December 21, 2014

Jim Thome, Jon Garland Traded to Dodgers!

Jim Thome

Wow.  Was just watching tonight’s game when Vin Scully made the announcement: “The Dodgers have just announced that they have aquired Jim Thome for a player to be named later.  Big Jim with 23 home runs this year…wow, will he fit in.  Imagine the lineup with Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Jim Thome.  Whoa.”

This definitely was one move I  was not expecting the Dodgers to make.  I guess if you can’t get more starting pitching, the next best thing is add more power, right?  A free agent after this season, Thome must have waived his no trade clause.  Speaking of new Dodgers, Ronnie Belliard went deep in his first at bat as a Dodger (and fifth time this year!) while turning two double plays – very nice.

So where exactly is Thome (normally a DH) going to play?  It definitely sounds like more moves are coming…is Thome really a fourth or fifth outfielder?  A left hander off the bench?  Maybe.  Can  he play first base?  I doubt it…he hasn’t played in the field for nearly two full years.

UPDATE: Just learned that Jon Garland has also been traded to the Dodgers for a player to be named later.  Garland is 8-11 this year with a 4.29 ERA, but he is traditionally known as an “innings eater”, a guy who has won his last two starts and I believe is someone the Dodgers were considering making a run at before last season.  Interesting to note that Garland and Thome were teammates on the White Sox a few seasons ago.  Even more interesting to note that Garland was supposed to start against the Dodgers on Thursday, and now could start the same night against his old team that same night.

Ned Colletti on “Dodgers Live” after tonight’s game:

“Jim Thome is a great hitter, a home run hittter.  Is he in the twilight of his career?  No question…he’ll tell you the same thing.  He’s also a great leader and we felt that we needed as much leadership as you can have, especially late in the season.  He (Thome) called me about 8:30 tonight and said, ‘Look I wanted to call you.  I know you guys have interest and I want you to know that me playing first base is probably not going to be an option, but I’ll come off the bench and I’ll do everything I can to help this team win.’  I says, if you’re in, we’re in.  He says, ‘I’m all in.’  And I says, lets go do it.”

Well, say what you will about Ned, but he’s certainly going for it.  Frankly, he had to as the team in it’s composition yesterday was simply not good enough to advance far in the playoffs.  These moves were needed.  The Dodgers have only three pinch hit home runs all year, and craved power from the reserves.  Thome and Belliard are huge upgrades and veteran leadership.  Plus, what a DH the Dodgers have in Thome if they go to the World Series.

So what do you think?  Good moves for the post season or not the right moves?  Let’s hear your thoughts!

Haeger Looks to Be Real Deal in 2-0 Win vs Cubs

Charlie Haeger looked good today. Very good. Much better than I had expected – and here’s why:

Haeger was around during Spring Training and went to AAA Albuquerque where he quickly amassed a record of 11-6 in 22 starts with a 3.55 ERA with 3.61 BB/9 and 6.41 K/9 in 144.2 innings. That got the Dodgers interest piqued but Haeger’s history left a lot of people cautious.

Haeger was drafted in the 2001 amateur draft and struggled in the Rookie league and even left baseball altogether to take his chances as a professional golfer.

Fast forward to 2004- Charlie returns as a knuckeballer and started to show some promise but remained in the minors with admirable stats but a few control problems.

Today, Haeger mixed his low-speed fastball with a knuckeball that continuously hung over the plate (err…after about 4 innings). Eric Karros was commenting how impressed he was with Haeger’s consistency midway through the game during the FOX Sports telecast. Take a look at some of the film from the game…he’s definitely shaky at the beginning but you can see the knuckleball confusing the Cubs. Then, about the 4th inning or so, the ball just starts consistently hanging and dropping- leaving several Cubs hitters totally bewildered.

With his win today (his first with the Dodgers), Haeger looks like a nice addition to the starting rotation with a 1.93 ERA (albeit with only 14 innings pitched). If he can keep his control, the Dodgers may have found their answer to their injury problems.

“Anytime that I can consistently throw strikes with it, I’m going to keep throwing it,” Haeger said. “I’m going to live and die by the knuckleball; that’s what I do.”

Dodgers Slump Puts Pitching Trade Rumors Front and Center

There’s no doubt that the Dodgers are slumping right now. The just lost three straight to the Braves and have dropped 11 out of their last 17 games. The general consensus is that they will pull out of it shortly but one has to wonder what the contributing factors are.

Certainly the lack of offense as of late is a concern – after all, the Dodgers have been inconsistent at the plate as of yet. However, the team can get hits when it needs them (remember Ethier’s recent heroics) – they just seem to need them more often.

Which brings us to the pitching woes – highlighted primarily by the starting roster and the high usage of the closers. Chad Billingsley’s nagging injury has caused the Dodgers to lean on their three remaining major-league starters while also calling up minor leaguer Eric Stults (who has had flashes of brilliance but is by no means rock-solid reliable). Kershaw has been doing his part to get as manny innings in the books as possible but opposing teams are getting their offense to work early and often in many cases.

Even Torre is concerned and recognizes the impact that pulling his starters in the first several innings is having on his relievers. “There is no question you’re pushing the envelope (on the bullpen) when you have to go get your starter in the fifth inning or before,” Torre said. “Because it’s really stretching the rubber band.”

Mota and Troncoso have appeared quite fallable as of late, and give up a combined 5 runs on Sunday in the top of the 9th. It’s no wonder that Joe Torre called an all-team meeting following the game on Sunday night to try and right the ship.

All of this has the trade rumors flying right now. John Smoltz and Vincente Padilla are the two most likely candidates – both have been designated for assignment by their respective teams and Smoltz is likely a “person of interest” for Joe Torre given his veteran status and Torre’s challenges with unproven minor league pitchers as of late. Assuming Stults were to stay up for Billingsley and cover any unforseen injuries to the starters between now and September, Torre would likely want someone who was tested and proven for the fifth starting spot.

We’ll keep an eye on things but expect Smoltz to be in the mix for the Dodgers…

Dodgers Pitcher Jason Schmidt Lasts 5 in First Outing in ’09

Dodgerspitcher Jason Schmidt, back in the starting rotation after nearly two years away from the game, lasted 5 innings before James McDonald replaced him at the top of the 6th.

Schmidt gave up five hits and three runs, (all earned). He walked three and struck out two, and managed to hit a batter in 91 pitches, 56 of which were strikes.

Overall, Schmidt did OK for someone who hasn’t played in the majors since June 2007. He certainly exuded some measure of control tonight (the hit batter notwidthstanding) and didn’t seem rattled – I think he is ready for prime time but the next several outings will tell the tale.

More importantly, did Schmidt make enough of an impression that the Dodgers will refrain from trading to get more seasoned pitching talent to get them through the second half of the season?

Monday’s great game!

Andre Ethier's Game Winning Homer vs. Rockies

Click on image to see a larger version!

Sorry for posting this the day after the fact…it was a long night that finished the right way – with a Dodger victory!

Thanks to a guy named “Doc” at work, I was able to watch Monday night’s game from a great position – loge level, first base side, row A…fantastic seats in foul ball territory (one landed one aisle over and about 5-6 more were in our “area”)…of course, the only souvenirs I walked away with were a soda cup and a white Dodger soft serve helmet…

The game got off to a great start as Randy Wolf pitched 3 perfect innings before giving up a hit to leadoff the 4th inning…even though Wolf gave up a 2-run homer in the top of the 5th, he made up for it with a 2-run single in the bottom of the 5th!

The bullpen went to work in the 7th inning when Ronald Belisario came in and struck out the first two batters he faced…it was great to see the Rockies a bit off balance – seeing Randy Wolf and his high 60’s curveball for six innings and then facing Belisario and his mid-90’s heat in the seventh…

It was then Ramon Troncoso’s turn in the 8th, pitching a scoreless frame and then handing the ball to Jonathan Broxton who was throwing even more heat (high 90’s with a couple of pitches reaching triple digits on the Dodger Stadium radar gun)…

The only inning where we got into trouble was the 10th when Jeff Weaver gave up hits to the first two batters he faced, but proceeded to strikeout the side to get out of the jam…the fans were going crazy!!!

Brent Leach, Guillermo Mota and James McDonald each pitched a perfect inning to setup the heroics in the bottom of the 13th…

Casey Blake led off with a single to right field that Brad Hawpe trapped on a diving attempt…Andre Ethier, the Dodger’s leading “walk off man” with three game winners this season, stepped to the plate…

Strike one called…everyone in the stadium disagreed with the call…

Ball one…low and away…

Strike two called…another questionable call from the fans’ perspective, but we all have a worse view compared to the home plate umpire…

Pitch #4 was fouled away…

It was at this point that my friend put on his jacket and called it the “rally jacket”…I told him he should have put it on in the 9th inning so we could have gone home earlier…

The 5th pitch was a thing of beauty – for Dodger fans…Ethier ripped a line drive to right field that I thought was going to hit the wall…so did Brad Hawpe as he stopped and prepared to play the rebound off the wall…

…except the rebound never came…

The ball barely cleared the wall in right field…HOME RUN!

The crowd was going crazy…the Dodger bench emptied onto the field, awaiting Ethier at home plate…the helmet was off…the grin was ear-to-ear…he was pointing to someone at home plate…the final leap to touch the plate was complete…the dogpile began…what a game, what a game…

While Ethier stole the headlines in the paper this morning, the true heroes of this game were the guys coming out of the bullpen…in fact, the entire pitching staff…

17 strikeouts were recorded in the 13-inning game…the bullpen did not allow a run in the final 7 innings…the ONLY hits the Rockies got came off Jeff Weaver in the 10th…we brought the heat and the Rockies could do nothing with it…I love it!