April 15 pregame: Buckle up

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Andre Ethier, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Josh Beckett, P

By Jon Weisman

After playing their first 13 games in 24 days, the Dodgers will play their next 13 games in 13 days. So get ready …

Late updates: Taking advantage of his remaining options, the Dodgers sent Paco Rodriguez to Albuquerque to make room for the return of Brian Wilson from the disabled list. Obviously, this won’t be the last the Dodgers see of Rodriguez, who had allowed six hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings this year while striking out five.

More forebodingly, Chad Billingsley is returning to Los Angeles for an MRI after cutting short a bullpen session today with discomfort in his right elbow. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more on both stories if you click the links.

* * *

Some gems from the Dodger press notes:

  • The Dodgers’ 7-1 start on the road this season is their best since 1983, and a win tonight would make this their best road start since the 1977 team went 11-1.
  • The Dodgers lead MLB by scoring first in 10 games this season and winning nine of those (via Stats, LLC).
  • The Dodger bullpen has allowed only two of 20 inherited runners to score this season.
  • Adrian Gonzalez became the eighth Los Angeles Dodger to have at least 10 RBI in a three-game series. Frank Howard is tops with 12 from July 27-29, 1962 against the Giants.
  • Gonzalez has homered in four consecutive games, one off the team record held by Roy Campanella (1950), Shawn Green (2001) and Matt Kemp (2010).
  • Gonzalez has an extra-base hit in eight consecutive games, one off the team record held by Jack Fournier.
  • I looked up Fournier’s streak just now (August 20-26, 1925) and saw that it included doubleheaders on three consecutive days. From sunup on August 22 to sundown on August 24, the 35-year-old first baseman went 10 for 22 with two doubles, a triple, three homers and four walks.

* * *

Also in today’s mix …

  • The first Jackie Robinson Celebration Game was set for today at Holman Stadium at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, matching Florida State League teams Lakeland (Tigers) and Brevard County (Brewers). Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent was to address the crowd with history about Robinson.
  • Kenley Jansen threw a cutter that broke 100 mph, notes Daniel Brim at Dodgers Digest.
  • Ernest Reyes at Blue Heaven presents some anti-discrimination baseball memorabilia.
  • Duke Snider received the 1961 Union Oil Dodger Family Booklet treatment (also at Blue Heaven).
  • The Dodgers were shut out four times in nine games at San Francisco in 2012, but none in 2013.

Flash Gordon chases Flash Garvey

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKSSB leadersBy Jon Weisman

The Dodgers all-time stolen base leaders in Los Angeles are a funny mix. Once you get past the truly great thieves, like Maury Wills and Davey Lopes, you encounter a combination that includes short-term speedsters and team legends known more for their longevity than their legs.

Brett Butler, for example, is No. 5 on the list despite not becoming a Dodger until he was 33 years old. He’s one spot ahead of Bill Russell, whose Dodger career ran from ages 20 to 37.

Dee Gordon, who moved into 20th place with his four steals Sunday, is now only two steals behind Steve Garvey. Gordon has played 192 games as a Dodger; Garvey played 1,727.

With only 45 more steals sometime in his Dodger career, in 2014 or beyond (he has nine this year in 13 games), Gordon will zoom all the way up to the 10 spot.

For added fun, we’ll present the all-time caught stealing leaders in Los Angeles. You’ll see that players like Garvey and John Roseboro barely broke even, and Mike Marshall was underwater. Then there are some whose lack of effectiveness on the basepaths might surprise you, such as Willie Crawford and Cesar Izturis.

Neither Kirk Gibson nor Eric Davis make this second list. In their Dodger careers, the pair combined for 121 steals and were caught only 15 times. (more…)

When Jackie realized his impact: Interview with Sharon Robinson

Don Newcombe, Sharon Robinson, Rachel Robinson and Magic Johnson at Dodger Stadium on April 15, 2013.

Don Newcombe, Sharon Robinson, Rachel Robinson and Magic Johnson on April 15, 2013. (Jon SooHoo, Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Cary Osborne

It was around this time last year that I had the opportunity to speak to Jackie Robinson’s daughter, Sharon. I had a ton of questions, but I felt one was more important than any other: When Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, did he have any idea what the impact would be?

“No, no, no. He did not,” Sharon said. “He saw it as an opportunity to play professional baseball in Major League Baseball.”

Then the games happened, and more and more that 1947 season, Jackie realized the impact.

“It was a whole dawning of a reality once he stepped out there and he understood the pressure he was under and that he was doing it not just for himself but an entire race, and he had no choice but to be successful because he was setting an example, and he wanted the doors to open up for others,” Sharon said. “It’s a gradual process. He learned it, and it added to the stress when he realized how much pressure he was under. But he had a wonderful support system and a wonderful partnership with my mother (Rachel) and wonderful partnership with (Dodger General Manager) Branch Rickey, so he persevered and was successful. Not to mention an incredible talent.”

Sharon shared other things about her father, stories about how Jackie Robinson displayed the characteristics he was recognized by at an early age. As a child, Sharon said, Jackie witnessed a boy yelling racist names at a little girl in his neighborhood. Jackie confronted the boy, but had to flee when the boy’s father started throwing rocks at him.

“He brought that into whatever arena he was in  — that will and strength and determination to fight against injustice,” Sharon said. “And that’s why breaking down that color barrier he could make that commitment to Branch Rickey, because it was very important to him. He wanted that opportunity and wanted others after him to have the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues and did not feel the system was fair.”

Gracias, Jackie Robinson

Jackie pic

Jackie Robinson signs autographs for fans in Havana, Cuba before a spring training game in 1947. (Getty Images)

Leer esta página en español

By Yvonne Carrasco

JuanUribeYasielPuigHanleyRamirez

Juan Uribe, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez celebrate in the dugout after Puig’s solo home run August 20. (AP)

Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball for everyone, including Latinos. Did you know that prior to Robinson’s courageous move, black Latinos were also confined to playing in the Negro Leagues? Can you imagine the Dodgers without Hanley, Yasiel, Juan and the countless other black Latinos that came before them?

Before 1947, there were only a few Latinos in the majors, including Puerto Rican Luis Olmo, who played with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944-45 and 1949, and Adolfo “Dolf” Luque, who played with the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) from 1930-31. These Latinos, however, were white. Black Latinos were not allowed in the majors prior to 1947, and a number of them played alongside African-Americans in the Negro Leagues.

The most well-known pioneer of Latino MLB players and the first Latino to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Roberto Clemente, also began his U.S. career as a Dodger. Thanks to Robinson’s momentous feat on April 15, 1947, MLB clubs began to sign players regardless of race, including black Latinos. By the time the Dodgers signed Clemente out of the Puerto Rican League in 1953, they had on their 40-man roster Robinson, Roy Campanella, Junior Gilliam, Don Newcombe, Joe Black and Sandy Amoros, a Cuban.

The Dodgers assigned Clemente to their Triple-A affiliate in Montreal, leaving Clemente eligible for the Rule 5 draft in November 1953 (with the hope that other teams wouldn’t see his potential). The Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished last that year, had the first pick and tapped Clemente. He was signed upon the advice of Pirates scout and coach Clyde Sukeforth, a former Dodger coach who was also instrumental in the signing of Robinson.

Robinson, along with the Dodgers, also experienced Latino culture first-hand having taken Spring Training in Havana, Cuba in 1947 and in Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic in 1948.

Latino Dodgers, along with everyone in MLB, have much to be grateful for today. Feliz Día de Jackie Robinson! Gracias Jackie!

The myth of Jackie Robinson’s refusal to play for the Giants


By Mark Langill

The biggest myth in the history of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry is that Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson retired prior to the 1957 season rather than accept a trade to the New York Giants.

At age 37 in 1956, Robinson batted .275 in 117 games with 10 home runs, 43 RBI and 12 stolen bases while dividing his time at second base, third base, first base and the outfield. On December 12 that year, Brooklyn sent Robinson to the Giants in exchange for pitcher Dick Littlefield and $30,000.

The trade occurred on the same day Robinson decided to retire from baseball and accept an executive position with Chock Full o’ Nuts. By the time Dodger general manager Buzzie Bavasi called with the news, Robinson had signed a two-year contract with William H. Black, the president of the popular chain of coffee shops, to become the director of personnel for the entire operation.

The trade put Robinson in an awkward position because of a deal he signed two years earlier with Look Magazine for the rights to his life story, including the exclusive announcement of his retirement. Robinson couldn’t share the news of his new job until January 8, the next edition of the magazine. When asked about playing for a new team, Robinson said he would be “delighted” to play for the Giants, if he played for anyone.

When an employee from Look Magazine leaked the story, Robinson was accused of using the publication to get a higher salary from the Giants. Team vice president Chub Feeney sent Robinson an initial contract offer for $35,000 in 1957 and was prepared to go higher when Robinson decided to start the new business venture. Robinson and Giants owner Horace Stoneham exchanged pleasant notes, the former ballplayer assuring Stoneham his decision to retire had nothing to do with the Giants.

 

Jackie

By Jon Weisman

Below, to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day, please enjoy this reprint of Chapter 1 of 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:

Jackie
From beginning to end, we root for greatness.

We root for our team to do well. We root for our team to create and leave lasting memories, from a dazzling defensive play in a Spring Training game to the final World Series-clinching out. With every pitch in a baseball game, we’re seeking a connection to something special, a fastball right to our nervous system.

In a world that can bring frustrations on a daily basis, we root as an investment toward bragging rights, which are not as mundane as that expression makes them sound. If our team succeeds, if our guys succeed, that’s something we can feel good about today, maybe tomorrow, maybe forever. (more…)

Video: The glory of Juan Uribe’s defense


By Jon Weisman

We’re obviously big fans of Juan Uribe in these parts — the clutch home runs of Uribe, the stylings of Uribe — in other words, the Uribe of Uribe.

But perhaps most of all, we marvel at the defense of Juan Uribe. So we had senior video producer and editor Erick Vazquez prepare the video above to showcase some defensive highlights from the one and only Uribear.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKSSince finally entrenching himself as the Dodgers’ full-time third baseman a year ago, Uribe has dazzled with the glove. The talent has been there, born in nearly 8,000 career innings as a shortstop, but seeing him own third base day after day has really been something else.

A Gold Glove finalist a year ago, Uribe actually led all 2013 National League third basemen in defensive value, according to Fangraphs. In the young 2014 season, in which he has played every one of the Dodgers’ 118 innings at third, he is back on top in the NL, trailing only Corey Seager’s older brother Kyle among MLB hot corneristes.

Not for nothing: Combined with his .906 OPS through 13 games, Uribe is by one measure the most valuable third baseman in the world so far this season, already achieving 0.7 Wins Above Replacement, and 11th most valuable position player in the game.

It’s all part of what remains one of the more amazing rags-to-riches stories in Dodger history, the rise of a player from two years of near oblivion to an integral, arguably indispensable role on the team.

So sit back, watch the video and enjoy the glory of Juan Uribe.

Numbers from another planet

By Jon Weisman

Some jottings before turning out the lights on the weekend, a most successful one for the Dodgers.

  • If someone had offered you a 9-4 start in a season that began with a cross-globe trip to Australia and was soon followed by injuries to Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson, I’m guessing you’d take that, right? Only surprising Milwaukee, winners of nine games in a row en route to a 10-2 record, has a better record in the Majors than the Dodgers.
  • The Dodgers’ offense roared this weekend in their three game sweep of Arizona, climaxing in today’s 8-6 victory (recapped here by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com), but it’s not that much of a surprise that the team would have an easier time scoring at Chase Field than Petco Park or even Dodger Stadium.
  • Similarly, Phoenix is going to be a tougher place to hold a lead, so don’t get too angry at the Dodger bullpen.
  • Not that I’m looking to take anything away from Adrian Gonzalez, who has an extra-base hit in eight consecutive games, one shy of a team record. Tied for the MLB lead in home runs at five until Mark Trumbo launched No. 6 today off Jamey Wright, Gonzalez is slugging .680 in 2014. Last year, Gonzalez hit his fifth home run in his 42nd start, May 25.
  • Tonight’s random trivia: The Dodgers have scored eight runs in two consecutive games. Only two seasons ago, they tallied exactly eight runs in three consecutive games.
  • Meet your MLB stolen base leader, Dee Gordon, with nine steals in 11 games. What a display he put on today. And in addition to his four steals, he also walked twice, raising his on-base percentage to .457, eighth in the Majors.
  • Also, this, from Jon SooHoo:
    LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
  • Meet your MLB co-leader in doubles, Juan Uribe, who has a .547 slugging percentage and a .358 OBP despite going the entire season to date without a walk. Yeah, I know — but don’t worry about it now.
  • You want to use a .154 batting average to judge Matt Kemp, be my guest. I’ll take the .829 OPS. After 31 plate appearances, Kemp has 14 total bases but has yet to hit a single.
  • Making his debut for Albuquerque today, Alex Guerrero had a three-run homer, double and single in four at-bats, as Christopher Jackson notes at Examiner.com.
  • One more note from the minors: Joc Pederson has a .511 on-base percentage and .714 slugging this season for the Isotopes. He has 13 hits, six of them for extra bases. But he has yet to drive in another runner. He has three RBI, each coming on a solo home run.
  • The Dodgers struck out 16 times today, tied for third-most in team history (the record of 20, you should recall, was set last year before Yasiel Puig hit his walkoff home run to beat Cincinnati, 1-0). Never before had the Dodgers struck out 16 times in a nine-inning game and won.
  • The Dodgers have now struck out 123 times in 13 games, or 9.46 times per game. a pace that would give them 1,533 strikeouts in their 162-game season. That would break the franchise record of 1,190 by more than 300. I guess I should be more worried about this, but I’m going to assume that it will taper off, unless you’re also willing to grant that all the superb offensive numbers will also stick.

April 13 pregame: Some progress on the health front

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 1:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Tim Federowicz, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

Carl Crawford has tightness in his right side, reports Bill Plunkett of the Register, helping to make him one of the reserve outfielders today against Arizona.

But there’s also some progress to report from the medical side of things:

  • This update on Clayton Kershaw comes from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

    Proof of improvement in Clayton Kershaw was visible Saturday, when the disabled Dodgers ace threw off the bullpen mound for the first time since being injured.

    Kershaw, disabled with a strained teres major muscle in his back after winning his Opening Night start in Australia, was not throwing full speed, but wasn’t lobbing either.

    Manager Don Mattingly said Kershaw remains under orders to hold back on velocity and is monitored by trainers using an app that calculates pitch speed.

  • Brian Wilson can return to active duty Tuesday, and it isn’t expected to take much longer, Gurnick writes.
  • Alex Guerrero has been activated from the disabled list by Triple-A Albuquerque, which released Brendan Harris to make room, reports Gurnick.
  • Gurnick added that Erisbel Arruebarrena “is still at extended spring training in Arizona but will likely be assigned to Double-A Chattanooga within the week to play shortstop alongside prospect Darnell Sweeney.”
  • And, looking ahead …

Putting Kenley Jansen’s usage in perspective

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

By Jon Weisman

Kenley Jansen’s sudden appearance Saturday in a game the Dodgers led 8-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth (the score was 8-5 when he entered, and when he finished four pitches later) added to concerns that Jansen is being overworked early. The Dodger closer leads Major League pitchers with eight appearances.

Keep in mind, however, that Jansen’s totals are skewed by the Dodgers’ Australia start and numerous off days so far. Below is a small chart of Jansen’s appearances, how many days off before each appearance and how many pitches thrown.

Date Days Pitches
3/22 * 15
3/23 0 5
4/1 8 18
4/5 3 22
4/6 0 17
4/8 1 19
4/9 0 19
4/12 2 4
*Opening Day

In only two games this year has Jansen thrown more than five pitches without resting the day before, and he didn’t surpass 20 pitches in either of those games. The second game of the Detroit series on April 9 without a day off was a high-stress outing for April, but essentially that was his only such outing of the year.

While the 77 pitches he threw in five days last week is noteworthy, it’s also an anomaly.

Last year, Jansen pitched 27 games on zero days rest and was pretty amazingly effective, as you’ll see from this Baseball-Reference.com snippet:

KJ rest

This is not to suggest that Jansen should be used recklessly. Just offering some context.

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