April 16 pregame: Pretty pictures

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Drew Butera, C
Paul Maholm, P

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKSBy Jon Weisman

Though the Dodgers lost Tuesday, it didn’t stop Jon SooHoo from collecting some great shots over at his LA Photog Blog.

Still, a win would have made them a touch more enjoyable, I suppose.

Here are a few quick notes before tonight’s game:

  • Each member of the Dodgers’ regular infield has an OPS over .900: Adrian Gonzalez (.975), Dee Gordon (.917), Hanley Ramirez (.908) and at an even 1.000, Juan Uribe (.379 OBP, .621 slugging).
  • Yes, it’s true. Uribe still hasn’t drawn a walk this year. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he has seen nine three-ball counts in his 58 plate appearances, and he’s gone 5 for 9 with a homer and three strikeouts.
  • Matt Kemp has the highest walk rate on the 2014 Dodgers (17.7%) and is tied for second on team in walks despite only playing eight games so far. Though his batting average is .214, his OPS is .960.
  • With his 10th steal of the year Tuesday, Dee Gordon has matched his 2013 MLB total.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS AT ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Oh yeah – one more thing …

Dodger minor league report: Week 2 — Conversions working

By Cary Osborne

Well, we almost got a no-hitter today from the Chattanooga Lookouts. Chris Reed went six innings, allowing no hits. Mike Thomas did his part in two innings. But Pedro Baez, who had been steady so far this season, allowed a single to the second batter he saw and later a double in the inning.  Chattanooga settled for the unusual two-hitter, a 5-4 win over the Jacksonville Suns in a game that featured eight errors.

That sets the table as we check in with what’s happening with out partners down on the farm. 

Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA)

Thus far: 6-6, 3 1/2 games out of first place in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division

There is liftoff on Alex Guerrero’s stateside professional career. The Cuban second baseman made his minor league debut on Monday and in his third at-bat in Albuquerque, he homered off sidearmer Clay Rapada, who has 93 big league innings under his belt in seven seasons. The next day, Guerrero homered again, this time off converted pitcher and career minor leaguer Jonathan Arias. In Guerrero’s first two minor league games, he was 6-for-7 with two home runs, a double and five RBI.

There’s been no slowing Joc Pederson, who belted two home runs and knocked in five Wednesday for the Isotopes. Pederson leads the Pacific Coast League with an .884 slugging percentage and a 1.447 OPS. He now has five home runs and eight RBI in 12 games.

Veteran catcher Miguel Olivo can’t be ignored. He also hit two home runs against El Paso on Wednesday and has four homers and a team high 14 RBI in nine games to go along with a slash line of .351/.415/.730.

Zach Lee has been stellar in two starts, his last being April 11. He allowed five hits, one walk and one run (earned) while striking out three Tacoma batters. Through two starts (10 2/3 innings), Lee has a 2.53 ERA and a 0.843 WHIP.

Chattanooga Lookouts (AA)

Pedro Baez

Pedro Baez

Thus far: 5-8, 3 1/2 games out of first place in the Southern League’s North Division

As indicated above, Baez came into today’s game having been impressive thus far, converting all three save opportunities this season and surrendering one hit in five innings (five appearances), while walking two and striking out three.

The 26-year-old was added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in the offseason and thus far has been giving hitters fits with a high-90s fastball, while mixing in a good slider.

Unfortunately the Lookouts aren’t hitting much. Their .178 team average, .264 on-base percentage and .286 slugging percentage are all last in the Southern League.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High-A)

Thus far: 5-8, four games out of first place in the California League’s South Division

The Quakes have four relief pitchers — Freddie Cabrera (24 years old), Rob Rogers (23), Matt Shelton (25) and Blake Smith (26) — who have combined to allow no runs in 29 2/3 innings. Smith, like Baez, was converted to a pitcher last season.

Julio Urias did show he was human on Monday, suffering the first professional loss of his career. The 17-year-old allowed five earned runs off six hits and two walks in a setback to Lake Elsinore.

Corey Seager has been the steadiest bat, going 16-for-52 (.308 average) at the plate with a .362 OBP. But he has yet to homer in 13 games.

Great Lakes Loons (Low-A)

Thus far: are 7-5, 1 1/2 games out of first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division

Kyle Farmer is the organization’s top catching prospect. Through 10 games in Great Lakes, he has a slash line of .310/.356/.452 and has knocked in 11 runs to go along with two doubles and two triples.

Farmer was selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft out of the University of Georgia, where he played 211 of 212 games as a shortstop. Even back in high school he was a middle infielder. However, the Dodgers tried him out at catcher in a pre-draft workout and liked what they saw.

“It’s not an unusual move. There are a lot of infielders who move to catcher. Maybe they liked my arm or my feet,” Farmer told Saginaw (Mich.) News writer Hugh Bernreuter this month. “I’m not the quickest or fastest guy around, so being a catcher kind of fits me.”

Russell Martin came to the Dodgers as a shortstop in 2002 before being converted to catcher the following season.

Farmer is ranked by MLB.com as the Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect.

His batterymate and No. 13 prospect Zachary Bird had a solid bounceback on Tuesday after two rough outings to start the season. He went seven innings, allowing three hits and three walks, while giving up two earned runs and striking out two. That dropped his ERA from 11.05 to 6.91.

Photo: Chattanooga Lookouts 

No-no alert: Minor league style

By Cary Osborne

Chattanooga Lookouts pitcher Chris Reed, the Dodgers’ 2011 first-round pick and Cleveland High of Reseda graduate, no-hit the Double-A Jacksonville Suns through six innings in a game currently in progress.

It’s been a weird one as the Lookouts lead 3-2 at home.

Angel Morales was the game’s first batter and reached on a Chattanooga fielding error. He later came around to score on a wild pitch.

Morales scored again in the third inning after striking out but reaching base on a passed ball. He stole two bases and scored on another error.

Reed’s day was done after six innings, having allowed three walks while striking out nine. He threw 105 pitches.

As of this writing, the ball is now in the hands of reliever Mike Thomas, who retired all three batters he saw in the seventh inning.

Jackie Robinson Day celebrated at Dodger Stadium with community events

By Jon Weisman

Though the Dodgers were (for a rare occasion) away on Jackie Robinson Day, the event didn’t go unnoticed at Dodger Stadium. On Tuesday, the Dodgers hosted scholars and alumni from the Jackie Robinson Foundation for a tour and seminar with the Dodgers to reflect on No. 42′s legacy.

In addition, the Dodgers staged a clinic with kids from the Challengers Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles. Definitely check out the photos here.

Julio Urias on Baseball America cover

Urias BABy Jon Weisman

Dodger Insider magazine will have its own story on Julio Urias in May, but Baseball America is going one better by putting the 17-year-old phenom on the cover of its latest issue.

Urias is the youngest player in the California League — by almost two years. “There are only two other 17-year-olds playing anywhere in full-season ball,” Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes.

The Irony Committee approves the fact that this cover comes the week of perhaps Urias’ poorest career start, allowing five runs on eight baserunners in 4 1/3 innings, but we won’t let the idea of a BA jinx worry us. Urias had a 2.48 ERA with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings for Great Lakes in 2013.

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.

 

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