Remembering ’65: Jim Gilliam comes out of retirement to rescue Dodgers

remembering-65-wide-v1-grass
LAD-JIM-GILLIAM-0013Fifty years ago today, the Dodgers activated retired third-base coach Jim Gilliam to return to the field.

“The old pro is back,” Walter Alston told the Times.

Though he had been a full-time coach, Gilliam had been taking batting and infield practice since Spring Training.

“I’m glad to be back on the roster,” he said. “I think I can help the club, and that’s all that counts.

Alston cautioned that he didn’t “intend to play Jim at third base very much, but there will be times when he will finish up the game there after pinch-hitting.”

That plan lasted for about three days. The 36-year-old Gilliam played 16 innings across a May 31 doubleheader and went on to start 99 more games during the remainder of the 1965 season and all seven in the ’65 World Series.

In a story that appeared in Dodger Insider magazine this month, Mark Langill offers a fond look back at how Gilliam’s improbable comeback boosted the Dodgers to a title. (Click each page below to enlarge.)

— Jon Weisman

Gilliam page 1
Gilliam page 2
Gilliam page 3

Unpacking the Uribe-Withrow-Callaspo-Thomas-Jaime-Stults trade (see, that’s a lot to unpack right there)

For photos from Tuesday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Braves at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Alex Guerrero, LF
Chris Heisey, RF
A.J. Ellis, C
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

As unusual as the past 36 hours have been, nothing quite brought it home more sharply than seeing Juan Uribe in Atlanta Braves gear at Dodger Stadium, so soon after he had worn Dodger whites for the final time.

Gazing upon Matt Kemp as a Padre on Opening Day took an adjustment and a half, but at least we had most of an offseason to prepare.

But baseball, the game without a clock, ticks on — and everyone moves forward, ready or not. Here is a bullet-point summary of this late afternoon’s news.

  • According to Don Mattingly, Uribe had initiated discussions about his decreased playing time, and Andrew Friedman said that Uribe’s agent told him that Uribe would welcome a trade to a team that would offer more playing time. It wasn’t a literal trade demand, but more an indication of where Uribe’s mind was at.
  • Similarly, Alberto Callaspo balked at the trade at first because he was concerned that his at-bats would go down, according to Friedman, but his concerns were assuaged. It has been reported elsewhere that the Braves paid Callaspo an additional sum to agree to the trade.
  • Friedman thinks the switch-hitting Callaspo can help the Dodgers as a left-handed bat off the bench (with Andre Ethier starting, the Dodgers often don’t have a lefty position player in reserve at all). Callaspo’s positional versatility is also a better fit for the Dodger bench than Uribe would offer, according to Friedman.
  • Chris Withrow was admired enough by Friedman to be a trade target while Friedman was with the Rays, but hopes of what Withrow might provide in 2016 were sacrificed in order to add pitching depth for this year.
  • Left-handed Ian Thomas will be stretched out at Oklahoma City to see if he might become a starter (not coincidentally, a recent Dodger acquisition, Eric Surkamp, is getting the same treatment as a starter for Oklahoma City tonight.) Relief pitching is a fallback for Thomas.
  • Righty reliever Juan Jaime “misses bats,” Friedman said, and so the Dodgers will attack his control problems at in extended Spring Training at Camelback Ranch to see what develops.
  • Chris Heisey was called up in no small part because two Dodger outfielders, Scott Van Slyke and Kiké Hernandez, are not 100 percent healthy.
  • The Dodgers hope that the two pitchers designated for assignment today, Sergio Santos and Eric Stults, will clear waivers and remain in the organization, but whether they clear remains to be seen.
  • Brandon Beachy threw three simulated innings today, ahead of his next steps — first games at Camelback, and hopefully the start of a minor-league rehab assignment in June.
  • For their doubleheader Tuesday at Colorado, the Dodgers get a 26th-man roster exemption. Joe Wieland is lined up in the Triple-A rotation if the Dodgers want him, but they have not announced how they will use the extra spot.

Amid farewell to Chris Withrow, here’s who’s coming from Atlanta

An injured Chris Withrow joined in the celebration of the Dodgers' NL West clincher in September. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

An injured Chris Withrow joined in the celebration of the Dodgers’ NL West clincher in September. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Chris Withrow, who is still on the rehab track from surgery, joins Juan Uribe in the trade to Atlanta for infielder Alberto Callaspo and pitchers Juan Jaime, Ian Thomas and Eric Stults.

A first-round draft pick in 2007, Withrow pitched 56 innings for the Dodgers with a 2.73 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 71 strikeouts. An easy guy to talk to in the clubhouse, Withrow leaves with the fourth-highest K/9 in Dodger history for those who pitched at least 50 innings, and while sentiment has been pouring out about Uribe, best wishes for the future certainly go to Withrow as well.

As for the return in the trade: While Callaspo will be on the active roster tonight, Thomas has been optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City and Jaime has been assigned to extended Spring Training at Camelback Ranch. Stults, who pitched for the Dodgers from 2006-09, has been designated for assignment.

Callaspo, who turned 32 last month, has mostly struggled (.545 OPS) since signing an offseason free-agent deal with Atlanta. However, his batting average on balls in play is at a career-low .214, and as the Dodgers’ public relations department noted in its official announcement, Callaspo “the switch-hitter has been the hardest active player to strike out in his career, averaging 11.20 plate appearances per strikeout.”

He has played all four infield positions plus left and right field in his career, though he hasn’t played outfield since 2010 or shortstop since 2009.

In addition to his 15 2/3 shutout minor-league innings this season, the 28-year-old Thomas had a 3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings with Atlanta, allowing nine baserunners while striking out five.

“The lefty doesn’t throw all that many pitches north of 90 miles per hour,” Jeff Sullivan wrote of Thomas at Fangraphs today, “but he has a decently full repertoire, and in the majors he’s struck out more than a batter an inning. This year in the high minors, he has a walk and 20 strikeouts. His peripherals are strong enough, and he just hasn’t had much of a big-league opportunity. You can see why a team would want to stash him away.

Jaime, who is remarkable if only because he is a 27-year-old who was originally signed by the Montreal Expos, has walked 13 in 13 2/3 career big-league innings, but he has also struck out 19, so the Dodgers will see where that goes.

Juan Uribe Bobblehead Night still set for July 11

LAD 2015 Juan Uribe BobbleheadBy Jon Weisman

Though Juan Uribe has officially been traded by the Dodgers, his bobblehead lives on.

“We are proceeding with our Juan Uribe Bobblehead promotion on July 11,” Dodger executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen said.

“The Dodgers have a long tradition of recognizing players who have made great contributions to the organization. Juan Uribe will hold a special place in Dodgers history for always being a fan favorite and a consummate professional.  There was no better teammate to have than Juan Uribe.”

The Dodgers host the Brewers on July 11, while Uribe’s Atlanta Braves will be at Colorado. The bobblehead is presented by Farmer John.

Thanks for the memories, Uribear

Juan Uribe, April 26, 2011 (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Juan Uribe, April 26, 2011 (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

By Jon Weisman

What an unreal journey this was, and I honestly feel I’m the better for having witnessed it.

* * *

Since a second-inning double June 20 at Oakland, Uribe is in the midst of an 0-for-27 slump, with three walks and nine strikeouts. That happens. The problem is that when he hasn’t been slumping … well, Uribe can hardly say he’s ever not been slumping as a Dodger.

— “The end of the line for Juan Uribe … or not?” July 8, 2012

* * *

“Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind – listen to the birds. And don’t hate nobody.”

— Eubie Blake

“Walk, two-run double, walk, groundout, two-run home run.”

— Juan Uribe

— “Uribe makes sweet music in Dodgers’ 8-5 victory,” July 21, 2012

* * *

Uribear

— “Uribear!,” May 5, 2013

* * *

There have been Dodgers who have had their downs and ups, but I can’t remember such a purely bottom-to-top tale of redemption as the one of Juan Uribe. …

… What Dodger endured two miserable years, while collecting a big paycheck, before putting it together in his third season? Looking at this list of Dodgers in the post-1975 free-agent era, no one with the profile of Uribe leaps to mind. It’s not like Dave Goltz, Don Stanhouse, Mike Davis or Eric Davis turned it on in Los Angeles after stinking for two years. But Uribe has.

It’s remarkable.

— “The redemption of Juan Uribe reaches new levels,” July 5, 2013

* * *

For those of us who come to baseball for an escape, for answers or even suggestions, to feel something that we can’t often or otherwise find in everyday life, consciously or unconsciously, and see such a tale of redemption played out right at center stage, see one who was so mercilessly derided become the hero, and to know it’s real, brings an emotion to cherish above and beyond the revelry of victory.

Yes, I know Juan Uribe was well compensated as he stunk up the joint in 2011 and 2012 and he didn’t need my sympathy. And I never offered it. But strip everything else away, and you have the story of someone who found his way back from tar and feathering into sweet serenity. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been failing, it is an inspiration. I’ll never be Clayton Kershaw, the best in the world. But I might be Juan Uribe. I might have my moment.

— “U-RI-BEAR! Dodgers swing into NLCS on redemption song,” October 8, 2013

* * *

Dodgers recall Chris Heisey, designate Sergio Santos for assignment

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have exchanged a relief pitcher on their roster for a position player, recalling outfielder Chris Heisey from Triple-A Oklahoma City and designating reliever Sergio Santos for assignment.

Heisey, who has 10 homers in only 94 at-bats for Oklahoma City, has reached base in six of his 10 plate appearances in two previous callups with the Dodgers.

Santos has allowed 20 baserunners in 13 1/3 innings with 15 strikeouts for Los Angeles.

Hollywood Stars Game returns June 6

HSBy Jon Weisman

The Hollywood Stars Game, once the on-field hobnob of Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon and Bob Newhart, comes back to Dodger Stadium on June 6 at 5 p.m., preceding the Dodgers’ 7:10 p.m. game against St. Louis. This year’s game is presented by New Balance.

Talkshow host Larry King and actor, director, producer and writer Garry Marshall will serve as honorary managers of softball teams that will include the following talent: Alan Thicke (“Growing Pains”), Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”), James Van Der Beek (“Dawson’s Creek”), Kevin McHale (“Glee”), Frank Grillo (“Captain America”), Jaleel White (“Family Matters,” “Dancing With the Stars”), Charlotte McKinney (“Dancing With the Stars”), Tyler Hoechlin (“Teen Wolf,” “Road to Perdition”), Austin Stowell (“Love and Honor”), Clark Gregg (“Iron Man,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Vivica A. Fox (“Independence Day”), Brian Dietzen (“NCIS”), WNBA great Lisa Leslie, USA soccer star Landon Donovan, “Entertainment Tonight” co-host Kevin Frazier, actor/comedian Rob Riggle, tennis pro Mardy Fish and Blink 182 bassist Mark Hoppus.

Dot Marie Jones (“Glee”) will reprise her Old-Timers Game role as one of the umpires.

Get your tickets here or by calling (866) DODGERS.

Adrian Gonzalez leads NL All-Star balloting at first — other Dodgers trail

Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Tim Wallach, who knows a thing or five (1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990) about All-Star selections, and Joc Pederson celebrate Adrian Gonzalez’s 1000th RBI on Tuesday.

By Jon Weisman

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is the only member of the National League West-leading Dodgers (and NL’s No. 1 offense) in first place at his position in the initial release of NL All-Star voting numbers.

Gonzalez has nearly twice as many votes as second-palce Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, but otherwise, the Dodgers need help — especially Joc Pederson, who (as you’ll see detailed later in this post) ranks No. 1 among NL center fielders in Wins Above Replacement.

It’s worth noting that Gonzalez was the NL leader among first basemen at this stage last year, only to eventually lose out to Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona.

Fan voting continues through July 2. You can read more about the selection process here. Click the image below to enlarge the current results.

ASG 3

For some perspective, here’s where the top Dodger All-Star candidates rank in WAR, according to Fangraphs.

  • Gonzalez is first among first basemen, a hair ahead of Goldschmidt and Rizzo. Tuesday’s home run was only Gonzalez’s second of May, but he still has a .411 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage this month. Gonzalez has been in four All-Star Games, but none since joining the Dodgers in 2012.
  • Dodger rookie Pederson leads NL center fielders in WAR, not insignificantly: 0.3 ahead of No. 2 A.J. Pollock and 0.7 (50 percent higher) above No. 3 Dexter Fowler. And that’s with Pederson losing a bit of value because of his sub-par baserunning so far this year. Thanks in part to Andrew McCutchen’s slow start, no one is even close to Pederson offensively in center.
  • Overall NL voting leader Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton dominate the national headlines and rightly so, but right behind Stanton in right field WAR is Andre Ethier, whose wRC+ is actually better than Stanton’s. An NL Comeback Player of the Year candidate, Ethier (like Gonzalez) last reached an All-Star Game in 2011, but given that he is fifth among all outfielders in WAR, his chance to make the game as a reserve is fairly strong.

  • For the record, Yasiel Puig (50 plate appearances) is 16th in WAR in right field, and 13th on the current outfield ballot.
  • Yasmani Grandal is fourth in WAR at catcher, behind Buster Posey, Derek Norris and Miguel Montero. Currently on the seven-day concussion disabled list, Grandal has the fewest game and plate appearances (tied with Brayan Pena) of anyone in the top 10. On the offensive side, Grandal ranks second.
  • Also sitting in the No. 4 spot is Howie Kendrick at second base, behind 2015 ballot leader Dee Gordon, Kolten Wong and Joe Panik. Of note: When Kendrick went 0 for 8 May 22-23 against San Diego, that was the first time all season he hadn’t reached base in consecutive games. Kendrick’s only All-Star appearance came the same year as the most recent one for Ethier and Gonzalez, in 2011.

  • Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero aren’t on the All-Star ballot, but they sit in fourth and seventh positions at third base. Neither has 100 plate appearances yet this season (Turner is at 99), and Guerrero has actually only played nine games at the hot corner (Fangraphs doesn’t separate players by games played at each position on its rankings). Turner at least has 22 games, but it’s still an uphill battle for him to leapfrog such candidates as Matt Carpenter, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado and Cubs rookie Kris Bryant. In case you’re wondering, Juan Uribe is just outside the top 20.
  • You’ll also find Guerrero in fifth place in left field, two spots ahead of Scott Van Slyke. Nori Aoki, Justin Upton, Charlie Blackmon and Matt Holliday lead in left field. Guerrero’s best shot would be if he keeps hitting, and the NL falls in love with a combination left fielder-third baseman from Bruce Bochy’s division rival.
  • Jimmy Rollins is one spot ahead of 2013-14 All-Star Troy Tulowitzki in WAR at shortstop, but unfortunately that’s down at 12th.

Adrian Gonzalez brings home 1,000th (and 1,001st) RBI

On a night that Clayton Kershaw made the extraordinary (seven shutout innings, 10 strikeouts) seem ordinary again, let’s take a moment to salute someone turning the ordinary RBI into something extraordinary.  (Whew — crammed a lot into that sentence.) With his two-run homer in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 8-0 romp over Atlanta, Adrian Gonzalez reached and passed the 1,000 RBI plateau.

Gonzalez’s homer was one of many Dodger highlights on offense. Every Dodger starter had at least one hit for the first time since September 16. And as the Dodgers’ PR department notes, it was the Dodgers’ largest shutout victory over the Braves since a 9-0 win September 17, 1984 at Atlanta.

— Jon Weisman

Kershaw getting a grip on his stupendous slider

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Colorado Rockies

For photos from Monday, visit LA Photog Blog.

Padres at Dodgers, 1:10 p.m.
Joc Pederson, CF
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Justin Turner, 3B
Andre Ethier, RF
Alex Guerrero, LF
A.J. Ellis, C
Carlos Frias, P

By Cary Osborne

One sign of Clayton Kershaw turning the corner is he’s starting to get a feel for his slider.

While much attention gets paid to Kershaw’s curveball, it’s his slider that he throws roughly twice as much. The Dodger starter ranked second on Baseball America’s 2014 list for best slider in the National League.

Last season, Kershaw threw that slider 29.1 percent of the time, compared to 14.3 percent for the curveball. The numbers so far this season are 27.3 percent to 14.3 percent, according to Brooks Baseball.

Batters are having a lot less success against Kershaw’s slider in May compared to April:

  • April batting average/slugging percentage: .310/.483
  • May batting average/slugging percentage: .231/.269

“He just didn’t have the feel for it early on — the angle of his release point just wasn’t there,” said Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. “He was making mistakes with it in key situations. Obviously he recognizes it. It’s been a continual process of getting that feel back.”

But Honeycutt said he sees Kershaw getting that comfort level back with the pitch.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “I thought up in San Francisco (last Thursday) he had a really great slider and didn’t have a good feel for his curveball until later in the game, when he was able to really start using (it).”

Kershaw’s had a weird month, despite better numbers with the slider and curveball.

He goes into tonight’s game with a 5.00 ERA for the month of May. The last time he had an ERA of at lead 5.00 for a month was April 2009 — his second season in the big leagues. In four starts that month, Kershaw surrendered 17 earned runs in 21 innings (7.29 ERA).

In four starts this May (27 innings), he has surrendered 15 earned runs. Three of those starts he has left with runners on base — one runner in Milwaukee on May 4, two against Colorado on May 15 and two in San Francisco on May 21. All four inherited runners scored.

If those runners don’t score, his ERA for the month is 3.67 — still un-Kershawlike, but other numbers show that he has been better this month than last (which he had a 3.73 ERA).

Here is the difference between how batters were faring against Kershaw last month compared to May:

  • April: .267/.313/.417/.729
  • May: .233/.301/.359/.660
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