Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue

Category: Don Drysdale

Dodgers get nod they wanted: Vin Scully bobblehead night

How would you like to market the 2012 Dodgers? No significant new players to trumpet, coming off a third-place finish, ownership still in flux . . .

The Dodgers’ solution is their "Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead Series," which became more interesting Monday with the announcement their final three bobblehead giveaways would be Vin Scully, Kirk Gibson and Eric Karros.

Not sure which is a bigger coup, getting the beloved Scully, who had resisted previous efforts to have a bobblehead night, or Gibson, whom I believe was so irritated the Frank McCourt Dodgers would not give him a managerial look that he auctioned off his 1988 World Series memorabilia.

Guess they could have combined the two –- like they plan to do somehow with Don Drysdale and Maury Wills in their first one. You could tap Vin’s head and it could play a recording of  "In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened." And then have Gibson’s spring on a leg so you could pat him and it looks like he’s limping around the bases.

There are 10 bobblehead nights in all -– available in their own mini-plan ticket package. Here is the schedule:

Date                Opponent                  Bobblehead

April 28           Nationals                   Drysdale and Wills

May 15            Diamondbacks           Orel Hershiser

May 29           Brewers                      Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey

June 12          Angels                        Mike Scioscia

June 28          Mets                           Karros

July 14           Padres                        Tom Lasorda with Walter Alston

July 31           Diamondbacks             Gibson

Aug. 7           Rockies                       Sandy Koufax

Aug. 21         Giants                         Fernando Valenzuela

Aug. 30         Diamondbacks             Scully

Three games are against Arizona, so I guess the Dodgers aren’t figuring on the Diamondbacks' NL West title last season turning them into a draw.

The list includes two ex-Dodgers whose bobbleheads will go out on the night they come in managing an opposing team (Scioscia and Gibson), two who are current broadcasters (Scully and Valenzuela) and two who want to buy the team (Garvey and Hershiser).

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Clayton Kershaw wins N.L. Cy Young Award

Clayton-kershaw2_600

It was Clayton Kershaw opening-day starter, Clayton Kershaw an ace,  and now Clayton Kershaw … National League Cy Young Award winner.

The evolution of the left-hander’s breakthrough 2011 season was capped Thursday when he was named the Cy Young winner by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. Kershaw received 27 of a possible 32 first-place votes, easily outdistancing second-place finisher Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Kershaw won the N.L. pitching triple crown in 2011, tying for the league lead in victories with 21, and leading it with 248 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA.

And, oh yeah, he’s 23 years old.

Kershaw becomes the eighth Dodger to win the award -- Sandy Koufax won it three times (giving the Dodgers 10 Cy Young Awards total) -- and the first since Eric Gagne in 2003. He’s the youngest N.L. winner since Dwight Gooden earned the honor in 1985 at age 20.

Kershaw had oozed potential since the Dodgers selected him as the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft. By his third season, he was already pitching for the Dodgers. By 2009, he was a regular member of the rotation.

Former Dodgers manager Joe Torre wanted to be careful not to place too much pressure on the young pitcher in 2010, but last season new manager Don Mattingly named Kershaw his opening-day starter on the first day of spring.

Kershaw, married and unusually mature for his youth, embraced his role as the team ace.

Continue reading »

Trade deadline and the Dodgers' Andre Ethier dilemma

Photo: Andre Ethier rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homerun against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third inning of the game at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Credit: Jeff Golden / Getty Images So maybe you think this one is a no-brainer: Andre Ethier is one of the Dodgers' few stars, a two-time all-star, a building block for the future.

No way you trade Ethier. He's still in his prime. When he's of the mood, he's one of the few charismatic figures on the club.

Only it's not that difficult to argue that the smart baseball move is to trade him now -- while he's still fairly young, has one year of arbitration left and can bring an attractive package in return, while he's still at his trading peak.

Either that or the Dodgers are going to need to sign him to a long-term contract.

That's a significant, expensive decision for a franchise to make. And of course, it comes at a time when the Dodgers are in an organizational void that makes any determination about their future almost moot.

How do they plan for the future while in bankruptcy court and uncertain who the owner will be next season? How can they make a substantial determination about their future when hamstrung and so much is unknown?

Ethier, 29, is making $9.5 million this season, and is on schedule for a meaningful raise that could leave him the Dodgers' top-paid player next year.

Is that what they want? Or do they sign him to a long-term contract and keep him around an additional four years? How can they know what they want when they don’t know who their owner will be or how much money he or she will have to spend?

Continue reading »

It's unbelievable! The Dodgers continue to waste the talents of two of their finest hitters

Getprev Here’s what I don’t get: The Dodgers have a pair of sluggers batting .308 and .294 and play them once every five games.

This offensive juggernaut can afford to sit these guys?

You’d think Don Mattingly would have them batting fifth and sixth in the order, but no, for four consecutive games they ride the bench.

It’s time to stop wasting the extraordinary hitting talents of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw.

There is no real explaining their sudden offensive prowess. Don Mattingly can’t, Billingsley and Kershaw can’t, and I sure can’t.

Continue reading »

Don Drysdale's youngest can really hit -- all the notes

Getprev Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair, you know? Those multitalented types, the ones who seem to excel in several different areas while the rest of the masses struggle to be pretty good at one thing.

This one, though, I think you’ll forgive.

This one comes to us via the genes of Don Drysdale and Ann Meyers.

The youngest of their three children, Drew Drysdale, graduated from Huntington Beach High on Thursday and was the guest performer at the graduation ceremony.

Drew sang "Whenever You Remember," the Diane Rae Warren composition best known from a Carrie Underwood performance, and she absolutely nailed it. It was a great choice, and not an easy song to sing.

But Drew hit all the notes, bringing chills to the packed crowd at Capp Sheue Field.

Drysdale, of course, is the Dodgers Hall of Fame right-hander and former announcer who died of a heart attack in 1993. Meyers was a UCLA All-American and Olympic basketball star, and is in the basketball Hall of Fame. She is currently vice president of player personnel for the NBA's Phoenix Suns as well as president and general manager of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

Drew, also a high-jump star on the Huntington Beach track team, plans to attend UCLA in the fall.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Don Drysdale, righthanded pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, in 1967. Credit: Associated Press

In defense of the Dodgers, we submit ... their defense

Actually, it’s true. Just past the one-third mark of the season, the Dodgers are statistically one of the top defensive teams in the majors.

They entered Wednesday with the second-best defense in baseball, trailing only the Phillies in total errors (25) and fielding percentage (.988).

It’s not like it’s some total accident, either. Don Mattingly heavily emphasized defense during spring training and sent a clear message.

"We felt like we had to get better defensively,’’ Mattingly said. "Especially I felt like our outfield play was really sketchy last year.

"It was one of the areas we really looked at and had conversations with guys about that we wanted to change. We wanted to really make sure we stayed focused on where we played people.’’

There were extra drills, extra throwing for outfielders. Fundamentals were stressed.

It’s not like the Dodgers were a terrible defensive club last year, it’s just that they were fairly mediocre (four-way tie for 10th in fielding percentage, 10th in errors).

A good defensive team also covers more ground, hits the cut-off man and gets the ball back in quickly from the outfield. The Dodgers currently have the most outfield assists in baseball.

"We’ve thrown the ball really well, and different guys too,’’ Mattingly said. "I notice it even more on plays where we don’t necessarily throw guys out but where we hold them to singles.’’

The defensive uptick is also a tribute to the play of infielders Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles, who have had consistent playing time due to injuries suffered by Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe.

"We just stressed we wanted to play good defense,’’ Mattingly said.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Get excited: Dodgers activate Dioner Navarro, option A.J. Elllis to triple-A

Lidtc6nc The Great Dioner Navarro Experiment is about to officially get underway.

Make some attempt to contain your enthusiasm.

The Dodgers activated Navarro prior to Monday’s game in Florida, optioning A.J. Ellis back to triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers are of the conviction that Navarro is an upgrade over Ellis, something I remain skeptical of.

It’s not that anyone thinks Ellis is the second coming of Johnny Bench, but he’s solid to very good behind the plate. He’s never going to hit for power, and he was understandably having trouble keeping up his hot September (.417 last 16 games), but he was still hitting a decent .267 -- which is 74 points higher than Navarro hit last season (.194).

Still, it was obvious from the moment the Dodgers signed Navarro what the pecking order was. Manager Don Mattingly even said in January that Navarro would compete with Rod Barajas for starting time, so you knew where Ellis stood.

Navarro, however, injured his oblique at the end of spring training and has spent the first three weeks of the season on the disabled list. He had been rehabbing the injury at the Dodgers’ Arizona camp.

Continue reading »

No. 1 pick Zach Lee makes strong professional debut

For those who like to look down the road, cross fingers and dream of better days … Zach Lee had a fairly impressive professional debut Friday in Midland, Mich.

The Dodgers’ No.1 draft pick last June, Lee threw four shutout innings for the Great Lakes Loons, holding the Lake County Captains to two hits. He struck out five and walked three.

The Loons -- don’t you love minor league nicknames? -- eventually fell, 2-1.

Lee was the supposedly unsignable, 6-foot-4 right-hander who had already enrolled at Louisiana State to play quarterback. The Dodgers fairly shocked baseball by signing him to a $5.25-million bonus, easily the largest in their history.

In another minor league note, the Dodgers have re-signed Preston Mattingly, their former No.1 pick who was released last week by the Indians.

Mattingly, the son of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, was assigned to the Dodgers’ Arizona camp for extended spring training.

-- Steve Dilbeck

What do the Dodgers do if Tony Gwynn Jr. actually hits?

Gwynn_350 Guess the Dodgers would like to file this under "nice problem to have." Maybe, but that would disregard the real problem behind the problem.

The penciled-in plan for left field going into the season is to platoon the left-handed Jay Gibbons with the right-handed Marcus Thames. In theory, it could add some much-needed pop to the lineup.

As of now, of course, it’s all very much theory.

There are plenty of uncertainties in all of this, the main one being Gibbons, who would get most of the playing time against right-handers. In 75 late-season at-bats last year, Gibbons hit .280 with a .507 slugging percentage. Not much of a measuring stick, particularly for a guy who had  been out of the majors for two years and hadn’t been healthy for a full season since 2005.

It’s very hard to feel comfortable projecting what Gibbons would do over the course of a season. He hasn’t helped to soothe the unease -- with vision problems in the offseason and fighting the flu in camp -- getting off to his 1-for-20 start this spring.

And then there is Tony Gwynn Jr., who with his three hits Saturday is now batting .360 this spring and has stolen six bases in as many attempts. Add that to his playing the best outfield defense on the team, and one of the best in baseball, and the answer to the original question seems simple enough.

If he hits, he plays.

Only if it’s dangerous to project a player based on his spring-training numbers, it’s a particular challenge with Gwynn.

Last spring training, Gwynn hit .309 for the Padres … and then .204 during the season. In the spring of 2009, he hit .179 in the spring and .270 in the regular season.

Really, you can’t count on him anymore than you can Gibbons.

For now, the Gwynn plan is to use him as a late-inning defensive replacement behind the Gibbons-Thames platoon in left and to give him the occasional spot start. Late-inning maneuverings are difficult to deal with under normal circumstances with a platoon, but add one more challenge for a newbie manager like Don Mattingly.

If Gibbons falters and the left-handed-batting Gwynn really does hit, then Gwynn figures to move into the platoon with Thames.

All this has the uncomfortable feeling of a moving target for a team that just doesn’t have a starting left fielder.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. during a spring training game last month. Credit: Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Dodgers expected to wear patch this season honoring Duke Snider

Duke Snider was the Dodgers’ greatest position player of all time. He is their career leader in home runs, RBI and extra-base hits. He is second in doubles and total bases, third in runs and fourth in hits and slugging percentage.

It should come as no surprise that the team is making plans to pay tribute to Snider this season by adding a memorial patch to players' uniform sleeves. Snider died last Sunday at age 84.

[Update:] This would mark only the sixth time in the Dodgers’ 121-year history they have worn a memorial patch and the first in 11 years.

Previously they wore patches for Jim Gilliam, Don McMahon, Tim Crews, a combination patch for Don Drysdale and Roy Campanella, and for Pee Wee Reese in 2000.

"We’re still in the process of determining how we’ll honor Duke’s memory," said Josh Rawitch, team vice president of communications.

A private memorial service for Snider is scheduled March 12. The team is not expected to formally announce how it plans to honor the Hall of Famer until after the service.

Snider’s family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Fallbrook Union High School Baseball Program, c/o Fallbrook Baseball ASB, 2234 S. Stage Coach Lane, Fallbrook, CA 92028.

Major League Baseball ran a full-page ad in Thursday's Times honoring Snider and calling him one of the greatest center fielders of all time.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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