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Category: A.J. Ellis

Kuroda shines, but Roberts' slam wins it in 10th for Arizona

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If that was goodbye, Hiroki Kuroda made it memorable. Then Ryan Roberts added his own memory.

Kuroda will become a free agent at the end of the season, and at age 36, has said he’s uncertain whether he wants to pitch in the majors again next year or return for a final season to Japan.

When Kuroda took the mound Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, everyone knew it might be his final performance as a Dodger. So all he did was go out and throw six scoreless innings, holding Arizona to five hits. While not walking a batter and striking out five. It was Kuroda at his best.

Just so the humble Kuroda didn’t think anything had changed, the Dodgers typically offered modest support, scoring  only one run for him. They finally pushed five across in the 10th, only to see the Diamondbacks come back with six of their own in the bottom of the inning, Roberts' walk-off grand slam leaving Arizona with a stunning 7-6 victory.

Kuroda completed his fourth season with a 13-16 record and a 3.07 earned-run average -– ninth lowest in the National League.

Continue reading »

Matt Kemp going out in style, hits 38th homer in 4-2 victory

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If one significant opportunity has slipped away for Matt Kemp during the season’s final days, that doesn’t mean he’s given up on another.

Kemp’s spectacular season flirted down the stretch with a triple crown, but the past couple of days the batting title has drifted out of reach.

Yet with two games left in the season, Kemp still has an outside shot at a highly exclusive club -- 40 stolen bases and 40 home runs.

Kemp hit the 40 stolen-base mark over a week ago and on Monday hit his 38th home run to lead the Dodgers to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

Only four players in baseball history –- Jose Canseco (A’s, 1988), Barry Bonds (Giants, ’96), Alex Rodriguez (Mariners, ’98) and Alfonso Soriano (Nationals, ’06) –- are in the 40-40 club.

Kemp’s monster three-run blast in the first inning left him needing two homers in the final two days. Tough duty, but last season he hit home runs in each of his final five games.

The home run broke his tie with Cardinal Albert Pujols for the National League lead, and pushed his No. 1 RBI total to 123 –- fourth highest in Los Angeles Dodgers history. Still ahead: No. 1 Tommy Davis, 153 (1962) Shawn Green, 125 (’01); Mike Piazza 124 (’97).

Kemp went one for four on the night, dropping his batting average to .324. Mets shortstop Jose Reyes went three for four to push his average to .333962, slightly ahead of Brewer Ryan Braun at .333032.

The victory left the Dodgers 81-78, the first time all season they've been three games over .500, and assured them a winning record this season.

The Dodgers got 5 2/3 scoreless innings from left-hander Dana Eveland, who earned the victory to raise his record to 3-2. The journeyman called up in September retired 14 of his first 15 batters. He allowed five hits, did not walk a batter, struck out five and lowered his earned-run average to 3.03.

Eveland left with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, but Josh Lindblom came on to strike out Paul Goldschmidt.

The Diamondbacks scored their two runs without a hit in the eighth after rookie Nathan Eovaldi walked the bases loaded. Scott Elbert relieved, but an A.J. Ellis passed ball allowed arun to score. After Elbert walked the bases loaded again, reliever Mike MacDougal came on and walked in another run.

Despite some shaky defense by shortstop Dee Gordon, rookie right-hander Javy Guerra pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 21st save in 22 opportunities.

Jerry Sands singed in the eighth, extending his hitting streak to 14 games.

MORE:

Dodgers-Diamondbacks box score

--Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is congratulated by teammates Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning Monday night at Arizona. Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand / US Presswire

Could Federowicz be next season's main catcher? Seems a reach.

Fed_240 Twelve games left and so many decisions to make about young players and next season.

Can Dee Gordon be the everyday shortstop? Is Jerry Sands ready to be a major league starter and, if so, at what position?

And what about catcher?

Do they bring back 36-year-old Rod Barajas and pair him with A.J. Ellis? Is Ellis, at age 30, ready to stick and play regularly? Do they actually try to sign someone else after the Dioner Navarro fiasco?

Then there is the young Tim Federowicz, the prospect acquired in the trade of outfielder Trayvon Robinson on July 31.

Federowicz made his first major league start Thursday night against the Pirates, and collected his first hit with a single in the fifth inning. Also, he was hit by a pitch for the first time. And walked for the first time. If nothing else, he currently has an impressive .600 on-base percentage.

"Not bad," said Manager Don Mattingly. "Had some good at-bats. He handled himself back there and blocked some balls. He looked all right."

Not exactly effusive praise, but it was one night. Which also included a passed ball.

The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Federowicz said he was initially nervous Thursday, but by the end of the first inning it had passed. It has been a remarkable couple of months for Federowicz, who back in July was playing double-A ball in the Red Sox organization and blocked by their top hitting prospect, Ryan Lavarnway. At least until the trade.

"At first I really didn’t know what to think about it," Federowicz said. "It was exciting to learn I was going another level up. But the Red Sox treated me well. I had a lot of friends, and that was probably the toughest part, leaving guys I came up with through the organization. But I’m in a better place with a lot better opportunity here."

General Manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers had no bright, young catching prospect. Federowicz, 24, was deemed an answer.

Now how quickly can he be a major league catcher? The need is immediate, but he’s only spent a month of ball at triple-A Albuquerque, where he hit .325 with six homers and 17 RBIs.

"He’s like a lot of young guys, you have to ease him in there and let him play," Mattingly said.

"We have to let him grow up, see what things he can do. He’ll let you know. We’ll see how he handles things the rest of the way and where we’re at."

Mattingly is going to be careful not to throw too much, too soon at Federowicz. He won’t catch Hiroki Kuroda and his six different pitches Friday, but figures to start more frequently the last two weeks.

Right now, it still seems a reach to think he could be the team’s main catcher next season, at least at the start. Which is not to say he won’t try to win the spot next spring.

"That’s hard to say," Federowicz said. There are a lot of things that could go down that could work into that," he said. "You never know what’s going to happen, if they’re going to sign a guy or re-sign Rod [Barajas]. There are a lot of things that have to align for me to make the team next year.

"Hopefully it happens, but I’m not going to go in there looking for that. I’m going to go in there and try to learn my staff again and learn the team, and put together a good spring, and hopefully I could break in."

MORE:

Dodgers-Pirates box score

Hiroki Kuroda has MRI on next, will start Friday

Dodgers ask whether ownership is affecting season-ticket renewal

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf, center, leaves the batter's box on a three-run home run as Dodgers starting pitcher Dana Eveland, left, and catcher Tim Federowicz look on during the second inning on Sept. 15. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press.

Dodgers finally find a limit to Javy Guerra in 5-4 loss to Diamondbacks

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It’s impossible to fault Javy Guerra, who has been a remarkable surprise ever since he first stepped on the mound for the Dodgers on May 15 fresh out of double A.

Guerra had saved 18 games in 19 opportunities, was 2-0 and had a 1.99 ERA. He had done everything they had asked of him. But Tuesday, they asked one more thing, and it proved one too many.

In an extra-inning game, they asked Guerra to pitch two innings for the first time all season. And he buckled, allowing a single and then three consecutive walks to force in the go-ahead run in the Diamondbacks’ 5-4 victory before an announced crowd of 31,404.

In his previous 41 appearances, he had not thrown two innings. His longest outing had been 1 1/3 innings (twice).

But in the 10thinning he gave up a bloop single to Gerardo Parra. After a sacrifice bunt moved Parra to second, Guerra struck out Justin Upton and then intentionally walked Miguel Montero.

Continue reading »

Rod Barajas wants to return; do Dodgers want to go young?

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Say this for catcher Rod Barajas, he gave the Dodgers exactly what they expected this season. Solid defensively and with some nice power.

Now he wonders if they’ll want it again.

Barajas will be a free agent at the end of the season and he doesn’t hide his desire to return to his hometown Dodgers next year.

"This is definitely a place I never want to leave," Barajas said. "If I could stick around with the Dodgers for the rest of my career, that is definitely what I want."

What the bankrupt Dodgers want is uncertain, although these days, cheaper is always good. The Dodgers are expected to call up catcher Tim Federowicz from triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday, and they called up catcher A.J. Ellis just two weeks ago.

They are considering going with Federowicz –- the catcher acquired from Boston in the Trayvon Robinson trade July 31 –- and Ellis next year, which carries risk.

Federowicz spent his season with double-A Portland, before his trade to the Dodgers and batting .325 with 6 homers and 17 RBI (.431 on-base percentage, 1.058 slugging percentage) in the hitting-conducive Pacific Coast League.

In his brief return with the Dodgers, Ellis is eight for 19 (.421), with the first two home runs of his career. He’s a career .260 hitter in brief parts of four seasons.

There would be a lot of uncertainty by depending on two catchers with limited major league experience. The Dodgers could elect to begin the season with Federowicz starting a full season at Albuquerque and using Ellis as the backup in the majors.

But the backup to whom?

This season Barajas –- who turned 36 on Monday –- has hit .236 with 15 home runs, which is second on the team, and 41 RBIs. He has been a solid presence behind the plate and a calming, veteran influence on the pitching staff.

This while splitting starts throughout most of the year with Dioner Navarro. A role Barajas has no problem with.

"Everybody knows I love it here," he said. "This is where I grew up, this is my team. Playing two out of every three days, there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, that’s kind of my comfort level –- playing four or five times a week."

The Dodgers signed Barajas to a one-year, $3.25-million contract last winter. They could save almost $3 million by not bringing him back and going with Ellis and Federowicz. If they’re going after a big bat, they’re going to have to save money somewhere.

Barajas gave the Dodgers what they asked for thi season, though what they ask next for could be some modest financial relief.

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Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly wants more offense for 2012

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas retrieves his mask during a game against the Phillies at Dodger Stadium this season. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images

Dodgers offense suddenly listless in 7-2 loss to Nationals

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Meanwhile, back to your regular Dodgers season …

That offensive machine that had suddenly –- and quite unexpectedly -– become the Dodgers, has reverted back to more familiar form.

With Hiroki Kuroda giving up a career-high four home runs and a series of Washington pitchers handcuffing the Dodgers, the Nationals easily downed the Dodgers, 7-2, on Monday afternoon.

The Dodgers had won 11 of their last 12 games and six in a row before losing to Atlanta on Sunday. During that 12-game stretch, they had averaged 6.25 runs a game.

But after consecutive doubles by Jamey Carroll and Matt Kemp against John Lannan produced a run in the first inning, the Dodgers' offense pretty much closed shop.

And with Kuroda giving up three home runs in the first inning alone -– he had never previously given up three homers in an entire game –- it was a bad time for their offense to wither.

The Dodgers had struggled to score for Kuroda (11-15) most of the season, but in his last four starts during their offensive surge had produced 32 runs. Maybe he got used to it, but that offense wasn’t going to make an appearance on a gray day in the nation's capital.

Ian Desmond led off the bottom of the first innings with a home run. Michael Morse followed a Ryan Zimmerman single with a two-run homer. Former Dodger Jayson Werth followed with another homer.

It was 4-1, and with the Dodgers unable to generate any real scoring threats until the ninth inning, the game was essentially over.

Kuroda then settled down until Morse, who has one of the ugliest batting stances in baseball, led off the bottom of the sixth another home run. He has 26 on the season.

Kuroda went six innings on the day, giving up five runs on eight hits. Conversely, he did not walk a batter and struck out a season-high nine.

Rookie Josh Lindblom gave up one run in the seventh inning on a Desmond single and Rick Ankiel double. Betrayed by some sloppy fielding, Ramon Troncoso surrendered one unearned run in the eighth. Aaron Miles let a ball through his legs for an error and Dee Gordon simply dropped a soft liner for what would have been a double play, before Wilson Ramos knocked in a run with a single.

The Dodgers ended the game they way they started it, adding a final run in the ninth inning on back-to-back doubles by A.J. Ellis and Justin Sellers.

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Dodgers farms system producing talent and titles

Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo says he's having fun again

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly wants more offense for 2012

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda reacts after giving up one of three home runs to the Washington Nationals in the first inning Sunday at Nationals Park.Credit: Evan Habeeb / US Presswire

Nathan Eovaldi and the kids lead Dodgers to sixth straight win, 2-1

Nathan3 Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t supposed to be here. Not in the major leagues, not playing with the big boys.

Not this season, anyway. Probably not even next season.

But a series of injuries to Dodgers starting pitchers caused them to dip into the ranks of double-A Chattanooga for the second time this season and call on Eovaldi. It wasn’t exactly a move of desperation, but it was in the neighborhood.

Only in his sixth and final start of the season Saturday, Eovaldi has at least put his name in the conversation for the Dodgers’ rotation for next year.

Eovaldi struggled with his control, but the 21-year-old showed poise in containing the damage, giving up only one run in his six innings of an eventual 2-1, 10-inning victory for the Dodgers.

It made for the Dodgers’ sixth consecutive victory, a season high. The suddenly hot club has won 11 of its last 12 games and pulled within two games of .500 (68-70) for the first time since May 14.

They won it in the 10th inning after another promising Dodger, shortstop Dee Gordon, led off with a double. Anyway, his speed turned what looked like a single into a double. James Loney’s bunt sacrificed him to third, and after an intentional walk to Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera’s fly to center field was deep enough to bring home Gordon.

A final Dodger youngster, rookie Javy Guerra, pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th for his 15th save in 16 opportunities.

Continue reading »

Unwillingness to work ultimately does in catcher Dioner Navarro

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It wasn’t the sub-.200 batting average, the miserable .276 on-base percentage or even the spotty defensive play that finally did in catcher Dioner Navarro.

That was all part of it, but the biggest thing that led to Navarro suddenly being designated for assignment by the Dodgers on Tuesday was his work ethic, or lack thereof.

"I’m a guy; I believe in work," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "Very simple. I believe you have to work and work and work, and that’s if you’re going good. I don’t care who you are. Matt Kemp has to keep going, has to keep getting after it. I just believe in that.

"And at the position we were 11 games back, and he just wasn’t fitting into what we believed in about how you go about your business."

Mattingly said Navarro’s approach had not taken a turn, but that it had been consistent all season. And that he had previously talked to him about it.

"We were all up front," Mattingly said. "We didn’t hide anything. We had talked about some of the issues we’d had awhile back, the way I felt about it. It got to a point where it was time."

Navarro had not endeared himself to the Tampa Bay Rays last season, when he failed to make their postseason roster, was asked to remain with the team but instead went home.

But there were no signs Navarro had been a problem in the Dodgers' clubhouse. It was about his approach, his dedication, his desire to improve. All those weak, back-handed attempts to stop outside pitches were only reflective of his lack of commitment. Navarro didn’t put in the preparation, both physically and mentally.

"That’s all part of what we talked about," Mattingly said. "It’s not just physical; it’s being ready to play every day."

Rod Barajas and A.J. Ellis are the current catchers. Barajas, who turns 36 on Sept. 6, is on a one-year contract. Ellis is 30 and generally viewed as a potential backup.

"He’s gotten better -- that’s what I like about A.J.," Mattingly said. "Is he a front-line catcher? I don’t know."

Mattingly said that next week the Dodgers are also likely to call up Tim Federowicz, the catcher acquired in the trade last month for minor-league outfielder Trayvon Robinson, who is currently at triple-A Albuquerque.

But one catcher who won’t be here next week or next year is Navarro. Players now know Mattingly is serious about his constant comments about effort. Of course, since Navarro had previously spent parts of two seasons here, the Dodgers should have known about his work ethic.

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These baseball players are making themselves right at home

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dioner Navarro follows through on a home-run swing  in the eighth inning of a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium on June 19. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Dodgers sweep Cardinals away with 9-4 victory

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Somebody better check the Dodgers’ plane when it lands at LAX on Wednesday evening to make sure any of them are actually on it.

You could understand if they left St. Louis kicking and screaming, clawing fingernails into the Gateway Arch, pledging allegiance to all things Anheuser-Busch.

Something strange happened along the Mississippi River to the Dodgers, something unexplainable. Unless you think the Cardinals have rolled over at the sight of the rampaging Milwaukee Brewers.

The Dodgers, though, battled on, and in impressive fashion in St. Louis, where they swept the Cardinals on a hot and humid Wednesday afternoon with their 9-4 victory.

It was the Dodgers’ first three-game series sweep in St. Louis since 1993.

It was also their first road sweep of the season, and all it took was their second ninth-inning comeback of the season on Monday and then scoring the most runs in consecutive games all year; they won Tuesday, 13-2.

This time they broke the game open by scoring six runs in the third inning, eight consecutive Dodgers reaching base safely before left-hander Jaime Garcia finally recorded an out.

Then the game really got otherworldly in the fifth. Light-hitting catcher A.J. Ellis, playing in his first game since being called back up Tuesday, hit the first home run of his career to left field. He didn’t just hit a homer, but drove it an estimated 427 feet.

Juan Rivera added a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and Hiroki Kuroda had a 9-1 lead.

The Dodgers have now scored 24 runs for Kuroda (10-14) in his last three starts; they scored a total of 24 runs for him in his previous 12 starts.

He went seven innings, giving up the three runs on eight hits and a walk. He struck out four and sweat enough to give birth to Lake Kuroda.

The Dodgers were down 1-0 when their offense went bonkers in the third. Walks to Justin Sellers and Tony Gwynn Jr. proceeded a two-run single by Matt Kemp, which was followed by a Rivera RBI double, Casey Blake RBI single, a James Loney RBI ground-rule double, a Jamey Carroll hit and an Ellis run-scoring single.

It was just another Dodgers rout.

MORE:

Dodgers-Cardinals box score

T.J. Simers: He really hopes Vin Scully works out

A.J. Ellis recalled to replace struggling Dioner Navarro

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers left fielder Juan Rivera slides into home plate as Cardinals catcher Gerald Laird tries to apply the tag on a play in the third inning Wednesday afternoon in St. Louis. Credit: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images

Dodgers finally give up on Dioner Navarro, call up A.J. Ellis

 Catcher A.J. Ellis was recalled  from the minor leagues on Tuesday.


Toss the confetti, the blue and white variety if handy.

The odd, misguided, what-are-you-thinking Dioner Navarro experiment has mercifully come to an end.

The Dodgers on Tuesday afternoon did what they should have done back in the off-season, calling up catcher A.J. Ellis from triple-A Albuquerque. To make room, they designated Navarro for assignment.

Exactly why Navarro was ever here in the first place was only slightly less mysterious than how the Egyptians built the pyramids. How he was an upgrade over Ellis required some particularly skewed glasses.

He was a switch-hitter! Right, a particularly bad one.

This is not something I mention after Navarro hit .193 for the Dodgers, but back when they signed him coming off that sterling .194 season with Tampa Bay. Say what you will about Navarro, but he was consistent.

It’s not that Navarro was a bad guy or popped attitude. He was actually very good in the clubhouse. On the field, however, he was one small step ahead of useless.

And it’s not that Ellis screams star in the making, or even starter. But he is better behind the plate, gets on base more and works his butt off. He’s also 30 years old. Time to find out if he can fit in the plans at least as a backup.

Ellis was hitting .304 at Albuquerque with an .885 on-base, plus slugging percentage. In his 166 major-league at-bats, he’s .247 and .621. OK numbers but, incredibly, a clear upgrade.

The only odd thing about this decision is the timing, which on the surface is more bizarre than signing Navarro in the first place. They stuck with him this long. Why not wait another nine days and just call up Ellis when rosters expand on Sept. 1?

It could mean they’re going to call up Tim Federowicz, the catcher acquired in the trade for Trayvon Robinson last month, though that would require adding him to the 40-man roster.

These are different days for the bankrupt Dodgers, however, out of the race and casting an eye to the future, though wondering how they can with the team's ownership in crisis.

The immediate future, though, is a little better with Ellis here and Navarro gone. Cue the confetti.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Catcher A.J. Ellis was recalled  from the minor leagues on Tuesday. Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

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