Dodgers Now

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

Category: Hong-Chih Kuo

Dodgers Web musings: Manny Ramirez goes 'Moneyball'

Or maybe that should be the other way around. Our favorite dreadlocked, greatest-quote, not-talking, power-hitting, feeble-swinging bundle of contradictions has taken his waning talents to the Oakland A’s.

You probably missed that chapter in the book, but for an A’s team woefully shy on talent, it is a small gamble. At least financially. Pedro Gomez at ESPN reported that Ramirez signed for $500,000. Of course, the Dodgers still owe him $8.3 million in each of the next two years.

The Manny who absolutely electrified Dodger Stadium in 2008 is now 39 and coming off a year in which he sat out almost the entire season after being busted a second time for using performance-enhancing drugs.

He’ll have to serve a 50-game suspension first, but he wants to play, so best of luck and all. Manny is now Oakland’s problem, though it might make for an interesting sequel.

Also on the Web:

— Pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday and Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick writes that it will the first time in a decade they so with an ace. You can possibly figure out who that is.

— The Times’ Patt Morrison has an interesting Q&A piece with Sue Falsone, the first head female trainer in any American professional sport.

— Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti gives a video interview to Fox at a Kings game where he confirms that he wants to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term contract.

   

— ESPN’s Buster Olney says Yankees catcher Russell Martin has dropped weight for this season. Where have we heard about Martin adjusting his weight before? Oh yeah, here.

— Believe it or not, he’s still here: Brett Tomko has signed a minor-league deal with the Reds.

— And while on ex-Dodgers, infielder Blake DeWitt — the Dodgers’ future second baseman only two years ago — has accepted a minor league assignment with the Cubs after clearing waivers. He’s 26.

— Hong-Chin Kuo is ready to start his new life as a Seattle Mariner: “We all face challenges in life. I had one last year and my teammates helped me through it — everyone helped me through it. My coaches, my wife, everyone.”

— The Jeremy Lin phenomenon reminds some of Nomomania. Wait, check that, it’s Fernandomania.

— Don Mattingly tells Dodgers.com's Gurnick that despite not having an established closer like Jonathan Broxton, he is more confident in his bullpen this season.

— Robert Timm at Dodger Dugout offers his two cents on the team’s coming spring.

— Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers web musings: Clayton Kershaw is looking serious

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Good news: Clayton Kershaw is apparently feeling challenged by his own success.

In a video, Buster Olney takes a look at Clayton Kershaw’s off-season regimen for the “Baseball Tonight” crew.

The reigning National League Cy Young winner told Olney:

“I feel like I have to go more over the top than ever because people are having these expectations that I’m going to come in and not be ready to go, so more so than ever I’m motivated to be ready to go.”

Also on the web:

-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick previews the Dodgers heading into spring, saying they “look to improve upon last year's 82-79 record by loading up on pitching, improved defense and hope.”

-- Jon Garland lives. He’s signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians.

-- Kevin Goldstein has his annual list of the top 101 prospects for Baseball Prospectus. Sadly, only one Dodger makes the list: Zach Lee at No. 70.

-- Mike Petriello at Mike Scoioscia's Tragic Illness thinks the rest of the National League’s first basemen may have dumbed down to James Loney territory.

-- Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy looks at how the Dodgers roster was built.

-- Scott Andes at Lasorda’s Lair is worried what new ownership might mean for Dodger Stadium.

-- Eric Stephen, this time at SB Nation Los Angeles, on Tommy Lasorda being honored with a statue in the Dominican Republic.

-- In a video, Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Weisman reveals his own strigent off-season conditioning regimen.

-- The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker looks at the comeback attempt of Hong-Chin Kuo, who says: "It has to come from inside me.''

-- Tip to Weisman: Alex Bleth at Bronx Bomber takes a long look at new Yankee right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

-- Bryan Painter at The Oklahoman profiles new Dodgers assistant trainer Greg Harrel (includes video interview).

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-- By Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch against the Angels during an interleague game at Anaheim Stadium last season. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / July 2, 2011

Former Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo signs with Seattle Mariners

If Hong-Chih Kuo recaptures the magic that made him baseball’s most dominant reliever in 2010, he won’t do it with the Dodgers.

The former All-Star left-hander has signed a one-year major league contract with the Seattle Mariners, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been officially announced.

The Dodgers didn’t tender a contract offer this winter to Kuo, who earned $2.725 million last season and was due for a raise in the salary arbitration process. They maintained contact with him, but sounded reluctant to offer him a major league contract because of his medical history.

Kuo underwent his fifth elbow operation in October. He was also sidelined more than a month last season because of anxiety disorder.

He finished the season with a career-worst 9.00 earned-run average.

The season before had been the best of his career. He made the National League All-Star team and his 1.20 ERA in 56 appearances established a new Dodgers record.

Kuo was known to prepare for games by showing up at the training room at 1 p.m. to receive treatment on his elbow. Because of that, he was the player most respected by members of the Dodgers’ medical staff, who affectionately called him “The Cockroach” and used to stand on the top step of the dugout whenever he pitched.

-- Dylan Hernandez

Dodgers take minor-league flier on John Grabow

As the winter turns chilly and the Dodgers nestle in with an already remarkably set roster for the final two months before the season starts, I'm afraid this qualifies as news.

On Monday, they signed veteran left-handed reliever John Grabow to a minor-league contract with an invite to their major-league camp.

And the excitement just keeps on coming.

Grabow, 33, is from San Gabriel High School and spent his past 2½ seasons in the Cubs' bullpen, where he was less than impressive. He is, of course, left-handed, and left-handed relievers almost need stakes to the heart to end their careers.

Last season, the light-throwing Grabow appeared in 58 games for the Cubs, going 2-1 with a 4.76 ERA and a fat 1.52 WHIP, which was actually remarkable improvement over his 2010 WHIP of 1.87.

Did I mention he was left-handed? And the Dodgers currently have only one real lefty in their bullpen, Scott Elbert --  unless they bring back Hong-Chih Kuo -– so it's not like it's some horrible move. Just, hopefully, a very minor one.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers need to tender Tony Gwynn Jr.

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The hours are ticking away and Tony Gwynn Jr. waits.

Can we do away with the suspense? Do the Dodgers really need to play this game of contract chicken with Gwynn? Make the deal, or tender him a contract and go to arbitration. Seems simple enough.

Unless, of course, the Dodgers could be playing another game — how low can you go?

Gwynn is the one Dodger who is uncertain whether the Dodgers will officially tender him a contract prior to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline. I’ll go out on a thin limb here and say I’m pretty sure Clayton Kershaw gets tendered. Andre Ethier and, yes, James Loney, are going to be offered contracts. Hong-Chin Kuo, sadly, is not expected to receive an offer.

And that leaves Gwynn, who went through this last season with the Padres, who non-tendered him. Which made him available to sign with the Dodgers, which he did at what proved to be a bargain price at $675,000.

Gwynn played more than expected (a career-high 136 games) and better than most anticipated. He was as strong as advertised defensively, a little better than expected offensively and stole 22 bases.

In most ways, he was the ideal extra outfielder. And still would be.

So don’t risk losing him over a comparatively small amount of dough. If the bankrupt Dodgers are really planning on playing Juan Rivera in left most days, they’ll need Gwynn just as much this season as last. And although Jerry Hairston Jr. could play center if — deep breath here — injury were to befall Matt Kemp, Gwynn is the better defensive outfielder.

In a text to Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick, Gwynn said he was uncertain how it would all play out. Bring him back and end the suspense.

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— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Tony Gwynn Jr. gets ready for batting practice last season. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Daily Dodger in review: The real Scott Elbert arrives

Elbert

SCOTT ELBERT, 26, reliever.

Final 2011 stats: 0-1, 2.43 ERA, two saves, 1.23 WHIP, 9.2 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings in 47 games.

Contract status: Under team control.

The good: From the great unknown, to pretty decent, to very good, it was an interesting ride in 2011 for Elbert. Which considering where he was coming from, made for an excellent season.

Elbert came up for one game in 2010, pitched poorly, was immediately sent back to triple-A Albuquerque and then soon disappeared. He was given permission to leave the club for personal reasons, never fully explained, though he later alluded to the pressure of being a No.1 draft pick and young husband and father of two.

He started last season in the minors but was called up May 11, ironically, when Hong-Chih Kuo was put on the disabled list because of an anxiety disorder. He never returned to the minors. Elbert had a couple of rough moments in the first half, but found his footing and turned in a terrific second half (0.84 ERA). Overall, he held left-handers to a .191 batting average and .250 slugging percentage.

The bad: On July 4, his ERA was 5.73, though most of the damage had come in three outings. He gave up an earned run in only twice more in his next 28 games.

What’s next: He is out of options, so he is assured of a place on next year’s roster.

The take: You have to feel happy for Elbert, who was able to put rough call-ups the previous three seasons (6.84 ERA) behind him and finally stick.

He did it as a reliever, which wasn’t the original plan, but now seems to suit him. I’m sure he’d hope his rise from a 2004 No.1 draft pick to the major leagues would have been more along the meteoric Clayton Kershaw path, but he is in the big leagues now and seems to have put past wildness and troubles behind him.

The Dodgers best hope so, because with Kuo’s status uncertain, Elbert could be the only left-hander in the bullpen.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Scott Elbert. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images.

Hong-Chih Kuo headed for fifth elbow operation [Updated]

Kuo3There is nothing fair about it, no logic to make it all right, no rationalization to soothe the ache.

Hong-Chin Kuo is headed to elbow surgery, again.

Kuo was examined Wednesday by Dodgers physician Neal ElAttrache, who found a "loose body" of enough significance in his left elbow that arthroscopic surgery has been scheduled for Friday.

That would be elbow operation No. 5 for Kuo.

This one is hardly as significant as the two Tommy Johns that were included in those four previous surgeries, but total number is staggering.

ElAttrache estimates this procedure will prevent Kuo from throwing for the next six to eight weeks, which would put him past the Dec. 12 deadline when teams must tender contracts to players –- like Kuo –- who are eligible for arbitration.

Kuo, 30, was unlikely to be tendered a contract by the Dodgers anyway. He is coming off his worst season (9.00 earned-run average), when for the second time in his career he battled an anxiety disorder.

Continue reading »

Hong-Chih Kuo has sore elbow, will sit out All-Star games in Taiwan

Kuo3
Dodgers pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo and a sore elbow seem forever intertwined now, though not exactly in a good way.

Kuo’s had four operations on his left elbow, including two Tommy John surgeries, so you figure it probably hurts all the time.

And it’s hurting a little more now.

Kuo complained of elbow pain to team trainer Stan Conte during an examination Tuesday and will be forced to sit out Major League Baseball’s All-Star exhibition games in Taiwan on Nov. 1-6.

Kuo had been throwing in preparation of the exhibition games in his homeland, but Conte shut him down. Dodgers spokesman Joe Jareck said Kuo is scheduled to be examined by team physician Neal ElAttrache on Wednesday.

"He’s out and disappointed about it, too," Jareck said.

Continue reading »

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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-- Steve Dilbeck

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

Dodgers Web musings: The finish, the future and the payroll

Dodgers1_600

There they go, off into that Dodger blue sunset. A little hard to figure it all out, what with that horrendous start and then very respectable finish.

For the Dodgers too, and their followers. What to make of the boys of the summer of '11? One day into the offseason, the review begins:

-- The Times' Dylan Hernandez said the Dodgers' finish has them hopeful but also realistic that changes still have to come.

-- The Times' T.J. Simers likes/doesn't like the job Don Mattingly did in his rookie season as manager, but still expects a house cleaning when a new owner is in place.

-- ESPN/L.A.'s Tony Jackson said the challenge for the organization now is to figure out which improved play was for real and how to improve the rest.

-- ESPN/L.A.'s Jon Weisman thinks fans shouldn't get too excited about the Dodgers adding an impact player, estimating that they already have almost $100 million committed to next year's roster.

-- A Los Angeles Daily News editorial says the first thing the Dodgers must to do improve is get new ownership.

-- The Daily News' Vincent Bonsignore writes that Mattingly's chaotic years as a Yankees first baseman prepared him well for his tumultuous first season as the Dodgers manager.

--  The New York Times' Karen Crouse finds Matt Kemp a daily light in a dark Dodgers season.

-- Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo tells Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick that he would like to return next season, but would understand if the Dodgers want to move on without him.

-- MikeSciosciasTragicIllness' Mike Petriello recognizes that there is a lot of work for the Dodgers to do, but says this season's finish offers hope.

-- Troubled ex-Dodger Milton Bradley has been arrested again, police saying he swung a bat at his wife Wednesday in their San Fernando Valley home.

-- Jamie McCourt sold the first of what could be several mansions. This is the one in Holmby Hills with the infamous pool, selling for $6.5 million.

-- A medical update on the improving condition of beaten Giants fan Bryan Stow.

-- Here's that curious photo shoot of Kemp at Flaunt.com,

-- The Orange County Register's Howard Cole finds that the Paul DePosdesta character in the film "Moneyball" is hardly the heroic type,

-- For a great visit to a classic baseball night, try this from Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski: an overview of the wildness and drama of Wednesday night's end of the regular season.

-- And don't say we hate country-western music -- OK, maybe after this Clayton Kershaw rendition of Taylor Swift's "Our Song," you might think otherwise.

  

 -- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is greeted by Manager Don Mattingly and teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the seventh inning Wednesday night at Arizona. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

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