News and Views
News and views from around the majors on this Memorial Day weekend . . .
News: The Dodgers called up SP Clayton Kershaw from Jacksonville (AA) to start on Sunday at home against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Views: Kershaw's highly anticipated MLB debut was a huge success. The 20-year-old lefthander was loose ("I really wasn't that nervous"); he repeated his delivery consistently; his fastball sat at 94, hit 95-96 in his final inning of work, and touched 97; and his youtube.com-famous curveball buckled several knees. Kershaw struck out Skip Schumaker, the first batter of the game, and had a sheepish grin when he tossed the ball to the dugout after someone called for it. The home crowd, which included 23 family members and friends, gave him a standing ovation at that point, and it seemed as if the big Texan lost his concentration when he walked the next batter, Brian Barton, on four pitches. However, the Dodger rookie allowed only one free pass all afternoon, while striking out seven Redbirds en route to a five-hit, two-run outing that should have been four hits and one run if not for a couple of misplays by first baseman James Loney and third baseman Blake DeWitt in the sixth inning.
Kershaw threw 102 pitches (including only 42 in the second through fifth innings) on a cool afternoon at Dodger Stadium in front of 46,566 fans. He is scheduled to make his next start this Friday in, of all places, New York in the second game of a long weekend series vs. the Mets.
Views: The Jones and Loaiza signings were two of the biggest wastes of money in the past year. (Note: Barry Zito was signed more than a year ago.)
Jones, who will have arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday, signed a two-year contract worth $36.2 million last December even though he was coming off a season in which he hit .222/.311/.413. The deal was praised by a few, including Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, who called it "one of the great bargains of recent memory" and "far and away the smartest thing any team does this winter."
Well, Jones has gotten worse – not better – this year. Maybe his bum knee is partially to blame. Or his weight. Perhaps it's possible that Jones is older than his listed age of 31. All I know is that Jones was "hitting" .165/.273/.271 when he landed on the DL. He isn't expected to return until after the All-Star break. In the meantime, the Dodgers can flush the first $9 million of his contract down the toilet.
Loaiza was selected off waivers by the Dodgers from Oakland on August 29, 2007 in one of the biggest gifts ever bestowed upon A's GM Billy Beane. Los Angeles agreed to pay $1.17 million of Loaiza's remaining 2007 salary and assume responsibility for his $7M salary in 2008 plus the $7.5M option or $0.375M buyout in 2009. As such, the Dodgers paid the 36-year-old righthander $8.545 million for 46 2/3 innings, 50 hits, 36 runs (all earned), 21 walks, 24 strikeouts, 12 home runs allowed, and an ERA of 6.94.
What makes the Loaiza acquistion even more troublesome is the fact that the Dodgers drafted Kyle Blair, a righthanded pitcher out of Los Gatos HS (Los Gatos, CA), in the fifth round last June and failed to sign him. A first-round talent, Blair reportedly was seeking a bonus of $2 million. The Dodgers supposedly offered him a million. As the deadline approached last August, it was said that Blair had lowered his demands to $1.5M. However, L.A. chose not to meet him in the middle and let $500,000 stand in the way of inking a highly regarded prospect. Two weeks later, the Dodgers picked up Loaiza off waivers and are now stuck with a bill that will cost them more than $7M above and beyond what it would have taken to sign Blair, who has posted a 7-4 record and an ERA of 4.12 with 90 Ks in 67.2 IP in his freshman season as the third starting pitcher for the University of San Diego.
News: The Rockies placed SS Clint Barmes (sprained medial collaterial ligament in his right knee), RF Brad Hawpe (sore right hamstring), and LF Matt Holliday (strained left hamstring) on the 15 day DL. In addition, 3B Garrett Atkins (stiff neck) and CF Willy Taveras (bruised knee) were out of the lineup on Saturday and Sunday.
Views: The defending National League champions have struggled all season long with injuries and poor play. Troy Tulowitzki, who finished second to Ryan Braun in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2007, went on the disabled list on May 3, retroactive to April 30. He is not expected to return before the All-Star break. Barmes, who took over for Tulo and was raking to the tune of .343/.376/.582, has been replaced in the lineup by Omar Quintanilla, a 26-year-old light-hitting middle infielder.
With Atkins and Taveras hoping to avoid the Disabled List Inn, manager Clint Hurdle went with a lineup yesterday that included Scott Podsednik (CF) and Jonathan Herrera (2B) hitting 1-2, Ryan Spilborghs (LF) batting fourth, Seth Smith (RF) fifth, Ian Stewart (3B) sixth, and Quintanilla eighth. Cory Sullivan (CF) was the first player off the bench. That said, the Mets (23-25) are going so badly that this non-descript lineup, as well as complete-game gem by Aaron Cook, stifled them 4-1 in the finale of a three-game set in Colorado on Sunday.
News: The Nationals signed INF Pokey Reese to a minor league contract.
Views: Reese wasn't good when he was good. What makes Jim Bowden think the 35-year-old infielder can play now when he hasn't performed in a big league game in four years?
Pokey has a career rate line of .248/.307/.352. His .659 OPS translates to an OPS+ of 68! His single-season high is 86 back in 1999. It had never really registered with me – or I had forgotten – that Reese won Gold Gloves in 1999 and 2000 when he was a second baseman for Cincinnati. I was also surprised to find out that he played more innings at shortstop for Boston in their World Series championship season in 2004 than anyone else. Orlando Cabrera was second and Nomar Garciaparra third. Although Reese had lost the starting shortstop job to OC late in the season, he played in 10 postseason games, mostly as a defensive replacement at second base for Mark Bellhorn.
Maybe Reese will never see Washington and the sole purpose behind his signing was to fill a minor league vacancy. If that is the case, fine. However, if it is Bowden's intention for Reese to help the big league club this summer, then it will be a misguided move.