April 2008 - Los Angeles Dodgers Wiretap
Andruw: In September, No One Remembers April
No one really thinks the Dodgers will win the NL West. Unless, of course, Jason Schmidt comes back as the guy who won 35 games in 2003-04 for the Giants. But even if he did, the Dodgers won?t until Andruw Jones stops striking out like as if he?s the reincarnation of Dave Kingman. I caught up with Jones and the Dodgers on a steamy Saturday afternoon in L.A., a day so hot that even Ernie Banks would?ve been hard-pressed to play two. Jones sat alone in the Dodgers' locker room, wearing the kind of insouciant grin that Dodgers fan don?t always find appropriate for a guy hitting .167 and making the much-maligned Juan Pierre seem popular by comparison. But smiling is in the Curacao-born Jones?s nature. If he was worried about a career that?s been in a serious tailspin since 2007, he did not show it. ?It?s not the way you start, it?s the way you finish,? Jones said. He should know, since he got off to an almost equally horrific start in his 51-home run season of 2005. For those who secretly wonder if that power-crazed season was the worst thing that could?ve happened to Jones, remember that he followed that up with 41 dingers (and 129 RBI) in 2006. Jones appeared to be at the top of his game. And then came the nightmare of ?07, the career low .222 average (a 40-point drop from ?06), the strikeouts with men on base, the whispers that he was damaged goods with a bad back, the Braves? decision to let him leave. Now, in his first year with a team other than the Atlanta Braves, Jones shrugged off the notion that he felt the additional burden of trying to justify the Dodgers? two-year, $36.2 million investment. ?There?s always pressure when you?ve been successful for so many years,? Jones said dismissively, but then he told how Manager Joe Torre had sought to comfort him by reminding him of his own struggles after being traded to St. Louis. Then Jones noted that it?s hard for people to understand the adjustment required in moving to a new city after so many years in a place he was familiar with. Torre has been patient; teammates have been supportive; the fans a little less so. Jones is not the demonstrative type; he has, instead, been one of those guys who never looks like he?s exerting much effort. He?s a Gold Glove centerfielder perfectly suited for the spacious contours of Dodger Stadium, but everyone knows he?s not here just to run down fly balls. One of the most productive hitters in a dominating Braves' lineup has become an automatic out in the Dodgers'. Where is the real Andruw Jones, and what has this seeming impersonator done with him? ?He?s just not comfortable up there," Torre said before the game. ?He won?t own up to it, but he?s trying to do too much. He wants to make sure we got a good deal.? It?s gotten to the point where Torre found signs of encouragement in the tiniest accomplishment. Like the single that Jones, a notorious pull hitter, slapped to right field on Friday night. ?Seems like he?s getting a better look at the ball,? Torre said hopefully. Jones, who left Friday?s game with a calf contusion, called Torre to say he wanted to play on Saturday, and Torre put him in the lineup. Watching Jones in batting practice, you?d never suspect there was a problem. The thwack of bat crushing ball echoed through the park as Jones sprayed balls around the outfield. Yet when the game started, Jones looked passive at the plate. Dropped to seventh in the order, he came up with the bases loaded and two out in the first inning against a struggling pitcher Mark Redman and worked out a 3-2 walk. Not quite the big hit everyone was hoping for, but it was an RBI, and at least Jones preserved what became a ten-run explosion. Jones walked his next time up, flied out in the fifth, and was pinch-hit for in the seventh. Sunday was no better, Jones going 0-4, striking out three times and dropping his average to an unthinkable .159. ?In September, no one remembers what you did in April,? Jones said bravely. At this rate, he can only hope that will be the case.
Home-Plate Umpire Hurt At Dodger Stadium
Home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley briefly lost consciousness after being hit in the mask with a fastball thrown by the Dodgers' Brad Penny on Saturday, according to MLB.com. There was a delay in the fourth inning, as Danley was taken off in an ambulance. The ball hit him on the jaw, and he lost consciousness for "a couple of seconds" according to the Dodgers' public relations staff. "The Dodgers' training staff was great," third-base umpire Greg Gibson said. "I'm very grateful to them for the support -- getting the ambulance and everything they did for us. Sometimes with our relationship, teams don't agree with what we do, but we're a family."
Mattingly Trying To Fix Andruw's Swing
Dodgers' hitting Coach Don Mattingly is reportedly trying to fix the swing of new outfielder Andruw Jones, according to the Los Angeles Times. Jones hit his first home run with the team on Saturday but struck out four times in the team's following two games. He claimed the flu was the reason he was held out a game recently. Manager Joe Torre said that Mattingly is working with Jones on his swing as he continues to aim for the fence in nearly every at bat. "It gets you in some bad habits," Torre said of Jones, who is hitting .159 and has struck out 22 times in 63 at-bats. "He hit 20-something home runs last year, but who knows how many he would've hit with a different approach."
Furcal Hoping To Stay With Dodgers
Rafael Furcal is in the final season of a three-year, $39 million contract with the Dodgers and is having a nice season. "I felt insecure at the plate last year because I was hitting on one leg," he said. "My ankle didn't help me especially on the left side. This year, I feel surer of myself." Furcal hopes to remain with the Dodgers but isn't particularly focused on getting a new contract done. His agent Paul Kinzer visited Dodgers' General Manager Ned Colletti during spring training and has had a few follow-up conversations. Kinzer said the 30-year-old Furcal was looking for a long-term deal that would allow him to "finish his career there." "There's no deadline," Kinzer said. "We'll give them every opportunity to sign him." Said Colletti, "We want him to be a Dodger, so at some point in time, we'll sit down and sort it out." RealGM Note: Furcal currently 'deserves' to make about $11.4 million based on his 2008 performance to date.
Samardzija Outpitches Kershaw In Double-A Start
Jeff Samardzija outpitched Clayton Kershaw on Thursday night to give the Tennessee Smokies a 2-0 victory in a Double-A Southern League game. Samardzija, a member of the Cubs farm system, pitched seven scoreless innings. He struck out five, walked one and yielded four hits. Kershaw, who is one of the most highly-regarded prospects in baseball and a member of the Dodgers organization, settled down to strike out eight over five innings after scattering two first-inning runs. Samardzija had a 3.41 ERA in six Double-A starts last season. His first performance of 2008 on April 5th was also a quality one, going five innings while giving up three hits and one run. The lefty Kershaw threw just three innings in his first start back on April 4th, but he struck out four and gave up just one run.
Red Sox Acquire RHP Hull From Dodgers
The Red Sox on Tuesday acquired righthander Eric Hull from the Dodgers for infielder Christian Lara and cash, as reported by Yahoo.com. The 28-year-old Hull, who was designated for assignment by the Dodgers on March 31, went 4-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 49 games with Class-AAA Las Vagas in 2007, earning a September call-up and his major league debut with Los Angeles.
Dodgers' Kuroda Enjoys Terrific MLB Debut
Hiroki Kuroda made his Major League debut on Friday night for the Dodgers as he shut down the Padres through seven innings of work, according to MLB.com. Kuroda allowed one run over seven innings, earning his first Major League win in the process. "Very impressive," said Manager Joe Torre. "Didn't seem nervous at all. Very business-like, with no indecision on his part."
MLB Suspends Dodgers' Coach Bowa Three-Games
Dodgers' Third Base Coach Larry Bowa was incensed on Wednesday after being suspended for three games and fined by the commissioner?s office following a wild argument the night before, according to an Associated Press report.