Dodger minor league report: Week 16 — Justin Time and No-Hit Hector

By Cary Osborne

One Dodger minor leaguer has hit seven home runs in his last 10 games. Another threw six no-hit innings in a game this week. Those are the top highlights among several for the lower level teams…

Great Lakes Loons (Low-A)

Thus far: 50-52 overall; 16-16, four games out of first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division second-half standings

Outfielder Joey Curletta, a 2012 sixth-rounder, has five doubles, a home run and 10 RBI in his last 10 games. The RBI surge has boosted him to 12th in the Midwest League with 52, and 22 doubles ranks tied for eighth in the league. Curletta is slashing at .293 batting average/.350 on-base percentage/.390 slugging percentage overall.

Greg Harris, the 19-year-old son of the former Major League pitcher with the same name, threw five shutout innings on Wednesday, allowing two hits and a walk, while striking out five batters.

Jacob Rhame

Jacob Rhame

Harris, who in our discussions with Dodger vice president of amateur scouting Logan White was brought up a few times in terms of being a great pickup, has had two similar outings in the last two months. On June 11 and June 29, he pitched five innings of shutout ball. Overall, he has a 4.86 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 70 1/3 innings, having struck out 75 batters and walked 23.

Reliever Jacob Rhame hasn’t given up a run in his last 14 1/3 innings. He is averaging 11.2 Ks per 9 innings this year and his WHIP is 0.95. Rhame, a sixth-round pick last year, has a fastball that has been clocked at 95 mph-plus on more than a few occasions, our guy in Great Lakes, Bruce Gunther, tells us.

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Vin Scully on what keeps him going

Vin“As long as I get the goosebumps on the exciting play, as long as I feel that, that’s kind of my thermometer as to whether I belong or not. I still get them, so far. And when you realize no job advancement — I mean I’ve just stayed at the same spot all those years — what a laggard. When I come to the park, I always feel better.”

— Vin Scully, speaking to ESPN’s Hannah Storm in this clip

How to avoid a meltdown

Los Angeles Dodgers at St.Louis CardinalsBy Jon Weisman

There are things that are true, and there are things that people think that are true. Here’s an attempt to separate one from the other, as we head into the weekend series between the Giants and the Dodgers.

• The Giants ride on the wings of seraphim, while the Dodgers are a dysfunctional timebomb.
We had a welcome respite from this dichotomy while the Dodgers rallied from their 9 1/2-game deficit in the National League West, but once the Giants went back ahead in the race by two games in two days, it didn’t take long for this angle to return. Why even play the games?

• The Giants own the Dodgers this year.
This year, San Francisco has won seven of the first 10 games they have played against the Dodgers. Last year, Arizona won seven of the first 10 games they played against the Dodgers. Does anyone still think Arizona owned the Dodgers?

The New York Mets won 10 of 11 from the Dodgers in the 1988 regular season. Does anyone still think the Mets owned the Dodgers?

Nobody owns anybody.

P.S. In those first 10 games against the Giants this year, Clayton Kershaw has started once.

• The Dodgers need a sweep.
If the Dodgers win two out of three, they’ll be a half-game behind San Francisco with 56 games remaining in their season and reversed the momentum between the two teams. A sweep would be lovely, but it’s hardly do-or-die.

The Dodgers need to win two out of three.
If the Dodgers only win one game, they’ll be 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco with 56 games left. They’ll look like the second-best team in the division, especially if San Francisco wins the series against the best of the Dodger rotation.

But reverse the positions. If the Dodgers took two of three at home from the Giants and led by 2 1/2 games with 56 remaining, would you think that the race was over? Heck, if the Dodgers led by 2 1/2 games with five or six games remaining, would you think the race was over?

• Surely the Dodgers must win at least one out of three.
This is false for the reasons alluded to above, but I’ll concede that if Zack Greinke, Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu can’t do enough to keep the Dodgers from being swept, the Dodger fan base will turn into this: (more…)

Dodger minor league report 15.5 — Pederson/Peterson and Guerrero gets versatile

 By Cary Osborne

There’s a Joc Pederson, and there’s a Brock Peterson. The Pederson/Peterson combo is tearing it up in Albuquerque. Another important note is Alex Guerrero working at multiple positions in his latest rehab assignment. Here’s the report:

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Dodger pitching set up beautifully for San Francisco series

MLB All Star TuesdayBy Jon Weisman

In dropping their final two games at Pittsburgh while the Giants were scoring in the 14th inning Tuesday and the ninth inning Wednesday to defeat the Phillies, the Dodgers have fallen two games behind in the National League West standings. That figure will be 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 games after San Francisco plays a final game today at Philadelphia (and against Cole Hamels) beginning at 10:05 a.m. Pacific.

For the time being, this is the farthest back the Dodgers have been since June 27. Since going 16-6 to gain 10 games on the Giants between June 8-30 and move into first place in the division, the Dodgers are 8-10 in July.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers’ pitching is lined up about as well you could imagine for their three-game series at San Francisco that begins Friday, with Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu taking the mound and relievers Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell off since Monday.

On top of everything else, the Giants will arrive in San Francisco well after the Dodgers have gotten there.

MLB All Star TuesdayGreinke is scheduled to face Tim Lincecum, who picked up his first career save Tuesday and has been on a roll since throwing his second career no-hitter June 25. Lincecum has an ERA of 0.95 in his past 38 innings with 31 strikeouts against 28 baserunners. The batting average on balls in play against Lincecum during that time, however, is .140.

Saturday figures to pit Kershaw against Ryan Voglesong, who has a 3.99 ERA after allowing 11 hits to the 22 batters he faced in an abbreviated start Monday at Philadelphia — a game the Giants ended up winning, 7-4.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh PiratesSunday’s scheduled pitchers are Ryu and Yusmeiro Petit, who has mostly pitched in relief and would be making his seventh start of the season. Petit has a 6.32 ERA as a starter this season after allowing five runs in five innings at the top of Tuesday’s 14-inning game, his first start since May 31. Petit was replacing Matt Cain, who went on the disabled list Monday.

Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, the Giants’ two best starting pitchers this season, will have pitched Wednesday and today and therefore should miss the Dodgers. Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles has a nice preview of the upcoming series.

Down-and-up performance leaves Haren’s status unclear

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers play only three games over the next 130 hours, and you can make the argument that all that off time couldn’t come at a better time.

With two off days over the next five, Josh Beckett will have six days between starts and Dan Haren will likely be off for at least the rest of the month, if not in a swingman role like Paul Maholm. The earliest the Dodgers absolutely need a fifth starter is August 2, nine days from now and two days after the non-waiver trade dealine.

Haren’s status and whether he might be replaced as the Dodgers’ fifth starter by a trade is drawing major speculation. Since May 1, the 33-year-old righty has a 5.32 ERA and opponents’ OPS of .831, and is allowing a home run every 4.8 innings. And since throwing seven shutout innings of one-hit ball on the last day of June, Haren has lasted 19 innings in four July starts with a 9.47 ERA and opponents’ OPS of 1.012, which is like facing a lineup of nine Mike Trouts.

Here’s what Haren himself told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

“I know we talked a while back about off days,” said Haren. “I’ll do anything for the team and if it means I get skipped, I totally understand. I’m not going to march into the office. I’ve got to earn their respect to go back out there.

“It’s really gotten away from me the last four times out. I was having a great year, I felt great throwing the ball, then a few starts ago it kind of snowballed and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

It has to be vexing for Haren that, after allowing four runs in the first inning and a second-inning home run to Travis Snider, he was then able to set down the final 11 batters he faced on four groundouts, six strikeouts and one soft fly out. Though that might seem encouraging, the postgame comments from Haren and Don Mattingly did not reflect that sentiment.

Andre Ethier poised to become HBP champ

Andre Ethier tied the Los Angeles Dodger record for career HBPs with this plunking on June 13. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Andre Ethier tied the Los Angeles Dodger record for career HBPs with this June 13 plunking. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Dodgers at Pirates, 4:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Matt Kemp, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, CF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Carl Crawford, LF
Miguel Rojas, SS
Drew Butera, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

This week seems like as good as any to post a list of the Dodgers’ all-time leaders in hit by pitches. One list features the expected — the other, perhaps, a surprise.

The Plunkers
154 Don Drysdale
82 Henry McIntire
79 Jeff Pfeffer
74 Chan Ho Park
73 Nap Rucker
70 Dazzy Vance
65 Orel Hershiser
62 Don Sutton
56 Burleigh Grimes
53 Ramon Martinez
49 Charlie Hough
45 Oscar Jones
43 Chad Billingsley
40 Darren Dreifort
38 Jeff Weaver

Drysdale’s spot on the chart might be the least surprising piece of trivia you’ll see for some time, but even Drysdale would have to tip his hat to McIntire, who hit a better nearly every other game for Brooklyn (179 games in all). And Park amassed his total in even fewer innings than McIntire.

The Plunkees
73 Zack Wheat
72 Jackie Robinson
52 Andre Ethier
52 Alex Cora
47 Carl Furillo
43 Ron Cey
41 Willie Davis
39 Whitey Alperman
37 Lou Johnson
37 Jake Daubert
36 Bill Russell
35 Mark Grudzielanek

Yep, that’s Andre Ethier quietly bruising his way up the list — with his next HBP, he’ll become the franchise’s all-time leader in Los Angeles. Ethier tied Cora when Chase Anderson nailed him on June 13, immediately after a Matt Kemp home run. Ethier earned 25 percent of his total in one season — 2009, while Cora set the Los Angeles single-season record with 18 in 2004.

Wheat got his Dodger-leading total in 18 seasons; Robinson came within one despite playing only 10 years in Brooklyn. Cora, somewhat amazingly, averaged an HBP every 13.1 games, while Sweet Lou was soured every 10.5 games as a Dodger.

* * *

Dodger team historian Mark Langill is a participant in this ESPN 30 for 30 documentary short, “The High Five.” It’s a story that most Dodger fans know very well, but it never hurts to revisit.

Dodgers host Japan Night on July 30

Japan dogJoin the Dodgers as we host our annual Japan Night.

Fans will enjoy a Japanese-themed pregame, including a performance by the Japan Pom Pom Girls, a Taiko performance by LA Matsuri Taiko, an appearance by the 2013 Nisei Week Court and our National Anthem sung by 2011 Nisei Week Queen Erika Olsen.

In addition, stop by the Right Field Plaza before the game to learn how to make origami.

Special food items will be available for Japan night, including the Teriyaki Dog: a beef dog with Japanese mayo, teriyaki sauce, caramelized onions and nori seaweed, located at the Extreme Loaded Dodger Dog stand. Sushi, Sapporo and Kirin Frozen Draft are also available at select areas of the ballpark.

Tickets for the event are still available at www.dodgers.com/japan. Groups of 30 or more that order in advance will receive a Hello Kitty Mini Bobblehead.  If interested in bringing a group, contact (323) 224-1421.

— Afton Kurth

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Happy 100th birthday, Eleanor Wigley

Last year, Dodgers Magazine profiled Eleanor Wigley, who had a special trip to Dodger Stadium shortly before her 99th birthday. Well today, Eleanor is officially 100. Congratulations and all our best birthday wishes!

— Jon Weisman

(Click images below to enlarge.)

Wigley 1 (more…)

Morning thoughts on Beckett, Gonzalez, Perez, League, Puig, Kemp and Uribe

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh Pirates

For more Tuesday highlights from Jon SooHoo, visit LA Photog Blog.

By Jon Weisman

Man, the Dodgers have packed a lot of wild baseball into this week, and we’re still two days away from this weekend’s series at San Francisco. Here are some off-the-cuff thoughts about the past three nights.

* * *

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh PiratesJosh Beckett had a rough return from the disabled list in Tuesday’s 12-7 loss at Pittsburgh, allowing four runs in 3 2/3 innings, including three doubles and two home runs. He hasn’t had this rough an outing since … the last time he came off the disabled list, on April 9, when he allowed four earned runs in four innings, including two doubles and one home run.

Beckett then went on to have a 1.99 ERA in his next 99 2/3 innings. So maybe let’s give him a bit longer before we raise the white flag on his season.

I’m not much on treating correlation as causation, and I’m 100 percent against the designated hitter. But in Beckett’s case, he might be getting on base too much for his own good. So far in July, Beckett has come to the plate seven times. He has three doubles, a walk and reached second base on an error, and by his own admission seemed to aggravate his hip condition running to third base in his last game before the All-Star Break.

* * *

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh PiratesAdrian Gonzalez hit his 250th career homer Tuesday, as Lee Sinins notes at Gammons Daily, and his first since July 1. Gonzalez has been one of the victims of an increased use of defensive shifts by MLB teams in 2014, a trend so dramatic that Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci is proposing rules to ban them. He makes a lengthy case, but I disagree strongly with the idea that teams should be penalized for innovation.

The response, essentially, should be for batters to counter-innovate.We’ve seen Gonzalez do that a bit in recent weeks, by trying to go the other way, though it’s reasonable to wonder whether the challenge of the shift has affected Gonzalez’s power production. That being said, Gonzalez has been strong overall since the All-Star Game, going 8 for 19 with two doubles, the home run, three walks and a sacrifice fly, for a 1.162 OPS.

* * *

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh PiratesThe Gonzalez homer, later followed by a Scott Van Slyke pinch-hit blast, was the Dodgers’ eighth of the month and first since July 9, ending a streak of 317 plate appearances without one.

The Dodgers hadn’t had a two-homer game since Independence Day, and haven’t hit three homers in a game since June 17.

Still, they managed to go 5-3 in their recent eight homerless games.

* * *

So, Chris Perez. No one would deny that was a brutal outing Tuesday, when Perez became the first Dodger reliever since 1988 to walk four consecutive batters, as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. notes. It ended — with a thud — a stretch in which Perez had faced 37 batters over eight games and allowed only 10 to reach base, for a .496 opponents’ OPS, while stranding one of six inherited baserunners.

Few probably remember now that Perez began the year even hotter, facing 45 batters in his first 14 games and allowing only nine to reach base, for a .380 opponents’ OPS. Perez has been having some extreme fluctuations in batting average on balls in play this season:

.161 March 22-May 1
.444 May 2-June 15
.179 June 16-July 21

Perez walked more batters in the eighth inning Tuesday than he had in his previous eight games.

* * *

Brandon League has been the best reliever in the National League most of this year in inducing double-play grounders. When he relieved Perez with the bases loaded and the Dodgers down by two, he got two grounders — the difference being, these found holes.

Russell Martin hit a dirt-skipper to the left of an over-shifted Dee Gordon, and Ike Davis followed with a bouncer that also went between Gordon and Gonzalez. Live by the sword metaphor, die by the sword metaphor.

* * *

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh PiratesThough I’m not as breathless as others seem to be about it, I’m curious to see how the Dodgers align their outfield once Yasiel Puig returns from his hit-by-pitch injury.

There was a lot of talk about how Matt Kemp hadn’t played right field in five years, but people were treating the position as if it were as alien to him as left field was, which wasn’t the case.

Kemp had started 131 games in right field before this season. He had started eight games in left before this season. The clamor to move Kemp to center field began largely as a consequence of Andruw Jones’ struggles there in 2008, and the appearance that Kemp, who looked natural in right, could adapt to center. It doesn’t surprise me that Kemp’s appearances in right field have seemingly had a homecoming aspect to them.

Puig’s arm still probably plays best in right field, though it might make sense for the Dodgers in the short term to move him to center and just warn the corner outfielders to stay out of his way.  The answer isn’t obvious.

* * *

Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh PiratesHave people even noticed that Juan Uribe has hit .295 in the 78 at-bats he’s had since his return from the disabled list four weeks ago? It has been a quiet .295, with two doubles, a home run and four walks, but that’s been alongside his fine fielding, with 50 assists compared with two errors in nearly 180 innings.

For the year, Uribe has what we’ll call a 26.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, topped in the National League by only Atlanta’s Chris Johnson (31.5) and San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval (30.3).

In terms of advanced measurements of overall defensive performance, with Chase Headley gone from San Diego to the Bronx, Uribe is now the No. 1 defensive third baseman in the National League, according to Fangraphs, and it’s not that close. And thanks to Justin Turner, the Dodgers are the best as a team defensively at third base.

* * *

Slugfest update: Tuesday’s game was the seventh of the year for the Dodgers in which they scored and allowed at least six runs. The Dodgers are 3-4 in those games, and as you can see, seven has not been particularly lucky for them.

6-7 April 9 vs. Detroit
8-6 April 13 at Arizona
8-6 April 19 vs. Arizona
9-7 May 3 at Miami
7-18 May 17 at Arizona
7-8 July 5 at Colorado
7-12 July 22 at Pittsburgh

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