‘s last four starts. The term “personal catcher” hasn’t entered the discussion yet, but the two have had high praise for each other and Mattingly might choose to keep them paired together, even after Ellis returns.
Tim Federowicz has caught 10 games to Butera’s six since Ellis went down, and has just four hits in 37 at-bats. Two of those hits have come since Paul Goldschmidt whacked him in the left hand over the weekend.
“Each day is getting better,” Federowicz said Wednesday. “Right now I’m really focused on my defense. Offense will come. I’m not worried about it.”
Can fans be so patient?
In spite of the fact that the two healthy catchers have a modest three-game hitting streak, Federowicz and Butera are still batting a combined .145 (8 for 55) since Ellis had his surgery. For his part, Ellis was batting just .167 (4 for 24) before going on the DL.
The Dodgers might have bigger problems than this one, so it’s flown a bit under the radar. Just don’t expect to see any catchers batting higher than eighth unless one, at last, catches fire.