Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Dee Gordon

What is the Dodgers' backup plan if Dee Gordon falters?

Dee-gordon_600

Of all the things the Dodgers are crossing their little fingers on, none may be as significant as the play of shortstop Dee Gordon.

They’re basically all in with him, because there is really no viable Plan B should he fail to deliver. Or, given his slight frame, go down to injury.

Last year as a rookie shortstop, Gordon played essentially a little over a third of a season (224 at-bats). His numbers, for the most part, were encouraging.

Enough so that the Dodgers proclaimed him their starting shortstop for the 2012 season. It’s great that the Dodgers are giving an exciting young player who doesn’t call the mound home an opportunity, but the commitment hardly comes without risk.

Gordon is expected to bat leadoff, understandable for someone with his electric speed and who stole 24 bases in 31 attempts last year. A full season equates to more than 60 stolen bases.

But Gordon, 23, struggled to get on base (.325 percentage), walks hardly his forte. He had just seven all last year. He’s young and inexperienced, of course, so that’s a part of his game he can still develop. In his four seasons in the minors, he had a combined on-base percentage of .355.

And then there is his build, which is reminiscent of the "before" drawings in old comic book ads for bodybuilding. You have to wonder if that frame can hold up through the rigors of a 162-game season, when he’s leading off and getting more at-bats than anyone on the team. He already went down last year with a shoulder injury he suffered during a routine rundown.

So what if he doesn’t deliver or falls victim to injury? What do the Dodgers do then? None of the choices are particularly attractive.

Justin Sellers was called up in August when Gordon went down and proved to be a hustling, versatile player. He’s a better defensive shortstop than Gordon, who is more skilled but still makes the occasional wild throw.

The trouble was, Sellers could not hit. Not after a nice initial start, anyway. In his last 20 games he batted .145 and looked overmatched. He finished with a .203 batting average.

Which is actually .001 behind the more likely alternative, Juan Uribe. The 2011 season's biggest disappointment was signed as a second baseman but mostly played third, where he is now ensconced as the starter. Uribe, however, mostly played shortstop for the Giants during their 2010 championship. He has a rocket arm, though covers little ground.

If you move Uribe to short, of course, somebody has to play third. And those alternatives ain’t attractive either. Adam Kennedy can play third, but he also hit .234 last season and is on the wrong side of 35.

Jerry Hairston Jr. can play either shortstop or third, though he appeared in only two games at short last season. He’s valuable, but probably not someone you can count on to play every day. In the past nine seasons, he’s had more than 430 at-bats just once.

Which means, Gordon best deliver. Because if he can’t, the patchwork won’t be pretty.

RELATED:

Second cut looming for Dodgers bidders

It's time for the Dodgers to lock up Andre Ethier

Daily Dodger in review: Dee Gordon, the future is now

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon slides safely home ahead of the tag by Angels catcher Hank Conger to complete a double steal in an interleague game at Angel Stadium last summer. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / July 1, 2011

Dodgers Web musings: Worst offensive infield in baseball?

Dee Gordon
Let's face it, there's not much clout there. The Dodgers infield is what you might call shy on power.

In his preseason analysis of the Dodgers, ESPN's Jim Bowden wrote: "The Dodgers have one of the worst offensive infields in the NL." Which I'm pretty sure would qualify it for one of the worst in all of baseball.

On the corners there is limited power from James Loney (12 homers, .416 slugging last season) and Juan Uribe (4 homers, a woeful .298 slugging, plus a .204 batting average). Mark Ellis is a solid glove at second whom Bowden correctly notes "has no speed or power and is in his declining years." And then there is speedy, though powerless, shortstop Dee Gordon.

And that would be half of your lineup.

Also on the Web:

-- At SB Nation, Eric Stephen is having difficulty building enthusiasm for the Dodgers' coming season.

-- Manager Don Mattingly tells Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick that he's more concerned about distractions over the ownership situation this spring than he was a year ago.

-- NBC Sports' Matthew Pouliot writes that the theme to the Dodgers' winter was quantity over quality.

-- The Times' Bill Shaikin writes that the 11 remaining ownership groups bidding on the Dodgers have been asked to submit revised bids before a second round of cuts is made by investment bank Blackstone Advisory Partners (read: Frank McCourt).

-- Wednesday's post here about the Dodgers trying to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term deal while his price is low brought some Web reaction. Chad Moryiama likes the logic but thinks Ethier is simply the wrong guy to utilize it on. Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness thinks that if Ethier waits until the end of the season, he might double his contract.

-- Long-time Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo is running a series of historical team photos at his MLB blog, including one with background on Kevin Waters, the team's handyman for over 20 years.

-- The New York Post's Kevin Kernan profiles Mattingly’s son, Preston -– a former first-round pick of the Dodgers -- after he signed with the Yankees as a minor-league free agent.

-- Let the investigation begin. The Dodgers blogger softball tournament last weekend, organized by the Left Field Pavilion for charity, was won by ... the Left Field Pavilion Forum 2.

-- CBS Sports' Scott Miller has a nice overview about what it’s like covering spring training every day for six weeks.

ALSO:

Second cut looming for Dodgers bidders

It's time for Dodgers to lock up Andre Ethier

James Loney says blow to head led to his odd behavior after crash

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dee Gordon walks back to the bench after striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks back in August. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press

Dodgers Web musings: Clayton Kershaw and the long term [Videos]

Plenty to get to today, leading off with … so the Dodgers have signed Clayton Kershaw to a two-year, $19-million deal. Exactly right for the moment or does more have to be done?

Buster Olney argues in this ESPN video that the new owner’s first order of business should be to sign Kershaw to a long-term deal. He argues Kershaw would be only 26 in his first year of free agency and free-spending teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies would be circling.

Olney estimates a five-year deal for Kershaw would cost between $100 to $120 million.

Meanwhile, Robert Timm at Dodger Dugout argues there is risk in signing any pitcher to a long-term deal and the Dodgers were smart to settle for a two-year agreement.

Also on the Web:

--The Left Field Pavilion has organized a charity softball tournament of teams representing several Dodgers blogs on Saturday at the Big League Dreams fields in West Covina.

Play starts at 8 a.m. Admission is only $3 and includes a drink. Fans are asked to bring a box or bag of food for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

--It never ends: USA Today thinks the Dodgers could be in line for a $5-billion TV rights deal. Guess that $3 billion Frank McCourt wanted to sign up for with Fox might have been just a tad low.

--Eric Stephen at True Blue LA has his Dodgers preview. He doesn’t think Jerry Sands makes the 25-man roster, but Josh Fields does.

--FanGraphs’ David Laurila has a lengthy and detailed Q&A with Dodgers scouting director Logan White, while Dodgers Thoughts’ Jon Weisman interviews farm director De Jon Watson.

--MLB.com’s Spencer Fordin looks at the Dodgers' top 20 prospects, while ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider status required) rates their system 12th overall in the majors.

--The Times’ Dylan Hernandez talks to James Loney about his bizarre freeway accident. Loney blames it on a blow to his head.

--The Times’ Bill Shaikin adds an 11th and, really, possibly final Dodgers bidder in Michael Heisley, the 75-year-old owner of the Memphis Grizzlies. He could bring Jerry West into the deal.

--ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew looks at what could be next for Matt Kemp.

--Reuters’ Sue Zeidler writes that the second round of bids on the Dodgers is due around Feb. 23.

--NBC Sports’ Tony DeMarco thinks that with the right owner the Dodgers could be a power fairly quickly.

--Fox Sports' Mike Martinez checks in with shortstop Dee Gordon. Gordon on how many bases he’s capable of stealing: “a hundred.”

--Daily News columnist Tom Hoffarth is auctioning off a Kershaw-autographed copy of his new book, “Arise,” on EBay to raise funds for a Watts literacy center.

--Daily Breeze columnist Mike Waldner looks at the Dodgers auction situation: “McCourt's first, last and always goal has been to line his pockets.”

--Oh, goody: Russell Martin tells the New York Daily News he’s all giddy the Yankees have added Hiroki Kuroda.

--And finally, Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has found a video of a vintage TV commercial, this one from 1981. Warning: Hope you like looking at a shirtless Bill Russell.

 

-- Steve Dilbeck

 

Dodgers sign right-hander Jamey Wright as a nonroster invitee

Jamey WrightThe Dodgers signed veteran Jamey Wright Tuesday because … yeah, well, because they could. Because, why not?

He’ll be a nonroster invitee, so there’s no real risk involved. His chances of making the team out of spring are what you might call slim, as in Dee Gordon-standing-sideways kinda slim.

Dodgers have plenty of veterans in their bullpen now, so he’s not an answer there. They could badly use a left-handed reliever, which is swell, except Wright is right-handed.

And if he’s never lived up to that first-round pick by the Rockies status, he’s at least managed to hang around for a long time. He’s 37 now and made his major-league debut at age 21.

He spent last season with the Mariners, where he was at least decent enough. He appeared in 60 games, going 2-3 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. That’s actually a career-low ERA, and he’s been around for 16 seasons.

It’s that annual spring nothing-to-lose signing. Maybe injuries will enable him to sneak onto the roster. Maybe he starts at triple-A Albuquerque to see what happens. And maybe he has an opt-out clause should he not make the team.

A minuscule gamble, and sometimes they prove useful.

RELATED:

Dodgers announce 2012 spring training broadcast schedule [Updated]

Jared Kushner a prospective Dodgers owner

Former Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo signs with Seattle Mariners

— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Jamey Wright in 2006. Credit: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Dodgers community caravan scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday

Dodgersbig1Andre Ethier, James Loney and Dee Gordon will be among the players participating in the Dodgers’ annual community caravan Tuesday and Wednesday.

Newcomers Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. will be part of the community outreach effort, as will former players such as Fernando Valenzuela and Tommy Davis.

One stop on the two-day tour will be open to the public: lunch on Tuesday at a South Los Angeles location that will be revealed at the Dodgers’ Twitter account (@Dodgers) at 12:30 p.m. that day. The lunch will from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

On the caravan that day will be current players Gordon, Kennedy, Tony Gwynn Jr., Kenley Jansen, Josh Lindblom and Ramon Troncoso; former players Davis, Shawn Green, Al Ferrara and Dennis Powell; and broadcaster Eric Collins.

ALSO:

Dodgers reach agreement with reliever Todd Coffey

The Dodger who can have the greatest effect on the 2012 season

Dodgers Web musings: 2012 team is not wowing followers

-- Dylan Hernandez

The Dodger who can have the greatest effect on the 2012 season

  

Dodgers' Frank McCourt: MLB owners' new inspiration

He is the key to the Dodgers’ 2012 season, the one player in a position to most affect whether the team is again mediocre, or poised to make a postseason run.

Andre Ethier, a dismayed Dodgers nation turns its eyes to you.

The Dodgers went into the off-season talking about how they would make a run at a big bat. As you just might possibly have noticed, it never arrived.

Now even if you’re doing the massive assuming the Dodgers are for 2012 -– Matt Kemp will approach the same numbers, Juan Rivera will still drive in runs, Juan Uribe can’t possibly be as awful as he was in 2011, Dee Gordon will hold up over the course of the season, James Loney will more closely resemble his second-half self -– that still doesn’t figure to be enough to lift the team into the playoffs.

The one player who has the potential to have a massively better year in 2012 is Ethier.

The extremely talented, emotional, hard-working, inconsistent, prideful, exasperating All-Star right fielder.

After the 2009 season, Ethier was on the verge of superstardom. He hit 31 home runs, had 106 RBI and completed his second consecutive season with a slugging percentage north of .500. He started 2011 like he might make a run at the triple crown. Then came a broken pinkie from which he never seemed to fully recover.

Last year there was an early 30-game hitting streak in an otherwise disappointing season. Finally there was that odd, they’re-making-me-play-hurt rant, followed by denial, followed by season-ending knee surgery.

His final 2011 numbers: .292 batting average, 11 homers, 62 RBI, 67 runs and a career-low .421 slugging percentage.

There is plenty of room for improvement there, and if Ethier can do it, he can provide that big bat that was sorely missing last year. He is the one player who can make a dramatic difference in the Dodgers' lineup.

Which doesn’t mean it will happen, though I suspect it will. Still, prophesying Ethier’s future performance is like trying to predict the next Alec Baldwin remark. Could be really good, could be what the hell?

Now there are a couple of very good reasons to anticipate Ethier will bounce back with a huge season. Presumably he is healthy, his knee surgery was not major and that pinkie certainly should have healed by now. And he is in his contract year. He signed a one-year, $10.95-million deal this winter and can become a free agent for the first time at the end of the coming season.

General Manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers were interested in signing Ethier to a long-term deal, which so far hasn’t happened. Ethier took notice of Chad Billingsley getting a three-year deal last spring, and that was long before Kemp signed his $160-million deal this off-season.

Ethier may determine he'll be in a better negotiating position after putting in a full, healthy season, whether re-signing with the Dodgers or hitting the open market. Or maybe he would prefer the security of a big contract right now. It’s Ethier, so it’s a guessing game.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Ethier gave away 100 at-bats last season by letting his emotions get the best of him. That was almost 20% of his season. For a guy who bats in the middle of the order.

Ethier turns 30 in April, so you would like to think he’s maturing enough to stay focused and not allow setbacks to send him gyrating off course. He is an intelligent and, when he wants to be, highly charming (as demonstrated in the following MLB.com video) player. He and Kemp could own this town.

And if the Dodgers are going to contend, he’ll need to.

 RELATED:

Daily Dodger in review: Andre Ethier battles Andre Ethier?

If Stan Kroenke gets the Dodgers, doesn't L.A. get the Rams?

-- Steve Dilbeck

Why Dodgers -- despite it all -- can still win the NL West

Matt Kemp
Because they play in a division where there is always hope. Every season, for most every team. Like it's required.

Parity hasn't simply arrived in the National League West, it's taken up residence. Not some shingle temporarily hung on the wall, but carved in granite at the front door.

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished last in the NL West in 2010 and then won the division last season. In five of the last six seasons, an NL West team coming off a losing season advanced to the postseason the next year.

The Dodgers are filled with "ifs" and crossed fingers and gambles. Not unlike every team in the division.

If Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe return to form, if James Loney hits like he did in the second half, if Matt Kemp approaches his 2011 season, if Juan Rivera can keep up his RBI form, if Dee Gordon can perform over a full season, if young closers Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen can keep it going, if new starters Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano pitch effectively ... then the Dodgers win!

There is no juggernaut in the NL West, no powerhouse team, nothing even approaching a dominant club.

Continue reading »

The offensive emptiness that is the Dodgers 2012 bench

Dodger
Look real hard and you can find it. It’s there, just not exactly under the spotlight. Maybe not in hiding, though you could make the argument that the Dodgers will try it.

It is the Dodgers’ bench, such as it. And as it is, it’s wholly unimpressive.

Presenting your 2012 Dodgers in reserve: catcher Matt Treanor, infielders Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam Kennedy, and outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Sands.

There’s some versatility and some nice defensive elements, but offensively there just isn’t much there. The power hitter is Sands, he of the 194 career at-bats? The left-handed bats are Gwynn and Kennedy?

This is all as currently scheduled, of course. And these things almost never go as scheduled. Which would explain why the Dodgers started last season with Xavier Paul, Hector Gimenez and Ivan DeJesus Jr. on the roster.

General manager Ned Colletti said he thinks this year’s bench can be superior to last season’s, before quickly asking which Dodgers’ bench he should reference.

"Unfortunately our bench ended up playing," Colletti said. "The bench was really the second bench."

Which is why the 2012 edition is so scary. Chances are, some of them are going to have to play more than expected. And this is what manager Don Mattingly will have to choose from based on last season’s numbers:

Player                         Avg.                OBP                 SLG

Treanor                      .214                .338                .291

Hairston                     .270                .344                .383

Kennedy                     .234                .277                .355

Gwynn                        .256                .308                .353

Sands                         .253                .338                .389

And as a group, it’s not like it’s a bunch of kids approaching their prime. Kennedy is 36, and Treanor will be in March and Hairston in May.

Plus you have to remember the Dodgers’ regular everyday lineup is already going to have its risks. Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon batted .304 last season but in only 224 at-bats, so we’ve yet to see if pitchers adjust to the slight Gordon. And A.J. Ellis is going to be the main catcher, and has a career .262 average with zippo power in 206 career at-bats.

There’s not a strong pinch-hitter in the group, either. Career averages as pinch-hitters: Treanor .200, Hairston .174, Kennedy .223, Gwynn .288, Sands .000 (only four at-bats). There's not really a reserve shortstop.

Last year the Dodgers wanted to start the season with a bench of Dioner Navarro, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames/Jay Gibbons. Navarro and Thames were busts, and Gibbons couldn’t overcome vision issues. Yet they still might prove a better group.

The Dodgers 25-man roster is basically set. If everyone makes it through spring healthy, there are no position openings.

 ``If it goes the way it’s planned, the team has some flexibility to it but not a whole lot,’’ Colletti said.

On days when Juan Rivera or James Loney don't start, the bench will get a boost but it could use plenty more. It could have used a Coco Crisp, but Colletti denied an interest in the outfielder before he re-signed with the A’s.

``Never had a conversation,’’ Colletti said.

Colletti is operating under budget constraints unworthy of a team playing in the second-largest market in the country, but such are the times when your team is in bankruptcy court.

And such is the bench.

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Bud Selig could be haunted by deal over Dodgers

McCourt mum on Fielder, calls Dodgers sale interest 'fantastic'

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodger Stadium. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times.

Presenting your 2012 Dodgers lineup (Updated)

Dodgers-logoOne thing about having an almost entirely set 25-man roster  -- you can start figuring out what the daily lineup is going to look like. Even if it is still December.

The Dodgers’ heavy off-season work, or at least their modest lifting, is all done. Unless you’re still the kind that holds out hope of an unexpected Prince Fielder signing.

But if no significant additions are coming, it’s not hard to visualize the Dodgers’ main daily lineup, at least against right-handers:

Shortstop Dee Gordon (L), second baseman Mark Ellis (R), right fielder Andre Ethier (L), center fielder Matt Kemp (R), left fielder Juan Rivera (R), first baseman James Loney (L), third baseman Juan Uribe (R) and catcher A.J. Ellis (R).

And let the rest of the National League tremble in its wake.

This is not necessarily a terrible lineup, though it’s dependent on a lot of things going right. Probably way too many things, but then the same can pretty much be said for the rest of the National League West.

Gordon hit .304 with 24 stolen bases in his 233 plate appearances of his rookie season. But he had only seven walks, leaving him with a .325 on-base percentage. Still, that’s a fairly small sample size at a young stage in his career. He figures only to get better, and is such lightning on the bases, he has to be given the leadoff spot. Anyway, there’s really no one else in that lineup to bat leadoff.

Mark Ellis split his time last season batting second and seventh, but hit .297 in the two spot, as opposed to .215 hitting seventh.

The Dodgers are gambling that a trio of hitters returns to form next season -- Ethier, Loney and Uribe. Ethier, 29, will be key. Coming off minor knee surgery, he has the most upside. And the Dodgers will need it if they bat him third.

All they want from Kemp is more of the same, which is the same thing as asking for everything. Kemp, who came in second in the N.L. MVP voting, could have a slight drop-off and still be one of the game’s premier hitters.

[Update: In the orginal post I had a brain cramp and wrote Kemp started the season batting third and late in the season was moved to fourth, which is actually reverse from what happened. My my No.1 fan, Benjamin Villarreal Camacho, ever-so kindly pointed out my mistake. Kemp actually hit slightly better in the cleanup spot (.647 vs. .569 slugging), so it remains to be seen which way Manager Don Mattingly goes in 2012.

Batting Rivera hitting behind Kemp was given credit for Kemp’s strong finish, so wherever Kemp bats, Rivera is likely to follow. Kemp hitting third, Rivera fourth and Ethier fifth only happened nine times in 2011.]

Mattingly could bat Uribe sixth instead of Loney, but he seems to like alternating his left-right bats in the lineup.

Uribe is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in Dodgers history. He has a lot to prove, and at age 33, not much time to prove it. The Dodgers are counting on Loney being the hitter he was the second half, which is understandable but difficult to depend upon. Anything offensively from A.J. Ellis is a bonus.

Against left-handers, Mattingly could choose to sit Loney and play Rivera or Jerry Sands at first. Ethier, too, could get spelled if he doesn’t improve against lefties (.220 last season).

Outside of Gordon and Kemp, it's a lineup devoid of speed. It could have decent power, but after Kemp, that's no lock either. There are plenty of "maybes'' with this group, but that could prove a season's theme.

RELATED:

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Frank McCourt's spinning Dodgers wheels got to go 'round

-- Steve Dilbeck

Daily Dodger in review: Justin Sellers shows off versatility

Sellers_640

JUSTIN SELLERS, 25, infielder

Final 2011 stats: .203 batting average, .283 on-base percentage, .301 slugging percentage, 20 runs, nine doubles in 123 at-bats, one error.

Contract status: Under team control.

The good: Injuries forced the August call-up of Sellers, and the Dodgers had to like what they saw from him defensively. He’s currently a better shortstop than Dee Gordon, plays a very good second and also can fill in at third.

Great nickname. All tatted up, he’s called "Cellblock." Plays hard and with enthusiasm. Hit .300 against left-handers and .278 in his first 16 games.

The bad: Trouble was, he hit .145 in his 20 games after that. Has a touch of power, but if he has any hopes of making it as a major leaguer he can’t afford a sub-.250 batting average. Turns 26 in February.

What’s next: It’s possible he could make the team next year as a utility infielder, but the Dodgers are hopefully more ambitious and looking for more certainty in that role.

The take: There’s enough to like about Sellers, who after his encouraging start was being compared to a younger Jamey Carroll. Alas, it was just one month.

In the short term they would be better served trying to bring back Carroll and letting Sellers at least start the year back at triple-A Albuquerque. If injuries continue to hit this team next season like they did in 2011, he’d get called up soon enough and maybe even stick (witness Aaron Miles).

They currently do not have a starting second baseman, but if Sellers should somehow win the spot, you’ll know how the Dodgers' off-season went.

— Steve Dilbeck

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Daily Dodger: Hiroki Kuroda

Dodgers to name first female head trainer

Clock ticking for teams to re-sign free agents

Photo: Justin Sellers hits an RBI during the 7th inning of the Dodger's 4 - 2 victory over the Diamondbacks in September. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

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