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Category: Dioner Navarro

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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Daily Dodger in review: The failed gamble on Dioner Navarro

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DIONER NAVARRO, 27, catcher

Final 2011 stats: .193, five homers, 17 RBI, .276 on-base and .324 slugging percentages, seven errors.

Contract status: Free as a bird.

The good: Two of his five homers won games. Ah, that’s just about it.

The bad: Everything else? OK, that’s a bit harsh, but maybe only a bit.

He could not hit, which apparently came as a surprise to no one but the Dodgers. He was sporadic behind the plate. He did not work hard. He took up space that belonged to A.J. Ellis, who could have used the experience now that he’s in place to be the Dodgers’ primary catcher in 2012. And the Dodgers paid Navarro $1 million, even though one else seemed interested.

What’s next: Navarro is open for business. Of course, he’s been open for business since the Dodgers released him Aug. 23. Wonder if they figured out why no one picked him up?

He’ll only be 28 in February but his career looks over.

The take: Imagine the shock — shock, I say — that Navarro did not pan out. General Manager Ned Colletti has a thing about his backups being veterans (see: Matt Treanor), but this was a poor idea from the moment it formed as the smallest kernel of a thought.

Navarro had one good fluke season in his seven major-league seasons. Otherwise, he’s proven a major disappointment. He hit just .194 for the Rays in 2010, then got churlish about not being added to their postseason roster.

He came back to the Dodgers last season and hit .193. He was a consistent fellow. Though he never proved a problem in the clubhouse, his lack of dedication to his difficult position finally proved his undoing with the Dodgers.

The day after they cut him, Manager Don Mattingly let it be known he was  disappointed Navarro had failed to put in the work and time required to be a good player. So to his list of failings, add work ethic.

Maybe being cut hit home with Navarro, he gets a non-roster invite to some team, puts in the work and makes a club. And maybe not.

— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dioner Navarro watches his home run soar into the stands in the eighth inning to beat the Houston Astros, 1-0, at Dodger Stadium on June 19. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Daily Dodger in review: A.J. Ellis should stick at catcher

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A.J. Ellis, 30, catcher

2011 statistics: .271 batting average, two home runs, 11 runs batted in, .392 on-base percentage in 85 at-bats, threw out 27% of would-be base-stealers.

Contract status: Final year under team control.

The good: Solid, reliable, all-around catcher. He is never going to be Johnny Bench but actually showed a flash of power. Hit two home runs with the Dodgers and three at triple-A Albuquerque. Before that outburst, he had not hit a home run at any level in almost three years.

He gets on base. Works well behind the plate and with pitchers. Was called up three times last season before he was brought up for good when the Dodgers finally wised up and released Dioner Navarro. Great in the clubhouse.

The bad: Has an average arm and, despite the home runs, hits mostly flares. He comes with limitations, but they're livable at an incredibly weak position baseball-wide.

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For Dodgers, the kids were a lot better than all right

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There’s youth served and youth force fed.

Sometimes the play of a kid is just so exciting it demands that he be called up. And sometimes, bodies are just falling everywhere and a team has little choice but to reach into its system, give ’em a push and let go of the bicycle.

Outside of the play of their big two –- Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp -– the most encouraging aspect to the Dodgers’ improved performance over the final two months was the play of their kids. Lots and lots of kids, and almost every one responded. And most at a level the team had little right to anticipate.

None were really in their plans for 2011. Position players Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon and right-hander Rubby De La Rosa were scheduled to be September call-ups. The rest were still deep in the development stage.

Then injuries hit the Dodgers unusually hard, though it wasn’t exactly totally unexpected given the age of their roster. Down went Casey Blake, Jon Garland, Jay Gibbons, Dioner Navarro, Vicente Padilla (all before opening day), Hector Jimenez (remember him?), Rafael Furcal, Hong-Chih Kuo, Marcus Thames, Jonathan Broxton, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Rod Barajas, Juan Uribe and Andre Ethier. Some made repeat visits to the disabled list. Some never came back.

All of which created opportunity. At least the Dodgers were willing to give the kids a chance, rather than signing or trading for some tired journeyman. They get points for that. And the Dodgers were delighted with how most responded:

-- Jerry Sands: The lone power prospect, he struggled during his first call up in (.200 average, .622 on-base plus slugging percentage) but was a different hitter in September (.342, .908). He hit in 15 of his last 16 games (.407, 1.063). Could start next season back in triple-A or in the starting lineup.

-- Dee Gordon: There are still real concerns about his defense, but he figures to be their starting shortstop next season. The final month of the season, he hit in 21 of 26 games (.372) and stole 12 bases. There will be growing pains, but an exciting talent.

-- Justin Sellers: Struggled at the plate (.203), but can play three infield positions and is a heady player. If Jamey Carroll doesn’t return, option as a utility infielder.

-- Javy Guerra: The surprise of the season. Guerra only figured to be up a couple weeks while Hawksworth was on the DL, but he was pitching so well he stuck and by early July had become the Dodgers’ unexpected closer. Saved 21 games in 23 opportunities.

-- Kenley Jansen: You’d pay to see him pitch. After he came back from a sore shoulder, he was almost unhittable. In his last 31 games, had a 0.55 ERA. Set an MLB record of 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

-- Josh Lindblom: The former second-round draft pick seems to have found himself as a reliever. Had a 2.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 27 games.

-- Rubby De La Rosa: The hard-throwing right-hander was looking like a rotation find for years to come, before injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery. He could return next summer, though initially as a reliever.

-- Scott Elbert: Not a rookie, but after a frustrating few seasons finally appeared comfortable as the left-handed reliever (2.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP).

-- Nathan Eovaldi: Another called up largely out of desperation, but in six starts had a 3.09 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. Penciled in as a starter.

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Photo: Dee Gordon, next year's starting shortstop, has been a pleasant surprise. Credit: Christian Peterson/Getty.

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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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 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

The kid is all right, the Dodgers aren't in 3-1 loss to Brewers

Dodgers_640 The kid -- the Dodgers' newest kid -- did almost everything right. For five innings, Nathan Eovaldi held the hottest team in baseball scoreless. Held them to three hits.

But with former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke matching him on the other end, 21-year-old Eovaldi finally cracked in the sixth. And with the way the season is unfolding for the Dodgers and the Brewers, that was enough.

Milwaukee used a two-run single by Jerry Hairston to spark a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers on Wednesday in Milwaukee, giving the Brewers their 19th win in their last 21 games. Some live volcanoes aren't that hot.

The Dodgers could not have asked more of Eovaldi, the baby-faced right-hander who was making his third major league start after being called up from double-A Chattanooga to replace another wunderkind, injured Rubby De La Rosa.

Supported by two double plays nicely turned by yet another rookie, Justin Sellers, Eovaldi matched Greinke through five highly efficient innings.

But two one-out walks wrapped around a single by Prince Fielder loaded the bases in the sixth. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt visited the mound, but Manager Don Mattingly elected to let Eovaldi try to pitch out of the jam.

Eovaldi got Yuniesky Betancourt on a shallow fly to Matt Kemp in center and, still throwing 96 mph, got ahead of Hairston 0-2. But the veteran fouled off two pitches before knocking a high fastball up the middle for a two-run single.

It counted for Eovaldi's first major league loss. In his six innings, he gave up one run on five hits and three walks, with three strikeouts. He evened his record at 1-1 and left his earned-run average at 2.12.

Greinke went one additional inning, and it at least proved memorable for Tony Gwynn Jr. Gwynn hit his first home run of the season, a span of 274 plate appearances.

Greinke (12-4) left after seven innings, giving up one run on five hits and three walks. He struck out eight.

The Brewers scored an additional run thanks to wildness by reliever Josh Lindblom and poor defense by catcher Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the seventh. Jonathan Lucroy led off with a single and went all the way to third on a wild pitch by Lindblom that Navarro mistakenly tried to backhand.

Lucroy scored when Lindblom threw another wild pitch in the dirt that Navarro again failed to try to block.

The Dodgers' third consecutive loss to the Brewers left them 55-67 this season.

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Photo: Nathan Eovaldi. Credit: Scott Boehm / Getty Images

Hiroki Kuroda gets support as Justin Sellers goes deep

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Justin Sellers is a wisp of a ballplayer. He’s listed at 5 feet 10 and 155 pounds, with much of his frame obscured by a heavy dose of tattoos.

He doesn’t look like he’d have an ounce of power in him. His 14 home runs at triple-Albuquerque were considered more a product of the rarified air.

Only Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said Sellers’ bat speed provides unexpected power, and it was on display Sunday afternoon in the Dodgers’ 7-0 victory over the hapless Houston Astros.

Called up from Albuquerque on Friday, Sellers hit his first home run, a three-run shot into the left-field seats next to the Dodgers bullpen.

It was one of three home runs hit by the Dodgers -- Dioner Navarro and Matt Kemp joining in -- and it provided Hiroki Kuroda with the kind of offensive support he hadn’t seen since April 24.

Kuroda (8-14) threw seven innings, holding Houston to five hits and a walk, and striking out six.

And, yes, it counts even against the Astros.

For baseball’s worst team, it was a sixth consecutive loss and ninth in 10 games. The Astros' starting lineup Sunday had hit 18 home runs this season, or 10 fewer than Kemp.

It’s amazing Kuroda remembered how to pitch with actual run support. The Dodgers had averaged barely three runs per game in his 23 previous starts.

Navarro started the offensive output in the second inning after a James Loney single with a two-run home run against Jordan Lyles (1-7). Kemp hit a home run in the third inning.

The Dodgers put the game away when they batted around in a four-run sixth inning.

Kemp singled, stole second base and scored on a hit by Aaron Miles. A walk to Navarro and Sellers connected on his first home run.

Sellers nearly sprinted around the bases. There were plenty of excited high-fives in the dugout, and then the sparse crowd called him back for a brief curtain call while the Astros changed pitchers.

The seven runs matched the most run support Kuroda has received all season.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers shortstop Justin Sellers connects for a three-run home run against the Houston Astros on Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Dodgers blow 6-0 lead, swept by Phillies with 9-8 loss

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How low can they go? Lower, still lower

To the Dodgers’ swelling list of season lowlights, make room for Wednesday afternoon’s nifty little fiasco.

That would be the one where they jumped to an early 6-0 lead over the Phillies, only to see their defense, starting pitcher Chad Billingsley and the bullpen blow it in a staggering 9-8 loss before an announced crowd of 41,807 (there was maybe half that actually in attendance).

The saddest part?

Even after the Dodgers jumped on Phillies starter Vance Worley for five runs in the first and added one more in the third to go up 6-0, the lead never felt safe. A Philadelphia comeback somehow seemed inevitable.

It was some kind of combo vibe between how well the Phillies have been playing, and how disappointing the Dodgers have been.

The comeback gave the Phillies the three-game series sweep and handed the Dodgers their fourth consecutive defeat.

The afternoon hardly appeared headed toward the Dodgers’ 64th loss of the season when they knocked Worley around for five runs in the first.

Worley came in 8-1 and with a 2.35 earned-run average -- and he’s their No.5 starter -- but was fortunate to escape the first.

After a pair of one-out walks, Matt Kemp singled in the first run before Juan Rivera drove a three-run homer to left. It was Rivera’s first home run since his first at-bat as a Dodger on July 15.

Another walk and a Dioner Navarro double quickly gave the Dodgers a 5-0 lead.

The Phillies, however, remained calm. They reeked the confidence of a team with the best record in baseball.

Even after the Dodgers pushed it to a 6-0 lead in the third when Kemp doubled and scored on a Rivera single, the Phillies seemed in the eye of the storm.

The Phillies got three back in the fourth on a two-run homer by Hunter Pence, a James Loney error and single by Worley. Philadelphia pitchers continued to hurt the Dodgers at the plate.

Philadelphia added two more in the fifth after a walk and Ryan Howard hit. An error by Casey Blake allowed one run to score, and a groundout scored a second.

Billingsley left after giving up five runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings, on seven hits and three walks. He did not strike out a batter.

It was a 7-5 Dodgers lead when Philadelphia completed its comeback with four runs in the sixth inning. After Hong-Chih Kuo gave up a one-out walk, Blake Hawksworth (2-3) surrendered a hit to Rollins before Chase Utley singled in two to tie the score.

Not that the Phillies were done. Ryan Howard followed with an opposite-field blast for his 25th home run that gave the Phillies a 9-7 lead.

The Dodgers got one back in the ninth inning after singles by Blake and Kemp put runners at the corners, and a Rivera groundout brought home Blake. But Ryan Madson then closed it for his third save in as many games.

Dodgers, king of the limbo.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers left fielder Juan Rivera connects for a three-run home run in the first inning against the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

When the numbers look bad for the Dodgers

Lpn9o0nc The Dodgers didn't get to 52-62 by a twist of fate. First, a scroll through some bad numbers:

-- The Dodgers are 14-43 when the opposing team scores first.

-- They are 4-50 when they trail after six innings, 2-53 when they trail after seven and 1-57 when they trail after eight.

-- They are 14-50 when they score three or fewer runs.

-- They are 5-46 when they have fewer hits than their opponent.

-- In 22 games, Hong-Chih Kuo has a 12.46 ERA, and opponents are batting .296 against him.

-- Eugenio Velez is 0-for-19.

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