Scott Elbert, Please Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone

First DeWitt recalled and now this – another move I did not see coming. From Tony Jackson (who I seem to quote here just about every other day, keep up the good work, TJ) via Rob @ 6-4-2:

The Dodgers are expected to purchase the contract of the left-hander and former first-round draft pick from Double-A Jacksonville. Corresponding move will be announced at that time. Once one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, Elbert missed most of last season with a shoulder injury that effectively turned him into a reliever, at least for now. At Jacksonville this season, he has made one start and 24 relief appearances and gone 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He has allowed just 22 hits in 41 1/3 innings, struck out 46 and walked 20.

Now that is interesting on a couple of levels. First off, September 1st will only be three days away. By waiting, you could call up Elbert without having to drop someone else off of the active roster. My other initial reaction was, “Elbert and not James McDonald? That’s surprising!” But that was with me still thinking of Elbert as a starter, which he had been before this season. He’s been almost strictly a reliever this year (one start), so he and McDonald don’t really fill the same roles. Anyway, about Elbert, here’s the writeup Baseball Prospectus had on him before the season in ranking him #4 in the system behind Kershaw, LaRoche, and Hu:

Year In Review: The outstanding lefty was blowing away Southern League batters before walking seven in his third start of the year and missing the rest of the season after surgery to clean up his labrum.
The Good: In terms of size, stuff, and projectability, Elbert ranks just a tick below Kershaw across the board, and that’s a strong compliment. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95 with late, explosive life, while his curveball is a spiraling plus-plus power breaker that is just as effective. He’s an outstanding athlete who fields his position well, and can contribute at times with the bat.
The Bad: Elbert has consistently struggled with his control, and his somewhat-complicated mechanics contribute to that, with the shoulder surgery creating even more concern about his delivery. He’s yet to really need much of a changeup, and the pitch still lags well behind his primary two offerings.
Fun Fact: During his far-too-brief 2007 season, batters facing Elbert with the bases empty went 1-for-32 with 18 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: An upper-echelon big-league starter.
Timetable: Elbert’s shoulder was not ready for the Dodgers’ instructional camp, but he was throwing off the mound as we expected to be ready for spring training. Assuming all goes as expected, he’ll return to Double-A in 2008. The Dodgers have no timetable for him until they see how his arm holds up.

He’s been pretty impressive in 2008: in 25 games at Jacksonville, he’s 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He’s struck out 46 in 41.1 innings, and opponents are only hitting .158 against him.
The other question, then, is who goes down for him? Rob suggested Angel Berroa, but I think that’s unlikely since the Dodgers already are carrying 12 pitchers, and with Ozuna gone, there’s no backup for Nomar at short until Hu (most likely) gets recalled next week. No, it’s got to be a pitcher, and that leaves three options, barring a late-breaking injury we don’t know about.
1) Ramon Troncoso. Has to be the most likely option for a few reasons. First of all, he can be sent down without having to be exposed to waivers, which is always a consideration. But also, he got bombed tonight, giving up three runs and five hits in just three innings. Considering that going three innings probably puts him out for a few days anyway and that he hasn’t been all that great, I’m betting on him. 85%.
2) Jason Johnson. The definition of a veteran retread, he’s been awful in August, giving up 11 earned runs in 12.2 innings entering tonight. Losing him really wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the fact that he can’t be outrighted to Las Vegas probably saves him. 10%.
3) Clayton Kershaw. Almost certainly won’t be him, but there are factors that make him worth mentioning. He’s now had two pretty awful starts in a row, and he’s getting extremely close to his innings limit. It might not be a terrible idea to start getting him off of the regular rotation schedule, although I doubt this is how they’ll do it. 5%.
Update: okay, Diamond Leung’s got the details and it is in fact Kershaw going down. One of the reasons I didn’t think it would be him because of the rule that once sent down, you can’t be recalled for ten days. But I didn’t realize that, as Leung says, that rule doesn’t apply once minor league seasons end. So this move makes a lot a sense, then.

After the game, it was announced the Dodgers would purchase the contract of former first-round draft pick Scott Elbert to make his major league debut. Clayton Kershaw was optioned to Class AAA Las Vegas, but it was more of a procedural move, and he is expected to make his next start. This way, the Dodgers get an extra arm in their bullpen while Kershaw can spend the next few days working on some things in Las Vegas. He doesn’t have to stay in the minors 10 days because the minor league season will be over by then.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

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