Two appearances does not a spring training make. The season opener remains four weeks away.
Still, the concern for left-hander Scott Elbert is very real.
The setup is about as good as it could get for Elbert. The Dodgers have need for a situational lefty in the bullpen. And two more spots in the bullpen opened up when Vicente Padilla had surgery and Ronald Belisario stayed home in Venezuela.
As ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson noted, a bullpen spot was probably Elbert’s to lose. It probably still is, though in the early returns, he is losing it.
In his initial two outings Elbert has faced 10 batters, retiring four and walking the other six. Wednesday against the Royals, he threw 21 pitches, only six for strikes.
After shoulder surgery in 2007 and his still-unexplained disappearance last season, the Dodgers hoped the former first-round pick had gotten himself back together after reappearing in the Arizona Fall League and striking out 15 in 11 2/3 innings.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, who managed Elbert in the fall league, told Jackson:
"I'm sure he is frustrated. But it's like everything else in the spring, we're going to take the whole package and see what happens. I have seen a lot of good from him, a ton of good. But that was the fall league and not here. For me, this was just one day that wasn't great. We'll see how he bounces back from it.’’
In a curious bit of timing, Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson was a guest commentator in the broadcast booth Wednesday with Charlie Steiner during Elbert’s struggles.
Watson was singing Elbert’s praises, calling his stuff electric as the left-hander threw most everywhere but over the strike zone. Watson promised better days from Elbert, and you’d better hope.
Wrote TrueBlueLA’s Eric Stephen: "Elbert needs to show some control before he even sniffs the 25-man roster."
Control problems are nothing new for Elbert, and MikeSciosicasTragicIllness’ Mike Petriello argues that a slow start should not be a deciding factor in whether Elbert makes the club because unless he came to camp and dominated, he should have been ticketed for triple-A Albuquerque.
"He’s always had control issues, walking 5.0/9 in the minors, and last year that went up to an untenable 7.1/9. That’s of course before his well-publicized but little-understood leave of absence that meant he didn’t pitch after June."
The Dodgers could certainly use Elbert to step up, but right now they’re more wishing for it to happen than seeing it.
Elbert is still in a position of having to prove himself, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Ultimately it matters less that he was a No.1 pick or left-handed or has great stuff.
What matters is that he demonstrates the ability to get it done at the major-league level. The bulk of spring training remains and he’s only 25, but his promise is still to be fulfilled.
Also on the Web:
-- The Times Dylan Hernandez writes that outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. got a lift before camp opened when his father, Tony Gwynn Sr., completed his cancer treatment and started acting more like himself.
-- Baseball Savvy’s Howard Cole has his second piece on Dodgers bloggers, this time focusing on TrueBlueLA’s Stephens.
-- ESPN/LA’s Jon Weisman compares how Frank McCourt and Charlie Sheen try to live by their own rules.
-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick said Marcus Thames disputes his reputation as a poor defensive outfielder and says he has worked hard in the off-season to improve his fielding.
-- ESPN’s Mark Simon said concern with Matt Kemp’s fallen production last season should not be limited to his offense, but that his defense this spring deserves scrutiny.
-- Yahoo Sports’ Steve Henson takes a look at the loose pregame meetings of Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, who learned from the master, Tommy Lasorda.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue
Two appearances does not a spring training make. The season opener remains four weeks away.
The Dodgers unexpectedly have an age-old problem.
They are an old team. Graybeards with gloves. Guys closer to swinging a walker than a bat. They don’t need human growth hormone, they need Celebrex, and an updated retirement program.
This goes against everything we’ve been told about the Dodgers for the past several years, which is part of the problem. Years go by, and the young aren’t so young anymore. Or at least so I’m told.
Of the 23 Dodgers you could reasonably expect to make their final roster, only two are younger than 26.
That’s it, two -- Clayton Kershaw (23 on March 19) and Kenley Jansen (23).
The average age of those 23 Dodgers is over 30.
That young core of offensive players is now down to three -- Matt Kemp (26), James Loney (26) and Andre Ethier (29 on April 10).
Otherwise the Dodgers' daily starting lineup is expected to have a 35-year-old catcher (Rod Barajas), a 31-year-old second baseman (Juan Uribe), a 37-year-old third baseman (Casey Blake), a 33-year-old shortstop (Rafael Furcal), and a 33-year-old (Marcus Thames) and soon-to-be-34-year-old (Jay Gibbons, happy birthday on Tuesday) splitting time in left.
Mr. Utility is 37-year-old Jamey Carroll. The frisky backup catcher is a 27-year-old kid, Dioner Navarro.
The rotation has 26-year-old Chad Billingsley and Kershaw, but also 31-year-old Jon Garland, 35-year-old Ted Lilly and 36-year-old Hiroki Kuroda.
The bullpen has 26-year-old Jonathan Broxton and Jansen, but also 28-year-old (happy birthday today) Blake Hawksworth, possibly 28-year-old Ramon Troncoso, 29-year-old Hong-Chih Kuo, 32-year-old Matt Guerrier, and eventually the allegedly 33-year-old Vincente Padilla.
And then still fighting to earn final spots are 34-year-old Aaron Miles, 35-year-old Gabe Kapler, 35-year-old (on Friday) Mike MacDougal, 38-year-old Juan Castro and 39-year-old Ron Mahay.
Geritol all around!
So much for those young Dodgers. Ah, youth, where does it fly?
These guys don’t relate to Don Mattingly, they relate to Tom Lasorda. Or John Glenn. These Dodgers are older than a Charley Steiner one-liner.
The problem with all this, of course, is that older players are more likely to break down. They end up looking for love more often in the whirlpool than the batter’s box.
And for the most part, the guys backing up the old starters are even older reserves. Old teams can still win, but they can also tag-team it to the disabled list.
Forget that youthful Dodgers routine. Old news.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Top photo: Juan Uribe. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire
Middle photo: Teddy Lilly. Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire
Bottom photo: Casey Blake. Credit: Jake Roth / US Presswire
For some of the Dodgers, Valentine's Day represents love and flowers. For others, such as Don Mattingly, the holiday can be painful. (Mattingly sprung big bucks to buy his lady pricey Jimmy Choo shoes.)
At the L.A. River cleanup Monday, current and former Dodgers talked about their best and worst Valentine's Day memories, and Tommy Lasorda divulged his secret to staying married for 60 years. The former Dodgers manager said it involves the frequent use of two words: "Yes Dear."
What are your best and worst Valentine's Day memories? Former Dodgers outfielder Kenny Landreaux once forgot to buy his wife a card and said he was in the dog house for a long time. Anyone have a worse experience?
Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Don Mattingly and Steve Dilbeck to appear at Dodgers Community Caravan
You can spend Valentine’s Day with Andre Ethier.
Or, if you prefer, The Times' dashingly handsome Dodgers blogger, Steve Dilbeck.
Here’s the catch: You have to pick up garbage.
The Dodgers’ two-day community caravan will start Feb. 14 with a stop at the Los Angeles River, where Ethier, Don Mattingly, James Loney and Tom Lasorda will be part of a group cleaning up the banks of this majestic … ah, who are we kidding?
Fans who would like to pretend they were convicted of driving under the influence and forced to do community service can register to take part in the event at dodgers.com/caravan. Space is limited to the first 250 fans.
Participants for the second day of the caravan will include Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Fernando Valenzuela.
Here’s the caravan schedule:
Monday, Feb. 14
Participants: Mattingly, Ethier and Loney; former Dodgers Lasorda, Steve Garvey, Bobby Castillo, Tommy Davis, Kenny Landreaux and Rudy Law; Dodgers broadcaster Steve Lyons.
10 to 11:30 a.m. Los Angeles River Cleanup (Public must pre-register for a chance to participate)
The Dodgers in partnership with the Los Angeles City Council District 1, Councilmember Ed P. Reyes and Los Angeles Conservation Corps/Los Angeles River Keepers will clean up the banks of the L.A. River.
Dodgers fans must pre-register online to participate. The event is open to the first 250 registrants that sign up at www.dodgers.com/caravan.
Noon to 2:30 p.m. Visit to USC University Hospital, the Official Hospital of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Hospital employees only)
The Dodgers will join USC University Hospital public health workers for lunch as a thank you for their dedication to healthcare and research.
3 to 4 p.m. LACER (Literacy, Arts, Culture, Education and Recreation) at Thomas Starr King Middle School (Open to program participants)
LACER, a longstanding Dodgers community partner, provides after-school activities to underserved middle and high school youth. The Dodgers will join the LACER youth in playground activities and gardening.
5 p.m. Lopez Tonight Taping in Burbank
The Dodgers will make an appearance on George Lopez’s national show to share their community service experiences.
Tuesday, Feb. 15
Participants: Furcal, Kemp, Gwynn Jr., Jay Gibbons and Gabe Kapler; former Dodgers Valenzuela, Don Newcombe, Ron Cey, Derrel Thomas and Lou Johnson; Dodgers broadcasters Charley Steiner and Pepe Yniguez.
9:30 to 10 a.m. Los Angeles Fire Department, Station 3 (Open to media only)
LAFD Chief Millage Peaks, Councilman Tom La Bonge and Los Bomberos President Phillip Dominguez will join Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti and Furcal in announcing the donation of a LAFD fire truck to Furcal’s hometown Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic.
10:30 a.m. to noon Heal the Bay, Santa Monica (Public must pre-register for a chance to participate)
Dodgers fans will join the Dodgers on a Heal the Bay cleanup at Santa Monica beach. The event is open to the first 750 fans that register online at www.healthebay.org/events. Participants will receive a raffle ticket for a chance to win autographed baseballs, Dodgers tickets and raffle items at the day’s event.
12:30 to 2 p.m. West Valley LAPD (West Valley LAPD Personnel Only)
The Dodgers will join the officers at the West Valley LAPD station for lunch as a thank you for their service in protecting the greater Los Angeles Community.
2:30 to 3:30 p.m. High School Visit (Open to media only)
The Dodgers will surprise the baseball and softball teams of a local high school and offer playing tips and instruction.
4 to 5:15 p.m. Dodgers Dreamfield Dedication Ceremony at Northridge Recreation Center
The Dodgers Dream Foundation will dedicate its 10th Dodgers Dreamfield at the Northridge Recreation Center. Councilman Greig Smith will join, and youngsters from the community will participate in the field’s first clinic with the Dodgers, who will instruct them on the fundamentals of baseball.
-- Dylan Hernandez
Then boys and girls, Tony Gwynn Jr. would likely start in center field.
Season tickets are now available.
The concept is, Gwynn starts in center, Matt Kemp moves to right and Andre Ethier to left.
That’s a lot of movement to make room for the weak-hitting Gwynn, but it does have one tremendous upside -- a strikingly better defensive outfield.
Defense is improved at all three spots, and Ethier would be a major step up in left over Jay Gibbons or Marcus Thames.
This may not be the current No.1 plan, but it is certainly an option the Dodgers will seriously consider this spring.
At baseball’s owners’ meetings in Arizona two weeks ago, General Manager Ned Colletti acknowledged the Dodgers outfield could be realigned if Gwynn shows during camp he’s ready to hit again.
"I wouldn't rule it out," he told ESPN Los Angeles’ Tony Jackson. "It depends on a bunch of factors. That is why you have spring training, to play it out and see what happens. Nothing is etched in stone. It just depends on how everybody performs."
Last season, of course, Gwynn did not hit a lick. He batted a feeble .204 on a poor-hitting Padres team. The Padres were so unimpressed, daddy or no, they did not tender him a contract. To paraphrase Tommy Lasorda about another Padre, Gwynn couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.
"A couple of years ago, he hit pretty well," Colletti said. "He is a very good defensive player who has speed. His playing time at this point will be dictated by how well he hits. If he can get on base enough and hit enough, he could give us added flexibility because he can play all three spots, including center field."
The trouble is, even when Gwynn has hit, he hasn’t hit much. Two years ago, he hit a career-high .270 for the Padres. In parts of the last five seasons, Gwynn has lifetime averages of .244 hitting, .323 on-base and .314 slugging. That’s hard to hide in the lineup. And if he does start, he’s probably bats eighth, which doesn’t do anything to address the team’s need for a No.2 hitter.
Colletti made these comments a few days before the Dodgers signed Thames, who, along with Gibbons, is something of Gwynn’s polar opposite -- can hit but, to put it politely, struggles defensively.
Likewise, ESPN Los Angeles’ Jon Weisman came out somewhat reluctantly in favor of starting Gwynn in center, at least to start the season, before Thames came on board.
But really, Gwynn is 28 and there’s little upside there. Plus, he’s another left-handed bat the Dodgers really don’t need. Gwynn has actually hit slightly worse against right-handers (.240 for his career).
The fact that the Dodgers would have this option on the table also says something about their faith in Kemp to play center.
For now, the first option apparently is the Gibbons-Thames platoon in left, with Kemp and Ethier remaining in center and left. Gwynn remains a late-inning defensive option, the simplest being him taking over in left.
The Dodgers have left themselves with outfield options, just none too exciting.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: The Dodgers can only hope Tony Jr. hits even half as good as his father, Tony Gwynn, pictured here. Credit: Kent C. Horner / Associated Press
Amelia Earhart. Stonehenge. The tans of "Jersey Shore."
Some mysteries in life just weren’t meant to be understood.
To the long list, we can now add: The Dodgers' offense.
Wow, once they were great. Like last season, when they led the National League in hitting.
This season it’s like a bunch of off-the-Strip impersonators. Particularly in the second half. Really, those are the same guys? Those are the Dodgers?
In the famous words of Tommy Lasorda, they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Zombies masquerading as the Boys in Blue.
Hey, wake up! You’re supposed to be trying to rip the hearts out of the Giants, not going through the motions. In the last two games against ’Frisco (I like to write that just knowing it ticks off everybody up there) they’ve managed a total of two runs and five hits.
Which, sadly, is only continuing their downward offensive spiral.
"It's really kind of confusing and frustrating," batting coach Don Mattingly told The Times’ Dylan Hernandez.
You think? It may not surpass the mystery of how they built the Great Pyramid, but I’m thinking it’s a close second.
Take a look at these offensive stats for the Dodgers comparing their first half to their second.
Maybe love is lovelier the second time around.
The Dodgers and the Dukes -- check that -- the Isotopes have extended their triple-A partnership through the 2012 season, the teams announced Monday.
The Dodgers originally called Albuquerque home to the triple-A Dukes from 1972 to 2000. The Dodgers moved their triple-A club to Las Vegas the following season but returned to Albuquerque last year as the Isotopes.
Last season Tim Wallach guided the Dukes into the playoffs and was voted the Pacific Coast League manager of the year. This year the Isotopes are currently five games out.
"We are excited about extending our partnership with the Albuquerque Isotopes," De Jon Watson, Dodgers assistant general manager, said in a statement. "The partnership has been outstanding, the fan base has been great and we’re really excited to be reacquainted with our great fans in Albuquerque."
Tommy Lasorda managed the Dukes to the PCL title in their first year in Albuquerque in 1972. He joined the Dodgers as a third-base coach the following season.
-- Steve Dilbeck
For a couple so concerned about their image that they went through public relations types like most people go through socks, The Times’ T.J. Simers finds the McCourts' willingness to publicly trash each other astonishing.
Of course, this being Simers -- and Frank and Jamie McCourt -- he finds a lot of what they do astounding.
Simers takes a look at the coming trial and its potential impact on ownership, the team, management and the broadcasting booth.
-- In case you missed The Times’ Bill Shaikin’s latest piece on the McCourts’ divorce proceedings, here's his piece from Saturday on the couple at least attempting to settle before going to trial but remaining far apart on judging the team's value.
-- Shortstop Rafael Furcal is headed to the disabled list with his strained lower back, reports The Times’ Dylan Hernandez. Juan Castro is expected to replace him on the roster.
-- Zack Lee, the Dodgers’ No.1 draft pick in camp as a quarterback at LSU, told the TheNewsStar.com that he hasn’t talked to the Dodgers since the June draft and is proceeding with plans to be with the Tigers.
"I haven't really heard anything from them [the Dodgers]," Lee said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm here to stay until something else happens. And I don't really see it happening."
The deadline to sign this year’s draft picks is Aug. 17.
-- Dodgers.mlb.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that three specialists agree that surgery for catcher Russell Martin’s broken hip is not necessary, at least for the next three weeks.
Martin is now expected to be on crutches for four weeks, and then reevaluated.
-- Times columnist Bill Plaschke profiles Tommy Lasorda's undying commitment to the Dodgers.
-- ESPNla.com’s Jon Weisman writes that if Joe Torre retires at the end of the season, he will be remembered much more as a baseball manager than a Dodgers manager.
-- The Riverside Press-Enterprise’s Gregg Patton thinks the newfound strength of the Dodgers’ rotation still gives the club a chance at a playoff berth.
-- Dodgerdugout.com’s Robert Timm wonders if reports the Dodgers have some interest in signing Jose Guillen means they’re not figuring on the return of Manny Ramirez.
-- TrueBlueLa.com’s David Young examines the Dodgers’ success and failure on their recent East Coast trips.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Lasorda, 82, was honored Saturday night in Albuquerque with a bobble-head night. Lasorda coached at triple-A Albuquerque in 1972.
Courtesy of email@example.com comes Tommy’s rendition of the national anthem. And you thought all those years hanging with Frank Sinatra were for naught.
He also made a pregame speech, with Perry offering this typically hilarious hyperbolic Tommy quote: "When I coached here, you could’ve dropped an atomic bomb in downtown Albuquerque and only done about 40 bucks of damage. Today, you have a beautiful city and the best ballpark in the minors. When you go home tonight and rest your head on your pillow, if you have an ounce of compassion in your heart, say a prayer for Tommy and the Dodgers."
-- Steve Dilbeck
Both Frank and Jamie McCourt claimed in court Wednesday that they’re running low on cash. They’re low now? What happens when their proceeds have to be divvied up? What happens when final alimony is finally set?
Could either survive the divorce financially enough to hold onto the team?
As Bill Shaikin of The Times reported, Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon is already so fed up with the pair arguing over property taxes and attorney fees, he’s threatened to put the team up for sale.
Now wouldn’t that be interesting? Heartbreaking too, of course.
The Dodgers’ power couple get a mostly unflattering look in a lengthy ESPN The Magazine profile.
Highlights include this quote:
"They hated each other from the moment they set foot in Los Angeles," says a former high-ranking Dodgers official. "There was a saying in the front office that the three worst days of our jobs would be when Vin Scully died, when Tommy Lasorda died and when the McCourts decided to split. There was never any question it was gonna go lethal.’’
Jon Weisman of sister media outlet ESPN/LA.com, interviews the author of the piece, Molly Knight, adding even more detail.
Also on the Web:
-- A team preview of the Dodgers heading into the second half is offered by The Times' Dylan Hernandez, who breaks down the high and lows of the first half, and what has to happen now.
-- Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick also previews the second half, analyzing the team’s first-half performance and efforts to address pitching needs moving forward.
On the blogosphere:
-- Mikesciosciastragicillness breaks down both what starting and relief pitchers the Dodgers might be looking at before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.-- Pauloberjuergue.com takes umbrage at Times columnist Bill Plaschke’s column praising Angel Stadium over Dodger Stadium.
-- Steve Dilbeck