April 2006

What a difference a win makes

It’s amazing how much one victory can change the way everyone thinks. Imagine, if we had lost last night’s game, we’re 6-9 and everyone is starting to think that we’re falling apart. Instead, we’re 7-8 with a great walk-off win and everyone’s feeling great. It’s strange how that works, but fortunately people who have watched baseball for years know how long the season is and that one win or loss in April doesn’t really make or break a season. Of course, we now have one more win we don’t "need" in September, but I’ve always found it interesting how much it changes people’s moods, thought processes and outlook.

On the injury front, Nomar is getting closer to making his Dodger debut, while Yhency Brazoban’s surgery went well yesterday. We’re all thinking of him and his recovery today, as it’s a long road back from Tommy John surgery, but everyone is hopeful he’ll be back and better than ever in about a year.

As for the offense, the Dodger hitters got together before yesterday’s game and while it didn’t create an offensive outburst, we doubled our hit production from the previous two nights and got a victory, which is what counts.

Finally, after Jason Repko chatted with fans yesterday, Dodger Vice Chairman and President Jamie McCourt will host a live chat tomorrow on USA Today.com.

Today's lineup

Kent is, in fact, back in the lineup. And right now, he’s on a mountain just beyond Dodger Stadium, where he’s taking a cover photo for the upcoming Dodgers Magazine. Out of curiosity, do any of you guys read Dodgers Magazine (the game program) and what are your thoughts?

Anyway, here’s the lineup:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Drew, RF

Kent, 2B

Ledee, LF

Mueller, 3B

Loney, 1B

Navarro, C

Lowe P

Chattin' with Jason

In case you haven’t heard, Jason Repko will take part in a live chat today at 2 p.m. PT. It should last about half an hour. It’s the sixth of a series we’re doing, with all the upcoming ones listed here. Kim Ng is next on May 9. Pretty much, we’ll do one every other Tuesday at 2 p.m., rotating between an executive and a player.

Today's lineup

We called up Oscar Robles today and designated Cody Ross for assignment. Obviously it’s tough to see Cody go, but with Jeff Kent out of the lineup, it was clear that there was a need for another infielder.

The good news is, Jeff’s eye exam came back fine, but he’s still got some soreness and a headache, so he’s out of the lineup today. He’s going to be reevaluated by Dr. Mellman in a little while, but it looks like he’s doing okay. In fact, he even had some playful banter with T.J. Simers, so it’s safe to say that his sense of humor is still intact.

As for Cody, I got a chance to catch up with him before he left and he’s in good spirits. He knows that this was just a situation of too many good outfielders and that it could mean a better opportunity for him elsewhere.

Today we have:

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Cruz, LF

Drew, RF

Saenz, 1B

Mueller, 3B

Robles, 2B

Navarro, C

Tomko, P

A great read

I keep wondering whether it’s worth posting links to stories written on dodgers.com, as I assume those of you coming to this blog are already reading all the articles on our site. But, in case you missed it, Jesse Sanchez wrote a great piece on Manny Mota’s influence on Placido Polanco over the years. Check it out.

Battling Through Injuries – Roy Smith

The first two weeks of the season unfortunately brought about a rash of injuries which has severely tested our depth as an organization. I am always asked by people how the people in the front office feel when injuries occur, especially to established star players such as Eric Gagne and Nomar Garciaparra. Naturally, you get disappointed and feel a sense of frustration. However, one thing that this game teaches you is to expect the unexpected. The feeling of frustration really doesn’t last that long because you know that there is a game to play the following day.

Immediately your mind shifts to what are the team’s options, who is doing well in Triple-A, and what players are available on other teams that can be traded for. When Kim Ng and I recruit six-year minor league free agents in the off-season, often it is with a worst case scenario in mind. We ask ourselves constantly what our options are if certain players go down with injuries. Which of our young prospects do we think will be ready early in the season? If we feel we are not covered in a certain area, we try and sign players to cover that hole. The replacement players can’t be expected to be as good as a star player, but you hope that it is a talented young player or a veteran who has previous big league experience.

Already we have brought up one of our off-season acquisitions, Takashi Saito, who was purchased from Las Vegas when Yhency Brazoban went down. In Nomar’s case we brought one of our young players who we signed originally in James Loney. Injuries are an accepted part of the game and must be factored in during off-season planning. While you may leave Spring Training with 25 players, in your mind the roster hopefully extends to the low to mid thirties if you include players in the minor leagues whom you feel can help at the big league level, at least in an emergency situation.            

Today's lineup and UFC

Today’s lineup is the same as yesterday’s (see below), with Seo in place of Perez.

Also, Brad Penny called me an hour ago and said that his friend, Tim Sylvia who just won the Ultimate Fighting Championship title was going to be at the game today, so we’re going to have him throw out the first pitch, in case that makes you want to come to tonight’s game (you never know).

A lot of the players are into this UFC gig…Alomar works with the trainer for Andrei Arlavski and Jayson Werth is buddies with another one of the guys. Who knew this stuff was so popular?

A win and a sellout – Josh Rawitch

Tonight is what Dodger baseball is all about. A sellout crowd – 55,000 vocal, screaming, chanting fans going home with a Dodger victory. I feel like I’m back in my days as a reporter, as I can seek the brake lights in the parking lot while I write from the press box. I can’t say I miss those days…

What I do miss is hearing "Welcome to the Jungle" in the ninth inning, but Danys Baez (pronounced Danny BI-ez, for the fan who asked) has been just as impressive as Eric Gagne, to date. He followed a stellar outing by Odalis Perez with a scoreless ninth for his third save of the season.

Kenny Lofton answered any questions about the health of his leg, flying around the bases on a stand-up triple for his first Dodger RBI.

Tomorrow the Giants will pitch Brad Hennessey, who they’re calling up for the start. Taking two out of three from the Giants sure would be nice and it would give us seven wins, which is what Grady had hoped for.

There was one question on the blog as to why he said he’d be happy if we started 7-7 and the main reason is simply that there are so many new guys, injuries, etc., that getting through the first couple weeks of the season at .500 means that you’re staying afloat and not falling too far behind. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll be happy if we finish 81-81…far from it. But he understands that this is a very long season and as we all remember, 12-2 last year didn’t translate into an ideal season.

Heading home happy…

Today's lineup

Furcal, SS

Lofton, CF

Drew, RF

Kent, 2B

Cruz, LF

Mueller, 3B

Loney, 1B

Navarro, C

Perez, P

It’s getting closer to the projected lineup…just missing Nomar, now.

We made it through the rain – Josh Rawitch

Despite the loss last night, it was great to hear the crowd as vocal as it was. A few of us were saying in the press box that we’re amazed at how many fans waited out the rain and stuck around to see an incredible pitcher’s duel. And, I’m glad that we decided to reward those fans with free tickets to another Dodger game for their loyalty.

I’m also really glad that this blog is starting to get a lot more comments and insightful posts from fans. Our intention from the start has been to have a direct connect to our fans and so far, it seems as though it’s working.

I agree with one of the comments that I’m hopeful this blog "doesn’t just become a place to gripe." Debate is a huge part of baseball, so please do as much of that as you want and in the meantime, I’ll do my best to answer some of the questions that are posed.

Please know that anytime I answer a baseball-related question, I am not speaking on behalf of Grady or Ned, but that I am trying to explain some of the things that they have already told the media. Roy Smith, who posts here from time to time, can answer a lot of the baseball questions and is far more suited to do so, given his playing career and years in baseball ops.

But, in response to what Grady is trying to do with the outfield and rotation, hopefully this provides a little clarity. With the rotation, he seems to be pretty set on Lowe, Penny, Perez, Tomko and Seo, unless performance dictates a change. In the event that we have an off day that will allow him to use Lowe on his regular four days rest and use Penny, Perez and Tomko a little more regularly, he might be inclined to skip Seo. But anytime we have five games in five days, you can probably expect to see those five guys out there, barring any changes.

With the outfield, Grady has taken a very smart approach to trying to maximize the potential of all the guys out there. J.D. Drew will be in the lineup almost every day, but Grady is also trying to make sure that we don’t wreck him physically, as he has endured some injury problems in the past. In center field, the hope has been to let Kenny Lofton play somewhere around 100 games, with Jason Repko filling in against lefties and whenever Kenny needs a day off. Jason’s hot start has probably earned him a few more looks, but only time will tell whether Grady uses his more often or not.

In left field, Jose Cruz and Repko will get the bulk of the starts, with Cody Ross filling in every once in a while in left or right field. Ricky Ledee will mostly be used as a pinch-hitter, with spot starts to keep him fresh.

In regards to Cesar Izturis, the only thing that matters right now is getting him healthy. The thought of him playing the outfield was raised as a way to get him in the lineup on a regular basis once he’s back and playing. I don’t believe anyone is planning on taking a Gold Glove shorstop and making him an everyday outfielder. But if he could become something like a Chone Figgins, who can play almost anywhere on the field on any given day, think about what an incredible asset that would be the team. If Kent needed a day off, Izzy could play second. If Nomar needed a day off, Kent could move to first with Izzy at second. If Furcal needed a day off, Izzy could play short and possibly even third if Mueller needed a day off. And, if he can learn to play the outfield, he could probably see time five to seven days a week, somewhere in the lineup. But right now, the only important thing is that he gets healthy, as there are tons of things that can happen between now and then.

Finally, I truly don’t believe that Grady is playing Cruz or Lofton to keep them happy, as it was suggested. Every day, he looks at the opposing pitcher, the batter’s history against that pitcher and that type of pitcher, the weather conditions, the type of ballpark we’re playing in, the physical conditions of all the players and the number of days in a row that each guy has played before formulating the lineup he thinks will have the best chance to win that day.  He’s not in the business of making players happy – he’s in the business of winning.

Cody and Jason have both impressed a lot of people lately and from a personal standpoint, I hope both guys succeed because they’re two of the nicest guys on the club. But you can’t ignore the long histories of Lofton or Cruz just because Cody had seven RBI in a game or Jason has impressed in the early going. It’s a huge puzzle with lots of pieces and Grady tries to make them all fit every day he and his coaches put together a lineup.

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