Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Rick Honeycutt

Count on the Dodgers for these early rites of spring

Dodgers pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring-training camp Tuesday morning, and I am positively certain each one of these things will transpire:

-- Ronald Belisario will not only be there on time, he’ll proudly be wearing a lanyard around his neck holding his visa.

-- Catcher Ted Federowicz will arrive without sporting that 1970s-style mustache. Actually, I have no idea if this is true, I just hope it is.

-- The hearts of every hitter in the National League will skip a beat when Clayton Kershaw announces he has been working with Fernando Valenzuela to develop a screwball.

-- Manager Don Mattingly will have to take 267 razzings for good-naturedly wearing a dress for a charity performance of the "Nutcracker." In the first two hours.

-- Rubby De La Rosa will announce he’s at least two months ahead of schedule in his return from Tommy John surgery.

-- Catcher A.J. Ellis will tweet that Chad Billingsley already looks like he’s in midseason form.

-- Ted Lilly’s fastball will appear another 2 mph slower, and he will somehow manage to use it to his advantage.

-- John Grabow will go around the locker room and shake hands with every player, coach and media member, just to remind them he’s left-handed.

-- Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt will explain to some first-time camper how he was actually the only pitcher to beat the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series.

-- In his first time on the mound, Kenley Jansen will throw absolute smoke.

-- Mike MacDougal will again claim to be 185 pounds.

-- Mattingly will say he’s crazy about his rotation and in love with his bullpen. Heartbreak arrives with the hitters Feb. 27.


Frank McCourt to Bud Selig: I can never thank you enough

For the Dodgers, change is in the wind, but not on the field

Profit at Dodgers' spring home drops 65% in two years

-- Steve Dilbeck

Hiroki Kuroda talks about leaving Dodgers, why he chose Yankees


Hiroki Kuroda confirmed what Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said earlier this month:  Colletti remained in contact with his agent until he decided to sign with the New York Yankees three weeks ago.

Kuroda said the Dodgers were exploring ways they could fit him onto their roster, even though they had already signed free-agent starters Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano.

“They were unable to ever make a formal offer,” Kuroda said in Japanese. “I couldn’t wait any longer.”

The Japanese right-hander took a one-year $10-million contract with the Yankees that included a full no-trade clause. The deal was officially announced this week.

The reasons behind his exercising a similar clause last year to prevent the Dodgers from trading him to an American League contender –- the Yankees were believed to be among the suitors -– were no longer issues. He wasn’t backing out of a commitment. He wouldn't be joining a team midseason, something he said he thought would take away from the joy of winning.

Asked whether he would have remained with the Dodgers had they made him a reasonable offer, Kuroda said, “It’s hard to talk about something hypothetical. Obviously, I was comfortable there. I liked it there. My family liked it there.”

In fact, Kuroda said his wife and two school-age daughters will remain in Los Angeles while he is in New York next season.

“Part of me is sad to leave Los Angeles,” he said. “I loved the atmosphere of the stadium.”

Continue reading »

Dodgers coaching staff tranquillity: Whole group returns for 2012

Photo: Don Mattingly. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press.

Ah, harmony, ain’t it grand? Not a frequent visitor to the Dodgers the last two seasons, but they have found a comfortable accord in one area.

The Dodgers announced Friday that their entire coaching staff would return next season, which, though expected, is still noteworthy for the speed in which it was accomplished.

Of course, the staff could still change if one of the coaches –- Tim Wallach? –- gets an offer to manage over the winter, but for now at least one significant area is all settled. And think how happy agent Dave Stewart must be.

It was Stewart who complained about the way the coaches Larry Bowa and Bob Schaefer were handling his numero uno client, Matt Kemp, last season. Guess which two coaches didn’t return in 2011?

Kemp, of course, found his groove this year with a breakout season, so why would there be any rocking of the boat now? Plus, they all seem to work well together with Manager Don Mattingly and are liked and respected by the players. Win-win.

So the seven solid coaches the Dodgers ended the season with are now all scheduled to return, though that technically still leaves them down one spot from the last few years. After hitting coach Jeff Pentland was fired in July, another coach was never added.

The seven samurai are:

Dave Hansen, originally hired as a hitting instructor to assist Pentland, was promoted to hitting coach on July 20, the team hitting .261 the rest of the way; Trey Hillman is back for his second year as bench coach; Rick Honeycutt is back for a seventh season as pitching coach after the staff composed a 3.54 ERA; Ken Howell returns for his fifth year as the bullpen coach; Davey Lopes, credited for igniting the team’s running attack, returns for his second year as first base coach; Wallach is back for a second stint as the third base coach; and Manny Mota a record 33rd year as a coach.


Strong finish sparks hope for Dodgers in 2012

Dodgers' Matt Kemp has one final blast in 7-5 victory

T.J. Simers: Don Mattingly hopes he's earned his stripes as a manager

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Don Mattingly. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press.

Say it ain't so: Now even starting pitching is letting Dodgers down

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley during a 6-5 loss in Colorado to the Rockies on June 10. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press No, not that. Not the last vestige of team respectability. The one thing that is supposed to be a Dodgers’ strength.

So sorry, right now, it’s true. In addition to their woeful hitting and cover-the-eyes bullpen, now the Dodgers must add -- lousy starting pitching.

Coming next: Dodger Stadium swallowed by earthquake!

There are only so many struggling elements to the game that one team can squeeze into a season, though the Dodgers keep trying to add to their unattractive resume.

From the very beginning of the season, starting pitching was the one area in which the Dodgers had confidence. Their rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Jon Garland was expected to give them a chance to win every night.

Early on, they were pretty much as solid as advertised. Since June rolled around, though, they have been going in the wrong direction. And not coincidentally, so has the team.

Continue reading »

Dodgers middle reliever Matt Guerrier shows his worth

Matt-guerrier_300 Matt Guerrier did not arrive having to justify his signing -- three years and $12 million for a 32-year-old middle reliever on a Dodgers team that screamed for offensive help? -- though his first month has made for pretty convincing justification.

In Guerrier’s first 12 appearances, he has allowed earned runs exactly once. The right-hander had one ugly outing when he gave up five earned runs in Chicago on April 23 but otherwise has thrown nothing but zeroes.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hadn’t seen him pitch since he was last with the Yankees in 2007 and Guerrier was still starting out.

"I didn’t know really what to expect, but he’s impressive," Mattingly said. "I like Matt because he’s always under control. He never seems to  be rattled."

Not there that there’s been much to rattle him thus far. Aside from that one game in Wrigley Field, the only time Guerrier has struggled as a Dodger was during spring training. In nine spring games, he had a 6.00 earned-run average.

It looked a lot like the new guy on the team trying to justify a big contract, but Guerrier said it was hardly that.

Continue reading »

Dodgers still waiting for Kenley Jansen's 2011 command performance

Was it only a dream?

The kid who had been a career catcher is suddenly turned into a reliever and starts throwing lightning? In less than a year, he not only makes it to the majors, he dominates.

Really, it happened. Kenley Jansen came on last July and posted an 0.67 ERA in 25 games. He struck out 50 in 27 innings.

It just seems like some fuzzy dream at the moment, because Jansen is suddenly enormously hittable. He barely resembles the hard-throwing right-hander from last season.

In eight appearances this year, Jansen has an 11.57 ERA. He's given up 13 hits (three homers), walked six and struck out 13 in 8 2/3 innings. Manager Don Mattingly admits to some concern.

"A little, obviously he hasn't been like last year," Mattingly said. "He hasn’t been overpowering.

"His command has not been great, but he really hasn't had that little extra gear yet this year. There's been times he's had it, but I don't think consistently."

Continue reading »

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly questions pitching move


Thirteen games into his first season as a manager, and Don Mattingly is already being second-guessed -- by Don Mattingly?

After Hiroki Kuroda was knocked around Thursday for six runs on 10 hits in just five innings, and threw a career-high three wild pitches, Mattingly was questioning his decision to allow him to try to throw a complete game in his previous start in San Diego.

In that game, Kuroda threw 8 2/3 innings and a career-high 117 pitches. And since Kuroda clearly wasn’t sharp Thursday, Mattingly was somewhat sorry he had allowed Kuroda to stretch himself so far in just his second start.

"A little bit," Mattingly said. "I questioned it at the time. He’d had the extra day's rest. Honey [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] knows those guys a lot better than I do. He felt like he deserved the opportunity.

"You don’t know if that’s what happened last night. I could have taken him out and it still happened. You don’t really know.

"But I think with him, we always like to give him extra rest when we can. I did question myself on that a little bit."

Continue reading »

Offense shows life, but Chad Billingsley struggles in Dodgers' 7-5 loss to Rockies


And on the seventh day, they discovered a little offense. Alas, it was too little.

A day after being shut out for the second time in their first five games, the Dodgers used solo home runs from James Loney and Rod Barajas -- doubling their team total -- to take an early 4-2 lead.

Yet with Chad Billingsley struggling throughout, and reliever Blake Hawksworth doing more of the same, it hardly proved enough as the Rockies rallied for a 7-5 victory Wednesday in Denver.

Billingsley lasted three innings, throwing 86 pitches -- including 42 in an excruciating third inning. He gave up five runs on six hits and three walks. It is in Denver, of course, where Billingsley has enjoyed about as much success as the Winter Olympics.

The Dodgers have seen this three-inning performance routine before and now can only hope that things turn around for Billingsley in the same way that they have in the past.

The last time he lasted three innings was a year ago in Cincinnati, where the Reds knocked him out with seven runs on seven hits. Afterward, Billingsley met with then-manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

That meeting was viewed as a turning point for Billingsley, who recovered to finish with a solid season, pitching particularly effectively in the second half (3.05 earned-run average).

Billingsley (1-1, 8.00 ERA) recently agreed to a three-year, $35-million contract extension. He is only 26, so it’s not as if anyone is going to get too worked up over a bad outing in Denver. But Wednesday’s effort did waste a 10-hit game by the Dodgers.

If the Dodgers are going to make any decisions based on the early going, then it might be time to give up on the Hector Gimenez experiment when Jay Gibbons returns. Gimenez struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth with two runners on, did not look good doing it, and is one for six this season.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley works the first inning against the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon in Denver. Credit: Barry Gutierrez / Associated Press

Dodgers web musings: Rubby De La Rosa looking like the real deal

Rubby-delarosa_325 Rubby De La Rosa was veritable unknown last spring, a skinny kid from the Dominican Republic. He started the season at Class-A Great Lakes.

Only De La Rosa exploded upon the scene, dominating at Great Lakes and then at double-A Chattanooga. He was a combined 7-2 with a 2.37 earned-run average and a 1.13 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched).

He was selected the Dodgers organizational pitcher of the year, though he seemed a long way from cracking the 25-man roster.

De La Rosa, 22, might start the season at Chattanooga, but's Ken Gurnick said De La Rosa has been so impressive this spring, he could be pushing himself into the Dodgers’ plans sooner than most expected.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told Gurnick there are similarities to De La Rosa and Clayton Kershaw when he was coming up and fast-tracked to the majors:

"Yeah, he's got a lot of positives. A plus arm, 'pitchability.' A little wild with the fastball at times, but he always came back. The changeup is filthy. If I had that, I wouldn't throw anything else. But he can throw 97 [mph]. The one thing is throwing consistently for strikes. But a 20-year-old won't have everything figured out."

[Update:] This original post relayed information taken directly from the Dodgers media guide that De La Rosa had been suspended for 50 games for a drug violation in 2009, but the media guide is incorrect. He was never suspended. My apologies do De La Rosa.

Also on the web:

-- In a video interview with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, outfielder Andre Ethier talks about coming back too soon last season at the urging of Joe Torre.

-- Reliever Mike MacDougal (unscored upon in 5 1/3 spring innings) is examined by two bloggers. Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness’ Mike Petriello is conserving his enthusiasm for the well-traveled 34-year-old, while True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen still doesn’t believe he’ll make the final roster.

-- Baseball Savvy’s Howard Cole has another installment profiling bloggers, this time dipping into the airwaves with a question-and-answer piece on Fox Sports’ Patrick O’Neal.

-- Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci says the Dodgers are one of five MLB teams with the best chance to go from a losing record to the postseason.

-- Memories of Kevin Malone's Chad Moriyama gives a long look at outfield prospect Trayvon Robinson.

-- Fox Sports’ Joe McDonnell is the latest to profile the attempted return to form of Matt Kemp, who said he’s lost 16 pounds.

-- The New York Post’s Brian Costello writes Torre’s difficult departure from the Yankees is behind every one, after Torre accepts an invitation to participate in their Oldtimers’ Day.

-- In evil Giants news,’s Jim Caple writes that you’ll be stunned at what the reed-like Tim Lincecum calls a meal at In-N-Out.

And Rosenthal said the Giants might have another can’t-miss, Buster Posey-like prospect in first baseman Brandon Belt.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Rubby De La Rosa delivers a pitch during a spring game agianst the Cubs earlier this month. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

Dodgers' Web musings: Ramon Troncoso pitches his way back into bullpen picture

Ramon_300 Love is a many-splendored thing, unless Joe Torre was going all goo-goo eyed over you in the bullpen.

Sometimes, that qualified as tough love. If Torre loved you, he tended to use you. And sometimes, too much.

Troncoso had been an unexpected delight in 2009, appearing in 73 games and posting a 2.72 ERA and even picking up six saves. The Dodgers assumed it would be more of the same last year, and things began well enough.

But Troncoso appeared in 14 of their first 20 games last April and began to slip. By the end of June his ERA was up to 5.45 and his confidence was shaken. He looked worn out. He was soon sent back to the minors, where he would spend the bulk of the next two months.

Troncoso entered this spring almost as an afterthought. The bullpen looked packed, with maybe one opening that hardly appeared earmarked for the 28-year-old.

But an injury to Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario’s latest AWOL routine have presented an opportunity, and Troncoso appears set on making the most of it.

Manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson that last season Troncoso became reluctant to use the sinker that had been so effective for him in the past.

This spring he has retired 10 of his 11 batters and at least in the early going has been impressive. His ability to pitch more than one inning could help him jump back into the Dodgers’ bullpen picture.

"His role would be to kind of fit in the middle [ahead of] whoever you have setting up," Mattingly told Jackson. "He is a guy who is going to have to pitch multiple innings."

Also on the Web:

-- The Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth takes a great look at ex-Dodger Greg Goosen, whose death last week was almost typically overshadowed by that of Duke Snider’s passing.

-- In the New York Times, ex-Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca gives a moving first-person account of Snider and how he stood up for Jackie Robinson.

-- The Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes that commissioner Bud Selig is again speaking volumes while refusing to comment on Frank McCourt’s ownership difficulties while aiding troubled Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

-- Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan profiles ace-in-the-making Clayton Kershaw, also taking another look at his off-season trip to Africa.

-- More from Passan: He writes that Dodgers reliever Travis Schlichting has the greatest mullet in the history of mankind, or at least baseball.

-- The Post-Gazette’s Ron Musselman writes that ex-Dodger James McDonald is thrilled to have a set role in the Pirates' rotation, where he is tentatively scheduled in the No. 3 spot.

-- TrueBlueLA’s Phil Gurnee profiles left-hander Scott Elbert, off to a slow start in Arizona.

-- More from LAT's Shaikin: Will the Dodgers let Matt Kemp run free on the bases this season, even if he’s the cleanup hitter?

-- Orange County Register travel editor Gary Warner takes a look a the Dodgers’ semi-new home in Phoenix and likes it.

-- The N.Y. Times' Ben Shpigel writes that catcher Russell Martin and right-hander Phil Hughes are bonding over their love of hockey.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ramon Troncoso in 2010. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA


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