April 21, 2014

Highlights of the Final Homestand

It’s hard to believe the final homestand of the season is here, and while it’s depressing that the Dodgers are completely out of the race, there are several entertaining sub-plots for these last three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On Friday night, Torre will hand the managerial reins over to Brad Ausmus, perhaps in a nod to a future career. Ausmus also gets to choose his coaching staff from the players on the team, so that should be entertaining.  As Ken Gurnick’s article indicates, Ausmus has the demeanor and intelect to be a ptentially great manager.  I’m actually really looking forward to tonight’s game.

In addition, if you follow the Dodgers official Twitter feed, @DodgertownUSA, you can win autographed baseballs throughout the final homestand (also known as Fan Appreciation Weekend).  There will also be fireworks on the field following the game.

On Saturday night, the Dodgers will honor Rubby De La Rosa and Gerry Sands as their 2010 Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year.  I’ll have more on these guys in a subsequent post.

Torre has also said that catcher Russell Martin will likely manage this game, and that he’s excited about the opportunity.  This is also a bit of a change for Torre, as he usually picks older veterans for the honor, but I think it says something about how fond Joe is of Russ.

Finally, on Sunday, it’s the last game for the retiring Joe Torre and Brad Ausmus, so it’s a great opportunity to say goodbye.  The club has a special pre-game celebration of Ausmus’ career planned, which spans an incredible 1,938 games, placing him seventh on the all-time list.

Sunday is also Fan Appreciation Day.  If you haven’t been before, it’s really a lot of fun.  Per the Dodgers’ press release, there will be more than 15,000 giveaways for fans:

Prizes include a 2011 Hyundai Sonata, 2011 Dodgers season tickets, a 40-inch Sharp TV, an MSI computer, Jet Blue flight vouchers, a 55-inch Vizio TV, tickets to the NASCAR Nationwide Series courtesy of Auto Club Speedway, 200 Universal Studios passes, a one-night stay at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino’s hotel that comes with two tickets to a Sublime concert and dinner for two at the Pines Restaurant and more. A full list of Fan Appreciation Day prizes is below.  

See you at Chavez Ravine!

Brad Ausmus’ Birthday Present: Back Surgery

Tonight’s pre-game conversation with Joe Torre was dominated by the news that backup catcher Brad Ausmus (who is celebrating his 41st birthday today) will need back surgery tomorrow morning in Los Angeles to heal a herniated disc in his back.

“It’s tough. He had a little piece of the disc break off,” said Joe Torre.  Stan Conte added that Ausmus will need three months to “be competitive.”

The condition has left Ausmus uncomfortable sleeping and sitting.  “I don’t know if I was sad, having decided to have surgery,” said Ausmus. “Because if you were me, trying to sleep for the last week, every night and having to get up every three to five hours to walk around for 10 minutes to relieve the pain before you can lie back down…it’s not a lot of fun.  The strange part is walking around and moving is when it feels best.  It’s the sitting and the lying down that causes the shooting pain down the leg.”

Torre noted that A.J. Ellis will also get his reps.  “Ellis will catch and we’ll make sure we give Russell his time off. We have to.”

An injury like this is obviously more serious and could potentially have career-ending implications when you’re a 41 year-old catcher.  “We’re more concerned with him feeling better than what that means with his baseball future,” said Torre.  “It’s similar to when Mientkiewicz went down.  It’s just something you don’t count on right now. If everything goes well and he comes back, great, but it’s still too early to think about.

But in Ausmus’ mind, he’s coming back. “I signed a contract with the Dodgers to play a full season, and despite the fact that I’ll be injured for part of it, I’m going to fulfill the contract, unless they tell me to get out of here,” said the catcher. “If all goes according to plan, I should make the following road trip.”

With a sense of humor, Ausmus added, “Realistically, me missing three months, might only be seven or eight games overall.”

Other pre-game notes:

- Torre on the bullpen: “Right now we just need to get our bullpen straightened out.  We need to have an idea when we go down there what to expect.  Right now we’re not sure.  We feel the ability is there, it’s just a need to get a better result.  I’m not saying get roles for people, we just need to get a little more consistency from the guys down there – and get Sherrill straightened out.”

- Torre on Manny Ramirez’s home run yesterday and the subsequent curtain call: “That never hurts anybody’s ego.  He’s had good at bats.  I’m not as concerned about the home run as I am about the production. I’m pretty confident that he’s going to be very productive.”

- Relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo will pitch a rehab assignment in San Bernardino tomorrow night (20 pitches), followed by another game in San Bernardino.

- All Dodger players will be wearing the number 42 to honor Jackie Robinson on Thursday night (Jackie Robinson Day) and also on Friday, as the Giants are off on Thursday and the Dodgers don’t want them to be the only team with all their players wearing 42.

- Actor and talk show host Joe McHale (from “Community” and “Talk Soup”) will be throwing out the first pitch before tonight’s game.

- Finally, today is Tommy and Jo Lasorda’s 60th wedding anniversary.  Happy anniversary to both Tommy and Jo who are (of course) celebrating at the game tonight!

Photo credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2009