Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
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Category: Xavier Paul

Jay Gibbons, Juan Uribe add to Dodgers' health concerns

Gibbons

The list of health concerns surrounding the Dodgers in spring training grew longer Monday with Manager Don Mattingly disclosing that infielder Juan Uribe and outfielder Jay Gibbons are struggling with ailments.

In addition, third baseman Casey Blake was scheduled to get an MRI on Monday after he suffered an apparent muscle strain behind his right ribcage on Saturday.

Blake is listed as day-to-day but "they want to make sure . . . that it’s not something longer term," Mattingly told reporters at the club's Camelback Ranch facility.

Uribe, acquired by the Dodgers from the San Francisco Giants in the offseason, has complained of general tightness in his body but can still play, Mattingly said.

Uribe left the Dodgers' split-squad game against the Chicago Cubs in Las Vegas on Sunday after playing three innings and batting twice. The Dodgers acquired Uribe in part so he could occasionally play third base when Blake is resting.

Uribe "seemed OK but . . . with Casey having a little thing going on, the last thing I need is for Juan to have any issues," Mattingly said. "I’m more concerned with him feeling better before we extend him. We’ll try to extend everybody to seven [innings] tomorrow; I don’t know if Juan will get there."

Gibbons, meanwhile, "will miss the next couple of days" because "he's having trouble with the eyes, with his depth perception" and is going to get "extended testing," Mattingly said.

Gibbons, 34, who's competing for the team's left-fielder's job, is having problems getting his contact lenses to stay in his eyes "and he's having trouble with the glasses" he wears, Mattingly said, noting that Gibbons also had laser eye surgery several years ago.

He tried wearing just one contact Sunday and "that helped," Mattingly said, "but we need to get that resolved with him. If you don’t have your depth perception right on, trying to hit a breaking ball just doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, the Dodgers optioned right-handed pitcher Carlos Monasterios to minor-league camp along with left-handed pitcher Wilkin De La Rosa.

Monasterios, 24, appeared in 32 games for the Dodgers last season -- including 13 he started -- and was 3-5 with a 4.38 earned-run average.

"His stuff's been getting better," Mattingly said, but "there’s a lot of little things that we want Monty to keep working on" such as his fielding, control and "basically handling himself out on the mound."

--Jim Peltz in Phoenix

Photo: Outfielder Jay Gibbons before the Dodgers' game against the San Diego Padres last Thursday at Camelback Ranch. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire

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



Hope and fears look familiar in early going for Dodgers

Sands_300 First the required disclaimer: Eleven spring training games means zip.

Particularly for a veteran club, which -- surprise! -- the Dodgers actually are.

That doesn’t mean eyebrows won’t be raised, and concerns grow when things don’t start off swimmingly during the spring. And very early in, Dodgers fans at least have to fight the uncomfortable feeling that this team could be exactly what they were afraid it would be: great starting pitching, sketchy offense.

For all those positive types, the encouraging aspect to the early going is the starting pitching looks as impressive as the Dodgers are counting on it to be during the regular season. Through the first 11 games, their starters have compiled a 1.20 ERA (four earned runs in 30 innings).

That offense, however, is having some serious trouble getting untracked.

Monday’s little offensive outbreak was sparked by players -- Jerry Sands and Xavier Paul -- not expected to make the final 25-man roster. A look at how the projected starting lineup is doing in 11 little games is not so encouraging:

Player               Avg.    HRS    RBI
Rafael Furcal    .154      0      0
Casey Blake      .111      0      0
Andre Ethier     .125      0      0
Matt Kemp        .333      0      3
James Loney    .500      0      0
Juan Uribe       .100      0      0
Jay Gibbons      .111     0      0
M. Thames        .286     0      1
Rod Barajas      .308     1      1

Yep, that’s troubling in a it-would-be-nice-to-get-started kinda way. Overall, the Dodgers are batting .233 as a team, second lowest in the majors this spring only to the Pirates (.226).

Again, ultimately, it means nothing. A small sample size from an exhibition season. Which doesn’t mean the concern level doesn’t rise with each day the starters struggle to get untracked.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Jerry Sands. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images

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

Scratch a pair of right-handed bats off Dodgers' radar for left field: Reed Johnson and ... Manny Ramirez

A right-handed bat to play in left field remains the great void in the Dodgers’ starting lineup -- OK, other than adding an impact bat -- but you can scratch a pair of familiar names off their free-agent list.

Reed Johnson signed with the Cubs
on Wednesday, and Manager Don Mattingly said Manny Ramirez was not a viable option. Sorry, dreadlocks lovers.

Johnson was a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers last season, appearing in 102 games but having a marginal impact on their season. In 202 at-bats, he hit .262 with 24 runs, 15 runs batted in and a disappointing, career-low .291 on-base percentage.

Before joining the Dodgers, Johnson, 34, spent the previous two seasons with the Cubs and was something of a fan favorite.

He signed a minor league deal with the Cubs that does not include any guaranteed money. He is expected to compete with Fernando Perez, whom the Cubs recently acquired from Tampa Bay, for Chicago’s reserve outfield position.

At a camp workout for a select group of minor leaguers at Dodger Stadium, Mattingly put an end to any hopes that the Dodgers might re-sign Manny to fill the hole in left.

When first asked about the possibility of signing Manny, Mattingly said: "Do I have to answer that?"

Pushed ever so gently, Mattingly said: "I don’t think Manny is a viable option right now."

Manny was released by the Dodgers and claimed on waivers by the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 30.

He remains unsigned and is looking for a job as a designated hitter. He was never a strong defensive outfielder, but last season he struggled with leg injuries and had three stints on the disabled list.

If his power waned at age 38, he could still drive the ball. He hit .311 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs, a .405 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage in 196 at-bats as a Dodger. With the White Sox, however, he seriously bombed (one home run, two RBIs in 69 at-bats).

Mattingly said he if started spring training today, he would look at Jay Gibbons and Xavier Paul (both left-handed hitters) in left field, with the possibility of giving right-handed third baseman Casey Blake some time there.

-- 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

Daily Dodger in review: Reed Johnson pretty much the role player, as advertised

REED JOHNSON, 33, outfielder

Final 2010 stats: .262, two home runs, 15 RBI, 24 runs, .291 on-base percentage, .366 slugging percentage in 202 at-bats.

Contract status: Free agent.

The good: Brought in partially for his defense, he did not commit an error in 100 chances. Played all three outfield positions. Hit .301 against left-handers and .300 at home. As a pinch hitter, went 7-for-24 with a pair of doubles and RBI. Solid in the clubhouse.

The bad: Against right-handed pitching, hit just .222. Faded in the second half, batting .213. Strained his perennial bad back and went on the disabled list for 21 games (July 9-Aug. 4). Doesn’t make up for lack of power with speed on the bases (two steals).

What’s next: Since he’s a free agent, there are no guarantees he’ll return, and his play didn’t exactly make a loud case for it. He turns 34 next month. He's a local product (Temecula) and inexpensive ($800,000 last season), so we may not have seen the last of him.

The take: Johnson doesn’t figure to be a high priority for the Dodgers this winter. Should they decide to bring him back, it will likely be late when all the other pieces have fallen into place.

Though he did little to really distinguish himself, he pretty much provided what the Dodgers were expecting -- solid hitting against left-handers and reliable defense.

Unlike most of the rest of other backup outfielder candidates (Jay Gibbons, Trent Oeltjen, Scott Podsednik, Xavier Paul) he does bat right-handed, which counts for something.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Still more bad news for Dodgers: Catcher Russell Martin placed on disabled list with labral tear in hip

A Dodgers team scuffling to get back in the division race and battling numerous injuries was dealt another blow Wednesday when catcher Russell Martin was placed on the 15-day disabled list with labral tear on his right hip.

The Dodgers had previously called up catcher A.J. Ellis on Wednesday, knowing Martin would miss at least some time,  and sent down Xavier Paul.

With Martin going to the DL, just before the game the Dodgers activated outfielder Reed Johnson, who had been on the disabled list with a sore back.

Martin injured his hip in the second inning Tuesday, trying to tag up from third on a shallow fly to right.

Martin did not slide, clipped the back of catcher Nick Hundley’s foot as he went by and then landed hard and awkwardly on his right leg, seeming to jam the hip.

Martin fell to the ground, but remained in the game until the seventh inning. According to the Mayo Clinic,   labral tears can take from a few weeks to heal  but sometimes require arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn portion of the labrum.

Martin's agent, Matt Colleran, told Times beat writer Dylan Hernandez it was undetermined whether the injury would require surgery.

"There are going to be some consultations with some specialists about it," Colleran said. "They're not saying he's going to need surgery, they're not saying he's not.

"That's not going to be decided until he meets with those people.''

Johnson completed a two-day rehab assignment at Class-A Inland Empire in San Bernardino on Tuesday, going 3-for-6 with a double.

"I’m ready to go,’’ Johnson said. "I feel good.’’

There was some good medical news. Shortstop Rafael Furcal admitted "I was afraid’’ when his back stiffened up on him so severely after Monday’s game he had trouble walking, but said Wednesday his back had progressed to the point where he hoped he could return in three to five days.
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