Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue

Category: Ted Lilly

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.

RELATED:

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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

Dodgers' 2012 rotation: Few thrills, but could have been worse

And that pretty much wraps up your 2012 Dodgers roster. All goose bumps, are you?

Word that the Dodgers are about to sign right-hander Aaron Harang would lock up their projected rotation, and pretty much close their offseason shop.

If the signing of Harang doesn’t exactly have the faithful reaching for confetti, neither should it leave them screaming into the night. He had a nice bounce-back season for the Padres in 2011 and is certainly a fine back-of-the-rotation starter. As was the recently signed Chris Capuano.

Trouble is, neither is a frontline starter, which essentially is what Hiroki Kuroda was, and now he’s officially cast adrift. After Clayton Kershaw, Kuroda was actually the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter last season.

Now the Dodgers 2012 rotation shapes up this way (with 2011 numbers):

                                    W/L      ERA     WHIP   SO/9

Clayton Kershaw            21-5    2.28    0.98    9.6

Chad Billingsley             11-11  4.21    1.45    7.3

Ted Lilly                       12-14  3.97    1.16    7.4

Aaron Harang               14-7    3.64    1.36    6.5

Chris Capuano              11-12  4.55    1.35    8.1

As a unit, after Kershaw it doesn’t have much wow factor. The rest are of the capable variety, which is probably two too many of those for a team that wants to contend for a title.

Still, they figure to give the bankrupt Dodgers a chance to win most nights, which is better than where this could have been headed.

Of course, the latter three aren’t exactly kids, nor are they known for keeping the ball in the ballpark. Lilly turns 36 next month and gave up 28 homers last season in 192 2/3 innings. Capuano is 33 and surrendered 27 homers in 186 innings. And Harang turns 34 in May and gave up 20 homers in 170 2/3 innings.

Hope Matt Kemp is doing plenty of offseason sprints.

Harang led the National League in strikeouts back in 2006 and came back with 218 strikeouts the next year. But he suffered through three consecutive losing seasons with the Reds until turning things around last season as a fly-ball pitcher for the Padres in pitching-friendly Petco Park.

He was probably the Padres’ best starter last season, though they declined their half of a $5-million mutual option for 2012.

As a final piece, he leaves the Dodgers with a solid enough rotation, though unlikely to leave the Giants all envious. And with all that age, injury seems inevitable.

But with his payroll being cut up to $20 million from a year ago, General Manager Ned Colletti is in the make-do business. When you’re making do, goose bumps are not required.

— Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers sign Chris Capuano; Hiroki Kuroda looks gone

Capuano_275Hope that new Dodgers owner leans to the left.

If not quite desperate to add a starter to their rotation, the bankrupt Dodgers were sadly at least sniffing in the area. And so it came Friday, that they signed left-handed Chris Capuano for two years and $10 million.

The agreement was first reported by ESPN’s Jim Bowden.

The addition of the fragile Capuano all but ends right-hander Hiroki Kuroda’s four-year career with the Dodgers, and leaves the Dodgers with three left-handers in their rotation — Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly and Capuano. Chad Billingsley is their only certain right-handed starter. Right-hander Nate Eovaldi is currently in line to be the team’s No.3 starter.

The addition of Capuano, 33, as a fifth starter wouldn’t be so bad, though given he’s had two Tommy John surgeries, a two-year, $10-million deal should leave everyone more anxious than a teenager readying for a first kiss. Alas, it’s the going rate.

The trouble is, he’s essentially replacing Kuroda in the rotation, which is a fairly serious step down.

Kuroda will be 37 to start next season, but is arguably coming off his finest year (13-16, 3.07 ERA). He’s getting up in the years, but hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. And he wants to pitch for one more season.

Which will now likely be in Japan. His asking price was apparently out of General Manager Ned Colletti’s price range; the GM seemed to have given up on the possibility of re-signing Kuroda weeks ago. Budget restraints and all. And then there was all that money spent elsewhere (Juan Rivera, $4.5 million).

Now comes Capuano, who had Tommy John surgery in 2002 and again in 2008. He missed all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and nearly half of 2010.

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Hey, buddy, could you spare an extra starter?

Ned Colletti

Baseball’s annual winter meetings are this weekend in Dallas, but don't look for the Dodgers to exactly be at the hub of activity.

General Manager Ned Colletti is nearing the end of his budget for the 2012 season and he’s still minus two starters for the rotation.

The Dodgers must be on the every-other-year rotation plan. They went into the 2010 season with only four starters, which proved one Charlie Haeger knuckleball away from total disaster. Last year they actually thought they had an extra starter in Vicente Padilla, who managed to throw almost nine innings before ending his season due to injury, surprising no one. And then Jon Garland went down.

For 2012 they currently have Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and two holes. Rookie Nathan Eovaldi may have to fill one slot, but assuming they are unable to bring back Hiroki Kuroda, that still leaves a huge gap. Unless you’re all excited about the return of Dana Eveland.

Between Frank McCourt dropping another $9.9 million in bankruptcy-related expenses (per The Times' Bill Shaikin) just through October and Colletti dropping $4.5 million on Juan Rivera, it doesn’t appear the Dodgers have enough money left to bring back Kuroda. He wants to pitch one more season.

If the Dodgers go the free-agent route, the second-tier starters available are wholly uninspiring. Mike Petriello looked at them and his best, reluctant recommendation is … Jeff Francis?

There is, of course, the trade market. Yet to acquire a quality arm the Dodgers probably would have to give up an Andre Ethier or James Loney, both one year from free agency, simply creating another hole.

Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick previewed the winter meetings by estimating that Colletti had only about $10 million left to work with — and that was before he spent at least $800,000 on utility infielder Adam Kennedy.

Meanwhile, for the rest of baseball, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are still out there.

MORE:

Fox can't put Bud Selig on witness stand, judge rules

Adam Kennedy agrees to one-year deal with Dodgers

Larry King aligns with Dennis Gilbert in Dodgers bidding

— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ned Colletti. Credit: Morry Gash / Associated Press.

Dodgers' prospects for re-signing Hiroki Kuroda look dim

Kuroda1

The Dodgers may soon be looking for two new starting pitchers.

The Dodgers were hopeful they would be able to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda for one more season, but budget constraints are apparently about to drive the right-hander elsewhere.

"I think we’re going to have a hard time signing him," Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said Friday.

Kuroda, who turns 37 in April, still has yet to decide whether he wants to return to Japan to pitch next season, though the financial gap between what he wants from the Dodgers and what they are offering could ultimately push him back to his homeland.

Kuroda earned $12 million last season from the Dodgers, going a misleading 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.

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With Hiroshima offer, Hiroki Kuroda must make a choice soon

As news items go, it ranks up there with "Matt Kemp Is Pretty Good" or "Frank McCourt Complicates Court Process."

Still, at least the Hiroshima Carp’s interest in bringing back right-hander Hiroki Kuroda has become official.

Nikkan Sport has reported, and it has in turn been picked up and translated by NPB Tracker’s Patrick Newman, that the Carp have made an offer to Kuroda for next season. Also, surprise: Kuroda is happy about it.

“I’m happy that they would evaluate my contributions like that," Kuroda told Nikkan. "Naturally, I’m happy. A feeling that they really want to win came across. [Hiroshima’s competitiveness this season] has come to a frustrating place, to a place where they are one step away…. I’m very happy I got an offer from the Carp.”

Of course he is. But really, what else would you expect him to say? Kuroda has been very careful all along to pay homage to his former team. He’s nothing if not courteous and respectful.

He is also seemingly very happy living in Los Angeles with his family. Happy enough that he turned down an opportunity at the trade deadline to join a contending team and remain with the Dodgers.

For now, he is apparently deciding whether to re-sign with the Dodgers or return to the Carp. I still believe those are the only choices the free agent is seriously going to consider, though Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal thinks having gone through the thought process of joining another team back in July opens him up to the possibility now.

Even though he’ll be 37 next season, the Dodgers would very much like him back. He went a misleading 13-16 last season with a career-low 3.07 ERA. And if he leaves, they need to fill at least one and possibly two spots in a rotation that would only return Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly.

Kuroda, however, has to understand he needs to make a decision relatively quickly so the Dodgers know how to address their off-season. That would be the one dealing with players, and not ownership.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Daily Dodger in review: Ted Lilly has his finishing act down

Ted-lilly_600

TED LILLY, 36 on Jan. 4, starting pitcher

Final 2011 stats: 12-14, 3.97 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings, .238 opponent batting average.

Contract status: Signed for two more years, $12 million for next season; currently highest paid Dodger.

The good: Give him this, he knows how to finish. Much like he managed when he came to the Dodgers at the July 31 trading deadline in 2010, he pulled off an excellent final two months.

In August and September, he sported a 2.09 ERA and won five of this last six decisions.

The bad: Alas, the four previous months were the kind that had fans screaming: "You signed this 35-year-old for three years at $33 million?" At the end of July, his ERA was 5.02, his record was 7-10 and he seemed to think it was required to give up at least one solo home run per game. For a control pitcher who hasn’t thrown a 90-plus fastball since the Clinton administration, that was an ERA to be concerned about. Plus, guys in wheelchairs were stealing on him.

What’s next: More of the same? The Dodgers want the Lilly of the final two months, or at least a more consistent starter. Signed for two more years, he is one of their three current locks for the 2012 rotation.

The take: It’s not like Lilly is suddenly going to re-invent himself at age 36. He is what he is, all crafty left-hander and everything. He’s not going to blow people away, but with that curve, an 88 mph fastball is still highly effective.

Certainly, his finish was encouraging. After giving up 28 home runs in his first 27 games, he did not allow another in his last six starts.

With another $25.5 million still on the books, the Dodgers hope at a minimum he performs like a No. 4 starter. Hardly seems much to ask at that price. They really need him to perform like a No. 3, which he clearly did in August and September.

Now if he can just work on his start. If the Dodgers are really dreaming of turning things around next season, Lilly can’t afford taking another four months to get his act together.

— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ted Lilly held the Colorado Rockies to three hits and one run through seven innings when he faced them on May 31 at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Meet the new Dodgers, same as the old Dodgers?

Dodgers_600

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

Ted Lilly looks to turn hot finish in 2011 into hot start in 2012

Lilly_640
As pleased as he was to salvage his season with two brilliant months, Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly said he couldn’t help but reflect on 2011 with a sense of regret.

With the Dodgers finishing 11½ games behind the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks, Lilly said he wondered what-if.

“If we were able to sneak into the playoffs, it’d be really easy to forget about the first half,” Lilly said.

Lilly was 7-10 with a 5.02 ERA through July 29. At that point, he had given up 23 home runs in 22 starts. Opponents had stolen 23 bases off him.

Over his final 11 starts, Lilly posted a 2.09 ERA. He didn’t give up any home runs over his last five starts.

The winner of five of his last six decisions, Lilly finished the season 12-14 with a 3.97 ERA.

“I was locating my fastball a little bit better,” said Lilly, who pitched through elbow pain early in the season.

Lilly, who turns 36 in January, said the way his season unfolded served as an important reminder.

“It’s a reminder of how important it is to get off to a good start,” he said. “I need to do a better job for six months, not two.”

ALSO:

One former GM looks at Dodgers' options

Dodgers decline options on Jon Garland and Casey Blake

-- Dylan Hernandez

Photo: Ted Lilly. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

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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