Dodgers Now

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Category: Jerry Sands

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.

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

Dodgers tab Scott Van Slyke, Shawn Tolleson minor players of year

Scott-van-slyke_325 It might be minor, but the results can often prove major.

The Dodgers selected infielder/outfielder Scott Van Slyke (pictured at right) their minor league players of the year and Shawn Tolleson their minor league pitcher of the year on Thursday.

The Dodgers dipped into double-A Chattanooga to tap Van Slyke and Tolleson, who also split his season with a pair of Class-A teams.

That might seem as if the Dodgers are going deep into the system to find their Branch Rickey award winners, but the Dodgers haven’t been shy about tabbing young players in the past.

Last year’s winners were Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa, who had split time between Class A and double A that season, and both made it to the Dodgers this year.

Van Slyke, son of former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke, spent all season at Chattanooga, winning the Southern League batting title with a .348 average. He had 20 home runs, 92 RBIs and 159 hits in 457 at-bats.

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Van Slyke, 25, completed his seventh season in the Dodgers organization, but Tolleson was appearing in only his second.

A right-handed reliever, Tolleson went a combined 7-2 with 25 saves and a 1.17 earned-run average. He averaged 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He started the season at Class-A Great Lakes, was briefly assigned to high Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, before being promoted to Chattanooga.

Tolleson, 23, was a 30th-round selection in the 2010 draft; Van Slyke was taken in the 14th round in 2005.

Previous player-of-the-year winners include Dee Gordon, James Loney, Paul Konerko, Mike Piazza and Eric Karros, and previous pitcher-of-the-year winners include Scott Elbert, Chad Billingsley, Eric Gagne and Pedro Martinez.

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Photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Dodgers burn out against Diamondbacks, fall 7-2

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Hot met hotter, which for the Dodgers, was bad news.

There is only one team that has been on more of a tear recently than the Dodgers, if slightly, and that is the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks have been baseball’s surprise team this year, and they gave the Dodgers a first-hand look at why Monday night in their 7-2 victory before an announced crowd of 30,616 at Dodger Stadium.

The Diamondbacks used a five-run sixth inning to overcome the early dominance of Ted Lilly and maintain their 8½-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

The Dodgers entered the three-game series having won 15 of their last 19 games. All while losing a game in the standings to Kirk Gibson’s Diamondbacks, who had won 16 of 19.

And it started promisingly enough Monday for the Dodgers when Matt Kemp hit a solo homer off Joe Saunders in the first inning and then Lilly held the Diamondbacks without a hit through four innings. The home run was No.33 for Kemp this season.

But the Dodgers never could get anything else going against Saunders (11-12), whom they had already beaten three times this season. Saunders retired 13 consecutive Dodgers at one point.

Meanwhile, Lilly was cruising along with his 1-0 lead until seeming to hit a wall in the sixth inning. Willie Bloomquist blooped a single and scored on an Aaron Hill double that was bobbled by left fielder Jerry Sands. After an intentional walk to Justin Upton, Miguel Montero fouled out.

Hill stole third, and with a 1-1 count on Paul Goldschmidt, Manager Don Mattingly had apparently seen enough, removed Lilly (9-14) and called on reliever Matt Guerrier. Lilly had thrown 101 pitches.

Goldschmidt lined Guerrier’s first pitch for a single to score Hill. A walk to Chris Young loaded the bases and a Ryan Roberts hit scored one more and brought the call to left-hander Scott Elbert, who was greeted by a two-run single from Gerardo Parra.

The Diamondbacks were up, 5-1, which was all the lead they were going to need.

The Dodgers got one back in the seventh inning on a walk to Aaron Miles, a wild pitch and a Sands single, but Arizona scored two more in the eighth inning on a double by Para.

The Diamondbacks’ record went to a stunning 86-62 with the victory, the Dodgers falling to 72-74 with the loss.

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Photo: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp watches his 33rd home run of the season during the first inning of a game against the Diamondbacks on Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press

And on the 144th game, the Dodgers reached .500; beat Giants 3-0

Dodgers-blog_600 Being mediocre never felt so good.

The Dodgers got to a place Saturday they hadn’t visited since the second day of May. Hadn’t really even sniffed it in more than four months.

An even .500.

The Dodgers continued their recent strong play, dropping the Giants, 3-0, behind journeyman left-hander Dana Eveland.

The victory was their 15th in their last 18 games and it left them 72-72. It’s the first time they’ve been at .500 since May 2 (15-15). And considering everything they’ve been through on the field and with ownership, no minor accomplishment.

The win over the shrinking-so-small-you-can-barely-see-them Giants assures the Dodgers their sixth consecutive series victory. It’s the first time they’ve managed that in three years. Suddenly they're good, if late, these days.

Saturday the Dodgers used a pair of triples and a bunch of balls that never made it out of the infield to make a loser of right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (10-7).

Eveland, who spent all season at triple-A Albuquerque until being called up last week to start against the Pirates, was once again just shy of brilliant.

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Dodgers start doubleheader with win behind Tony Gwynn Jr.

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Tony Gwynn Jr., the forgotten Dodger?

The glamour guys in the outfield are Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The surprising run-producing addition is Juan Rivera. The hot prospect is Jerry Sands.

And Gwynn?

He’s given the Dodgers just about all they hoped for when he signed a one-year contract in the off-season: great outfield defense, speed on the bases, a respectable .257 batting average, and on a damp Thursday as a bonus, a game-winning double.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Gwynn lined his ninth-inning double into the right-center gap to drive in two, break up a tie game and lead the Dodgers to a 7-4 victory over the Nationals in Washington.

Rain had started to fall when the Dodgers started their one-out rally against Washington reliever Drew Storen after he hit Sands with a pitch and Rod Barajas singled.

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Dodgers shut down Andre Ethier for season

Photo: Andre Ethier. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters.

In the end, Andre Ethier got his way. Anyway, we think it was his way, depending on which day he was talking.

But at least it seemed the sensible, logical approach when the Dodgers announced Thursday that they were shutting down Ethier and his bad knee for the rest of the season.

What little we know about the knee injury comes from Ethier, because the team's medical staff was instructed not to comment after a brouhaha exploded when Ethier first told The Times’ T.J. Simers he was playing through pain, as had been requested. Which he amended the next day to say that playing was always at his discretion.

Ethier said there was a skin fold caught under his right kneecap and the joint, which pinches. The expected procedure to correct it is arthroscopic. He left the team Thursday to go to Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion from famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James  Andrews.

If the surgery takes place as expected, the recovery process is not major.

Despite an early-season 30-game hitting streak, the Dodgers outfielder has experienced a disappointing season, his power numbers shrinking to un-Ethier like numbers (11 homers, 62 RBI). Ethier said he believes that his power stroke will return next season, after the surgery.

"Yeah, that's the reason we're doing this right now," he said.

Why the Dodgers ever wanted Ethier to play through the pain when their season was long over remains something of a mystery. Unless you just buy that they were somewhat skeptical of the severity of the pain and believed that it was simply an excuse for poor performance.

But there was really nothing to be gained by continuing to play him now when it was anticipated he would require surgery in the offseason anyway. Jerry Sands is up, more kids are coming, the season is long over. Let him have the surgery and start rehabbing now for next year.

If the knee wasn't getting worse, it certainly was not getting any better. All focus now should be on next season, anyway.

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Photo: Andre Ethier. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters.

Now that Jerry Sands is back, it's time to play him every day

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The one Dodgers prospect with power who just might be ready to produce for the Dodgers next season, Jerry Sands, has returned.

Anyway, it would be really nice for all concerned –- the team, the bankrupt ownership, the fans and, of course, Sands –- if he did appear ready.

Sands was up earlier this season, and although he certainly didn’t it tear up like some unstoppable phenom, he certainly had his moments.

Not enough of them to stick –- he hit .200, with two homers, 17 RBI and 33 strikeouts in 125 at-bats –- but enough to keep the interest level high.

Back at triple-A Albuquerque, he completed a very productive season, which the high altitude can inflate. Still, he finished there with a team-high 29 homers and 88 RBI in 370 at-bats, with 86 strikeouts. His average, however, was only .278.

He was called up Tuesday along with right-hander John Ely and catcher Tim Federowicz. Of the three, however, Sands is the one who needs to play. Whether in the outfield or at first base, the Dodgers need to give him a long look.

Happily, Manager Don Mattingly told the media in Washington, D.C., he does want to play Sands, even at the expense of sitting Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier. Tony Gwynn Jr. and James Loney also figure to sit more with Sands in the fold.

The Dodgers will go into the offseason the same way they started the season -- still lacking an everyday left fielder. And there is still uncertainty about whether they want Loney back. How Sands performs the final month could seriously affect the direction they go.

So they need to pretty much find a spot in the lineup for him every day. They’re trying to win, sure, but everything now is about the future. And Sands is supposed to be a big part of it.

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Photo: Jerry Sands. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.

Can a hot James Loney save his career with Dodgers?

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Are we headed to one fun off-season or what?

That’s not even taking into consideration the uncertain ownership and payroll situation. Who knows how or when that all unfolds? Oooh, the suspense.

And then there is the most curious case of all: What to do with James Loney?

Loney has one more year of arbitration left, and given that he’s making $4.785 million this season and spent most of it struggling, it was assumed in most quarters the Dodgers were going to go all Russell Martin on him and not tender him a contract.

Only right now, Loney is a man on fire. He’s not only finally playing like they hoped he would all season, he’s playing better than that.

In his last 18 games, Loney is batting .442 with four home runs, 10 RBI and 11 runs. His batting average, at .251 before his hot streak, is now up to .274.

Could two strong final months be enough to earn Loney another contract with the Dodgers?

Loney wants to return, but if he goes to arbitration, he’s in line for a raise that will probably take him to somewhere around $6 million.

That’s a lot of money –- too much money –- for a light-hitting first baseman. Sabermetric worshipers are appalled at the thought of Loney, long-term Dodgers first baseman. They look at his career .425 slugging percentage and almost weep.

It is not too much, however, for the current version of Loney. Whether you trust it not isn’t the question. If he finishes out the season just close to his current pace, and could continue it, he’s almost cheap.

Remember, right now the Dodgers have a hole in left and uncertainty at second, shortstop and, at the rate Juan Uribe is going, even third. Can they afford to just let Loney go, getting nothing in return?

No Loney means they have to find someone to play first. Jerry Sands? Is he ready? He’s hitting .276 at triple-A Albuquerque, though with 27 home runs and 79 RBI. Juan Rivera? He also would have to be re-signed (currently making $5.25 million) and is not really a first baseman.

And I’m already way out on this limb that says the bankrupt Dodgers are hardly going to get into the $100-million-plus area it’s going to take to sign Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.

Which leaves them with one big, curious decision to make. After all this, if Loney just remains in the neighborhood of his current pace, for one year I still expect the Dodgers to bring him back. Such suspense.

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Photo: Dodgers first baseman James Loney connects for a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

How Juan Rivera could stick around with Dodgers another year

Photo: Juan Rivera

Want to know what Don Mattingly’s favorite comment always is about Juan Rivera?

"He gives us a professional at-bat."

This is supposed to be a compliment, though it makes you wonder what he thinks of most everyone else’s at-bats, or at least those in the lineup when Rivera is not.

But acquired during the All-Star break from the Blue Jays, Rivera has certainly been an upgrade (.327 batting, .365 on-base, .481 slugging) over Marcus Thames. He has sort of been what the Dodgers hoped Thames – another ex-Yankee – would be.

Most of the time he has batted fifth, the thinking being at least his threat of the home run provides Matt Kemp with a modicum of protection. Or anyway, more than Aaron Miles.

All fine, but you figure this is a short-term deal, hardly the future and Rivera, 33, is most certainly headed elsewhere after he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

Which is probably correct, but not necessarily. Rivera earned $5.25 million this year, so if he believes he can even approach that figure with the Dodgers, he can forget about finding a year-round residence in the L.A. area now.

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Dodgers' plans: Jerry Sands getting long look at first base

Sands_640 Like James Loney doesn’t need more bad news.

Down at triple-A, guess who’s suddenly playing a lot of first base?

Hoped for wunderkind Jerry Sands.

Sands is the one prodigy the Dodgers are hoping can provide future power. He is their reigning Minor League Player of the Year. He is the star they need to rise.

They also need to figure out what’s his best position, or maybe where their biggest need is.

If the Dodgers determine it simply doesn’t make financial sense to tender Loney this offseason, that leaves them without a regular first baseman. Certainly, without a long-term one. They might think about bringing Juan Rivera back as a stop-gap, but it would have to be at a substantial cut from the $5.25 million he’s earning this season.

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