Dodgers Now

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Category: Marcus Thames

The offensive emptiness that is the Dodgers 2012 bench

Dodger
Look real hard and you can find it. It’s there, just not exactly under the spotlight. Maybe not in hiding, though you could make the argument that the Dodgers will try it.

It is the Dodgers’ bench, such as it. And as it is, it’s wholly unimpressive.

Presenting your 2012 Dodgers in reserve: catcher Matt Treanor, infielders Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam Kennedy, and outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Sands.

There’s some versatility and some nice defensive elements, but offensively there just isn’t much there. The power hitter is Sands, he of the 194 career at-bats? The left-handed bats are Gwynn and Kennedy?

This is all as currently scheduled, of course. And these things almost never go as scheduled. Which would explain why the Dodgers started last season with Xavier Paul, Hector Gimenez and Ivan DeJesus Jr. on the roster.

General manager Ned Colletti said he thinks this year’s bench can be superior to last season’s, before quickly asking which Dodgers’ bench he should reference.

"Unfortunately our bench ended up playing," Colletti said. "The bench was really the second bench."

Which is why the 2012 edition is so scary. Chances are, some of them are going to have to play more than expected. And this is what manager Don Mattingly will have to choose from based on last season’s numbers:

Player                         Avg.                OBP                 SLG

Treanor                      .214                .338                .291

Hairston                     .270                .344                .383

Kennedy                     .234                .277                .355

Gwynn                        .256                .308                .353

Sands                         .253                .338                .389

And as a group, it’s not like it’s a bunch of kids approaching their prime. Kennedy is 36, and Treanor will be in March and Hairston in May.

Plus you have to remember the Dodgers’ regular everyday lineup is already going to have its risks. Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon batted .304 last season but in only 224 at-bats, so we’ve yet to see if pitchers adjust to the slight Gordon. And A.J. Ellis is going to be the main catcher, and has a career .262 average with zippo power in 206 career at-bats.

There’s not a strong pinch-hitter in the group, either. Career averages as pinch-hitters: Treanor .200, Hairston .174, Kennedy .223, Gwynn .288, Sands .000 (only four at-bats). There's not really a reserve shortstop.

Last year the Dodgers wanted to start the season with a bench of Dioner Navarro, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames/Jay Gibbons. Navarro and Thames were busts, and Gibbons couldn’t overcome vision issues. Yet they still might prove a better group.

The Dodgers 25-man roster is basically set. If everyone makes it through spring healthy, there are no position openings.

 ``If it goes the way it’s planned, the team has some flexibility to it but not a whole lot,’’ Colletti said.

On days when Juan Rivera or James Loney don't start, the bench will get a boost but it could use plenty more. It could have used a Coco Crisp, but Colletti denied an interest in the outfielder before he re-signed with the A’s.

``Never had a conversation,’’ Colletti said.

Colletti is operating under budget constraints unworthy of a team playing in the second-largest market in the country, but such are the times when your team is in bankruptcy court.

And such is the bench.

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-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodger Stadium. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times.

Daily Dodger in review: Juan Rivera earns return engagement

Dodgers' Juan Rivera earns a return engagement.

JUAN RIVERA
, 33, outfielder/infielder

Final 2011 stats: .258, 11 homers, 74 RBI, .319 on-base and .382 slugging percentages in 466 at-bats (combined Dodgers/Blue Jays).

Contract status: Signed this month for next season at $4.5 million.

The good: Picked off the scrapheap when designated for assignment by the Blue Jays at the All-Star break, Rivera was a pleasant surprise, particularly early. Of course, he was being compared with the right-handed bat he replaced in left field, Marcus Thames.

What Rivera did best was drive in runs. He had 46 RBI for the Dodgers (sadly just one behind Rod Barajas for fourth on the club) in just 219 at-bats and hit .344 with runners in scoring position. He was given much credit for giving Matt Kemp protection in the batting order and helping to ignite the team’s improved second-half offense.

Played left, right and first base.

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For Dodgers, the kids were a lot better than all right

Gordon620

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:

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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.

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 fire hitting coach Jeff Pentland; offensive woes cured!

Pentland_640
Right, that was the problem. The hitting coach. No possibility it was just lousy players.

No matter. In an oddly timed move, the Dodgers fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland on Wednesday morning, just a couple hours before their afternoon game in San Francisco.

They named Dave Hansen as interim hitting coach. Previously Hansen served as Pentland’s assistant, with the title of hitting instructor. Which was the same title Pentland had the previous three seasons, serving as Don Mattingly’s aide.

Now there’s little doubt the Dodgers are a miserable hitting team. In Major League Baseball they rank 27th in runs, 26th in slugging percentage (.361), 22nd in home runs and 17th in batting average (.250).

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Dodgers' latest, greatest left-field idea: Juan Rivera's in, Marcus Thames is out

Photo: Juan Rivera. Credit: Jeff Roberson / Associated Press Jeez, not even a little, "Welcome back, Steve!"

Just -- boom! -- off the boat and a deal is made. One of those yeah-I-guess, why-not? deals.

The Dodgers picked up Juan Rivera from the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and designated Marcus Thames for assignment. That poor All-Star game, overshadowed by the Dodgers again.

Not exactly the kind of move to turn a season around, since these days Rivera and Thames seem pretty much the same guy, but safe to say the original plan hadn’t worked out so well.

That was Jay Gibbons and Thames, a makeshift platoon in left field when the Dodgers couldn’t stumble into any other solution.

Gibbons struggled with vision problems, never could get it going, was designated for assignment June 6 and ultimately accepted a triple-A gig at Albuquerque, where he remains today (.293, 3 HRs, 17 RBI).

Thames missed time with a quadriceps strain, and though he hit OK against left-handers, never could really get it rolling (.197, 2, 7) for the Dodgers.

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Dodgers roll dice on Casey Blake, Marcus Thames

Blake3
Banged up, hobbling, out of commission, lost for the season.

It’s the story of the Dodgers’ injury-riddled season. Players tag-teaming it on-and-off the disabled list, if not the surgery table.

So Sunday they elected to go with a pair of less-than-healthy players, deciding to play Casey Blake and not place Marcus Thames on the disabled list. Both are somewhat risky.

These are quickly becoming desperate times for the Dodgers. Right-handed bats are in short supply, particularly those with a hint of power.

Blake has been battling a pinched nerve in his neck since June 10. Already having spent two stints on the disabled list this season, Blake has tried to avoid another.

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Angels try to help, but Dodgers stumble in 8-3 loss

Dodgers1_600

That was not pretty. Two struggling teams get together, rivalry or no, and it’s probably not best to expect a work of beauty.

As it was, the Angels survived some of their ugliest baserunning seen in some time to overcome the Dodgers, 8-3, Friday night before an announced crowd of 43,640.

The Dodgers hadn’t drawn a crowd of under 50,000 for an Angels game in 10 years.

Not that anyone missed much Friday. The Angels’ aggressiveness on the bases killed them early. Four of their first six outs were recorded on the bases.

That happily kept rookie right-hander Rubby De La Rosa in the game against Angels and starter Dan Haren.

De La Rosa (3-2) hardly looked like some incredible phenom. He was in some kind of trouble in all but one of his six innings. He gave up nine hits, walked four and struck out six.

Matt Kemp had staked De La Rosa to a 2-0 lead with his National League-leading 21st home run in the first inning, a blast that went several rows up.

De La Rosa hung onto the lead, due largely to the Angels’ ineptness on the bases. In the first two innings, the Angels were caught stealing, thrown out at the plate, picked off first by catcher Dioner Navarro, thrown out trying to advance to third on a single and picked off first again by Navarro.

The Dodgers were up 2-1 in the fifth, when the Angels scored three times to take the lead for good. Maicer Izturis doubled in one run before Erick Aybar hit his fourth home run of the season.

The Dodgers got one back in the bottom of the inning on an Andre Ethier double and Tony Gwynn Jr. groundout, but their offense had run out of steam against Haren, who had a 6.00 ERA in his last five starts.

The Angels added a solo home run by Howie Kendrick in the sixth, scored two more in the eighth, one thanks to a James Loney throwing error, and a final run in the ninth.

The loss dropped the Dodgers to 34-43 and matched their season high of nine games back in the National League West. Boos were heard frequently throughout the night.

Worse, they suffered yet another injury when Marcus Thames doubled in the second. Appearing to run gingerly, he strained his left calf and left the game. He’s being called day-to-day.

The Angels haven’t exactly been tearing it up either at 38-39, but they benefit from playing in the weak American League West and remain three games back of Texas.

RELATED:

Angels-Dodgers box score

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Angels catcher Jeff Mathis tags out Dodgers left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., who tried to score from third base on a grounder to shortstop Erick Aybar in the second inning Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Dodgers' winning streak stops at three -- again -- in 7-5 loss to Tigers

Ln7vdnnc Apparently the third time is the charm, because the Dodgers can't seem to make it to four.

The Dodgers attempted to win a fourth consecutive game Wednesday and, as in three previous attempts this season at extending a three-game winning streak, came up empty.

This time they fell, 7-5, to the Detroit Tigers before a crowd that was announced at 30,332 but probably was half that.

The Dodgers had built their mini-winning streak around pitching. In their three previous games, they had given up only one run.

Alas, strong pitching took the day off. Ted Lilly (5-7) suffered his second consecutive poor outing, wasting a rare 12-hit, five-run Dodgers offensive outburst.

The Tigers missed Lilly a lot -- he struck out eight in his 4 2/3 innings -- but when they connected, baseballs screamed.

Lilly gave up three home runs and a double off the wall. He has given up 15 home runs this season, tied for fourth highest in the majors.

The Dodgers had held opponents without a home run in their seven previous games.

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Attempting to decipher the mysterious black hole that is the Dodgers and left field

Sands3
It's quantum physics meets Rep. Anthony Weiner meets "Ulysses" meets Charley Steiner.

Are some things really not meant to be understood?

I am referring, naturally, to the Dodgers and left field. Somebody has to play it, it just seems like figuring it out is as challenging as understanding Sarah Palin on the ride of Paul Revere.

The Dodgers have started six different players in left, but be patient, it's still early June.

The Times' Dylan Hernandez asked Manager Don Mattingly about the left-field situation and he said: "It hasn't really panned out."

Sort of like Charlie Haeger and his knuckleball.

Hernandez said the Dodgers entered Thursday's game with their six-headed left-field combo having combined to hit .216 with two home runs and 16 RBIs. And then Tony Gwynn Jr. went zero for four.

This for a position that normally provides power, on a team in dire need of some extra pop.

Gwynn is apparently the starting left fielder against right-handers, though, hold on, because these things tend to change by the day.

The original master plan was for Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames to platoon in left, but Gibbons missed the start of his season with vision problems and then Thames went on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps.

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