Daily Distractions: What will the Dodgers do with their 39th and 40th roster spots?

Miguel Rojas

Miguel Rojas (bottom) could figure into the Dodgers’ infield depth, as the 40-man roster is currently constructed. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers will have 38 players on their 40-man roster once the contracts for J.P. Howell and Juan Uribe are finalized.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Relief Pitchers (13):
RHP Kenley Jansen
RHP Brian Wilson
LHP Paco Rodriguez
LHP J.P. Howell
RHP Brandon League
RHP Chris Withrow
RHP Jose Dominguez
RHP Javy Guerra
LHP Scott Elbert (will likely begin the season on the 60-day DL)
LHP Onelki Garcia
RHP Yimi Garcia
RHP Pedro Baez
LHP Jarret Martin

Starting pitchers (9):
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zack Greinke
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Chad Billingsley
RHP Matt Magill
RHP Stephen Fife
RHP Seth Rosin

Catchers (3):
A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz
Drew Butera

Infielders (5):
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B/SS Alexander Guerrero
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Juan Uribe
2B/SS Justin Sellers

Outfielders (6):
Carl Crawford
Matt Kemp
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Mike Baxter
Nick Buss

Utility (2):
2B/SS/CF Dee Gordon
1B/OF Scott Van Slyke

One trade or one injury between now and Opening Day can shake up the roster. Already, we can count Scott Elbert (who had Tommy John surgery in June) as a placeholder for the 38th spot.

But if you’re Ned Colletti, having filled the big holes already with plenty of free agents still available on Dec. 18, how do you budget those last two spots?

One clue might have come this morning in an interview Colletti gave to 710-AM in Los Angeles. Speaking of the second base position, he mentioned Guerrero, Gordon and Double-A prospect Miguel Rojas as candidates for major-league competition. Rojas is a 24-year-old from Venezuela whom the Dodgers picked up as a minor-league free agent a year ago. One reason why the Cincinnati Reds might have let Rojas go after seven seasons in the organization: He batted just .186/.226/.233 in 44 games at Triple-A in 2012. Rojas batted .233 with 10 steals in 130 games at Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, then batted .235 in the Venezuelan Winter League. He is as defense-first as defense-first second basemen get.

Gordon has less than four innings of major-league experience at second base, but the Dodgers are trying to expand his versatility in the field. He batted .348 with four stolen bases in 12 games in the Dominican League — playing center field. The Dodgers also invited 8-year major-league veteran Brendan Harris to camp on a minor-league contract; that Colletti didn’t mention Harris was probably a simple error of omission.

Still, it was an insight into the Dodgers’ lack of depth compared to spring of 2013, when Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Luis Cruz, Jerry Hairston Jr., Gordon and Sellers were all capable of filling in somewhere.

The Dodgers could keep their final roster spots open, thinking that Harris and Rojas (or someone else) will be able to grab them in camp. Colletti said he’s comfortable making second base a defensive position next season — which was often the case with Mark Ellis anyway. But as long as Guerrero’s major-league ability remains a question mark, this seems to be the Dodgers’ biggest area for improvement.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday:

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With Matt Kemp on the disabled list, Dodgers will recall a ‘true center fielder’ soon.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp leaves the field with athletic trainer Nancy Pattersonon Wednesday night after straining his right hamstring in a 4-3 loss to the Angels (Associated Press)

Of all the frustrations Matt Kemp has had to deal with this season, a trip to the disabled list was not among them — until Thursday.

Kemp is optimistic he can return once his 15 days are up, which projects to June 14 at Pittsburgh, after straining his right hamstring Wednesday night in Anaheim.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “I love playing baseball. I hate being hurt. This is my second year of being hurt.

“This is a small little obstacle but I’m used to playing 162 games and playing every day.”

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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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