Desperately Looking For That Silver Lining

It’s been very negative around here lately, no? “The McCourts are a joke.” “The Dodgers are poor.” “While other teams go after John Lackey and Chone Figgins, the only Dodger rumors are for broken-down replacement players like Kameron Loe, Nick Green, and Alfredo Amezaga.”

Clearly, these are not the best of times for Dodger fans, and there’s the strong possibility that it only gets worse from here. But if you squint hard enough and put your hands in your ears, there’s a possibility that there may be one good thing coming out of this, and it’s not just watching the Diamondbacks make silly trades that give them a more expensive, less talented team. It’s thanks to comments that Ned Colletti made to various reporters (helpfully collected at Dodger Thoughts):

From a personnel standpoint, I’d say the main Dodgers news of the day was Ned Colletti telling reporters that he thinks one of the two vacancies in the starting rotation can be filled by one of the in-house candidates, including James McDonald, Scott Elbert, Josh Lindblom, Charlie Haeger and Ramon Troncoso. (Yes, a long reliever could potentially be converted into a starting pitcher.) Details can be found with Dylan Hernandez of The Times and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Bear with me here, because this isn’t exactly the same kind of excitement that goes with acquiring Curtis Granderson or trying to trade for Roy Halladay, and it’s also very possible – if not extremely likely – that Colletti is just indulging in some gamesmanship by trying to position himself as not desperately needing several starters.

Still, for how many years have we been dying to see young players rather than veterans? You might say that a large part of the Dodger core last season was homegrown prospects, and you’d be right. Remember, though, those guys for the most part either were successful immediately upon reaching the bigs (Billingsley, Martin) or had to wait until less-talented older players got out of their way (Ethier, Loney).

So think about the possibilities here. We’ve been supporting giving Charlie Haeger a role constantly. We were dying for James McDonald to get the #5 job out of spring training last year. There’s a dozen teams that would fall all over themselves to give an arm like Scott Elbert a shot. Josh Lindblom was the surprise of the spring last year, and Ramon Troncoso was a stalwart of the big league bullpen. It’s not as though there’s not talent here.

Depending on who else is signed/acquired and which of this group really does get a chance, you could be seeing a Dodger rotation that is 80% under-30, with the potential for 100% when Hiroki Kuroda gets hurt again. It might not be the recipe for a championship in 2010, but it sure is better than watching Josh Fogg, Kris Benson, or Noah Lowry.

Free James McDonald! And, Save Delwyn Young!

So! I go away for the weekend and…

* Shawn Estes gets cut. Finally! Of all of the old and busted veterans brought in to compete for the #5 role, he was by far the least effective, so the only surprise here is that it took this long. Oh, sure, there’s still the question of whether he chooses to go to Albuquerque or take his release, but does that really matter? I particularly like the way Ken Gurnick framed Estes’ delusions vs. reality in the dodgers.com story:

“It’s disappointing and a little shocking, to be honest. I still feel I’ve got a lot left in the tank, I’ve got the stuff to get big league hitters out and still feel I can be a starter.”

Estes pitched two scoreless innings Saturday, then couldn’t get out of a third inning, allowing a pair of runs. He has an 8.44 ERA in five Major League exhibition games, allowing 19 hits in 10 2/3 innings and a .380 opponents batting average.

 Well, Shawn, you’re right. What could the club possibly have been thinking?

mcdonaldspring.jpg* James McDonald is the man! I’ve been hoping that McDonald would win this competition for some time (see: here and here) but I never really thought he’d have a prayer. But after blowing away Cleveland yesterday, facing the minimum nine batters over three innings, he’s squarely put himself in the mix – and if you believe Tony Jackson, McDonald’s actually in the lead. I’ve always felt the reason that they didn’t want McDonald winning the spot is that the team preferred to not have 3/5 of its starting rotation being under 25, though of course I would love that. Besides, as I mentioned previously, McDonald’s not that young – just a few months younger than Billingsley. He’s been the Dodger Minor League Pitcher of the Year in each of the last two seasons, and considering that the 5th starter spot comes up only four times in April, isn’t that the perfect time to get him going? Let’s go James!

* Eric Milton implodes! After Jason Schmidt was officially scratched from the competition because there’s not enough time to get his stamina up, I’d figured that Milton was the front-runner thanks to his mediocre spring. Yes, “mediocre” – that’s what qualified for winning this thing. Until…

Milton also allowed one earned run over three innings, but it looked a lot worse — as he actually allowed eight runs, though seven were unearned due to a pair of errors, one of them his. He gave up six hits, including one home run and two doubles. It was his second consecutive shaky outing, and the third such performance in his past four appearances.

“You know, in that inning, we didn’t play very well behind him,” Torre said. “But he got hit pretty hard.”

Well, thanks for playing Eric. We have some lovely parting gifts for you at the door. 

* Josh Lindblom is awesome! Are we sensing a trend here? Something along the lines of “old, busted dudes need to step aside so that young, talented players can contribute”? Oh sure, I’m specifically just talking about McDonald & Lindblom vs. Estes & Milton right now, but how many times have we been over this through the years? Just the thought of “Luis Gonzalez vs. Andre Ethier” makes my blood run cold.

Anyway, Lindblom is the new “it” guy in camp, taking advantage of his surprise promotion to big league camp by putting down six of seven hitters in each of his two appearances. He’s only 21, with just 34 pro IP under his belt, and a year ago he was the closer at Purdue, so he’s not going to win the 5th starter competition – though his name is in the conversation. Honestly, he’s been a Dodger for such a short time and in such low levels that he’s one of those guys you just don’t know all that much about. Check out his prospect profile over at FNCN for more info, but know this: I’ll take a talented 21-year-old over a has-been/never-was 35-year-old eight days a week, and “veteran goodness” be damned. Talent > experience. Don’t believe me? Now paging the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, please step to the white courtesy phone.

* Juan Pierre toys with my emotions! Well, more accurately, Joe Cowley of the Chicago-Sun Times, who Twittered:

We’re hearing Juan Pierre could be South Side bound. Not the most reliable source, however.

First of all, can we all agree that Twitter sucks? It’s completely stupid, and the fact that some people are calling it a “Google killer” is absolutely mind-blowing. Second of all, is there a way to link to a specific post on it? If not, it makes blogging harder. (Well, that was quick. Amanda chimes in with the answer about 30 seconds after I posted this. Thanks!) Anyway, of course Cowley soon rescinded that statement, because who in their right mind would want to trade for Juan Pierre? I never expected it to be true, but even the thought of it got my heart racing.

If the White Sox were into it, I’d trade them the 1959 World Series as long as they took Pierre too. 

* Hang on to Delwyn Young! I tried to start a “Save Delwyn Young!” campaign last week, and Delwyn’s plight appears to be in the public eye, because now Jon @ DodgerThoughts has picked up on both Tony Jackson and Ken Gurnick commenting on it:

Manny Ramirez will need regular backup in the outfield this season, either to protect a) him from injury or b) the Dodgers from late-inning fielding mishaps. Nevertheless, Tony Jackson of the Daily News and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com suggest the Dodgers might carry only four pure outfielders on opening day, because Doug Mientkiewicz and Casey Blake could also serve as backup outfielders. 

That makes Jackson think out-of-options Delwyn Young might be a casualty as a result, even though Young continues to have a solid enough Spring Training that should have done nothing to dissuade the team that he could be of value as a pinch-hitter.

I can’t even comprehend how much of a mistake this would be. While I could go on and on about how the team should keep only eleven pitchers, that ship has long since sailed, so we’ll skip that. The team is going to have five bench players, three of whom are Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, and Pierre. That’s set in stone: got it. Plus one more infielder who can play shortstop, so that’s Blake DeWitt, Chin-Lung Hu, or Juan Castro. Which means your choice for that last man may come right down to these three contenders:

1) A switch-hitting 27-year-old who’s done nothing but tear up the minors. (Young)

2) A lefty-swinging 35-year-old first baseman who’s not without his uses, but is somewhat redundant on a team that already has a lefty-swinging first baseman – and don’t give me this “is a backup outfielder” business, because 13 career games over 11 seasons isn’t that convincing. (Eyechart)

3) A 37-year-old middle infielder, and it doesn’t really matter what handedness he is because he hits like he has no hands at all. His career offensive numbers are atrocious, and while I don’t mind the idea of a good defender at those spots, guys like that aren’t exactly difficult to come by. And no, I don’t care that he’s hitting .475 this spring. That doesn’t undo 14 seasons of a 56 OPS+. (Castro) 

SAVE DELWYN YOUNG!