Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Jamey Carroll

Daily Dodger in review: Aaron Miles, thanks for unexpected season

FabforumAARON MILES, 34, infielder

Final 2011 stats: .275, three homers, 45 runs batted in, 49 runs, 17 doubles, .314 on-base percentage.

Contract status: Free agent.

The good: Miles was something of a surprise. First came the surprise that the spring-training invitee even made the club, then the surprise that he became a useful, versatile infielder. Played a decent second base, hustled, added a veteran presence on what became an increasingly younger team. Incredibly, with all the team injuries, had 454 at-bats.

The bad: It seemed as if he had a better season than his final numbers revealed. Struggled playing third base. Was OK at most things, but excelled at none.

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Meet the new Dodgers, same as the old Dodgers?

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Hope you really, really believe in that Dodgers team that finished the 2011 season on a nice roll.

Because the more I think about, the more I expect it to return largely unchanged.

That wouldn’t be much of a stretch given the bankrupt Dodgers’ ever-uncertain ownership situation. Hard to spend a significant amount of money when you don’t have much and it's not clear who can spend it.

But the more closely you look at a lengthy interview that General Manager Ned Colletti gave to ESPN's Jim Bowden, the more it looks like you’d best get out the 2012 welcome mat for the 2011 Dodgers.

Yeah, he wants to add an impact bat. So do about 29 other teams. Yet despite how much sense it makes, no one really expects the team in the second-largest market in the country to make a serious run at either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. After that, a serious drop-off. Hey, he could always sign Carlos Beltran. He’s an ex-Giant and everything!

Not signing a free agent leaves trading for a big bat, and the Dodgers have precious little to offer in return. Unless, you know, you want to unload this Clayton Kershaw kid.

So the odds are exceedingly poor that a bat of significance will be brought in, and then there are Colletti’s comments to Bowden where he pretty much has everyone coming back from 2010 save for catcher Rod Barajas.

Which means you’d best get ready for this sales pitch: The Dodgers will significantly upgrade their lineup simply by adding a healthy Juan Uribe and Andre Ethier to it.

Ooooh, when do pitchers and catchers report again?

Assuming health for Uribe (sports hernia surgery) and Ethier (minor knee surgery), and the return of James Loney at first, the Dodgers’ lineup holes would be at second, left and catcher.

And Colletti flat out said, "Behind the plate, we'll probably let Tim Federowicz and A.J. Ellis handle the duties." He also said: "We need to figure out left field as well, but we're leaning towards Jerry Sands, especially after the way he finished this season with us." At second base he noted that Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles were free agents and said: "Right now we have the two young players in [Justin] Sellers and Ivan DeJesus that we might let compete for that job next year."

Believe that last one if you feel so inclined, but the Dodgers GM –- as he needs to –- clearly has his Plan B in place if he's unable to acquire a big bat.

The same ol' even extends to the rotation, where Colletti at least sounds hopeful that Hiroki Kuroda will re-sign, citing the fact that Kuroda bought a home here and his children go to school here. That would leave a familiar rotation of Kershaw, Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Nathan Eovaldi.

The bullpen evolved into a young strength, though Colletti would like to add another veteran.

Sounds remarkably like your 2011 Dodgers. The Dodgers were 25-10 in the last five-plus weeks of the season. That's encouraging, but the season is six months long. Keeping that group mostly intact places a lot of hope on a team that excelled for five weeks.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Juan Rivera, who might be returning to play left field, is congratulated by first baseman James Loney after bringing in Andre Ethier, left, and Matt Kemp with a three-run home run against the Phillies on Aug. 10 at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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.

MORE:

Bankruptcy judge rules against McCourt

Dodgers need to swing for fences to keep Kemp

Strong finish sparks hope for Dodgers for next season

-- Steve Dilbeck

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

That's a wrap: Dodgers complete longest season with 7-5 win

Kemp3
And that is your Dodgers’ 2011 season.

All the ownership ugliness, all the wondrous individual play of Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, the lousy team start, the surprising team finish. All now done with.

The Dodgers wrapped it up Wednesday with a 7-5 victory over the Diamondbacks, completing their longest season at 82-79 -– only the second time all year they were three games above .500.

All the baseball craziness on Wednesday was left to those chasing wild-card berths. This one on a warm desert night had no significance, the Brewers winning earlier Wednesday to assure they would have homefield advantage over Arizona.

There was no stunning, final two-homer game by Kemp that enabled him to join the 40 home run, 40 stolen base club. He just settled for a final two-run homer.

Alas, Kemp ended up hitting .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBI, 114 runs and 40 stolen bases on the season. Otherwise, he just never could seem to get it going.

The homers, runs and RBI all led the league, and the 126 RBI are also the second highest total ever for a Los Angeles Dodger (Tommy Davis, 153, 1962).

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Kuroda shines, but Roberts' slam wins it in 10th for Arizona

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If that was goodbye, Hiroki Kuroda made it memorable. Then Ryan Roberts added his own memory.

Kuroda will become a free agent at the end of the season, and at age 36, has said he’s uncertain whether he wants to pitch in the majors again next year or return for a final season to Japan.

When Kuroda took the mound Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, everyone knew it might be his final performance as a Dodger. So all he did was go out and throw six scoreless innings, holding Arizona to five hits. While not walking a batter and striking out five. It was Kuroda at his best.

Just so the humble Kuroda didn’t think anything had changed, the Dodgers typically offered modest support, scoring  only one run for him. They finally pushed five across in the 10th, only to see the Diamondbacks come back with six of their own in the bottom of the inning, Roberts' walk-off grand slam leaving Arizona with a stunning 7-6 victory.

Kuroda completed his fourth season with a 13-16 record and a 3.07 earned-run average -– ninth lowest in the National League.

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Was that a last chance to bid adieu to half the Dodgers?

Carroll3
So did you wave goodbye? Blow a few kisses, you know, just in case.

Bid a fond farewell to the nine Dodgers who can become free agents at the end of the season? The five Dodgers who are arbitration eligible and could be non-tendered? The two whom the Dodgers hold options on that they’re not expected to pick up?

That’s almost half of the 38 Dodgers currently in uniform or on the disabled list. Some will be back; some won’t. But which, and in what roles?

The free agent list: Aaron Miles, Jamey Carroll, Rod Barajas, Juan Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Mike MacDougal.

The arbitration five: James Loney, Tony Gwynn Jr., Eugenio Velez, Blake Hawksworth and Dana Eveland.

The options not expected to be picked up: Casey Blake and Jon Garland.

That’s a lot of moving parts. For sure, several appeared on the field at Dodger Stadium for the last time Thursday in the Dodgers’ final home game of the season.

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Matt Kemp adds capper to the Dodgers' home season in 8-2 win

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And so ends another season at Dodger Stadium. Can’t say it wasn’t memorable, on the field and off.

The Dodgers completed their 2011 at home Thursday with an 8-2 victory over the Giants before an announced crowd of 37,560 that once again saw Matt Kemp polishing off his MVP resume.

Kemp had three doubles and a two-run homer. It was Kemp’s 36th home run of the season and he looks like a guy trying to hit one almost every at-bat now. And almost managing it.

He was once again greeted with frequent chants of "MVP," and when he hit his towering two-run homer in the eighth inning, the crowd brought him out for a curtain call. The four hits raised his season average to .326.

The victory left the Dodgers 42-39 at home for the year. Not exactly the stuff of their dreams, but not the nightmare at which it once hinted.

And in the short term, they took two of three games from a Giants team that came in on an eight-game winning streak but left with their playoff hopes severely damaged. So it was hardly all bad.

The Dodgers had Tom Lasorda in the dugout as an honorary coach on his 84th birthday, Kemp going nuts at the plate and right-hander Hiroki Kuroda limiting the Giants to two runs in his seven-plus innings.

Kuroda gave up a solo home run to Carlos Beltran in the first inning, but the Dodgers came right back in the bottom of the inning against Madison Bumgarner with Kemp’s first double and Juan Rivera's two-run homer.

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Ned Colletti and the Dodgers' looming, uncertain offseason

If there’s one thing most every offseason offers, it’s uncertainty. And then there is the coming offseason for the Dodgers, which may discover new doors into the unknown.

"I think we have more questions this offseason than we’ve had in the past," General Manager Ned Colletti says.

From small to huge, from backups to star players, from short term to long, all the way to who is going to be the team’s owner.

Colletti is charged with piecing it all together -- determining who he wants to re-sign and which free agents and trades he wants to pursue. When to gamble, when to play it conservatively.

"The offseason really is Ned’s time," Manager Don Mattingly said.

The team offense is the one area everyone agrees the Dodgers need to focus on improving. And the easiest way is to add a significant bat, which remain in shorter supply than love letters between Frank McCourt and Commissioner Bud Selig.

"I say the most dramatic way we can improve the offense, that would be the way we would go," Colletti said.

Alas, there are only two big bats scheduled for free agency, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Either will be looking at a $100 million-plus contract. McCourt has never spent $100 million on a single player, and that’s when he wasn’t in bankruptcy court. Only one player has ever received a $100 million contract from the Dodgers, Kevin Brown back in 1999.

"The pitching and defense have been pretty good," Colletti said. "It’s the offense we have to try and impact, whether that’s from the inside or outside, we have to make the offense more productive. It’s a domino effect inside the lineup."

The Dodgers have at least $25 million coming off the books this offseason, so the possibility of signing a Pujols or Fielder isn’t completely ridiculous. Yet even if they were to make a run at them, there certainly is no guarantee that they’d return the interest. Some players may not be attracted to a bankrupt team.

Colletti said he hasn’t been told by McCourt yet what kind of budget he’ll have in the offseason, though that’s standard operating procedure for this time of year. Most years, of course, the Dodgers aren’t bankrupt.

When he starts to piece it all together, here are some issues Colletti will have to address:

-- Colletti said he wants to re-sign right-hander Hiroki Kuroda: "We’d love to have him back here."

-- If Kuroda returns, Colletti would still need a fifth starter: Nathan "Eovaldi has to be a candidate for that. I don’t want to count anyone else out. [Dana] Eveland has had two real good starts out of three. And there maybe somebody else in the system who can take that."

-- Assuming he doesn’t get a Pujols or Fielder, Colletti may tender James Loney after all: "As of right now, I’d say he’s somebody we’d have back."

-- Juan Uribe was a bust and then went out with injury but has two more years on his contract and will return next season, most likely at third: "We’re going to have to count on it. Everything is risky."

-- When the big pieces are filled in, several of this year’s role players -– Tony Gwynn Jr., Aaron Miles, Jamey Carroll, Juan Rivera and even Casey Blake -- may return: "In the right situation, yes."

-- Steve Dilbeck

If that was farewell, Hiroki Kuroda made it a winner, 7-2

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His neck hurts, he’s 36 years old, on a middling team and very possibly playing his final season in the majors.

And Hiroki Kuroda is still here, still soldiering on, still fighting the aches and disappointments and pains of age to take his turn in the Dodgers rotation every five days.

Kuroda was back at it Friday night, after a recent MRI exam showed no new damage to his old bulging disk, still mixing his plethora of pitches with effective results.

In what may have been his final start in Los Angeles, Kuroda went six strong innings to lead the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory over the Pirates before an announced crowd of 41,148.

Kuroda (12-16) allowed two runs (one earned), while holding the Pirates to five hits and a pair of walks. He struck out seven. Kuroda will become a free agent at the end of the season.

He fell behind in the second inning after giving up a single and a walk, when rookie Dee Gordon’s throw to first base sailed wide for a run-scoring error.

The Dodgers tied the score in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back doubles by Jerry Sands and Rod Barajas, and took the lead with a pair of runs in the third.

Gordon singled and stole second, and Justin Sellers walked before Matt Kemp’s hit scored Gordon. Juan Rivera beat out a potential double-play relay to first base to allow Sellers to score and put the Dodgers ahead, 3-2.

The Pirates got one back in the top of the sixth inning on an Alex Presley solo home run, but the Dodgers came back in the bottom of the inning to score four times –- three on a pinch-hit home run by James Loney.

Russ Mitchell, Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles each singled to start the bottom of the sixth inning. A Gordon groundout scored Mitchell before Loney launched a two-out, full-count offering from reliever Chris Resop into the right-field pavilion.

Loney had been one for 10 as a pitch-hitter this season, without an RBI.

MORE:

Dodgers-Pirates box score

McCourt seeks court's approval to sell TV rights

Dodgers seek permission to hire a public-relations firm

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda delivers a pitch against the Pirates on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Kelvin Kuo / US Presswire

Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum deliver again; Dodgers win, 2-1

Dodgers-blog_640 There are not many things in life that can be counted upon to live up to high expectations, but apparently all Clayton Kershaw-Tim Lincecum matchups are one of them.

The two young pitching greats were matched up for the third time this season, and for the third time it proved a brilliant pitching duel. And for the third time, Kershaw came out ahead.

Lincecum, however, did not lose Friday’s game; that was left to reliever Santiago Casillo. He took over to start the ninth in a 1-1 game and almost immediately watched the Dodgers rally for a 2-1 victory.

Rod Barajas led off the ninth with a single off Casillo. Ex-Giant Eugenio Velez ran for Barajas, who was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Justin Sellers. Casillo looked unnerved. He threw a wild pitch to allow Velez to take third.

The Giants brought the infield in, and Jamey Carroll hit a bouncer to second baseman Jeff Keppinger. He fired home but was too late to get the speedy Velez.

The victory was the Dodgers’ 14th in their last 15 games, and did absolutely nothing to damage the Cy Young resume of Kershaw.

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