Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Justin Sellers

What is the Dodgers' backup plan if Dee Gordon falters?

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Of all the things the Dodgers are crossing their little fingers on, none may be as significant as the play of shortstop Dee Gordon.

They’re basically all in with him, because there is really no viable Plan B should he fail to deliver. Or, given his slight frame, go down to injury.

Last year as a rookie shortstop, Gordon played essentially a little over a third of a season (224 at-bats). His numbers, for the most part, were encouraging.

Enough so that the Dodgers proclaimed him their starting shortstop for the 2012 season. It’s great that the Dodgers are giving an exciting young player who doesn’t call the mound home an opportunity, but the commitment hardly comes without risk.

Gordon is expected to bat leadoff, understandable for someone with his electric speed and who stole 24 bases in 31 attempts last year. A full season equates to more than 60 stolen bases.

But Gordon, 23, struggled to get on base (.325 percentage), walks hardly his forte. He had just seven all last year. He’s young and inexperienced, of course, so that’s a part of his game he can still develop. In his four seasons in the minors, he had a combined on-base percentage of .355.

And then there is his build, which is reminiscent of the "before" drawings in old comic book ads for bodybuilding. You have to wonder if that frame can hold up through the rigors of a 162-game season, when he’s leading off and getting more at-bats than anyone on the team. He already went down last year with a shoulder injury he suffered during a routine rundown.

So what if he doesn’t deliver or falls victim to injury? What do the Dodgers do then? None of the choices are particularly attractive.

Justin Sellers was called up in August when Gordon went down and proved to be a hustling, versatile player. He’s a better defensive shortstop than Gordon, who is more skilled but still makes the occasional wild throw.

The trouble was, Sellers could not hit. Not after a nice initial start, anyway. In his last 20 games he batted .145 and looked overmatched. He finished with a .203 batting average.

Which is actually .001 behind the more likely alternative, Juan Uribe. The 2011 season's biggest disappointment was signed as a second baseman but mostly played third, where he is now ensconced as the starter. Uribe, however, mostly played shortstop for the Giants during their 2010 championship. He has a rocket arm, though covers little ground.

If you move Uribe to short, of course, somebody has to play third. And those alternatives ain’t attractive either. Adam Kennedy can play third, but he also hit .234 last season and is on the wrong side of 35.

Jerry Hairston Jr. can play either shortstop or third, though he appeared in only two games at short last season. He’s valuable, but probably not someone you can count on to play every day. In the past nine seasons, he’s had more than 430 at-bats just once.

Which means, Gordon best deliver. Because if he can’t, the patchwork won’t be pretty.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon slides safely home ahead of the tag by Angels catcher Hank Conger to complete a double steal in an interleague game at Angel Stadium last summer. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / July 1, 2011

Exclusive: Dodgers are about to lose Jamey Carroll

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The Dodgers are on the precipice of losing their favorite little super utility player, Jamey Carroll, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Carroll is close to signing a multiyear deal with another team, sources said Friday. They didn't say which team.

Carroll, who will be 38 in February, is coming off a two-year, $3.85-million contract with the Dodgers. Due to team injuries, he played more like a starter, batting .290 in 803 at-bats during his two seasons with the Dodgers.

Now Carroll reportedly wants a starting position, and despite his success in Los Angeles and an opening at second base, the Dodgers are apparently not looking at Carroll as a regular.

The Colorado Rockies, one of the veteran’s previous teams, were reportedly interested in signing Carroll but were thought to be balking at an asking price that approached the two-year, $8-million deal signed by light-hitting infielder Omar Infante with the Marlins. The Braves have also shown interest in Carroll.

The Dodgers don’t have an obvious in-house candidate to start at second base. They could re-sign free agent Aaron Miles, another utility player last season. Otherwise they're looking at bringing in a free agent. Justin Sellers is a candidate for a utility role.

On Thursday the Dodgers lost catcher Rod Barajas to Pittsburgh.

— Dylan Hernandez, reporting from State College, Pa., with Steve Dilbeck

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Photo: Jamey Carroll. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.

Rockies are interested in signing Jamey Carroll; are Dodgers?

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For some, baseball’s offseason is almost as much fun as the regular season. All that speculation, all that second-guessing of signings and trades. All the angst and anticipation set up for the coming season.

Who should come, go or be retained? One decision often leads to the next, of course, and one of the choices the Dodgers are going to have to make is whether they want infielder Jamey Carroll back.

That’s if the choice is left to them.

The Denver Post’s Troy Renck wrote Sunday that the Colorado Rockies have expressed interest in bringing Carroll back as their starting second baseman and he has interest in a return. Carroll previously played two years for the Rockies, enjoying perhaps his finest season in 2006 when batted .300 for Colorado.

Renck, however, thinks the Rockies will balk at what is expected to be the going rate, established when the Marlins renewed the contract of second baseman Omar Infante last September for two years at $8 million.

That would be a serious raise for free-agent Carroll, who turns 38 in February. He is coming off a two-year, $3.85-million deal with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers, of course, also need a starting second baseman. Carroll hit .290 with a .368 on-base percentage and .344 slugging percentage the last two seasons for the Dodgers.

But with the Dodgers, Carroll played the role of the super utility infielder, filling in plenty at shortstop during Rafael Furcal’s frequent visits to the disabled list, while also playing second and some third.

He hustled almost every moment of the game, was a terrific presence in the clubhouse and so versatile he could he even play a little outfield.

There is little doubt the Dodgers would like him back, though probably in a utility role if they can locate a player with more power to play second base (or even third and move Juan Uribe back to second).

But do they want him back at something close to $8 million? Are they convinced Justin Sellers could fill the utility role decently enough at a fraction of the cost?

The Hot Stove League warms up.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers infielder Jamey Carroll upends Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips to prevent a double play during a game last season at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

Daily Dodger in review: Justin Sellers shows off versatility

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JUSTIN SELLERS, 25, infielder

Final 2011 stats: .203 batting average, .283 on-base percentage, .301 slugging percentage, 20 runs, nine doubles in 123 at-bats, one error.

Contract status: Under team control.

The good: Injuries forced the August call-up of Sellers, and the Dodgers had to like what they saw from him defensively. He’s currently a better shortstop than Dee Gordon, plays a very good second and also can fill in at third.

Great nickname. All tatted up, he’s called "Cellblock." Plays hard and with enthusiasm. Hit .300 against left-handers and .278 in his first 16 games.

The bad: Trouble was, he hit .145 in his 20 games after that. Has a touch of power, but if he has any hopes of making it as a major leaguer he can’t afford a sub-.250 batting average. Turns 26 in February.

What’s next: It’s possible he could make the team next year as a utility infielder, but the Dodgers are hopefully more ambitious and looking for more certainty in that role.

The take: There’s enough to like about Sellers, who after his encouraging start was being compared to a younger Jamey Carroll. Alas, it was just one month.

In the short term they would be better served trying to bring back Carroll and letting Sellers at least start the year back at triple-A Albuquerque. If injuries continue to hit this team next season like they did in 2011, he’d get called up soon enough and maybe even stick (witness Aaron Miles).

They currently do not have a starting second baseman, but if Sellers should somehow win the spot, you’ll know how the Dodgers' off-season went.

— Steve Dilbeck

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Photo: Justin Sellers hits an RBI during the 7th inning of the Dodger's 4 - 2 victory over the Diamondbacks in September. Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Orioles to interview Dodgers' De Jon Watson for GM post

Dodgers farm director De Jon Watson will interview for the Baltimore Orioles’ vacant general manager position, according to a baseball source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Watson has been the Dodgers’ head of player development for the last five years. His system sent the likes of Javy Guerra, Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, Nate Eovaldi and Justin Sellers to the major leagues this year, sparking a turnaround that allowed the bankrupt club to finish above .500.

Watson hasn’t had much to work with: The Dodgers rank last in player development spending, according to a filing in bankruptcy court by Major League Baseball.

Watson interviewed for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ general manager position last year, losing out to Kevin Towers.

-- Dylan Hernandez

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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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.

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

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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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Finding reasons to appreciate the Dodgers 2011 season

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They’re having fan appreciation day for the Dodgers on Sunday, which is curious for a couple of reasons. They still have three more games to play here and, of course, what exactly is there to appreciate in the worst season in organizational history?

That’s why we’re here to help:

  • No traffic problems getting to the game.

  • Matt Kemp played like the Matt Kemp everyone always thought was there, and not like the one who was here last season.

  • Vin Scully remained perfect, even when he wasn't. And he’s coming back.

  • Don Mattingly earned his stripes.

  • Steve Soboroff came and then went.

  • The suspense that is Eugenio Velez.

  • Buy a nose-bleed seat, walk down to the better seat of your choice.

  • Clayton Kershaw arrived as an ace.

  • Tim Federowicz shaved his mustache.

  • Young arms boded well for future.

  • No one uncovered another Vladimir Shpunt, as if that’s possible.

  • Josh Rawitch is leaving (kidding).

  • Kenley Jansen was sick.

  • Tickets available on-line for $1.85.

  • Frank McCourt disappeared from his look-at-me seat.

  • McCourt sold one of his mansions. Hurry, only seven left!

  • Teammates nicknamed heavily tatted Justin Sellers "Cell Block."

  • Dodger Dogs. Real, grilled Dodger Dogs.

  • No traffic problems leaving the game.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp gets set in the batter's box. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

James Loney, home-run machine, powers Dodgers past Pirates, 6-1

Dodgers-loney_600 The thrill was gone, but apparently not the will.

The Dodgers were officially eliminated from the postseason Saturday before ever stepping on the field, Atlanta’s 1-0 afternoon victory over the Mets ending all possibility of capturing a wild-card berth.

That’s two consecutive years without making the playoffs.

Still, the bankrupt team put it aside and went out and downed the Pirates, 6-1, behind a strong start by Ted Lilly and another home run by James Loney before an announced crowd of 32,514.

Lilly went seven innings, holding the Pirates to one run and four hits. He walked two and struck out seven.

After a series of difficult starts, Lilly (10-14) is finishing the season well. In his last 10 starts, he has a 2.67 earned-run average.

And that finish is nothing compared to that of Loney, who after a miserable second half last season and a poor first half in 2011 is on the roll of a lifetime.

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