Dodgers Now

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

Category: Gabe Kapler

No major surprises as Dodgers cut to 25-man roster, elect to go with three catchers

Mike3 There were no real surprises when the Dodgers announced their 25-man roster to open the season after Wednesday’s game.

Of course, as the five Dodgers who will start the season on the disabled list start to trickle back in early April, more bodies will get shuffled.

For now, three nonroster invitees ended up making the team -- relievers Mike MacDougal and Lance Cormier, and infielder Aaron Miles.

The bullpen, infield and outfield pretty much fell into to place as expected. The only mild surprise was the decision to go with three catchers.

A.J. Ellis and Hector Gimenez both made the opening-day roster, meaning veteran outfielder Gabe Kapler was released. Manager Don Mattingly said General Manager Ned Colletti still planned to meet with Kapler, 35, to see if there is a mutual interest in his playing at triple-A Albuquerque.

Gimenez mostly made the team because the Dodgers liked his bat, but he can also play first and dabbled some this spring in the outfield.

"We’ve been trying to build with pitching and defense," Mattingly said. "Ellis knows our staff, knows our guys. Hector did a good job too, he just doesn’t know the staff as well."

Continue reading »

Dodgers Web Musings: A stumble by Andre Ethier as leader of the pack

You know, this leadership thing is a tough gig. No instruction manual, no former leader hanging around to offer tips.

As mentioned previously, the Dodgers were devoid of clubhouse leadership last year. The year before too, really. The last time they had a true leader was in 2008, in the curious though effective form of Manny Ramirez.

It’s hard to just be that guy, though I’m pretty sure bringing a chicken into the clubhouse isn’t a big step. Andre Ethier is as good a candidate as any to step up as a team leader, and he told The Times’ Dylan Hernandez earlier in the spring that he was ready for the challenge.

That story angle has been picked up by several news outlets, including recently by veteran baseball scribe Tracy Ringolsby at Fox Sports. Then there was Wednesday’s little miscue.

Ethier was supposed to start in right field. His name was in the lineup. Manager Don Mattingly said he had spoken to Ethier about starting on a third consecutive day.

But when it came time to stretch out on the field before the game, no Ethier. He was in the weight room, apparently unaware he was in the lineup. Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick said the Dodgers didn’t want to then rush him into the game without stretching, so Gabe Kapler started in right.

"I don't know what happened. He didn't read the card," said Mattingly.

Not a big deal, though as ESPN/LA’s Jon Weisman noted, there might have been a different reaction if it had been Matt Kemp. Still, that’s a wrong little step forward for a guy willing to assume the leadership mantle?

Also on the Web:

-- Blue Heaven’s Ernest Reyes has dug up a classic video of Kirk Gibson in his "Civilized Man" ad for Right Guard circa 1989. It’s the hilarious one when he’s in the bathtub.

-- Baseball Savvy’s Howard Cole has two more insightful interviews with bloggers. Well, at least one is a blogger -- Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. In the second he varies slightly to talk to Dodgers’ postgame radio talk show host Josh Suchon.

-- Dodgers.com’s Gurnick said pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa is battling shoulder tenderness, which he’s had to work through in the past.

-- ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson
profiles phenom Dee Gordon, the Dodgers’ presumed shortstop of their future.

-- Vin Scully Is My Homeboy’s Roberto Baly
questions the wisdom of baseball players playing basketball in lieu of the injury to Zack Greinke and has video of Kemp playing in a charity game at Westchester High School in December 2009.

-- Fox Sports' Joe McDonnell, he of local radio fame, takes a look at the rebound of closer Jonathan Broxton.

-- The Dodgers have added a split-squad game Sunday in Las Vegas against the Cubs. It will be their second consecutive year playing an exhibition game, and sixth overall, at Cashman Field, the former home to their triple-A club.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Turns out the Dodgers are an old story

Uribe_400 The Dodgers unexpectedly have an age-old problem.

They are an old team. Graybeards with gloves. Guys closer to swinging a walker than a bat. They don’t need human growth hormone, they need Celebrex, and an updated retirement program.

This goes against everything we’ve been told about the Dodgers for the past several years, which is part of the problem. Years go by, and the young aren’t so young anymore. Or at least so I’m told.

Of the 23 Dodgers you could reasonably expect to make their final roster, only two are younger than 26.

That’s it, two -- Clayton Kershaw (23 on March 19) and Kenley Jansen (23).

The average age of those 23 Dodgers is over 30.

Lilly_400 That young core of offensive players is now down to three -- Matt Kemp (26), James Loney (26) and Andre Ethier (29 on April 10).

Otherwise the Dodgers' daily starting lineup is expected to have a 35-year-old catcher (Rod Barajas), a 31-year-old second baseman (Juan Uribe), a 37-year-old third baseman (Casey Blake), a 33-year-old shortstop (Rafael Furcal), and a 33-year-old (Marcus Thames) and soon-to-be-34-year-old (Jay Gibbons, happy birthday on Tuesday) splitting time in left.

Mr. Utility is 37-year-old Jamey Carroll. The frisky backup catcher is a 27-year-old kid, Dioner Navarro.

Blake_250 The rotation has 26-year-old Chad Billingsley and Kershaw, but also 31-year-old Jon Garland, 35-year-old Ted Lilly and 36-year-old Hiroki Kuroda.

The bullpen has 26-year-old Jonathan Broxton and Jansen, but also 28-year-old (happy birthday today) Blake Hawksworth, possibly 28-year-old Ramon Troncoso, 29-year-old Hong-Chih Kuo, 32-year-old Matt Guerrier, and eventually the allegedly 33-year-old Vincente Padilla.

And then still fighting to earn final spots are 34-year-old Aaron Miles, 35-year-old Gabe Kapler, 35-year-old (on Friday) Mike MacDougal, 38-year-old Juan Castro and 39-year-old Ron Mahay.

Geritol all around!

So much for those young Dodgers. Ah, youth, where does it fly?

These guys don’t relate to Don Mattingly, they relate to Tom Lasorda. Or John Glenn. These Dodgers are older than a Charley Steiner one-liner.

The problem with all this, of course, is that older players are more likely to break down. They end up looking for love more often in the whirlpool than the batter’s box.

And for the most part, the guys backing up the old starters are even older reserves. Old teams can still win, but they can also tag-team it to the disabled list.

Forget that youthful Dodgers routine. Old news.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Top photo: Juan Uribe. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire

Middle photo: Teddy Lilly. Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire

Bottom photo: Casey Blake. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire

Charities help Rafael Furcal achieve his dream -- the first firetruck for his hometown

Baby, you can drive my -- firetruck?

Beep beep’m, yeah?

Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal is from the town of Loma de Cabrera in the Dominican Republic. A town of about 7,000. A town that had a fire department, but no firetruck.

Furcal decided he wanted to do something about it. New firetrucks can cost over $1 million, so the efforts went elsewhere.

On Tuesday -- in conjunction with the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Dodgers Dream Foundation and the charity Los Bomberos -- Loma de Cabrera was presented with its first firetruck.

"I decided two years ago, I see we need a little something in my hometown over there," Furcal said. "I get the opportunity and talk to the Dodgers, and I wondered if they could help me out.

"And they made my dream come alive. They helped me out big time."

The LAFD donated the retired truck. The Dodgers Dream Foundation is paying for it to be shipped to the Dominican Republic. And Los Bomberos -- a nonprofit group of L.A. firemen who help third-world countries obtain retired firetrucks -- helped refurbish the truck and will send representatives to Loma de Cabrera to train local firefighters how to use it.

"If I tried to do it by myself, I don’t think it would be so easy," Furcal said.

The idea of sending a firetruck to his hometown -- even used firetrucks can run over $300,000 -- came up during his last contract negotiations. General Manager Ned Colletti actually had it put in as part of Furcal's contract.

Furcal, like many Dodgers, also donates to the team’s charity.

The truck was presented to Furcal at a ceremony Tuesday morning at L.A. Fire Station No.3 as part of the second, and final, day of the team’s community caravan.

Later, current Dodgers Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr., Gabe Kapler, Furcal and other team representatives picked up trash at the Santa Monica Pier, had lunch with L.A. Police Department officers at their Reseda station, made a stop at Kapler’s former high school, Taft, and then took part in the dedication of the Dodgers Dream Foundation’s 10th community baseball diamond, this one at the Northridge Community Center.

Afterward, most boarded planes for Phoenix. Pitchers and catchers report Thursday.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Don Mattingly and Steve Dilbeck to appear at Dodgers Community Caravan

You can spend Valentine’s Day with Andre Ethier.

Or, if you prefer, The Times' dashingly handsome Dodgers blogger, Steve Dilbeck.

Here’s the catch: You have to pick up garbage.

The Dodgers’ two-day community caravan will start Feb. 14 with a stop at the Los Angeles River, where Ethier, Don Mattingly, James Loney and Tom Lasorda will be part of a group cleaning up the banks of this majestic … ah, who are we kidding?

Fans who would like to pretend they were convicted of driving under the influence and forced to do community service can register to take part in the event at dodgers.com/caravan. Space is limited to the first 250 fans.

Participants for the second day of the caravan will include Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Fernando Valenzuela.

Here’s the caravan schedule:

Monday, Feb. 14

Participants: Mattingly, Ethier and Loney; former Dodgers Lasorda, Steve Garvey, Bobby Castillo, Tommy Davis, Kenny Landreaux and Rudy Law; Dodgers broadcaster Steve Lyons.

10 to 11:30 a.m. Los Angeles River Cleanup (Public must pre-register for a chance to participate)

The Dodgers in partnership with the Los Angeles City Council District 1, Councilmember Ed P. Reyes and Los Angeles Conservation Corps/Los Angeles River Keepers will clean up the banks of the L.A. River.

Dodgers fans must pre-register online to participate. The event is open to the first 250 registrants that sign up at www.dodgers.com/caravan.

Noon to 2:30 p.m. Visit to USC University Hospital, the Official Hospital of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Hospital employees only)

The Dodgers will join USC University Hospital public health workers for lunch as a thank you for their dedication to healthcare and research.

3 to 4 p.m. LACER (Literacy, Arts, Culture, Education and Recreation) at Thomas Starr King Middle School (Open to program participants)

LACER, a longstanding Dodgers community partner, provides after-school activities to underserved middle and high school youth. The Dodgers will join the LACER youth in playground activities and gardening.

5 p.m. Lopez Tonight Taping in Burbank

The Dodgers will make an appearance on George Lopez’s national show to share their community service experiences.

 
Tuesday, Feb. 15

Participants: Furcal, Kemp, Gwynn Jr., Jay Gibbons and Gabe Kapler; former Dodgers Valenzuela, Don Newcombe, Ron Cey, Derrel Thomas and Lou Johnson; Dodgers broadcasters Charley Steiner and Pepe Yniguez.

9:30 to 10 a.m. Los Angeles Fire Department, Station 3 (Open to media only)

LAFD Chief Millage Peaks, Councilman Tom La Bonge and Los Bomberos President Phillip Dominguez will join Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti and Furcal in announcing the donation of a LAFD fire truck to Furcal’s hometown Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic.

10:30 a.m. to noon Heal the Bay, Santa Monica (Public must pre-register for a chance to participate)

Dodgers fans will join the Dodgers on a Heal the Bay cleanup at Santa Monica beach. The event is open to the first 750 fans that register online at www.healthebay.org/events. Participants will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win autographed baseballs, Dodgers tickets and raffle items at the day’s event.

12:30 to 2 p.m. West Valley LAPD (West Valley LAPD Personnel Only)

The Dodgers will join the officers at the West Valley LAPD station for lunch as a thank you for their service in protecting the greater Los Angeles Community.

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. High School Visit (Open to media only)

The Dodgers will surprise the baseball and softball teams of a local high school and offer playing tips and instruction.

4 to 5:15 p.m. Dodgers Dreamfield Dedication Ceremony at Northridge Recreation Center

The Dodgers Dream Foundation will dedicate its 10th Dodgers Dreamfield at the Northridge Recreation Center. Councilman Greig Smith will join, and youngsters from the community will participate in the field’s first clinic with the Dodgers, who will instruct them on the fundamentals of baseball.
 

-- Dylan Hernandez 

Dodgers sign Gabe Kapler to minor-league deal

Gabe Kapler has officially signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers that includes an invitation to their major-league spring training camp.

A 35-year-old journeyman who has played for six teams over a 12 major-league seasons, Kapler played at Taft High School in Woodland Hills and at Moorpark College.

Kapler's career includes a 38-game stint in Japan with the Tokyo Giants, who released him in the middle of the 2005 season. He retired after the 2006 season and spent the next year managing the Boston Red Sox's class-A affiliate in Greenville, S.C.

Kapler resumed his playing career in 2008, batting .301 with eight homers and 38 runs batted in to be named the Jewish Comeback Player of the Year by jewishmajorleaguers.org.

A career .268 hitter, Kapler has hit 82 homers and driven in 386 runs.

From 1999-2001, he averaged 16 homers per season.

-- Dylan Hernandez

Why Marcus Thames in left for the Dodgers beats the alternative

Know how they say everything is relative?

Well, relatively speaking, the Dodgers outfield is better today after coming to terms with Marcus Thames than it was yesterday.

There wasn’t a whole lot remaining on the outfield free-agent market, so signing Thames was about as good as signing any of the other leftovers.

Yet this black hole in left was the Dodgers’ own doing. They got themselves into this quagmire, so it is only because previous options were so poor that adding Thames counts as something of a modest upgrade.

He does have a little pop, something they desperately need, though it’s hard to get excited about a Jay Gibbons-Thames platoon, if indeed that is their plan.

The two are remarkably similar. Born just four days apart in March, both have reasonable power but something sadly below reasonable defense.

Here are their lifetime stats, the right-handed Thames against lefties and the left-handed Gibbons against right-handers:

                 AVG    OBP    SLG
Gibbons    .259    .319    .464
Thames    .264    .333    .505

Last season, Thames hit a career-high .288 with 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in in 237 at-bats for the Yankees. He also struck out 61 times, which is Matt Kemp territory.

Plus, in recent years, he has been used more as a designated hitter than outfielder. Between Gibbons and Thames, left field figures to be a nightly defensive adventure.

The Times’ Dylan Hernandez
reports the Dodgers are also close to signing right-handed hitting outfielder Gabe Kapler to a minor-league contract, which looks like their biggest reach of the off-season. One more in their ongoing series of what-do-we-have-to-lose signings. Other than some spring at-bats for the kids.

All this doesn’t bode well for Xavier Paul, who is out of options and looks headed for a trade. It can’t do anything for Trayvon Robinson or Jamie Hoffman, either.

This also makes turning Casey Blake into an outfielder a seemingly distant Plan B, though still ahead of Plan C -- crossing fingers and hoping Tony Gwynn Jr. hits something better than the .204 he batted last season, or even using Jamey Carroll as a semi-regular outfielder.

All those options figure to remain in play should Gibbons-Thames struggle. Even struggling, of course, can prove relative.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers reach agreement with Marcus Thames, close to signing Gabe Kapler

Marcusthames_300 The Dodgers are close to making some modest upgrades to their outfield, as they have agreed to terms on a deal with Marcus Thames and are close to signing Gabe Kapler to a minor league contract.

 Thames, who will be 34 on opening day, is expected to provide the right-handed bat in a left-field platoon that will include Jay Gibbons.

Thames hit .288 with 12 home runs and 34 runs batted in in 82 games for the New York Yankees last season.  He batted .300 with five home runs and 14 RBIs against left-handers.

Over nine major-league seasons, including six with the Detroit Tigers, Thames has hit .248 with 113 home runs and 294 RBIs.

Thames’ deal is expected to be finalized on Tuesday.

If Kapler signs with the Dodgers and makes their major league club, this will be a homecoming of sorts for the graduate of Taft High in Woodland Hills.

At 35, Kapler’s best years are about a decade behind him. He had what was arguably his best offensive season in 2000, when he hit .302 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs for the Texas Rangers.

Kapler retired after the 2006 season and spent the next year managing the Boston Red Sox’s class-A affiliate in Greenville, S.C.

Kapler returned as a player in 2008 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He played the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, batting .210 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 140 plate appearances last year.

-- Dylan Hernandez

Photo: Marcus Thames. Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

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