Santa Fernando makes a surprise visit

Fernando Valenzuela visits Children's Hospital Los Angeles

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Fernando Valenzuela visits Children's Hospital Los AngelesBy Yvonne Carrasco

Dodger legend and broadcaster Fernando Valenzuela stopped by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles unannounced today, distributing toys to patients and also taking photos with their families.

“I wanted to visit the kids here at CHLA today because it’s almost Christmas, and I thought they might like Dodger gifts from me,” said Valenzuela. “I like this time of year, because it’s a time where you can do more things for the community.

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Long road from Drew Butera leads to catcher Shawn Zarraga

By Cary Osborne

The Dodgers added some catching depth on Thursday, acquiring 25-year-old minor leaguer Shawn Zarraga from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for infielder/outfielder Matt Long and left-handed pitcher Jarret Martin.

Long was acquired Thursday from the Angels on Thursday as the player to be named later in the December 9 Drew Butera deal.

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Seasons: Mike Piazza’s 1997 — all other catchers take a backseat

MIKE PIAZZA SCOTT LIVINGSTONE

By Cary Osborne

This marks the fifth in a series of stories where we look back in depth on some of the greatest individual seasons in Dodger history.

The Dodgers just couldn’t catch the Giants in the end. So on September 28, 1997, being three games behind San Francisco on the last day of the season, the Dodgers’ finale in Colorado was a relaxed one. In the bottom of the third inning, Dodger manager Bill Russell made a double switch and sent in rookie Henry Blanco to replace Eric Karros at first base.

Karros slapped fives in the dugout, then headed into the clubhouse and started changing his clothes. He put on a cap and a T-shirt and some pants and headed for the seats at Coors Field. He found an empty one in left-center field. Karros was now watching the game as a fan.

Karros spent the entire season with the best seat in the house. He batted cleanup. Mike Piazza batted third. From the on-deck circle, Karros witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime season for a Major League catcher. Now he truly was witnessing it the way others did in 1997.

“In the fifth inning I believe it was, he hit home run No. 40, to right center I think,” Karros recalled of that September 28 game. “It was kind of funny. Sitting in the stands out here during the game I’ve just been playing, and he hits No. 40.”

Karros said he didn’t get up and cheer. He doesn’t remember how he reacted.

“I was probably screaming at him,” Karros said with a laugh.

So were a lot of people — opposing pitchers and managers, non-Dodger fans. Piazza’s 1997 is arguably the greatest offensive season for a catcher in baseball history.

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Clayton Kershaw, and why sometimes a bad inning is just a bad inning

Don Mattingly comes to the mound to remove Clayton Kershaw in the second inning on May 17 at Arizona.

Don Mattingly comes to the mound to remove Clayton Kershaw in the second inning on May 17 at Arizona. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

It was an odd mission, unlikely to be rewarding, and it was voluntary.

But I chose to revisit Clayton Kershaw’s May 17 blowup against Arizona, when he allowed seven runs in the second inning.

I was listening on the radio when it happened, and it was more than six months ago, so some of its nuances — yes, there were nuances — weren’t fresh in my mind. I remembered the four-pitch walks to Cody Ross — yes, more than one. I remembered the three triples. I remembered that Kershaw just was not Kershaw — the seven runs makes that pretty clear — and that given that he had come off the disabled list just a couple weeks before, there was some amount of panic among Dodger followers.

Kershaw, of course, recovered spectacularly from the start, with a 1.43 ERA and 211 strikeouts in his next 176 innings. You wanted to forget that outing in Arizona? Wish granted. It was completely irrelevant to his National League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player pursuits.

And yet, I retained some curiosity about it, mostly because it was just so unusual.

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Happy holidays from the Dodgers

Dodgers send Noel Cuevas to Rockies in Juan Nicasio deal

Noel Cuevas has gone to the Colorado Rockies to complete the November 24 trade for pitcher Juan Nicasio. Those of you with good memories of Spring Training might remember Cuevas’ game-winning homer against the Royals in March.

The 23-year-old outfielder had a .285 on-base percentage and .351 slugging percentage for Double-A Chattanooga this season.

— Jon Weisman

In 2015, the Dodgers will go to WAR with a formidable top four

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

Time will tell what the Dodger starting rotation will look like in 2015. However, the way things stack up, the Dodgers’ returning four will be pretty formidable.

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Dodgers designate Brian Wilson for assignment

Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

To make room for Brandon McCarthy on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers have designated reliever Brian Wilson for assignment.

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The Brandon McCarthy Experience officially comes to Los Angeles


Bmc TwitterBy Jon Weisman

As one of the most sharp and social players on Twitter, not to mention one of the more progressive thinkers among big-league players, Brandon McCarthy has built a following among many baseball fans that transcends the hallowed bonds of team allegiances.

McCarthy, whom the Dodgers have officially signed to a four-year contract, already has more followers on Twitter than all but two of his new teammates — meaning that his own personal attempt to transform himself into a Dodger uniform online (left) met with an enthusiastic response, praiseworthy or not.

That’s not to say there’s no local angle in his arrival in Los Angeles. Though he went to school in Colorado, he’s a native of nearby Glendale. As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes, McCarthy properly worships Vin Scully, and you don’t get off on a better foot in this town than that.

But McCarthy’s popularity in greater Los Angeles will ultimately be determined on the field, and there, the 31-year-old right-handed starting pitcher offers promise.

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The musical stylings of Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw joined NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson in presenting at Monday’s American Country Countdown Awards … and thanks to Stu Hothem of NASCAR.com, we can document that it was music to … someone’s ears.

— Jon Weisman

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