Let’s Talk Options

With the sky darkening in Cincinnati in the 4th inning, I put this dire thought out on Twitter:

Terrifying thought: what if this game gets rained out before it’s official and there’s a DH tomorrow? Who starts this weekend, Hershisher?

Now that the rain delay is pushing an hour, with Josh Suchon on KABC saying that it’s raining harder than it has all night, and Dylan Hernandez suggesting that play may not resume until 10:45pm eastern – if at all – let’s play devil’s advocate and look at what may truly become the worst-case scenario for the Dodgers:

What happens if this game doesn’t resume and there’s a doubleheader tomorrow?

It’s truly the worst of all possible outcomes, because not only would the stellar shutout that Hiroki Kuroda has going be wiped from the books, Kuroda wouldn’t be available for the do-over tomorrow. Clayton Kershaw would get his normal start, of course, but then what? Jeff Weaver and a bullpen game?

But it’d get worse. With Chad Billingsley going on the DL today, the Dodgers are already forced to keep Carlos Monasterios in the rotation for a start against Boston on Friday. (Oddly enough, the Rule 5er won’t be the least-experienced pitcher, as the Red Sox may give Felix Doubront his major-league debut). The original #5 starter, Charlie Haeger, is pitching  his third inning right now for ABQ. And not a single one of the season-opening AAA rotation is available (Towers released, Ely already up, Lindblom converted to relief, McDonald on the AAA DL, and Elbert away with personal issues).

If there’s a doubleheader tomorrow, you’d have to think something along these lines happens:

Wed — Billingsley to DL, Schlichting up
Wed, Game #1: Kershaw
Wed, Game #2: Weaver and bullpen
Thurs — Schlichting down, Link up
Thursday: Ely
Friday: Monasterios, bullpen, and prayer
Saturday — Link down, Padilla up
Saturday: Padilla
Sunday: Kuroda
Monday: sweet, merciful off-day.

Not exactly the situation you want going into Boston, is it? And that doesn’t even get into this team’s predilection for extra-inning games lately.

Of course, even if this game does come back tonight, it’s still a problem. Kuroda was being counted on to deliver substantial innings, and he was holding up his part. But he almost certainly won’t be re-entering after such a long delay, meaning that Weaver and the rest of the bullpen crew would be responsible for at least five innings tonight. So while I’ve outlined the three possible roster moves we could see, depending on how things go, what else could we see? Could they bite the bullet and DFA Justin Miller? Come up with a phantom injury to whichever reliever pitches the most? And then call up an AAA retread like Juan Perez or Seth Etherton? Activate Haeger? Reach down to AA for Kenley Jansen?

It’s a mess, no matter which way you slice it. But that’s what makes baseball so much fun.

…right?

Blake DeWitt Makes His Case

Just as I was about to write a post saying that while I’m pleased with Blake DeWitt‘s play this year, sooner or later he’s going to have to show some power, he crushes a three-run shot deep into the night, setting in motion a much-needed offensive showing by the Dodgers in a 12-4 win.  DeWitt’s got an .801 OPS since May 1, along with an improving glove, but he hadn’t been able to leave the yard until last night.

What I really found interesting was this section from Tony Jackson’s recap, though:

“I finally had to call him in at one point and tell him, ‘No, you’re not going (to the minor leagues),”‘ Torre said. “And then I said, ‘We’re going to make another move this weekend, and it’s not going to be you then, either.”‘

If this sounds odd to you, it’s because when I wrote a post defending DeWitt a few weeks ago, when there were rumors he may get sent down rather than Nick Green, I said this:

Again: I don’t really think they’d actually do something that stupid, so this is probably a bit premature. Still, you’d have to think the fact that Torre even acknowledged there’s a possibility it could be DeWitt got back to Blake eventually, which is exactly what he doesn’t need.

Couldn’t a conversation saying “you won’t be sent down” have been avoided had Torre not initially put it out there that DeWitt may be sent down? Just sayin’.

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This is going to require a fuller post in a week or two, but it’s going to get interesting when Vicente Padilla returns. Carlos Monasterios was excellent again last night, earning his third win while somehow striking out zero. I know John Ely wasn’t great his last time out, but he put enough good starts in a row together that I think he’s earned his spot. Monasterios has been surprisingly good for a Rule 5 pick, but he’s also striking out less than 4 per 9 innings. While he’s worth his roster spot, that’s not a recipe for long-term success, so it seems clear to me that he heads back to the long man role when Padilla returns.

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Hey, even Steve Dilbeck thinks it’s time to give up on Garret Anderson!

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I don’t pretend to follow the draft all that closely, though I did have it on in the background as I worked last night. That was enough for me to hear Peter Gammons claim that Chase Utley had never been drafted out of high school (he was in fact drafted by the Dodgers, but chose to attend UCLA) and that “there’s some thought that Matt Wieters may have been retarded.” Sure, he meant “in his development” by various factors, but those are the words that came out of his mouth. High entertainment, and that doesn’t even count the “Bud Selig & Harold Reynolds Traveling Road Show”.

So when the Dodgers chose Texas high school righty Zach Lee, it was admittedly the first time I’d heard of him. Yet it didn’t take long for me to learn all I needed to know about him: that he’s a fantastically talented athletic pitcher who’s going to require a truckload of money to skip out on his commitment to play quarterback at LSU. Since the Dodgers aren’t exactly known for having “truckloads of money” right now, except to pay the McCourt children and divorce lawyers with, this seems like a bizarre choice.

Thoughts from people more invested in scouting than I back this up, with the most ominous thought at the bottom…

Fangraphs:

A top quarterback prospect from Texas, it will clearly take a lot ($$$) to sway Lee away from his commitment to Louisiana State University. A team drafting Lee in the first round will have to have a pretty good feel on his signability. Lee has a three pitch repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up. His arm slot tends to wander at times. Thanks to his focus on the football field, the right-hander is still raw but he does display solid control for his age. (Marc Hulet)

Tiger Bait Interview (via MOKM):

“At this point I’m leaning a lot more to toward college,” Lee said. “I think the opportunity to be able to go in and possibly compete for a starting job early in football and also to be able to compete and play for the baseball team – both elite programs – is pretty hard to pass up along with getting an education on top of it.”

Keith Law (emphasis mine):

The Los Angeles Dodgers took Zach Lee, described by one draft-room source of mine as “the most unsignable player in the draft,” and I’ve spoken to several other sources who speculated that they may have taken him knowing they couldn’t sign him with the intention of getting the compensatory pick next year when, they hope, they have more money to spend in the draft. Lee has spurned inquiries from several teams and indicated that he’d prefer to go to LSU to play football, although if he does sign, the Dodgers have perhaps the best athlete among pitchers in this draft, a right-hander with an excellent delivery and a chance for three above-average pitches.

Less than 24 hours after the draft, and we’re already speculating that the Dodgers simply decided to punt, thanks to the divorce. Hooray…?

Now Taking Applications…

In my frustration over the horrendous yet predictable outing by Ramon Ortiz last night, I said that I didn’t know who should start the next time around, but that it couldn’t be him. That’s a little unfair of me; if I’m going to say there’s a problem, I should at least offer a solution, right? Well, in the comments of that post, I got to discussing alternatives to Ortiz and… well, it’s ugly.

First, the good news.  The next time the 5th starter spot comes up again is Monday, which is conveniently an offday. So long as Joe Torre doesn’t do something stupid like push everyone back a day and just lets the Ortiz spot be skipped, we can avoid the issue for another turn through the rotation. The bad news is, that spot would next come up on May 29th, in Colorado of all places. So not only is no one beating down the door to get the job, it’s in the worst possible location. You’d think that with well-regarded prospects like James McDonald, Scott Elbert, and Josh Lindblom in AAA, at least one would be worthy of the job, but a quick look at their recent appearances says otherwise.  Granted, ABQ is a hitter’s park, but that’s not enough to excuse numbers so ugly that McDonald’s 5.77 ERA is the best of the top four starters.

McDonald did throw five scoreless in the outing before this. But damn, these trends are not going in the right direction.

Elbert’s done a better job at keeping runs off the board, for sure… but look at the walk numbers and tell me that’s not terrifying. On the season he’s walked 28 batters in 32.1 innings. No wonder he’s not getting past five innings.

Lindblom’s interesting, because while his season stats look lousy (6.05 ERA), he’s got a nice 39/14 K/BB ratio. That said, he’s coming off two lousy starts himself (including walking six in four innings), so it’s not like he’s forcing the Dodgers’ hand here.


Ha! And to think I was worried about him getting a callup when I saw the team in New York. What an absolute disaster he’s been; if anything, he should be worried about sticking with the Isotopes, much less making it to the bigs.

The remaining starts in ABQ were split between John Ely, who we already know all about, and Tim Corcoran, who hasn’t been in the bigs since 2007 and has made just three starts in AAA. So there’s no help coming from there, and there’s no one in AA worth calling up (sidenote: all spring, I had my “NRI invite list” on the sidebar, and I’d cross names out as they got cut or shipped out. I could never figure out what happened to John Koronka, who I disliked even the non-roster signing of, and then never heard from again. At the time, I wrote, “Man, he sounds unqualified to even try out for the Isotopes.” So what happened to him? He’s in AA ball, allowing a 1.500 WHIP. It’s time to find a new career, I think.)

Granted: the start is still over a week away, so it’s possible that McDonald, Elbert, or Lindblom rip off a nice start or two and get back in the team’s good graces. Possible, but extremely unlikely, so help isn’t going to be coming from AAA.

That being the case, you’re left with two options. First, there’s Charlie Haeger, who will be nearing the end of his rehab stint by then. He’s been good but not great in his two starts for Inland Empire, and it seems that his “injury” has healed. That said, even I’m not dying to see him back in the rotation, and especially not in Coors Field.

So there’s only one right answer here, and it’s the answer Joe Torre dreads the most. You have to start Carlos Monasterios. The Rule 5 pick has been surprisingly effective as the team’s longman, not allowing more than one earned run in any of his twelve appearances. With the bullpen rounding back into form and Jeff Weaver back, Monasterios’ role as a reliever has lessened, and he already showed he could survive as an emergency starter, allowing one run in four innings against Pittsburgh.

Does anyone really think that Ortiz can outperform Monasterios right now? Of course not. With the limited options, it’s the only right choice – and then what you do is DFA Ortiz as soon as Haeger’s rehab stint is up, pushing Haeger to the bullpen and perhaps using him as a tag-team partner assuming that Monasterios won’t go deep into the games.

Who Needs Pitching and Defense?

Okay, so maybe this team can’t pitch. Maybe they can’t field. Almost certainly, those weaknesses are going to come back to bite them in a big, stinking, painful way. There’s going to be plenty of time to discuss that, but tonight we’re going to focus on what just might be the most high-powered offense any of us have ever seen wearing the Dodger blue. It’s getting to absurd levels, and I mean that in the best way possible. Look at the lineup, and realize that 7 of the 8 regulars are carrying batting averages over .300. 7! And the one who isn’t – Blake DeWitt – merely has a .404 OBP.

Matt Kemp may be the single most dangerous hitter in baseball right now, to the point where I’m getting prettttty close to not issuing my standard “non-Pujols division” disclaimer. He’s tied for the MLB lead in homers, he leads MLB in RBI, and he’s one game short of having a hit on every single day of the season. (And even in that game, on April 9 in Florida, he had a walk and three deep flyballs.) He’s homered in 5 of the last 8 games, and his slugging percentage right now is .750. If that number doesn’t mean anything to you, just know that if he was able to keep it up throughout the season, it’d be tied for the 11th highest mark in baseball. Ever.

Here’s the thing, though. Kemp’s OPS is 1.141. That’s pretty damn good, good enough for 9th in baseball (and yes, I realize that small sample size bells are screaming in my ear. But you watch the pitching staff give up dingers and the defense make errors, and tell me I can’t enjoy this.) But 9th in baseball also makes him 3rd in his own outfield. Andre Ethier, slacking tonight with only 3 hits including a homer, is 7th on that list at 1.149. Manny Ramirez, who only got on base 8 times in a row, is 5th at 1.194. Again, I know it’s early, but Manny’s line right now is .421/.510/.684. Where are all the cries about how he’s no good after his suspension now? It’s almost like exactly what we all said had happened – that the ball he took off the hand from Homer Bailey had injured him – was true. Who’d have thought?

But it’s not just the outfield, which we all knew was going to be great. Russell Martin got two hits tonight, pushing his line to .317/.442/.439. Rafael Furcal, who many of us were worried had seen his best days, had 3 hits and 4 RBI tonight – he’s hitting .362/.439/.483. James Loney still hasn’t homered, but he’s at .306 after his 2 hit, 2 RBI night. And don’t forget Casey Blake, at .319/.373/.532.

The point is, this group is good. Real good - perhaps historically so. So while no, Manny’s not going to hit .421, and Kemp’s not going to keep up the 81-homer pace he’s currently on, we could be in for a hell of a season. At the very least, a lot of 4-hour, 12-8 games, since the pitching and defense will make us want to step in front of a bus.

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I hate to ask, but I have to – particularly because I did on Twitter before it happened. Why, when you’re up 7 runs in a laugher of a game, did Joe Torre need to bring in Jeff Weaver in the 8th? Carlos Monasterios hadn’t pitched since Saturday, and it’s the perfect opportunity to allow him to eat up some low-pressure innings. But no, Torre had to go to Weaver for approximately the billionth time (okay, 9th), and Weaver made it through exactly one batter before straining what looked to be his hamstring. I get that managers don’t like Rule 5 picks, and prefer to avoid them at all costs, but if a 7-run lead in the 8th inning isn’t good enough, what is?

Well, That Didn’t Go Exactly As Planned

It’s only one game, but the season is pretty much over. The Dodgers don’t have an ace – and in Vicente Padilla, they may not even have a 5th starter. They don’t have any relievers, since George Sherrill and Ramon Ortiz each got lit up, and they don’t even have any offense, since the top 3 in the lineup - Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, and Andre Ethier – combined to leave 10 men on base.

There may be 161 games remaining, but this team is just playing out the string. If you can’t hold the Pirates, of all teams, to less than double digits, what happens when you go into Philadelphia or Colorado – particularly when the Rockies got off on the right foot while winning in Milwaukee?

It’s time to give up.

Oh, sorry. I was just channeling my inner Kyle Chandler to see what tomorrow’s papers will read. Today’s opener sure wasn’t pretty, and no one’s arguing that. Let’s just get out ahead of the doom-and-gloom and look at what this really means. Over the long run, it’s not all that big a deal, since it is just one game. Opening Day starter or not, Vicente Padilla is this team’s 4th starter, and while it’s certainly important that he step up this season, he doesn’t have to be the top starter on the club. I’m pretty sure that if this exact game had happened in the 4th game of the season rather than the 1st, the feeling wouldn’t be nearly so bad.

As for today’s game in a nutshell… yikes. Padilla didn’t make it out of the 5th, despite throwing 93 pitches. Allowing 7 runs is bad enough, but it was almost worse than that, because he just looked bad. He didn’t make it through a single inning without allowing a baserunner, and even though I’ll admit the slight possibility that Garrett Jones may be the unholy lovechild of Roy Hobbs and Babe Ruth, he’s probably not going to keep up the 324 homer pace he’s on this season. Then you had Russell Martin, who made a fielding error and foolishly got caught in a rundown on a ground ball in front of him.

Even more concerning than that mess was the self-immolation of George Sherrill, who was so brilliant for the Dodgers last season. After an entire spring of hearing him claim that his mechanical issues were “no big deal” and that he’d be fine when the season started, he came in and after getting two quick outs, allowed a walk, a double, and a three-run homer to Ryan Church Doumit. With Hong-Chih Kuo on the DL and Scott Elbert trying to be a starter in ABQ, the Dodgers may be have a serious lefty problem in the pen if Sherrill can’t get straightened out, and quick. (Insert “why was Eric Stults given up for nothing” complaint here.)

It’s not all bad news, though; Rule 5 rookie Carlos Monasterios made his MLB debut by contributing a tidy 1-2-3 inning, the only Dodger pitcher who can make that claim today. Plus, the offense was actually pretty decent, as Manny, Kemp, DeWitt, and Blake all collected two hits, while Furcal and Martin each got on base twice. That’s the kind of offense you can live with.

Tomorrow’s an offday tomorrow, and it’s almost certainly going to suck. Just remember, though; most teams move on to Game 2 with a lesser starter. Since the Dodgers are running out Kershaw on Wednesday, they’ll be improving the quality of starting pitching by about 100000%.