Dodgers Now

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

Category: Trayvon Robinson

Who is going to seize the day for Dodgers?

We’ve got almost three more weeks of this? What are the Dodgers trying to do, bore us to death?

At this rate, somebody is going to have to wake me March 31 for the season opener. It’s not like spring training tilts to high drama, but precious little is going on with the Dodgers on and off the field. Unless you count starting pitchers going down.

It would be easier to put up with the annual spring mid-game lineup shuffle if there were several battles taking place, but like it or not, on the position side the Dodgers are pretty set.

Which is not to say, there aren’t many opportunities available for players to impress for later, to alleviate concerns going into the season or even outright win a job.

Veteran, established players can take a different approach, but for many spring is a time to step up and make their case. And here are a few players I’d like to see a little carpe diem from over the next 19 days:

Jay Gibbons:The Dodgers are planning on him as their starting left fielder against right-handers, which means in theory, he’ll start more often than not. It’s a risk to count on a 34-year-old based primarily on 75 late-season at-bats after being out the majors for two years. So far this spring, Gibbons is one for 17.

Juan Uribe: OK, he is a veteran and his spring doesn’t really mean anything, but considering he is the Dodgers’ only semi-major off-season position acquisition, it would be nice to see him do something better than two for 14.

Dioner Navarro and A.J. Ellis: Ellis probably isn’t in a fair fight for the backup catcher’s spot, but Navarro is off to a slow start (two for 15) and leaving the door open. Ellis, however, is only three for 15 himself.

Xavier Paul: The outfielder is out of options and needs to beat down the door, convincing the Dodgers they need to hang on to him. The Dodgers are giving him the opportunity (he has the sixth-most at-bats on the team), but so far he is batting .158 (three for 19).

Trayvon Robinson: He has almost zero chance of making the team out of camp, but he does have an opportunity to convince the Dodgers he would be a safe call-up later and a prospect to truly watch. So far, he’s batting .200 (four for 20) and has yet to walk.

Ivan DeJesus Jr.:It's not like he's stinking it up in the early going (.263, same as his on-base percentage), but I was hoping he'd tear it up this spring and force himself onto the team, maybe even as a starting second baseman, moving Uribe to third. So far, that's not happening.

Jonathan Broxton: Already chronicled, but providing a slight bit of peace of mind would be nice. Also a first strikeout.

Ron Mahay and Scott Elbert: I don’t care what Don Mattingly says, the Dodgers need a second left-hander in the bullpen. And one of these two needs to step up.

-- Steve Dilbeck



Trent Oeltjen receives a rude welcoming from Aroldis Chapman

The first pitch got Trent Oeltjen’s attention.

It was high. Really high.

As in over the catcher’s mitt and over the umpire’s head.

On the mound was Aroldis Chapman, the Cincinnati Reds’ reliever who threw the fastest recorded pitch in baseball history last season at 105 mph.

Chapman’s next three pitches were strikes. Oeltjen, who is in camp on a minor league contract, struck out looking to start the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 3-1 defeat to the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark on Thursday night.

Chapman struck out Jamie Hoffmann, then forced Trayvon Robinson to ground out to end the inning.

Oeltjen laughed as he recalled the first pitch.

“If it was at my face, I wouldn’t have had time to move,” Oeltjen said. “It woke me up. He sent a message he was throwing hard.”

Told that it also probably woke up the home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo, Oeltjen responded, “Everybody. I think the whole stadium woke up.”

Oeltjen said of Randazzo, “He wouldn’t have gotten up from that.”

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly smiled and shook his head when asked about Chapman.

“Jeez, huh?” Mattingly said. “He was Randy Johnson-ish. It gets there quick, doesn’t it?”

-- Dylan Hernandez



Why Marcus Thames in left for the Dodgers beats the alternative

Know how they say everything is relative?

Well, relatively speaking, the Dodgers outfield is better today after coming to terms with Marcus Thames than it was yesterday.

There wasn’t a whole lot remaining on the outfield free-agent market, so signing Thames was about as good as signing any of the other leftovers.

Yet this black hole in left was the Dodgers’ own doing. They got themselves into this quagmire, so it is only because previous options were so poor that adding Thames counts as something of a modest upgrade.

He does have a little pop, something they desperately need, though it’s hard to get excited about a Jay Gibbons-Thames platoon, if indeed that is their plan.

The two are remarkably similar. Born just four days apart in March, both have reasonable power but something sadly below reasonable defense.

Here are their lifetime stats, the right-handed Thames against lefties and the left-handed Gibbons against right-handers:

                 AVG    OBP    SLG
Gibbons    .259    .319    .464
Thames    .264    .333    .505

Last season, Thames hit a career-high .288 with 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in in 237 at-bats for the Yankees. He also struck out 61 times, which is Matt Kemp territory.

Plus, in recent years, he has been used more as a designated hitter than outfielder. Between Gibbons and Thames, left field figures to be a nightly defensive adventure.

The Times’ Dylan Hernandez
reports the Dodgers are also close to signing right-handed hitting outfielder Gabe Kapler to a minor-league contract, which looks like their biggest reach of the off-season. One more in their ongoing series of what-do-we-have-to-lose signings. Other than some spring at-bats for the kids.

All this doesn’t bode well for Xavier Paul, who is out of options and looks headed for a trade. It can’t do anything for Trayvon Robinson or Jamie Hoffman, either.

This also makes turning Casey Blake into an outfielder a seemingly distant Plan B, though still ahead of Plan C -- crossing fingers and hoping Tony Gwynn Jr. hits something better than the .204 he batted last season, or even using Jamey Carroll as a semi-regular outfielder.

All those options figure to remain in play should Gibbons-Thames struggle. Even struggling, of course, can prove relative.

-- Steve Dilbeck

And now for a good Dodgers problem -- Jamey Carroll

Who would have thunk it?

When Jamey Carroll was signed as a utility player a year ago, it was fairly underwhelming stuff. Nice addition, not exactly significant. Some thought Nick Green should have had the role.

But Carroll not only proved valuable, by season's end, many thought him the team's most valuable player.

He played hard, he hustled, he cleanly played four different positions, and perhaps most surprising, he excelled when teammate injuries frequently pushed him into a starting role.

By season's end, Carroll had started 101 games. He had the second-most at-bats (351) of his nine-year career.

He batted .291 with a team-high .379 on-base percentage and stole 12 bases in 16 attempts. And although he's a few light-years away from being a power hitter, he responded in the clutch, batting .326 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Starting 64 times at shortstop while Rafael Furcal was out, he made only four errors in 573 innings.

"We found out last year how valuable he is," said Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly. "He can play everywhere -- three infield spots, the outfield if you need it in a pinch."

Which leads to the question ... now what do you do with the Mighty Mite?

Given the continued need for a right-handed bat in left field, there are several scenarios in which Carroll could get regular playing time.

He could start at second base, moving Juan Uribe to third (where his limited range makes it his best spot) and Casey Blake to left. Less attractive is simply starting Carroll at third, and moving Blake to left. Or you could simply start Carroll in left.

He certainly isn't that power bat longed for in left, but he is right-handed and probably a better option than anything else the Dodgers have right now.

Plus, playing Carroll could eliminate another nagging Dodgers problem -- the lack of a No. 2 hitter in the lineup. Carroll mostly batted at the end of the order last season, but his on-base percentage makes him a much more attractive candidate than any of the other current starters.

All those scenarios figure to happen at some point this season, but the current intention is for Carroll to return to his original job description.

"You want to have a plan," Mattingly said. "To me, we got Jamey to be a utility guy, and that's what we want him to be. If he's in there on an everyday basis, I don't think we're the club we want to be.

"You want to be able to use his flexibility and give guys days off in certain spots and keep everybody strong. How left field turns out, we're going to see. It's going to be a competition."

Sure, ideally, Carroll would make an All-Star utility player. But that assumes there's a right-handed bat in left field that's superior to what Carroll brings to the lineup.

And I don’t see that guy right now, not in Tony Gwynn Jr. or Trayvon Robinson or Russell Mitchell or, at the moment, Jerry Sands.

If the Dodgers are going to field the best daily lineup with the players they currently have, they need to consider making Carroll an everyday player.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Now Dodgers lose out on Bill Hall; options in left grow still more bleak

And now on to Plan B … or is that Plan Z?

The most deserted place on Earth?

Left-field for the Dodgers.

Doesn’t anyone who can actually hit a baseball want to play there? One who bats right-handed?

The Dodgers have been busy stockpiling their pitching staff, but their daily lineup has been improved only at second base with the addition of Juan Uribe.

They currently have no left-field starter and lost out on another prime candidate Friday when Bill Hall signed with the Astros to play second base.

It’s not like Hall was going to be a major acquisition, but at least he was right-handed and offered some pop (18 home runs in 382 at-bats for Boston last season).

But according to Foxsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, Hall just signed a one-year deal with Houston for approximately $3 million.

Which leaves the Dodgers where, besides with a black hole in their lineup?

The pickings are growing slim. This week Magglio Ordonez signed with the Tigers, Xavier Nady with the Diamondbacks and the A’s traded for Josh Willingham. Previously Matt Diaz signed with the Pirates, Pat Burrell with the Giants, and of course, Jayson Werth to those loony Nationals.

What’s left? No free agents to set the heart a-flutter. Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge, Marcus Thames, Jermaine Dye?

Somebody has to go out there, and the in-house gang -- Jay Gibbons, Xavier Paul, Tony Gwynn Jr. -- all hit left-handed. Trayvon Robinson, who played at class-AA Chattanooga last season, is a switch-hitter with minimal power.

Someone has to share time, presumably with Gibbons. Regulars Andre Either and James Loney are left-handed. The Dodgers might have been better off signing Hall to play second, moving Uribe to third and letting Casey Blake platoon with Gibbons in left. Something, other than where they currently are.

With a hole in left, and options to fill it dwindling. First they lose out on Diaz, and now Hall. Manny Ramirez, of course, remains available.

-- Steve Dilbeck

The Dodgers' curious signing of Tony Gwynn Jr. will not send the heart aflutter

Gwynn_300 Are you excited? Or is that confused?

The Dodgers are close to signing another outfielder. Another left-handed-hitting outfielder. A weak-hitting, left-handed outfielder.

One we assume, who will not be splitting time in left-field with Jay Gibbons:

Tony Gwynn Jr.

That would be the Gwynn who was just non-tended by the San Diego Padres after hitting .204 last season, with a .304 on-base percentage and a miserable .287 slugging percentage.

And after he made only $419,800 last season. Somehow he used that impressive season to earn a raise to $675,000 in a one-year deal from the Dodgers.

Gwynn, 28, is good defensively and has can run the bases (17 steals in 21 attemps last season), so presumably his value is there.

But otherwise, he doesn’t seem much of an improvement from guys in the system, like an Xavier Paul (who's out of options; see ya?) or Trayvon Robinson. They must really want to play those guys every day.

Hard to see where the love is coming from.

Gwynn certainly isn’t that other outfielder the Dodgers are hoping to acquire to either start in left field, or at least platoon with Gibbons.

Gwynn, 28, is the nephew of former Dodger Chris Gwynn. And, of course, the son of Hall of Fame member Tony Gwynn.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Tony Gwynn Jr. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

Daily Dodger in review: Scott Podsednik flashes his stuff, hurts foot, checks out

SCOTT PODSEDNIK, 34, outfielder

Final 2010 stats: .297 batting average, six home runs, 51 RBI, 35 stolen bases, .342 on-base percentage, .383 slugging percentage in 595 at-bats.

Contract status: Free agent.

The good: Hit .300 with a .496 slugging percentage against right-handers, not so bad for a slap hitter. Thirty-five overall stolen bases easily highest on the team. Hit .317 with runners in scoring position. Can play all three outfield positions. Hit .310 in first 95 games with the Royals. Hit .304 in August for the Dodgers.

The bad: After collecting only three hits in 26 September at-bats (.115), he was shut down for the rest of the season with plantar fasciitis. Last seen in a walking boot. Was disappointing defensively, which is not to say he wasn’t a huge improvement over Manny Ramirez in left field. Overall batting average as a Dodger was .262, with a .313 on-base percentage. Different guy in the clubhouse. Very serious, keeps mostly to himself.

What’s next: Finished the season with enough at-bats to qualify for a mutual option, which he must have been pretty happy about. The Dodgers agreed to take on his $2-million salary for 2011, but Podsednik took a pass and declared free agency. Now he’s anybody’s baby.

The take: If the Dodgers could have kept Podsednik as a speedy, reserve outfielder at $2 million next season, that would have been a solid, reasonable addition.

If they wanted to make him their everyday left fielder, that would have worked about as well as Bristol Palin in the finals of a national dance show. Of course, at the moment, they have no regular left fielder, just an unattractive collection of all sorts (Xavier Paul, Trayvon Robinson, Trent Oeltjen, Russell Mitchell, Jay Gibbons).

Podsednik is gambling that his season earned him a better deal than one year at $2 mil. Risky, since he’ll be 35 in March and is coming off what can be a nagging foot injury.

That’s not to say he still couldn’t yet return to the Dodgers. Apparently, however, he has understandable ambitions about being an everyday player. Last off-season, he found few takers before signing with the Royals (that’s a team in Kansas City). Should he find his way back to L.A., however, that would only magnify the team’s lack of power if he’s presented as the starting left fielder. Like Gibbons, he bats left, so there’s no platoon there.

-- Steve Dilbeck

More from The Times' visit with Don Mattingly

To report on a story on Don Mattingly that ran in Tuesday's print edition of The Times, I visited the Arizona Fall League for a few days last week. Here are some tidbits I collected that didn’t make the story:

-- Several members of Mattingly’s coaching staff were at one of the games I attended -- Trey Hillman (bench coach), Tim Wallach (third-base coach), Jeff Pentland (hitting coach) and Rick Honeycutt (pitching coach). The group sat with General Manager Ned Colletti, who has been out to Arizona at least once a week during the Fall League season.

-- Shortly after the Dodgers announced Mattingly would replace Joe Torre as manager next season, Mattingly asked third-base coach Larry Bowa to be his bench coach. But Colletti wanted to go in a different direction. Mattingly wouldn’t say anything specific about what happened, but said this about Bowa: “You know what? It’s difficult. I’ll say that. I don’t know if I want to go much further than that. Bo’s knowledge, the way he sees the game is as good as I’ve seen. It’s a difficult situation.”

-- Mattingly said he doesn’t feel threatened by Wallach’s presence on his coaching staff. Wallach, who managed the Dodgers’ triple-A affiliate for the last two seasons, is considered to be a top managerial prospect. “I went through that with [Joe] Girardi in New York,” Mattingly said. “It’s one of those things. It’s not uncomfortable for me. I don’t think it’s for him either.” Girardi was chosen over Mattingly to manage the Yankees in the fall of 2007.

-- The Dodgers traded Mattingly’s son, former first-round pick Preston Mattingly, at the Mattinglys’ request. The Dodgers sent Preston, a minor-league infielder, to the Cleveland Indians. “I really appreciate that they did that,” Don said. “We kind of talked about it. He wasn’t playing. He didn’t do enough to warrant playing time. He’s 22. You don’t want to wait until he’s 24. I thought it was good that they did it. For him, it’s a new start, gives him a new opportunity. He still wants to try.”

-- Of the Dodgers’ position players in the Fall League, Mattingly said outfielder Trayvon Robinson is the most advanced. I spent some time talking to Robinson and will have more on him on this blog next week.

-- As I mentioned in the story, almost no one is at these games. At the first game I attended, there was a dead bird in the stands behind home plate. The bat boy was an old man in a maroon shirt and tan shorts who wore an oversized black helmet.

-- Dylan Hernandez

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