Never Doubt the Power of the Beard

Last Sunday, I looked into how poorly Casey Blake has played, as he was hitting just .233/.323/.397 with only three homers, and I concluded that the only way he was going to turn it around was if he was forced to grow the beard back. On Monday, when we weren’t busy fawning over John Ely, Blake doubled in two runs and I posted a picture from the game showing that the beard was indeed returning.

And on Tuesday? Blake got three hits, including a homer, and Tony Jackson confirmed that the beard was back to stay. I’ll leave it to the commenters to suggest that my post got him moving, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s all beard, all the time. Mostly, I like how vocal people are about it, because not only did people yell at him from the stands to bring it back, even his own teammates were on board:

There is a T-shirt that has been popping up around the ballpark lately — Blake said Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp actually has one — that reads, In Beard We Trust. Well, the beard is back now.

Of course, let’s not let facial hair joking overshadow Hiroki Kuroda, who may be the most underrated pitcher in baseball. His 2009 season was a disaster thanks to injuries both annoying (a strained oblique) and near-tragic (a liner to the head) and a NLCS meltdown, but when he’s healthy he’s one of the more effective starters in baseball. He’s not flashy – that’s not his nature – but he’s made it into the 6th inning in every start this year, which is a lot more impressive than it sounds like on a team like this. At 35 and in the last year of his contract, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him next year, but for now he’s the reliable rock of the staff.

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From the same Jackson article comes word that Alfredo Amezaga has begun playing games for AA Chattanooga in his return from microfracture surgery. I wasn’t a huge fan of Amezaga when he was signed, but as we’ve seen how the roster construction of the team ended up progressing, I’m warming to the idea a bit more, if he’s healthy. He’s not much of a hitter, but he is a plus fielder at SS, 2B, and CF, and he’s a lefty. For as well as Jamey Carroll’s filled in at SS, he’s by no means a “plus fielder” there, nor is Blake DeWitt at 2B. Besides, Joe Torre doesn’t seem to want to let anyone besides Matt Kemp play center, so adding a good glove who can play all over can only help.

Besides, think about it. When Furcal returns, Nick Green is likely DFA’d. Assuming that Ethier is back before Amezaga is ready, there’s really only one option to go… your lefty-hitting backup outfielder who can’t field as well as Amezaga, play as many positions, or let’s face it, even hit as “well” as AA can. That’s right, this could be how we’re finally rid of Garret Anderson.

In any case, if Amezaga proves his health, Jackson thinks he’s got an excellent chance to make the club considering the factors involved:

Amezaga, 32, spent the past four seasons with the Florida Marlins, but he missed most of last year with the knee problem. His contract with the Dodgers contains a pair of escape clauses if he isn’t in the majors, the first of which he can exercise on June 15 and the second of which triggers a month later. Given the time, effort and resources the Dodgers have put into his rehab, they aren’t likely to let him get away.

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