Remember The Last Time Hiroki Kuroda Pitched in Cincinnati?

June 15, 2010 – “A Weird, Wet, Worrisome Win”. After pointing out how awesome it was that the team won 12-0 and that Rafael Furcal had five hits and two great defensive plays, we get into Hiroki Kuroda and Joe Torre:

Yet, all I can think about are the beyond perplexing and downright disturbing decisions by Joe Torre. Not to focus on the negative in what was otherwise a fun game, but his choices here could have a far-reaching impact on the future.

Remember, Billingsley’s been on the DL for about six hours, long enough for me to write a post discussing how close the Dodgers are to a full-blown rotation emergency. That means it should be fresh in your mind that above all else, you protect your remaining starters, because if anything happens to any of them, this club is in enormous trouble. So while it was disappointing that Hiroki Kuroda‘s outstanding start was interrupted by the rain on a night you’d hoped he could give you innings, you happily take your 6-0 lead and you toss out a Justin Miller, or a George Sherrill, or a Jeff Weaver, and you run them out there until their arms fall off, knowing that you’ll need your important arms later this week and that Travis Schlichting is on his way to Ohio tomorrow.

What you absolutely do not do, under any circumstances, is run your 35-year-old starter with a history of injuries back to the mound after he’d been down for well over 2.5 hours (the delay was 2:24, but the Dodgers were batting before and after).

So Kuroda went back out for the fifth, and predictably loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. He managed to get out of it without allowing a run, but not before needing 27 pitches to do so and nearly letting the Reds back into the game.

Letting Kuroda go back out, at an enormous risk, bought the Dodgers… well, what, exactly? He pitched just one inning after the delay, so the argument that Torre wanted to save the bullpen for this week’s gauntlet doesn’t fly. No, the most likely scenario is also the most terrifying one: Torre wanted Kuroda to qualify for the win. You know, a “win”, an utterly meaningless statistic, but even less meaningful to a manager whose only responsibility here should be to get his team out of this game without any major injuries.

It’s almost unspeakably reckless.

Kuroda, to his credit, held up fine after the game, but it doesn’t change the decision-making. I’ll say this: Don Mattingly hasn’t been perfect, but when you consider the ridiculous amount of injuries he’s had to deal with, I like him approximately 100000x times more than Torre. If not more.

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Today over at Reds blog Reds Reporter, I answered some Dodger questions. Fun comment section over there.

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Update: …and then there’s this from Ken Gurnick.

The Dodgers are expected to activate reliever Vicente Padilla from the disabled list Friday, but a corresponding move is not yet clear.

One possibility involves starter Jon Garland, who was not on the team flight out of Los Angeles on Thursday. If Garland is the one, it could mean a start for rookie Rubby De La Rosa, who has been used exclusively in relief since he was promoted, but has been and is considered a starting pitcher.

Earlier this week, we thought for sure it would be Ramon Troncoso, Javy Guerra, or Josh Lindblom going down for Padilla, but this is certainly news. Garland has been dealing with a blister problem, though I can’t say for sure if that’s the injury that would disable him here. Or, it could be nothing at all: Garland isn’t scheduled to pitch until Tuesday in Philadelphia. Not being on the flight could be little more than a personal issue that delays him for a day or two, with him meeting the team over the weekend or in Philadelphia on Monday.

Update 2: Okay, maybe Garland is going on the DL. About 50 seconds into this radio hit today, Ned Colletti says that “someone else is going on in the next 24 hours.”

Update 3: Tony Jackson all but confirms it. Garland to DL.

Rained Out


Two innings of baseball were followed by more than two hours of rain delay, before the umpires finally took mercy upon us all and called it a night. That’s too bad for the Dodgers, because it wiped out the unlikeliest run the team will score all season – a Jon Garland single driving in Dioner Navarro, who had doubled. No makeup date announced, though I looked at the upcoming schedule and there’s really no good choices since the Dodgers don’t go back to Pittsburgh.

It’s almost too bad, because I spent much of the rain delay wondering just how hilarious this game might end up being if Garland was unable to return. The Dodger bullpen is already down a man with Blake Hawksworth injured, and Matt Guerrier was likely unavailable after pitching three of the previous four nights. It’s uncertain whether Vicente Padilla would have been available for a back-to-back appearance, which would have left seven innings or more to be sucked up by Lance Cormier, Scott Elbert, Mike MacDougal, and Kenley Jansen. Which: yikes.

Dodger Talk “Rain Delay Theater” was not without its uses, however, and I’m not just talking about the guy who wanted to bring back Milton Bradley or the guy who claimed to be a fan since 1948 yet wanted to know why the club was wearing a black #4 memorial patch.

In response to a question about why Elbert was recalled over Rubby De La Rosa, co-host Josh Suchon passed along a note from Ned Colletti saying that de la Rosa would be the next man in line if a starter were to go down, but that he’d likely not be recalled to join the bullpen. de la Rosa has been very good in Chattanooga, with a 44/12 K/BB ratio in 34.1 innings, but I imagine this is not to be taken as a blanket statement that isn’t subject to change. We can’t yet know what the circumstances will be the next time an extra starter will be needed. It could be next week, or it could be late August. It could be a spot start, or it could be a long-term opening. The Dodgers could still be hanging in the race, or they could be dead and buried, 15 games out. The point is, while it’s great that Colletti thinks that highly of de la Rosa, it’s still just as likely that we’ll see John Ely or Tim Redding the next time a starter is needed, depending on how things have played out at that point.

You’ve Seen This Game Before

If you didn’t watch today’s game, then you didn’t miss anything you haven’t already seen, unless you’ve somehow managed to miss the awful San Diego camouflage uniforms before. Seriously, let’s run though the list of what happened this afternoon, and tell me that I couldn’t be describing 90% of the other games we’ll see this year, wins or losses:

Part of the Dodger scoring came from friendly opposition defense. Just as we saw in the opening San Francisco series, some of the Dodger scoring came directly as a result of poor defense. After Matt Kemp singled and stole second, James Loney grounded weakly back to pitcher Aaron Harang, who attempted to get Kemp at third but threw wildly to the fence, allowing Kemp to score. The first run wasn’t exactly a fireworks display either; Tony Gwynn singled, stole second, was sacrificed to third, and came home on a fielder’s choice.

The outfield provided all of the offense. Kemp, Andre Ethier (on his 29th birthday) and Gwynn had the only four Dodger hits and both runs, with Ethier getting the only RBI and Kemp & Gwynn each notching steals. Kemp and Ethier are off to good starts, but Gwynn’s been a pleasant early-season surprise too, even collecting his first walk today. This kind of production from the outfielders is great, but it’s only going to get you so far when…

Juan Uribe, James Loney, Rod Barajas & Aaron Miles provided absolutely nothing. Nothing. The foursome combined to go 0-for-12, with Loney ending the game by grounding into a double play, and with Barajas the only one who isn’t showing at least 2/3 of his triple-slash line in the .100s. (Jamey Carroll went 0-3 as well, but I’m exempting him here because he’s at least shown some life this season.) I’m still confident that Uribe and Barajas will at least start to add some power to their generally lousy production otherwise, so we can be a bit patient there. Loney, well, we know all about – completely unrelated, Jerry Sands hit his second homer of the season for ABQ today – and Miles has no place on a big-league roster whatsoever.

Don Mattingly’s batting orders will always confound me. I don’t particularly like the idea of putting Gwynn leadoff, but I suppose on a day where Rafael Furcal is sitting I can see the case for it. But Aaron Miles hitting second, really? The guy who is, by one measure, the fourth-worst player in baseball over the last eight seasons? I get, of course, the idea that batting orders generally don’t mean as much as we like to think they do, but Miles shouldn’t even be on the team. Letting him generate outs in front of Ethier and Kemp, particularly while Carroll is buried at 8th, makes no sense.

Pitchers who don’t belong on major league rosters aren’t going to produce. Actually, that’s a bit harsh on John Ely, because his line of four earned runs in 5.2 innings leaves him with an ugly 6.35 ERA, with no expectation to have a chance to change that any time soon, but it obscures what was mostly a decent spot start. Ely’s basically the club’s 7th starter, but managed to work into the sixth inning having allowed just two runs before running into trouble. There’s plenty of teams who can’t get that out of their third starter, and Ely wasn’t going to win today anyway due to the offense, so overall I’m satisfied with that out of a fill-in guy. Really, I’m referring more to Lance Cormier here, who gave up two hits and a walk in allowing two runs in his one mop-inning.

Now tell me none of that sounds familiar? Of course it does, and it’s partly why the Dodgers have the second-worst run differential in the National League, ahead of only Houston. (That is, of course, also largely due to the 10-0 loss to the Giants, and that’s something that won’t last throughout the season.)

For all of that, of course, the Dodgers did win two out of three in this series, and head to San Francisco tomorrow with Clayton Kershaw on the mound against Madison Bumgarner.

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Before the game, Hector Gimenez was placed on the disabled list with an all-too-convenient knee injury, opening up a spot for Ely. I joke about the timing because the spot was needed and we hadn’t heard anything about this until now, but Tony Jackson reports that A.J. Ellis was already packing his bags for Albuquerque before being told to stop, so apparently it’s real. Ellis is more valuable than Gimenez anyway, so I consider that a win.

Ely will almost certainly be returned to AAA in time for tomorrow’s game, with an extra arm (Ramon Troncoso, Scott Elbert, Travis Schlichting) or additional bat (Jamie Hoffmann, Russ Mitchell) coming up to round out the roster for the week. Whomever does come up would do well to travel light, since they’d be heading back down for Jon Garland on Friday. Garland allowed six hits and three runs in 4.2 innings for Rancho Cucamonga in a rehab start today.

There’s No Such Thing As Pitching Depth

For all the happy thoughts about the seemingly solid Dodger starting rotation, I never thought that the front five of Clayton Kershaw / Chad Billingsley / Ted Lilly / Hiroki Kuroda / Jon Garland was going to last through the entire season. You knew that Vicente Padilla would get some starts when injuries hit, and it wouldn’t stop there. John Ely was going to get a crack. Blake Hawksworth, perhaps, or Carlos Monasterios, or a retread like Tim Redding. That’s just a fact of life.

But if you really thought you’d be dipping into the extra guys a week before St. Patrick’s Day, raise your hand, because you’ve won a prize, inasmuch as watching Tim Redding pitch can be a prize.  That’s because Bill Shaikin, Ken Gurnick, and half of my Twitter feed are reporting that Jon Garland just left his start in the second inning clutching his side. As Shaikin notes, it for all the world looked like an oblique injury, and that’s generally a recovery that’s measured in weeks, not days. (Update: Shaikin is reporting that Garland says it is indeed his oblique.)

Let’s be clear right now that we don’t know yet the details are going to be, other than that he came out. So any speculation on who might replace him is far, far too premature… but that’s certainly not going to stop us from doing it anyway. Padilla was the obvious answer, yet he’s down with his own injury, so that leaves with Ely, last season’s short-lived hero, or Redding, who didn’t pitch in the bigs last year and had a 5.10 ERA in 2009. Each have had excellent starts to the spring, with Redding scattering six hits over eight scoreless innings, and Ely striking out seven against zero walks in six scoreless innings. There’s still plenty of camp left, but it’s hard for me to root against Ely.

There’s also another option, one that I was thinking about but was beaten to the Twitter punch about by Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA. Since the Dodgers have several off-days in the first portion of the season, they could conceivably make it until April 10 or 12 without needing a fifth starter. If that’s the case, they could avoid Xavier Paul‘s out-of-options status by carrying him to start the year, with Garland on the DL. They could then make a move to either activate Garland or recall Ely/Redding for that game.

That probably wouldn’t do much to help Paul’s long-term Dodger fortune, though it at would at least allow him the opportunity to stick around for two more weeks in case another hitter comes up with an injury, and as we’ve seen this spring, that’s not altogether unlikely.

So while we wait for news on Garland, keep these two nuggets in mind. #1, if you didn’t like Garland, this might help have him not pitch enough innings to get that 2012 option to vest, and #2, rather than be disappointed that the extra depth didn’t last, just imagine what things would have looked like if the team hadn’t come to camp with six starters. Ugly, right?

How Do You Feel About Juan Uribe in 2013? (Updated)

I didn’t really want to talk about Juan Uribe again, especially bumping Vin’s birthday down the page, but with Jon Heyman reporting that the club is close to finalizing a 3/$21m deal with him, I suppose people are going to want to discuss it.

Before we get into the epic freakout that giving a mediocre player a three-year committment is sure to kick off, let’s at least note the positives here – and yes, there are some. Such as…

1) Signing Uribe would almost certainly mean that Ryan Theriot gets non-tendered. That doesn’t make giving Uribe three years okay, of course, but any solution that ends with Theriot leaving town has at least some merit.

2) It does improve the team somewhat  in 2011. Unfortunately, that’s more because Theriot is awful and not because Uribe is all that great. He’s got far more power and he’s a better defender, and he was worth 2.8 and 3.2 fWAR over the last two years. I’m on record as saying that I don’t think Ivan DeJesus is ready in 2010, and Uribe is near the top of a bad list of options to fill the role. The Dodgers were a team short on power and fielding last year, and this helps with both for 2011.

3) It gives the club flexibility going forward. I hate giving Uribe three guaranteed years – more on that in a second – but don’t forget how in flux the Dodger infield is. Besides for the big hole at 2B, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake are each entering the final guaranteed years of their contracts. There’s no obvious successor at 3B coming from within, and while we all hope Dee Gordon is ready to take over SS in 2012, he’s very raw and it’s not guaranteed. So Uribe’s flexibility could help the team in years to come.

Now that we’ve got the positives out of the way… what in the hell is this team doing giving three years* and $22m to Juan Uribe?! (*standard caveat of “it’s just a report, and not an official deal yet” applies.) Uribe’s never had even a two-year deal in his life. He was quite good in 2005 with the White Sox (111 OPS+, 23 HR), but after four consecutive years of not having an OBP over .301, he was cut loose after 2008. The Giants got him for 1 year, $1m in 2009, and he was quite good again – 112 OPS+ – so they resigned him for 1 year, $3.2m in 2010. Other than increasing his HR, he completely regressed  at he plate. His OPS fell from .824 to .749, and his wOBA fell from .351 to .322.

That doesn’t make him useless, but as I’ve said every other time I’ve talked about him, I like him for one year and I’d accept an option for a second. But now we’re taking a guy whose age 25-28 seasons were all basically a waste, had one good year at 29 and couldn’t quite keep it up at 30 three guaranteed years? Why? Because he was a Giant? Because he hit a homer in the World Series (despite doing little else in October)?

Look at it this way. I didn’t like giving Casey Blake a third guaranteed year after 2008, and Blake was at least coming off of seven consecutive years of solid average-to-above-average play. Uribe gets credit for playing the middle infield where Blake cannot, but he’s coming off of.. well, you know. Yet he also gets three years, more money, and Uribe has his share of questions about his weight and work ethic which Blake did not. Besides, we all know the Dodgers like to backload their contracts, so it won’t be an even 7/7/7 (ish) split. Look forward to paying Uribe $10m in 2013!

And the question must be asked: what now? The Dodgers have already spent far more than any of us expected they would this offseason, but there’s still a lot of holes. They still don’t have a catcher or a left fielder, and they still have mediocre production from first base and third base. Now I’ll reserve my judgement on that until I see what shakes out in the rest of the offseason, but if Juan Uribe is your big acquisition to fix an offense that was awful last year, that’s just not good enough.

I suppose it all comes down to this. In a vacuum, I like Jon Garland‘s one-plus-one deal. For 2011 only, I like Juan Uribe. But you’ve just committed (assuming Garland hits his 190 IP to trigger his option, which is very likely) $35-$38m (Garland has $3m in 2011 incentives) to two guys who are useful pieces, but hardly gamechangers. If you had $38m to spend over the next three years… well, that’s pretty damn close to buying Adam Dunn, isn’t it?

For over a year now, we’ve complained that the McCourt divorce case is hindering the baseball operations team from making the moves they needed. Perhaps we were shortsighted; the big downside of having money to spend is that this team now has money to spend.

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Update, 1:45pm PST: Hey, today just keeps getting better and better! Jon Garland was just on Jim Bowden’s XM radio show. Bowden tweets:

Jon Garland just told us that teams wouldn’t offer him a multi-year deal because of MRI’s and Physicians opinions that he would break-down

I didn’t hear this live, so it’s possible something was lost in the translation, but it’s an eye-opener. On one hand, this seems highly unlikely, because Garland is known for his durability – and because what player would admit that?! On the other hand, it’s not like Ned Colletti’s never knowingly signed an injured pitcher before.