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Category: James McDonald

Dodgers' staff in progress: Carlos Monasterios gets start Saturday, Jack Taschner replaces George Sherrill as late-inning left-hander

In their never-ending quest to determine a fifth starter, the Dodgers are going back to rookie Carlos Monasterios for the third time this season.

If at first you don’t succeed ...

The currently very cozy bullpen is getting a minor makeover, with more to come, and probably soon.

Even with Reed Johnson's lack of progress, the Dodgers decided to go at least one more game without calling up another outfielder for Thursday's game against the New York Mets.

When the Dodgers sent catcher A.J. Ellis to triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday, instead of calling up another bat, they brought up left-handed reliever Jack Taschner.

Manager Joe Torre said Taschner will take over George Sherrill’s role as the late-inning left-hander.

"He'll take on the left-handed specialist role at this point," Torre said. "We’ll use Sherrill earlier in the game and put Tas in the spot that [Sherrill] has been in until we get George to have enough good outings where he's confident knowing what's coming out and we are too.

"But we have to wait for that to happen. Up until that time, I think we need to use Taschner wherever it's called for later in the game."

Read: Sherrill was officially demoted.

The addition of Taschner on Wednesday left the Dodgers with 13 pitchers, and a bloated bullpen of eight relievers.

If the Dodgers can get through another game with a relatively unscathed bullpen, they probably would call up another right-handed bat, preferably an outfielder, by Friday.

"We certainly don't want to be at 13," Torre said. "Right now we'll stay there just until the bullpen stabilizes itself.

"I think it's realistic that in the next couple of days, we'll go back to 12."

Complicating the situation is Johnson, who is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday with a lower back strain, not progressing.

"We have no date right now for Reed Johnson," Torre said. "He's sort of stagnated there. It was getting better, getting better, but it’s not improving now. He’s not going backward, but he's not improving. He's probably going to be another week or so."

And then he probably will need to go on a rehabilitation assignment.

With Monasterios (3-2, 3.61 earned-run average) moving back to the rotation, James McDonald remains a middle reliever. McDonald has only started this season -- 12 games at Albuquerque and his outing Monday against the Giants in which he struggled (four runs on nine hits in five innings).

McDonald failed as the fifth starter at the beginning of last season, though he later found some success as a reliever. Torre, however, said the latest move doesn't mean that the Dodgers have determined that McDonald's future is as a reliever.

"Not necessarily," Torre said. "He was fine with it when we talked it. When you get at this level, you pretty much have to do what we need for the good of the team. At this point and time, I think that's where he's going to best serve us. He’s pretty durable, and he can come out of the bullpen and strike somebody out."

Somebody, however, will have to be sent down when the Dodgers call up a bat this weekend. If Taschner is now a late-inning guy, then the options are Travis Schlichting, Justin Miller (out of options) or McDonald.

And right now, with the lack of rotation depth, I'd rather have McDonald starting at Albuquerque.

Of course, other relievers could be called up (Kenley Jansen?) and the nonwaiver trading deadline is only a week away.

-- Steve Dilbeck

In the aftermath: suspensions, umpires' miscues, James McDonald to the bullpen, call ups and more

Sorting through the rumble the day after, very carefully …

-- The three Dodgers ejected Tuesday night were all suspended on Wednesday: Manager Joe Torre for Wednesday’s game, bench coach Bob Schaefer for one game (Thursday) and right-hander Clayton Kershaw for five games.

All it really means for Kershaw is that he’ll pitch one day later than normal. Not exactly a death knell.

-- Torre said when he spoke Tuesday to Bob Watson, MLB vice president of on-field operations, Watson confirmed the umpires had messed up the ninth inning Tuesday.

As written here earlier, when acting manager Don Mattingly turned to respond to James Loney and went back on the mound a second time, Mattingly should have been ejected and Jonathan Broxton allowed to pitch to the batter, Andres Torres, before being forced to leave the game.

Instead, the umpires allowed Mattingly to remain and immediately forced him to remove Broxton.

"It was just a screw up all the way around," Torre said.

-- Torre said there was no protest for the team to make now; they would have had to make it at the time the umpires made the mistake.

So who would have protested? Torre and Schaefer were already ejected and in the clubhouse. Was Mattingly supposed to say, "Hey, wait, you’re supposed to eject me and leave Broxton in for one batter?"

"Really, the people who are supposed to protest weren’t in the dugout," Torre said. "And that’s me."

-- Because the bullpen is currently beat up, instead of calling up an outfielder to replace Manny Ramirez on the disabled list, the Dodgers instead brought up left-handed reliever Jack Taschner.

This might not bode well for struggling left-hander George Sherrill. The journeyman Taschner was released by the Pirates in June. He signed with Albuquerque and had a 3.60 ERA in 10 games.

An outfielder, however, is expected to be added quickly -- possibly as soon as Thursday -- so one pitcher will have go.

-- James McDonald has been moved to the bullpen as a middle man and will not take a second start.

Torre said Saturday’s starter would be determined after he sees how the bullpen is used Wednesday.

That means Carlos Monasterios is the likely starter, though Torre said John Ely, now at triple-A Albuquerque, is also a candidate.

-- Outside of losing, the thing that Torre was still most upset about the next day was the umpires giving a cold Sherrill only eight pitches to warm up after they forced Broxton to exit the game.

Crew chief Tim McClelland had told Mattingly that Sherrill would get as much time to warm up as needed, but that wasn’t communicated to home plate umpire Adrian Johnson, who stopped Sherrill after eight.

McClelland told Torre he was talking to the rest of the umpires about another dispute and was unaware how many warm-ups Sherrill had thrown when Johnson called Torres to the plate.

"And I guess McClelland said, 'Are you ready?’ And (Sherrill) said, 'Well, I guess so.’ And that was that."

Torre said Sherrill could have asked for more warm-up pitches, but was just as confused as everyone else.

-- Mattingly is Torre’s anointed successor but has never been a manager. Torre said Mattingly’s faux pas has no reflection on his ability to manage.

"That has nothing to do with anything as far as his managerial ability," Torre said. "That’s just one of those reaction things. You turn around and talk to one of your players. That’s something you learn from and move on. It’s certainly easy to do when you walk off the mound when somebody says something to you."

-- Just who isn’t learning here? Loney almost forced Torre to make the same mistake of turning around and returning to the mound a second time to address a question last week in St. Louis.

"James knew exactly what he needed to do [Tuesday], he just wanted to be reassured," Torre said. "He felt badly last night. Manny said to me, 'How can Donny listen to James anyway?'

"You have to laugh at yourself at this point, because you can’t get that one back."

-- Steve Dilbeck

On second thought, Dodgers decide John Ely could use some time in Albuquerque; Jon Link called up

About that Joe Torre comment that struggling John Ely would remain in the rotation … yesterday’s news.

By Sunday Ely was headed back to triple-A Albuquerque and the Dodgers had called up reliever Jon Link.

Just when you thought the rotation might actually be settled, new upheaval. Some themes just won’t go away.

Torre said Saturday after the Dodgers’ 7-3 loss to the Cubs, he planned to stick with Ely. But then came a conversation with general manager Ned Colletti and new plans were hatched.

"We just decided he needs to get back on track," Torre said. "And in talking to John today, he certainly understood that. He’s going down there with the attitude we need him to have."

Ely was terrific in his first seven starts (2.54 ERA), but has mostly struggled since. In his last two starts, he couldn’t pitch out of the third inning.

"I’m not getting the job done," Ely said.

Because of the All-Star breaking beginning Monday, the fifth starter in the Dodgers rotation isn’t scheduled until July 19 against the Giants.

"By the time we get there, we’ll have one," Torre said. "Right now, today, we talked about JMac [James McDonald], who’s pitching today. We’ll see what that looks like.

"If we need to go bullpen for that particular day, we will. But we have a little time before we have to make that decision."

Sunday, McDonald allowed one run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings in a 2-1 Albuquerque victory over Omaha. He walked four and struck out two. He is 5-1 with a 4.73 ERA overall, but has a 2.70 ERA in his last three games since a stint the disabled list with a strained hamstring.

Torre said if the Dodgers elect to make it a bullpen start, rookie Carlos Monasterios could get the call. Monasterios (3-2, 3.91 ERA) previously started six games this season.

Right now, however, the Dodgers have an extra reliever for Sunday’s game against the Cubs and for the four games in St. Louis when they return from the break.

Then McDonald, who was the team’s fifth starter coming out of camp last year before struggling (1-1, 8.78 ERA in four starts), is likely to get the start against the Giants.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Ramon Ortiz can't get it done, again, as Dodgers' winning streak ends at nine in 10-5 loss to Padres

Ramonortiz_586

Can we now all agree the Ramon Ortiz experiment has been a failure?

Please.

I guess the only person who was shocked that Ortiz got knocked around Wednesday by the offensively challenged Padres is Manager Joe Torre.

Anyway, he has to feign surprise. He does, of course, have to write someone’s name into that fifth spot in the rotation until Vicente Padilla comes back in a couple weeks.

And if there is no clear choice who should be the fifth starter, it should be abundantly clear by now it sure ain’t Ortiz.

Ortiz was rocked for five runs on six hits and three walks in just 3 1/3 innings. His earned-run average climbed to 6.30, his record fell to 1-2, the confidence level in him slipped to zero.

The Dodgers ultimately fell, 10-5, to the Padres, snapping their nine-game winning streak and dropping them two games behind San Diego in the National League West standings.

Until last week, Ortiz hadn’t started a major-league game since 2007. There’s just a small possibility there was good reason for the nearly three-year drought.

I’d say I don’t understand the fascination with Ortiz, but it’s more about a lack of viable alternatives.

There is no one at triple-A Albuquerque who is making a case for promotion -- Josh Lindbom (2-1, 6.05 ERA), Josh Towers (2-5, 8.05), James McDonald (2-1, 5.77), Scott Elbert (1-1, 5.85).

There’s really nobody on the staff, either, though at this point Carlos Monasterios looks like a gamble worth taking over another Ortiz outing. Monasterios threw three scoreless innings Wednesday in his first appearance in eight days.

It’s not like Ortiz is suddenly going to make some jump in ability or experience. He’s 36. He is what he is, and it’s not good enough.

--Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Ramon Ortiz delivers a pitch against San Diego on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire

Dodgers' rotation dilemma is of their own making

Pedro Martinez, anyone? Jarrod Washburn? John Smotlz? Mark Loretta?

As Ned Colletti likes to say, you can never have enough starting pitching. Anyway, he used to like to say that.

These Dodgers clearly lack starting pitching, and now it has them in a fix of their own creation.

The rotation was already highly questionable heading into the season, the Dodgers counting on: Clayton Kershaw to continue to develop, Chad Billingsley to return to form, Hiroki Kuroda to shake of his neck/head injury, Vicente Padilla to continue to prove Texas wrong, and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger to at least be decent.

As iffy as that all was, the Dodgers knew they had precious little depth behind the starting five. As soon as someone went down, which was inevitable over the course of a season, they would be in trouble.

They’re in trouble.

Padilla went on the disabled list with Sunday with a sore elbow.

And replacing him in the rotation Tuesday is … who exactly? No one to remotely feel confident in.

Jeff Weaver was the emergency rotation fill-in last season, but he’s already on the DL with a sore back. Besides, he’s been used more as a situational reliever this season and couldn’t be expected to give the Dodgers starters’ innings.

The only others on the roster theoretically capable are Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Monasterios. Ortiz  largely has been unimpressive (6.94 ERA). Monasterios, who has barely pitched above Single-A until this season, is understandably being handed with kid gloves.

Which leaves the Dodgers no choice but to bring up someone from the system. And there ain’t nobody there whose performance is screaming -- or whispering -- bring me up.

None of the Albuquerque Isotopes’ starters have been impressive. Josh Lindblom has shown promise the past two springs, but is 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA. John Ely is numerically best at 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA but is pitching above Double-A for the first time. Journeyman Josh Towers is 1-2 and 4.24, James McDonald is 0-0 with 4.97 ERA and a broken nail, and Scott Elbert is 0-1 with an 8.36 ERA.

Ugh. Towers, 33, will probably get the call, mostly because they have to call on someone. In eight major-league seasons with four different clubs, he’s an indifferent 45-55 with a 4.95 ERA.

Just gets you all goosebumpy, doesn’t it?

This hardly figures to be the last time the Dodgers are in this predicament. There’s just pathetic depth. They could sign Martinez. That wouldn’t help them in the short term -- he would still have to have a camp -- but would at least give them someone down the line.

None of this can come as a shock to the organization. Whether it was because of the pending divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt or not, the Dodgers had a pitching need in the offseason and failed miserably to address it.

It’s already cost them, but the payment in performance is only beginning.

-- Steve Dilbeck

On the bright side, Charlie Haeger was impressive in his first start

You uncover your eyes now.

Really, it wasn’t that bad. Just because the Dodgers opened the season 2-4, blowing leads like dandelions, coming home tied for last and the staff sporting a 5.23 earned-run average.

There was something good that came out of Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Marlins:

Charlie Haeger.

Take away the first three Florida hitters in the fourth inning, and it would be difficult to ask for more from him.

Haeger had his knuckleball darting all over the place, which is mostly good. He struck out 12 in six innings, walked four and allowed three hits.

Whether it was the breeze or the humidity, his knuckleball had plenty of movement. It danced so much that twice he struck out batters on wild pitches that got away from catcher A.J. Ellis and allowed the hitter to reach first.

He threw too many pitches (117, 67 for strikes) but knuckleballers are renowned for their rubber arms -- it’s not like they’re throwing 100 mph -- and hopefully Manager Joe Torre will allow him to go deeper into the game in his next start.

Torre saw something in Haeger this spring, because he really didn’t do anything to particularly distinguish himself and win the fifth starting spot. He had a nice ERA of 2.20, but not as good as Ramon Ortiz (0.96). Mostly, his major competition (James McDonald, Eric Stults, Josh Towers and Josh Lindblom) pitched themselves out of contention.

But if Haeger can continue to pitch like he did Sunday, concerns over the fifth spot will quickly evaporate. His performance was somewhat overlooked by the way the Dodgers gave away another game.

His only trouble Sunday was in the fourth, when his control briefly deserted him after he sat for a lengthy time when the Dodgers scored four times in the top of the inning.

He walked his first two batters and then gave up a crushing home run to Jorge Cantu.

Otherwise, it was an encouraging first start for Haeger. And after that trip, the Dodgers were looking for encouraging signs.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Stults being shopped as the fifth-starter dwindling continues

Ten days of spring-training games left for the Dodgers before it gets real, and do you know where your fifth starter is?

That traffic jam for the final spot in the Dodgers’ rotation may slowly be coming untangled.

Though Joe Torre has said a decision will come down to spring’s final days, the Dodgers appear to be narrowing their focus.

Dylan Hernandez reports that the Dodgers are shopping Eric Stults, who because he is out of options was a presumed slight favorite after James McDonald was sent down. Getting shopped is not being shown a lot of love.

If Stults is not in the Dodgers' plans, the fifth spot is down to Carlos Monasterios, Charlie Haeger and the dueling Ortiz Reclamation Projects.

Josh Lindblom remains an intriguing thought, but he may have appeared just enough like a young pitcher Wednesday against the A’s (two runs on three hits and two walks in two innings) to take him out of serious consideration. At least for the moment.

Despite a rough last outing, Monasterios looks like he’ll make the club, either as a starter or reliever. He spent most of last season coming out of the bullpen. And as a Rule 5 pick, it’s use him or lose him.

Haeger is in a similar situation because he’s out of options. Torre likes the knuckleballer and is stretching him out like he wants to start him. He threw 68 pitches in a minor league game.

It’s hard to truly believe in either Ortiz, given their recent history, but they continue to make their case. And at some point, you have to pay attention.

Ramon Ortiz hasn’t had an ERA under 5.00 in his last three major-league seasons and pitched all of last year in the minors.

Still, he has a 1.38 ERA this spring and has struck out 17 in 13 innings. Numbers that are hard to ignore, try as you might. He gets another start Thursday against the Brewers.

Then there is Russ Ortiz, another aging right-hander who hasn’t had an ERA under 5.50 in his last four seasons. He went 3-6 with a 5.57 ERA last season in 23 games (13 starts) for the Astros.

But he has a 2.08 ERA in four games and is looking surprising like the Ortiz who went 21-7 for the Braves in 2003.

With Ronald Belisario still lost in Visa Land and Hong-Chih Kuo still nursing his almost continually sore elbow, there could be room on the staff for guys who can start or relieve, such as Monasterios and Haeger.

-- Good news department: Ken Gurnick reports at dodgers.com that minor league hitting coach Lenny Harris was released from the hospital Wednesday.

Harris, baseball’s all-time leading pinch-hitter, had quadruple bypass surgery Saturday. He did not have a heart attack but did have blockage in four arteries.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers send pitcher James McDonald to minors

James McDonald, the 25-year-old Long Beach native who has slumped badly after again being a contender for the fifth spot in the Dodgers' starting rotation when spring training began, was sent back to the minor leagues Saturday night.

The move came after the right-hander was rocked Friday night in a Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres. McDonald gave up six earned runs in only 1 1/3 innings, including a three-run home run by Dusty Ryan.

McDonald overall surrendered 12 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings this spring, and Dodgers Manager Joe Torre had signaled Saturday morning that McDonald might need to be in the minors to get enough practice to work out his problems.

The tall, lanky McDonald came out of camp a year ago as the team's fifth starter, but he wobbled in April. Then he moved to the bullpen and pitched relatively well for the rest of the season, going 4-4 with a 2.72 earned-run average.

-- Jim Peltz

Shrinking James McDonald could be headed back to minors

James McDonald
James McDonald
, what do we make of you?

McDonald seemed a lock to make the 25-man when spring began, if not back in the rotation at least in the bullpen.

He struggled last year after winning the fifth spot out of spring but switched to the bullpen and pitched effectively (4-4, 2.72 ERA) the rest of the season.

Coming into spring, he was considered a slight favorite to reclaim the fifth spot in the rotation. He is, after all, only 25 and the Dodgers’ two-time minor league pitcher of the year. This is a guy the team would want to win the spot.

But he’s pitched so abysmally this spring, Manager Joe Torre said last week his immediate future was in the bullpen. Then after his continued struggles Friday (six runs on six hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings), Ken Gurnick at Dodgers.com rightly questioned whether he would now even make the team as a reliever.

Torre seemed to reinforce the view that McDonald may end up at triple-A in his pregame meeting with reporters Saturday.

"It's frustrating for him, trust me," Torre said. "If he ends up in Albuquerque, he would start to give him innings."

His spring numbers are astoundingly bad (20.25 ERA, 19 baserunners in 5 1/3 innings), but as examined at MikeSciosciasTragicIllness.com, preseason numbers can be difficult to quantify compared with actual historic performance in the regular season.

But McDonald also has another thing going against him: He has minor-league options left.

Several other pitchers vying for roster spots could be lost if they don’t make the team. They are either out of options (Eric Stults, Charlie Haeger), a Rule 5 pick that would have to be returned (Carlos Monasterios) or are believed to have contract options that would enable them to become free agents (Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz) if sent down.

It all adds up badly for McDonald at the moment. It appears he may need to go back down to regain his command -- and confidence.

If that’s how the spring plays out, ultimately, it may not prove a bad thing. If he can go back to Albuquerque and get it together, the Dodgers will need another starter at some point this season. McDonald still reeks of potential, and his future may yet be as a starter.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: James McDonald pitches for the Dodgers against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium on May 7, 2009. Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport / US Presswire

Scratch one from fifth-starter consideration: Joe Torre says James McDonald looks like reliever

It looks like the Dodgers’ fondest hope for filling the fifth spot in the rotation, James McDonald, isn’t going to happen.

Dodgers-mcdonald_400 Joe Torre told reporters Wednesday afternoon that "McDonald looks more like a bullpen guy."

This is the same right-hander who was given the fifth spot last spring but, after going 1-1 with an 8.78 ERA in four starts, was moved to the bullpen for the rest of the season.

He went 4-4 with a 2.72 ERA out of the bullpen, so Torre is probably on to something.

Still, it has to be disappointing that McDonald didn’t show enough this spring to remain in serious contention for the fifth spot. He’s only 25, and aside from Carlos Monasterios (24 next week) and Charlie Haeger (26), the other candidates are 30 or older -- Eric Stults (30), Russ Ortiz (35) and Ramon Ortiz (36).

"Stults and Haeger haven't done anything to hurt their chances," Torre said. "I don't think anybody for sure is on the team."

McDonald’s youth and promise made him a nice fifth-starter candidate, and if he’d pulled it off, he would have set himself up with a nice future in the rotation. After only two -- and the emphasis is on two -- spring appearances (six earned runs in four innings on eight hits and three walks), the Dodgers have apparently seen enough to make a decision.

McDonald isn’t likely to start the season at Triple-A Albuquerque, so along with Jeff Weaver, he gives the Dodgers two middle relievers who could also be swing guys if needed.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: James McDonald. Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images

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