And Hey, Maybe Kevin Elster’s Available Too!

Ken Rosenthal has a new “Full Count” video up over at FOXsports.com. Which, thanks a ton, FOX, for not allowing me to embed your videos here. That’s helpful. Now I’m going to have to point out that as stupid an idea as it is to have Rosenthal talking under what appears to be a rain delay, it’s even stupider when the rain effect is so bad that it just looks like the highway speeding by under his face. Like forcing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on us wasn’t bad enough.

Anyway, Rosenthal has two tidbits of Dodger-related information, which I will present to you in reverse order, because it serves my purposes.

It no longer is a given that the team will exercise Brad Penny’s option for next season, and that could potentially lead to a trade before July 31st. The Dodgers might just prefer to get something for Penny in return rather than pay him a $2 million buyout at the end of the season. Penny’s ERA in May? 8.82.

Now, we have no idea whether this is really the feeling in the Dodger front office, or just Ken Rosenthal trying to come up with some news he heard from the ex-girlfriend of the cousin of the mailman of Ned Colletti’s high school math teacher. Doesn’t this seem unlikely in just about every way? I can’t argue that Penny has been anything but a huge disappointment this year, of course. But I find it hard to believe that they would trade him or not pick up his option, although I would admit that if there had been any chance of him getting a long-term extension that’s gone out the window for now. Why trade him? His value is at the absolute lowest it’s been in years, so that doesn’t make sense – and it forces the team to rely on either Clayton Kershaw or Jason Schmidt down the stretch. As for not picking up his option, that’s silly. His option next year is for $8.75 million. You tell me where you’re going to find a guy who started the last two All Star games and finished third in the Cy Young voting last year on a one year deal for under $9 million. Of course you pick it up.

Besides, Penny hasn’t been a complete disaster here. We’re not talking about the Andruw Jones of pitching. Don’t forget, he won four out of his first six starts this year. As recently as May 2 – a month ago tomorrow – he was 4-2 with a 3.29 ERA, having not allowed more than four earned runs in any of his first seven starts. Of course, he’s gone off the cliff since then; in his ensuing five starts he has four losses and a no-decision, having not allowed less than four earned runs in any of them. While again, he hasn’t been effective, there’s something to be said for his just plain being unlucky, too: in the last month, his BABIP (batting average on balls in play, generally considered to be a stat that the pitcher has little control over) is .391, which is completely unsustainable and points to either a ton of hits falling in the wrong places and/or the defense not helping him out.

Hey, there’s always the possibility he doesn’t come out of this or reveals an injury, and if either of those happen then maybe I rethink my position. But I think it’s insane to consider getting rid of a pitcher with a good history of sucess and an incredibly reasonable option for next year based on what is essentially a lousy month.

Back to Rosenthal:

The Dodgers talks with Rafael Furcal about a long-term contract were growing serious just as Furcal was sidelined by his lower back strain. Now the Dodgers might need to think twice about locking up another frequently-injured player long-term.

This is really going to be a tough call. We’ve all seen how brutal this offense is without Furcal, and especially how bad Chin-Lung Hu has been at the plate, so this might really be shaping up to be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-dont situation. For his part, Hu says it’s all mental:

“I think too much about where my legs should be, about having my hands up,” Hu said. “I forget about what the pitcher wants to pitch to me.” He’s 0 for his last 15, while his batting average has sunk to .170. He should be taking at-bats at Triple-A right now, but the Dodgers can’t afford to send him down with Rafael Furcal sidelined.

Tony Jackson also reports that the Dodgers are trying to add a veteran shortstop, as the two-headed-monster of Hu’s great glove and terrible bat paired with Luis Maza’s adequate bat and mediocre arm just can’t work all season:

Dylan Hernandez, Diamond Leung and I got a few minutes with Ned Colletti in the tunnel after the game. Said he might be getting close to acquiring a veteran utility infielder who could better plug the gap while Furcal is out, or if Furcal is out again later in the season.

He doesn’t mention who, of course. Mlbtraderumors.com has a list of the shortstop trade market going here, but most of those names are starters of varying skill who probably would either not come cheap or not be happy going to a bench role once Furcal comes back. Here’s one veteran infielder I really hope it’s not, though:

Longtime major-league infielder Jose Vizcaino, 39, now a special assistant with the Dodgers, said he hasn’t completely ruled out coming back as a player next season. Originally signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic, Vizcaino spent 18 seasons in the majors with eight different clubs, including two stints with the Dodgers.

He last played in the majors in 2006 with St. Louis, when his career ended because of an injury.

This is going to blow your mind; I looked up his career stats at baseball-reference intending to make a snarky joke like “his career also ended due to being subpar at the game of baseball,” but this is beyond even what I expected. Jose Vizcaino played in parts of 18 seasons between 1989-2006. Jose Vizcaino had a season where he had a 100 OPS+ (i.e., league average for that season)… zero times. Not once. Not only that, other than a 90 OPS+ in 2002, he hasn’t even been within 20% of league average since 1996! But hey, at least he’ll be 40 next season.

Finally, some fantastic news out of the minors: Andy LaRoche has begun playing some second base in AAA! In his first start there last night, he was 1-4, but more importantly didn’t commit an error and even got involved in a 6-4-3 DP. This is something I’ve been on for a while (namely here and here) so I’m glad to see him finally getting some time there.

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