Tagged: Andre Ethier

Ethier, Donnie & The 2016 Dodgers

So regarding whether Andre Ethier was mad at the umpire, missed a bunt sign, or was just f-bombing an invisible entity, the Dodgers petered out of the playoffs following the in-game, public outburst. Apparently he’s been simmering since the beginning of his Dodger tenure Spring Training when he asked not to play Centerfield despite previous success in Center for the Dodgers. He’s very passive aggressive, and has notoriously bottled his feelings until a blowup at the manager or the front office, or simply in the press. He’s not quite a malcontent, but he’s on the border. 

Bottom line is, that was the most demonstrative I’ve seen him in the realm of the field, and to have that kind of blowout in an elimination game speaks to both Ethier’s (somewhat understandable) general unhappiness with his role as a Dodger, despite a great career (top 15 in HR, hames, hits career as a Dodger) in L.A., as well as the general frustration within the clubhouse regarding Mattingly’s lack of consistency and clear strategy.
I believe that Friedman is going to clean house as much as possible, building the team around Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig. I think the entire coaching staff is gone, Wallach finds a big league job somewhere, but 2016 begins with an out-of-house manager that changes the culture (Jason Giambi is a dream, but doubtful). It’s not like it was a horrible season. . .it was a stopgap season and they finished in line with (my) expectations, unfortunately.
It’s worth noting that I personally believed Puig needed to be jettisoned to end up more like Adrian Beltre than Raul Mondesi, but seeing a Puig-less lineup, even with Puig deservedly not starting, was painful. We’ve seen Puig’s talent and he needs to be supported & coddled to perform the way he can. It’s obviously not certain, but in my opinion, Puig is one of the top talents in baseball, so with him along with Kershaw and Seager, you have one of the best cores possible to compete with the Cubs & Mets for the next decade.
I also discussed something last night with my brother from another: those wacky ’25 cabs for 25 guys’ Red Sox winners were somewhat despicable, but the Dodgers seem more like ’25 iPhones for 25 guys.’ The difference is there was an emotion – passion? hatred? loathing? – amongst the Sox that made them hatable, but these Dodgers inspire. . . ambivalence.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter, but he’s very dull. Joc Pedersen should be the awe-inspiring, young talent, but he’s shown only regression since June – and definitely doesn’t play with emotion. Jimmy Rollins & Chase Utley are awesome – but they’re old. So Seager, a promising young rookie, is easily to be excited about but these playoffs (I’m calling them his Kobe ’97 performance) dampen the expectations. Puig is a potential cornerstone, but would it shock anybody if he ended up like Mondesi? Or worse? Kenley Jansen is a great closer, but who gets excited about closers? Alex Guerrero? Jose Peraza? Who cares? Justin Turner turned into a gem, and could be the type of player that the Giants would LOVE, and the Dodgers just might look to improve upon, furthering the disparate chemistry issues. Really tough team to root for, and  I’m a die-hard.
I will say this, though: watching Kershaw is amazing. As my dad said via text during his final (301 K) start of the regular season:
“remember that you’re watching a Hall of Fame pitcher every time you see Kershaw pitch”
Either way, Go Dodgers in 2016. Should be a completely new team.

Dodgers Winter Meetings 2014: This Is What I Think

I have no isolated insight, no secret sources, no magic metrics on the Dodgers flurry of activity under the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi/Josh Byrnes regime. What I do have is an objective fan’s outlook about both the Chavez Ravine management team and the club that will perform there this coming summer (and autumn).

I first want to address Matt Kemp, as he is the largest name involved in these transactions. For me, I’ve enjoyed his talent but have not consistently praised him as some (many) have. With effortless speed & power, we saw what Kemp could do – nearly a 40/40 season in ’11 when he finished second in MVP to Ryan Braun (Granada Hills HS). We saw the precociousness after the ferociousness, literally moping upon his move to left field. He was disinterested at times, downtrodden at others, and along with Andre Ethier, formed a really needy core.

Especially for really good players. Both of these guys needed to play, but they also needed to be loved. Ethier was nearly despised by some fans, though that chapter will be closed come January or February, when Friedman engineers that deal. In fact, I think both Ethier and Crawford are going to be moved prior to the first pitch of 2015, with management taking a wrecking ball to The Team That Ned Built. But I digress. . .We know Kemp is an undeniable talent, and in fact – I think he will play well in San Diego. The relaxed environ, the spacious field for him to gallop in Center and Right, the Man status; this will all play well to his soul, and he’ll perform. Plus, .280/25/90 on the Padres is performing, so good for him.

And good for the Dodgers. I don’t think the overhaul is so much due to lack of capable ballplayers on Colletti’s roster; I think the entire club ethos needed to change.

Letting Hanley walk, and I LOVED Hanley, was a must. He was the most exciting hitter I’d seen at Dodger Stadium since another Ramirez (99 on his jersey), and has a laserbeam line drive ability (I’m talking absolute screamers, check out his 2013 homer in San Diego, coincidentally) that I’d only seen previously with Gary Sheffield. But he had to go. He needs to have the option to DH, and the Dodgers needed to look for a real shortstop. That bat is irreplaceable, but he commanded too many years; 120 games played would soon be his highwater mark, and the Dodgers don’t need that albatross.

One deal that went nearly unnoticed is the acquisition of Joel Peralta. A professional; unspectacular and easily overlooked, Peralta is more a signal than anything – the bullpen is not a place to invest outside the organization. You can make prudent acquisitions, guys that will calm the ship, eat innings & understand their roles, but as evidenced by the Royals, Giants and Cardinals, you need to build your bullpen from within. Develop guys as starters in the minor leagues and let them hit their preordained innings mark through a variety of roles. But honing in on the pen – especially during formative years – is the most productive way to build pitchers and a safety net.

The Cardinals, in my mind, pioneered this with Adam Wainwright (he was their closer during the ’06 pennant run), converted Rosenthal to perma-pen status, but have brought up the youngsters this way. It’s smart, and it needs to be stated – the bullpen is for guys that aren’t good enough to be starters; they are inherently worse than the guy they’re replacing. Or at least that’s how it was, and why so many bullpens implode. But if you use it as a platform for your best arms, you’re making the bullpen a strength. It makes a ton of sense, and that, along with LaRussa’s inning specialization, will make the biggest impact on the makeup of ballclubs in the last half century.

In short, the Dodgers simply had too many old, crappy arms on the books (Wilson, League, Perez), which weren’t allowing the maligned Scott Elbert, the injured Chris Withrow, and the overlooked Paco Rodriguez to slide into natural roles that could have enhanced the team. I think that Peralta and Friedman acquisition Juan Nicasio will provide a stopgap for the pen while they’ll look to build in 2016 and beyond from the inside, which was luckily left fruitful by Logan White.

And speaking of stopgaps – Jimmy Rollins. What a dude. At least in the 00’s. He still seems like a good guy, a leader type, but is older than the guy the Dodgers let walk. Now, we’re talking a different iteration of player, as Rollins game is/was predicated on quickness & speed with a burst of pop instead of all brawn with a flash of speed. Rollins has been slightly above average for the past four years, yet is remarkably consistent. In today’s game, you don’t need your shortstop to light up the scoreboard, and Rollins’ .260, 14 hr, 55 RB, 29 steals will suffice until Corey Seager snatches the position.Seager, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson. That’s the future right there and Friedman, et al, understand that. The ability to make so many maneuvers (10 trades in 25 days at one point) and upgrade without dealing the three kids is a major coup for this team. I really think the underlying statement that was made is the following:

we have a huge budget and aren’t afraid to use it, but we realize that the future is built on the backs of SABR-minded individuals that also understand that baseball is, and always will be, based on the eyeball test. 

Which brings me to Dee Gordon. Talk about a likable ballplayer; always smiling, always improving, a genuine good person on and off the field. Dodger fans loved his improvement this year, after teetering on the precipice of being a 4A player. “He was an All-Star,” they’d say. Shoot, I said it too. He was exciting. Sixty four stolen bases this year! But the dude couldn’t hit, and I worry that he’d end up being a .262 guy with no pop, and – well, there’s a reason Pat Listach didn’t have a long career. I wish him well in Miami, but most of all I thank him for turning into Andrew Heaney (who’s going to be damn good, ps, and really made me crack up on Twitter), who was flipped for Howie Kendrick.I’ve always likened Howie Kendrick to Kirby Puckett, my favorite player growing up. Free swinging, joyous dudes that came out of junior colleges to light up the big leagues with their smiles & their sticks. Kendrick, of course, isn’t the hitter Puckett was but he can swing it. Especially for a second baseman – and in my mind, the jump offensively from Gordon to Kendrick offsets the perceived drop from Ramirez to Rollins on the other side of the second base bag. Kendrick has a decent glove, and with only one year left on his contract leaves the Dodgers with options heading into 2016, the first real year of the new regime.

Lastly, the Dodgers aren’t done. I don’t know if that means David Price, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, James Shields or all of the above (just kidding, I think?). I do think that Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are untouchable, and Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen & AJ Ellis aren’t going anywhere.

Anything else is up for discussion.

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photo via fansided/lasportshub

Andre Ethier: Triple Crown?

Andre Ethier did it AGAIN last night, walking-off this time with a grand slam versus the Brewers. As YKI peruses the NL leaderboard, something stands out – Andre Ethier is leading the NL in all of the Triple Crown categories.  A bit premature to project, but after his Silver Slugger (and league-leading 8 walk-off hits) in 2009, Andre Ethier may very well be the best offensive producer on the Dodgers.

(Moneyballers delight in .OPS, VORP & Zone Rating, but the fact is baseball has been defined throughout eras by its leaders in the tangible categories, those non-esoteric yet crucial & weighty determinants of a batters’ effectiveness.)

National League


Andre
Ethier
AVG
1. A Ethier LA .371
2. R Braun MIL .360
3. J Werth PHI .354
4. D Freese STL .348
5. R Theriot CHC .341
Complete Avg  Leaders

Andre
Ethier
HR
1. A Ethier LA 10
2. K Johnson ARI 10
3. M Reynolds ARI 9
4. J Heyward ATL 8
5. C Utley PHI 8
Complete HR Leaders

Andre
Ethier
RBI
1. A Ethier LA 30
2. J Heyward ATL 26
3. J Cantu FLA 25
4. A Pujols STL 25
5. M Reynolds ARI 25

An Ode to Opening Day at Dodger Stadium, 1985 – present

As fans of the Dodgers wallow in the misery that is the McCourt Divorce proceedings – accompanied by a 2-4 start on the road versus the woebegone Pirates and payroll-challenged Marlins – there is respite in the looming despair: Opening Day, 2010.  With an abundance of talent and numerous question marks about the state of the Organization, YKI flashes back to the years of yore, with photographic memories of my childhood and the Dodgers.

Opening Day is a time of hope and positivity toward the future and nostalgic leanings to the past, and here I present some of the images that in these times of $15 parking, $70 Loge seats & $12 beers, still make it so difficult to be objective about the Organization that produced so many good memories in my household.
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DodgerBlast: Spring Training Roster Analysis

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After opening the Spring camp with an 8-3 win, it’s time to jump into the YKI Analysis of each of the players either on or contending for a spot on the 25-man roster that will break Camp

The rest of Spring augurs well for the Dodgers, who despite the lack of a big-name addition, still have one of the stronger core groups in MLB. With the exception of the battle for the fourth (and fifth?) outfield slot, as well as the heated competition for the role of fifth starter, the young nucleus + Manny still should enable the Dodgers to remain a top contender for the NL Pennant.

More on that from YKI down the road, but for now, YKI dissects the Roster:
STARTING PITCHERS
https://i2.wp.com/www3.allaroundphilly.com/blogs/delcotimes/ryanl/uploaded_images/ClayKersh-789874.jpgClayton KershawWill finally turn 22 this year, and already a dominant force. Kept on a very short leash thus far in his major league career by Torre/Honeycutt, Kershaw will be given more leniency this year as the de facto Ace. The lefty has been compared to Sandy Koufax, and his brief-yet-excellent tenure thus far portends positively. That mantle may be a bit too much for a third-year pitcher to carry, though Kershaw’s mature outlook and quiet confidenc belies his youth, and he should end the year amongst the elite arms in the league.
https://i0.wp.com/www1.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+4BFJsgVcBrpl.jpgChad Billingsley – A very frustrating pitcher from the perspective of the fan (and organization). There is no question about his ability or his ‘stuff’ – the lingering concern is about his mentality/approach, and based on his late-season (and playoff) shortcomings the past few years, little hope is offered for his ability to really embrace the role of Ace. Billingsley is slated to be the ersatz Ace this season, as Kershaw is only 22, and may be one of the more dominant two starters down the road. He is only 25, however, and many great pitchers haven’t reached their prime years until their late 20’s. Could potentially be Cain to Kershaw’s Lincecum.
https://i0.wp.com/laist.com/attachments/la_jimmy/080707.jpgHiroki Kuroda – Though only a .500 pitcher in his two years as a Dodger, Kuroda is a very consistent and effective pitcher. Not much of a strikeout threat, he does one thing well – get outs. His WHIP has been in the NL Top Ten both of his years, and with the exception of the line drive he took off the face last year, he is a stalwart pitcher, and one of the best third starters in the League.
https://i0.wp.com/www.latimes.com/media/photo/2010-01/51780908.jpgVicente Padilla – The maligned and misunderstood Padilla showed last year why he was a feared & underrated pitcher in the American League. Accusations of ‘being a jerk,’ were bandied about, as he was disliked and eschewed by teammates, forcing him out of the Rangers organization and thusly providing a coup for Ned Colletti, who acquired the Nicarauguan for a can of beans last season. The point is, Padilla – as sweaty as they come – is a gamer, and battles incessantly. He gives the Dodgers a great chance to win, and as a former All-Star, is capable of being a number two starter for many teams. For the Dodgers to have him in the Fourth slot is an overlooked advantage, especially come time for the pennant race.
https://i2.wp.com/www.nycbeerweek.com/img/logos/tbd.jpgEric Stults/Charlie Haeger/James McDonald/Ramon Ortiz/Scott Elbert/Russ Ortiz/The Ghost of Kevin GrossStults is the long-term favorite, having been up-and-down in the organization for a few years; Elbert is the former prospect that may have peaked in the minors, destined for a AAAA status career; McDonald has the most talent and was on the post-season roster and is YKI’s selection, but has been marred by control issues which always will doom a starting pitcher; the Ortiz boys have both had success in the bigs, and though Russ played for the Panorama City American Legion team half a decade prior to YKI, does not appear to have much left at the big league level; Haeger is YKI’s favorite, but a knuckleballer does not stand a chance if Torre & Honeycutt have their druthers – he may be the last man standing, and will be productive if so, but will most likely have to catch on elsewhere.

BULLPEN
https://i2.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/_Sl0yAVP2acc/SgZ_GJBvLuI/AAAAAAAAAIU/-ZWXpAYLrTw/s400/jeffweaver.jpgJeff WeaverWeaver was a former Ace, and aside from the tragic time in New York, has shown flashes of brilliance everywhere. That said, his Xbox-attention span and shoulder-slumping behavior derailed his career at each locale. Relegated to minor league camp and bouncing between organziations, Weaver rededicated himself to the game last offseason and paid season-long dividends to Torre & the Dodgers, filling every role possible from long-reliver to spot starter. Perhaps the most valuable member of the pitching staff, the Simi Valley native needs to be productive again for the Dodgers to win the division.

https://i0.wp.com/www.exposay.com/celebrity-photos/ronald-belisario-54-2009-mlb-oakland-19I4cR.jpgRonald BelisarioThe rookie was leaned on heavily by Torre last year, and understandably so. Proving to be reliable – and at times, dominant – he was a key member of the bullpen, and should be again in 2010, provided his visa issues clear up and allow him to return to the United States.

https://i0.wp.com/umpbump.com/press/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/gagne-727840.jpgEric GagneGame Over returns, though minus the performance-enhancing substances. Not a lock to make the club, YKI would thoroughly enjoy a renaissance from Gagne, if for no other reason than he is so darn fun to watch.

https://i2.wp.com/farm3.static.flickr.com/2274/2481328713_fb166b6b88.jpgCory WadeOverworked by Torre during his solid rookie season, Wade spent much of 2009 injured, but should bounce back as an effective 7th inning reliever.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/06/Ram%C3%B3n_Troncoso.jpg/280px-Ram%C3%B3n_Troncoso.jpgRamon TroncosoNot exactly a game-changer, Troncoso nonetheless received the ball three times per week from Torre. Solid at times, Troncoso is not necessarily a favorite of YKI.

https://i2.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2009/writers/tom_verducci/10/08/five.cuts/hong-chih-kuo.jpgHong-Chih KuoThe ultimate rebounder, Kuo has returned from four (!?!?) arm surgeries, and is still electric, perhaps now more than ever. When healthy, Kuo is darn near unhittable. . .but that’s a big ‘when’ and if, because Kuo is a threat to have his career end with each pitch.

https://i1.wp.com/sportstsar.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/sherrill.JPGGeorge SherrillDoppleganger to Jeff Kent personality-wise, is at least effective as a left-handed set-up man. YKI is still not sold on his potential to dominate (Orioles closer? Really?), but was effective last year. Keep an eye on him, though – YKI senses a bit of Brian Fuentes/Eddie Guardado in the reliever.

https://i0.wp.com/losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/images/2006/07/29/tn5fweYm.jpgJonathan BroxtonAptly nicknamed “Cannibal,” Brox quite literally eats opposing hitters with his fastball. Perhaps the hardest thrower in baseball, the only concern about the Dodgers closer is his mentality – does he have the fortitude to close for an entire (post)season? Hopefully the Cannibal’s appetite is hearty this year, as he should get around 50+ opportunities.
CATCHERS
https://i1.wp.com/janeheller.mlblogs.com/russell.martin.jpgRussell MartinBeefed up for 2010, Martin had somewhat of a disappointing year both offensively & defensively in 2009. Worried about his declining power numbers, he added 25 pounds of muscle in one (?!?) season, and looks to return to All-Star form. The Dodgers absolutely need a good season out of ‘The Muscle’ if they are to contend for the pennant.

https://i2.wp.com/www.jewishjournal.com/images/articles/com_ausmus_052909-350.jpgBrad AusmusThe Ivy Leaguer decided to strap it on for one more season, and the Dodgers coaching staff & youngsters are quite pleased. A savvy veteran that will only appear in 40+ games, he’s a player that accepts his role and utilizes his knowledge to gain his competitive advantage. Great roster guy and future big league manager.

https://i0.wp.com/lh4.ggpht.com/_KtBux87oyOI/SibCAOt1eAI/AAAAAAAAMN4/mSF2HNnbzXY/s288/IMG_0309.jpgAJ EllisWorking man’s backup with talent caught in a logjam (read: deadend) behind the young stud and veteran leader, will only appear if injuries occur. If that should happen, he’ll gain valuable experience to become starter and potential star elsewhere.

INFIELD
http://hawkfantasysports.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/james-loney.jpgJames LoneyNot quite a star yet, YKI forsees a breakout year for the lanky first baseman. A pure hitter and natural gloveman, Loney is now turning 26 years old, meaning he’s about to enter his prime. That sweet swing will produce more longballs than in previous years, and he’ll hit above .300. Should be a year away from All-Stardom.
https://i0.wp.com/26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kwvj03dduI1qzxulzo1_500.jpgRonnie BelliardAlmost good enough last year to supplant Orlando Hudson in the minds of Dodgers fans (in addition to the lineup of Torre), Belliard provides great pop from the second base position, and is solid enough in the field to contribute positively. Loves the game, and has great chemistry with Furcal.
https://i1.wp.com/www.topnews.in/files/images/BlakeDeWitt1_0.jpgBlake DeWittOn the verge of becoming the infield version of Jason Repko, DeWitt is a fan favorite for his out-of-nowhere rise to competence as starting third baseman from opening day a couple years ago. Since then, he’s foundered in the organization, bouncing between Las Vegas and Los Angeles in search for meaningful at-bats.
https://i0.wp.com/i.cdn.turner.com/si/2008/baseball/mlb/10/06/sheehan.nlds/rafael-furcal-getty2.jpgRafael FurcalFurcal is back, and healthy. This is a very good thing for the Dodgers, as Furcal is the engine of the offense, and the captain of the defense. When 100%, Furcal is amongst the best shortstops in the game, bringing speed, a natural hitting stroke and most importantly for the Dodgers, a passion for the game.
https://i1.wp.com/photos.upi.com/topics-Los-Angeles-Dodgers-vs-St-Louis-Cardinals/1cf0ff6eef8aaf3c5a93182f4f28cd88/C_1.jpgCasey Blake“The Beard” is no more, but Blake is still going to bring his lunchpail and hardhat every day. Count on Casey for .267+, 20 bombs and 75+ RBIs as well as a steady bat and a workmanlike mentality.
https://i2.wp.com/media.courierpress.com/media/img/photos/2008/03/28/20080328-004357-pic-287947228_t160.jpgJamey CarrollYKI isn’t quite sure why the Dodgers acquired this journeyman aside from the bargain basement price tag. Never one to hit for power – or average, for that matter – at 36 years old, he does not possess much upside either.
https://i1.wp.com/www.utsws.com/UtilityLogo_05_RGB.jpgChin-Lung Hu/Alfred Amezaga/Nick Green/Ivan DeJesusCompeting for the role of Jose Vizcaino, Hu is the typical 4A player, though still young; Amezaga is versatile and will play a role prior to the season’s end; Green had a breakout year for the Red Sox last year but won’t get much of a look; DeJesus is young and bursting with potential but won’t see much playing time.

OUTFIELD
https://i0.wp.com/i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2009/baseball/mlb/02/27/manny.dodgers/manny-ramirez-heyman.jpgManny RamirezDrugs or not, Manny is a fan favorite, and will prove that last year’s second half debacle was a fluke. YKI is not expecting a return to 35+ HR, but a reasonable .285, 29hr and 99 RBI should be expected, and enough to warrant a happy farewell tour around the City of Dodgers.
https://i1.wp.com/nimg.sulekha.com/Sports/Original700/matt-kemp-2009-11-11-16-13-5.jpgMatt KempKemp is being portrayed as The Next Big Thing (GQ Magazine?!?!), but isn’t quite ready to attain the 40/40 season some are predicting for him. His rapid ascent to All-Stardom last year surprised even Joe Torre, and he may have one more ‘very good’ year before catapulting to true superstardom.
http://d0inw0rk.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/andre-ethier-dodgers.jpgAndre EthierThe surly and irritable Ethier was the Dodgers offensive MVP last year, and is bent on still being an A-hole. That’s not a concern of YKI, though, as he hit his way into a guaranteed job coming out of Spring for the first time in his career, and also won more games than any player in the big leagues. At 28 years old, Ethier will be a stalwart in the middle of the Dodgers lineup for years to come.
http://bravesandstuff.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/andersongarrett1.jpgGarret Anderson – YKI’s sentimental favorite, the Valley native is a non-roster invitee, and will hopefully win the Jim Thome role of lefty of the bench. Anderson has 2,501 career hits and could chase 3,000 as a DH in the AL, but wanted to come back home and have a chance to win the World Series again. Here’s hoping he does.
https://i2.wp.com/i.a.cnn.net/si/2006/writers/alex_belth/01/18/five.moves/t1_giles.jpgBrian GilesFormerly a good player. Now, too old.
https://i1.wp.com/losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/images/2007/08/13/lfxBKgir.jpgJason RepkoAfter numerous incarnations as 25th man on the Dodgers roster, now is his time to prove he can stick around. If not, can go be a Cody Ross for a second tier team.
https://i2.wp.com/chi-ball.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/rjohnson.jpgReed JohnsonThough YKI was initially sour on this signing, it seems Johnson’s game is suitable for the role of fourth outfielder as he can hit a little bit, run a little bit and field a little bit.

Dodgers/Angels Spring Update

Dylan Hernandez sat down with a surly and attitudinal Andre Ethier, apparently doing his best Jeff Kent impression. Hernandez started with a simple & routine question, as in how he projects to build upon last year’s breakthrough season: “How do you expect me to answer a question that I don’t have the answer to?” Ethier said without a trace of a smile.

On a more positive note, workhorse Hernandez explounds upon Hong-Chih Kuo‘s continuous rebounds from surgery after surgery. Kuo is a dynamite pitcher – a flame-throwing lefty that can strike batters out, but every pitch could be his last. He’s a joy to watch out of the bullpen and the Dodgers season will be much less Rockie (haaa) if Kuo can provide that stability out of the bullpen.

On the South – way, way south – side of Los Angeles, the Angels’ Jeff Mathis justifies his doubled salary was a result of his airtight defense, as opposed to the .583 he hit in the Division Series last year. . .

Also, T.J. Simers recapped the Koufax & Torre Event from this past weekend as only he can. . .

DodgerBlast: Dylan Hernandez on “Young Core Group”

Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times delivers the introductory story of the 2010 Dodgers today, focusing on the core group of youngsters (Billingsley, Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Martin, Loney).  Also, this is how Hernandez projects the roster:

STARTING LINEUP

SS Rafael Furcal

C Russell Martin

LF Manny Ramirez

RF Andre Ethier

CF Matt Kemp

1B James Loney

2B Ronnie Belliard

3B Casey Blake

STARTING ROTATION

RH Chad Billingsley

LH Clayton Kershaw

RH Hiroki Kuroda

RH Vicente Padilla

LH Eric Stults

BULLPEN

RH Jonathan Broxton

LH George Sherrill

LH Hong-Chih Kuo

RH Ronald Belisario

RH Ramon Troncoso

RH Cory Wade

RH Jeff Weaver

BENCH

C Brad Ausmus

OF Reed Johnson

2B/3B/OF Jamey Carroll

SS Nick Green

1B Doug Mientkiewicz