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Dodgers earn first sweep since June

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — No Manny? No problem for the Dodgers.

With Manny Ramirez rumored to be the subject of trade discusions, the Dodgers showed Thursday they could put up plenty of offense without him and shut down their opponents’ bats as the 12-time All-Star took a scheduled off-day for the day game after a night game.

With a 7-1 victory Thursday over the Brewers at Miller Park, the Dodgers completed the sweep, giving them three straight wins for the first time since Aug. 7-10, when the Dodgers won their last two against the Nationals and the series opener in Philadelphia.

The sweep is the Dodgers’ first since they took all three games from the Giants in San Francisco on June 28-30.

“We haven’t done this for a while,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “We certainly need more than this, but you can’t go win five in a row unless you win three in a row. I thought we played these three games very well and we had some key outs that we got out of the bullpen and some key two-out hits. We did a lot of things well this week.

“Hopefully we can build on this.”

While the six-run margin of victory looks like an easy win in the box score, the way the Dodgers got there was anything but. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first and letting the Brewers tie it back up in the fourth on a Prince Fielder home run, things got interesting in the middle innings.

With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Torre used three pitchers for three outs for a second consecutive game. Starter Carlos Monasterios seemed to lose his command in the inning, walking Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and hitting Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.

“I don’t think I lost that much control,” Monasterios said through an interpreter. “But since I hit that hitter, I lost a little bit of rhythm and that’s what happened.”

Torre, who said he thought Monasterios tried to rush through the fifth inning to put himself in line for the win, brought in Ronald Belisario with the bases loaded. Belisario (2-1) retired Ryan Braun for the third straight game, needing just four pitches — all fastballs — to strike out Braun and earn his second win of the season.

George Sherrill then entered to face Fielder, who grounded into a forceout to get the Dodgers out of the jam.

With Belisario matching up against Braun and Sherrill against Fielder, the fifth inning resembled the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s 5-4 win, when Torre used Belisario, Sherrill and Octavio Dotel to close out the game.

“That’s why they’re a good team,” Fielder said. “It’s a good move, bringing tough guys out of the bullpen to kind of shut it down.”

The move did appear to shut the Brewers down. Over the final four innings, the Dodgers’ bullpen allowed just one baserunner — catcher Jonathan Lucroy walked to lead off the seventh. For the game, the Dodgers gave up just two hits, which matched a Milwaukee season.

Reliever Kenley Jansen had a lot to do with that, as he was impressive over the sixth and seventh innings, retiring six of seven batters faced. He did not allow a hit while striking out four batters and walking one.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Andre Ethier was called out on strikes to lead off the inning and was later ejected by home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson following a Matt Kemp strikeout.

“It was just a bad call, I thought it was a bad call,” Ethier said. “The pitch was repeated to the next batter, same exact pitch, I thought even a better pitch, and he called it a ball that time. So I was asking him from the dugout, ‘Are you sure about that?’

“He didn’t like it too much. Neither did I. One of us has the power to kick the other one out.”

Two batters later, Casey Blake blasted a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers some breathing room.

Finally, in the seventh, a walk followed by three straight singles and a fielding error by Lucroy resulted in three Dodgers runs, putting the game out of reach. Jansen got things started with a one out walk in his first career plate appearance and later scored his first career run on Ryan Theriot’s single.

“The seventh inning was not pretty,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “We didn’t back up home. We had a wild pitch. A ball got through Luc’s legs. That stuff happens from time to time, but you hope it would be at a minimum.”

When he wasn’t being asked about Ramirez this week, Torre talked a few times about the need for his players to ignore the standings, focus on themselves and string together a handful of wins as they look to get back in the playoff race.

After winning three in a row, the Dodgers cut their National League Wild Card deficit from eight games — following Sunday’s loss — to five games as of the end of Thursday’s win, with the Phillies having lost earlier and the Giants yet to play.

“We talked about winning series, and we didn’t do that for about a week and a half,” said catcher Brad Ausmus, who recorded his first three-hit game since July 27, 2008. “You’re talking about not only winning series, but mixing in a few series where you manage to sweep the team that you’re playing.

“We’re fortunate to come out of Milwaukee having done that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Manny sits as trade reports swirl

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — While he got Thursday’s day game off after being an integral part of the Dodgers’ win over the Brewers on Wednesday night, the waiver-wire trade rumors surrounding Manny Ramirez were out in full force once again.

The latest rumors concerning Ramirez involve the Dodgers, who finished a series sweep of the Brewers with a 7-1 win, having reportedly already discussed a potential trade with the Chicago White Sox, even though he has yet to clear waivers. Additionally, USA Today reports that friends of Ramirez have said the 12-time All-Star has told them he would waive his no-trade clause to approve a trade to the White Sox.

According to a report from FOXSports.com, part of the deal with Ramirez waiving his no-trade clause to go to Chicago would require a one-year contract extension. In the same report, the Dodgers are said to have had trade talks about Ramirez with at least one other team, and may not even trade the left fielder if they continue to improve in the Nationals League Wild Card standings.

With all that, it would be easy for Ramirez and the Dodgers to be distracted by what’s going on off the field. Asked for his thoughts for a third straight day in Milwaukee, manager Joe Torre pointed to Ramirez’s past experiences.

“He’s been around,” Torre said. “The type of marquee player he is and the places he’s played, he’s certainly used to distractions. You don’t play in Boston without having to put yourself in a shell.”

Teams have until Friday to make a waiver claim on Ramirez, and then until Tuesday to work out a deal. If a team is rewarded the claim, Los Angeles has three options: It can try to work out a trade with just that team, reward Ramirez to the claiming team outright – meaning that club will absorb his remaining prorated salary – or pull him off waivers.

If Ramirez winds up clearing waivers, then the Dodgers can negotiate with anyone.

Clubs normally have two business days to work out a trade with a claiming team, but since Saturday and Sunday fall in the middle in this case, the Dodgers have two extra days – four total – to make a deal work if they choose to. That could explain why Los Angeles waited until Wednesday to put its slugger on waivers.

Tuesday is also the deadline for new players to be eligible for postseason rosters.

The waiver system goes in reverse order of the standings and starts with a player’s current league, meaning all the National League clubs have to pass on claiming Ramirez – starting with the last-place Pirates – before AL clubs have a shot.

The Rays have also been seen as a potential suitor, but since they have a better record than the White Sox, Chicago has first dibs.

A team that claims a player on waivers runs the risk of absorbing unwanted payroll. Ramirez is making $20 million in the final season of his contract, which comes out to a prorated salary of a little more than $4 million (though some of that money is reportedly deferred).

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Manny’s perfect night paces Dodgers

August 26, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — If his start in left field on Wednesday turns out to be his last in a Dodgers uniform, Manny Ramirez certainly went out on a high note in a 5-4 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.

Before the club’s second game against the Brewers, the buzz surrounding the Dodgers involved the club having reportedly placed Ramirez on the waiver wire. In his third game back from the disabled list, Ramirez showed why he’s generated so much interest.

With a double into the right-field corner in the third inning, Ramirez snapped an 0-for-7 streak at the plate since returning from the DL.

“Manny had a real good night,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “When he gets his timing, that’s where he starts, hitting the other way. Then he had the big base hit, the RBI base hit. That was huge for us too.

“It’s all about timing with him. I’m not really concerned about home run production. It’s just production period. Hopefully this will make him feel pretty good about himself.”

Ramirez certainly seemed to have figured out his struggles, putting together an impressive night as he alternated walks and doubles. Ramirez finished 2-for-2 with two walks, two doubles, an RBI and a run scored.

Most importantly, Ramirez’s two-out double in the sixth drove in second baseman Ryan Theriot for what proved to be the deciding run.

With a scheduled day off Thursday for Ramirez as the Dodgers play a day game after a night game, Wednesday’s performance may have come in Ramirez’s final start with the Dodgers. If Ramirez was indeed put on waivers Wednesday, and if he is claimed by another club, he could be traded as soon as Friday and no later than Tuesday.

As long as he’s still with the team, the Dodgers hope Ramirez’s bat can help them get back in the National League Wild Card race.

“Any time Manny’s in the lineup, you know the other team’s thinking about that’s one of the guys they don’t want to beat them,” the Dodgers’ James Loney said. “It definitely puts a force in our lineup.”

Ramirez was stranded after a first-inning walk and thrown out at the plate attempting to score from second after his third-inning double, ending the frame. In the fifth, he walked again with one out, and came around to score on a Loney single.

While Ramirez led the offense, right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda — who also was reported Wednesday as having been placed on waivers — delivered a strong performance for his first win since July 22.

Kuroda, who admitted he didn’t have his best stuff, went seven innings for the fourth straight start, giving up four runs on seven hits while striking out six as he did not walk a batter.

“In these six games, there’s been many games where I’ve pitched really well, but I couldn’t get the win,” Kuroda said. “It’s a bit frustrating at times, but you’ve got to keep pitching tough and the results will come.”

After a giving up a big three-run inning to the Brewers in the fourth, Kuroda and the Dodgers’ bullpen combined to limit Milwaukee to just two baserunners the rest of the way.

While Kuroda went deep into the ballgame, the late innings continued to be an adventure for the Dodgers as Torre used four different relievers for the final two frames.

After Jonathan Broxton shut down the Brewers in order in the eighth, Torre turned to a three-man closer unit for the ninth, matching up Ronald Belisario, George Sherrill and Octavio Dotel for one batter each against Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee.

“Last night, the lefty [Hong-Chih Kuo] was a closer. Sherrill is a closer. Broxton is a closer. Dotel is a closer,” said Brewers manager Ken Macha. “Belisario, he probably has the best stuff out of all of them. So, if you don’t have the lead after six innings, you’re in trouble.”

Former Dodgers lefty Randy Wolf was roughed up in his first start against his former team, giving up four runs on seven hits over just five innings of work. Wolf (10-10) also walked three batters and recorded four strikeouts.

Andre Ethier put the Dodgers on the board first in the third inning with a solo home run, his 20th of the season. A three-run fifth — highlighted by Theriot and Casey Blake doubles — and a final run in the fifth gave the Dodgers their second straight win.

With the Giants having lost to the Reds in extra innings Wednesday afternoon, the Dodgers moved to within 5 1/2 games of the Giants and Phillies, who are tied for the lead in the National League Wild Card race. Having won the first two games in Milwaukee, the Dodgers secured at least a series victory over the Brewers and will look for the sweep on Thursday.

The series win is the Dodgers’ first on the road since taking two of three from the D-backs on July 2-4.

“My goal for this team right now is to get ourselves five or six in a row under our belt, so we can know when we go to the ballpark that we expect to win,” Torre said. “We haven’t been able to string it together.

“Hopefully winning two close games here gives us the confidence to win another one tomorrow.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Manny reportedly hits waiver wire

August 26, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — He has reportedly hit the waiver wire, but Manny Ramirez does not want to talk about it.

FOXSports.com reported Wednesday that the Dodgers placed Ramirez on waivers, meaning the Dodgers outfielder could have a new home within the week. Does Ramirez have anything to say about a potential trade?

“No,” Ramirez answered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Teams now have until Friday to claim the 12-time All-Star. If only one team was to claim Ramirez, that club would have until Tuesday to work out a deal with Los Angeles. The Dodgers can also simply award Ramirez to the claiming team, who would then take on his salary, or they can pull him off waivers.

Should more than one team claim him, the team with the worst record in the National League would have precedence. If the claims were only made by clubs from the American League, the one in that bunch with the worst record would get first crack.

What does Dodgers manager Joe Torre think about the potential move?

“I can’t comment,” Torre said. “Waivers are something that’s supposed to be very confidential. I’m certainly not privy to it other than the fact that I know a lot of clubs do something. But it’s something that’s not supposed to be talked about.”

The White Sox have been seen as a potential fit for Ramirez. If he falls in their laps and the White Sox opt not to get him, the Rays, who have a better record, have also been speculated to be a possible suitor.

“Manny’s a great hitter,” outfielder Jay Gibbons said. “He could certainly help any team offensively. It would definitely be tough to lose a guy like that.”

The 38-year-old Ramirez returned from the disabled list on Saturday and is batting .313 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 64 games this season. He’s making $20 million in the final season of his contract this year, though some of those payments are reportedly deferred. The prorated portion of his 2010 salary is a little more than $4 million.

The Dodgers are 12 games back in the NL West and 5 1/2 back in the NL Wild Card race. In their first two games with Ramirez back in the lineup, the Dodgers were victorious both times, despite his 0-for-7 mark at the plate. He went 2-for-2 with two doubles, two walks and the game-winning RBI in a 5-4 victory over the Brewers on Wednesday.

“He helps our chances to win and he’s a good guy,” third baseman Casey Blake said. “So yeah, I wouldn’t want to see him go.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Alden Gonzalez also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dodgers beat 8/25

August 26, 2010 Comments off

Source: Five Dodgers hit waiver wire

MILWAUKEE — According to a Major League source, Manny Ramirez is not the only player being shopped by the Dodgers on the waiver wire. The source reports that they have also placed Casey Blake, Hiroki Kuroda, Scott Podsednik and Jay Gibbons on waivers.

As is the case with Ramirez, if the four additional players have been placed on waivers, teams have until Friday to claim any one of them. If only one team were to claim them, that club would have until Tuesday to work out a deal with Los Angeles. The Dodgers can also simply award any player on waivers to the claiming team, or they can pull them off waivers. By rule, clubs are not allowed to discuss or confirm ongoing waiver transactions.

The consensus among those placed on waivers was that they were unaware of the move before being told by reporters.

“It’s fine,” Gibbons said. “I’m just happy to be here. I’d like to stay, but I was playing [in] Albuquerque two weeks ago, so if something happens, it happens.”

Gibbons was recalled from Triple-A on Aug. 8, joining the Dodgers and playing in the Majors for the first time since 2007.

Podsednik was acquired by the Dodgers from the Royals in late July, as the club looked to boost its playoff chances. Now on the edge of falling out of even the National League Wild Card race, the Dodgers may be hoping someone else could use an extra outfielder in September.

How would Podsednik feel about a second trade in less than a month?

“I really don’t have a comment on it,” Podsednik said. “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you. But am I surprised? Not really, no.”

Like his teammates, Blake expressed an interest in remaining with the Dodgers, but understood that waiver claims and late season trades are part of the game.

“I don’t really think about it much,” Blake said. “If somebody claims me, I just think that I’m not in control here, so I’m not going to worry about it much.”

Torre, Blake discuss waiver rules

MILWAUKEE — With a handful of Dodgers, including Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake, reportedly being placed on waivers Wednesday, there was plenty of discussion regarding the August trade waivers process.

Among those expressing an opinion on the matter were Blake and his manager, Joe Torre.

“It’s weird that they have a Trade Deadline and then you can put players on waivers and if they clear, you’re able to trade them,” Blake said. “It’s really weird the means by which teams can acquire players down the stretch with a month left to go.”

As Torre talked with reporters about Ramirez being placed on waivers, he made it clear he could say nothing and noted the secrecy that is supposed to go along with trade waivers. By rule, clubs are not allowed to discuss or confirm ongoing waiver transactions.

So why have so many names of players on waivers leaked out this month?

“I have no clue other than even what you’re supposed to do doesn’t necessarily mean that you follow through and do it,” Torre said. “Different clubs may feel that they want to say something.”

Another concern raised during Torre’s pregame session was the lack of knowledge as to how the process works.

More importantly, Torre was asked how that might affect a player who does not realize how many players are placed on waivers compared to the number of waiver trades.

“As I said yesterday, it’s no different distraction-wise — it’s something we have to deal with — than July when names are flying all over the place,” Torre said. “Unfortunately, there are certain things that you have to deal with. That’s pretty well the game of baseball and the game of life here.”

Padilla working his way back from injury

MILWAUKEE — Vicente Padilla took a step forward in his road to recovering from a bulging disk in his neck, throwing at Miller Park before Wednesday’s game.

“He threw out to 120 feet today,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “He had a good workout. I think he said he had about 40 throws. It was good.”

Padilla was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday with the neck injury, something that had affected him over his last two starts.

Following the workout, Padilla did not report any discomfort, Torre said. As for Padilla’s next step, Torre said he thought it would be getting the veteran right-hander on the mound for a bullpen session.

“Stan said everything went well,” Torre said, referring to Stan Conte, the Dodgers director of medical services. “He may not be that far away.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Ken Gurnick also contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dodgers beat 8/24

August 24, 2010 Comments off

Dodgers not affect by Manny rumors

MILWAUKEE — As far as his manager is concerned, the rumors swirling about a potential trade involving Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez is no different now than a month ago.

“I don’t think it’s anything different than [what] goes on in July with all the rumors that fly around in July about trade possibilities,” Joe Torre said. “I don’t see any concern.”

It’s been speculated that, barring any significant Dodgers winning streak, Ramirez could be placed on waivers sometime this week.

Among the teams that expressed interest in acquiring Ramirez before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline were the White Sox and Rays. To be traded by the end of this month, Ramirez would first need to clear waivers.

If placed on waivers, Ramirez could go to a team that claims him, he could be traded to that team, or he could be pulled back by the Dodgers and remain with the club through the end of the 2010 season.

Despite all the interest in Ramirez’s potential departure from Los Angeles this week, Torre expressed little concern over the effect on Ramirez.

“In this game, because it is the game of baseball, you’re really bred to deal with distractions,” Torre said. “That’s our job. I don’t see it affecting anything at this point.”

Barajas in lineup on first day with Dodgers

MILWAUKEE — Newly-acquired catcher Rod Barajas joined the Dodgers in Milwaukee on Tuesday. On his first day with the club, Barajas was inserted into the starting lineup right away by manager Joe Torre.

The Dodgers claimed Barajas off waivers over the weekend, sending cash to the Mets in exchange for the veteran catcher. With Russell Martin out for the season due to a hip injury, Barajas fills the Dodgers’ void behind the plate.

Before acquiring Barajas, the Dodgers had used Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis at catcher. Upon acquiring Barajas, Ellis was optioned to the Minors. While he likes Barajas’ ability behind the plate as well, Torre especially likes the additional offense he can provide at catcher.

“Offensively, he gives us a little more,” Torre said. “Obviously, I’ve been very satisfied with the defensive side of the game with our catchers. But we’ve sort of been limited, even though we’ve had some contributions offensively. We’ve been lacking a little bit.

“The fact that he is a threat to hit the ball out of the ballpark gives us a little bit different dimension there.”

Barajas is hitting .225 on the season with 12 home runs and a .677 OPS, which is far better than the .492 OPS for Ausmus and Ellis’ .440 mark.

Torre said he remained unsure of how he would use Barajas and Ausmus, but he wanted to see what the Dodgers had in Barajas before making a decision.

“I don’t know yet, we’ll play him [Tuesday],” Torre said. “My guess is he’ll get a good portion of the playing time, and we’ll give Ausmus a couple games a week.

“I could make more decisions after watching him.”

Billingsley pushed back to Saturday

MILWAUKEE — With Chad Billingsley still feeling the effects of a minor calf injury, Dodgers manager Joe Torre shook up his starting rotation a bit once again on Tuesday.

Billingsley has been bumped back to start Saturday night in Colorado, while rookie right-hander Carlos Monasterios will get the nod for Thursday’s series finale at Miller Park.

“He probably could’ve pitched Thursday,” Torre said of Billingsley. “But with the fact that we needed a fifth starter Saturday, we figured we’d rather give him the extra couple days.”

Covering first base on a grounder on Saturday in the second inning, Billingsley said he “kind of tweaked” his calf, but was unaffected by the injury.

According to Torre, the calf bothers Billingsley more off the mound than on it.

“It may not make a difference,” Torre said of the extra time off. “But if it’s going to be a plus for him, then so be it. As long as we needed the fifth starter one place or the other, we just decided to give him the extra days off.”

Torre attends Selig ceremony Tuesday

MILWAUKEE — With the Brewers having honored Allan H. “Bud” Selig with a ceremony earlier in the afternoon, Dodgers manager Joe Torre took some time before Tuesday’s game to reflect on his relationship with the Commissioner.

Torre, who attended the ceremony with his brother, Frank, and a long list of local and national dignitaries, had nothing but positive things to say about Selig and the ceremony honoring the man who he first met during his playing days with the Milwaukee Braves.

“I was very touched by the whole thing because I’ve known Bud so long, since like ’56,” Torre said. “He sold me my first car.”

When Torre broke into the big leagues with Milwaukee in 1960, Selig was working with his father for a car leasing business at the time. But Selig’s true passion was baseball, and he was the team’s largest public stockholder before the Braves left Milwaukee in 1965.

While they shared their time in Milwaukee, Torre and Selig formed a lasting friendship.

“I’ve known Bud for a long time and the one thing that’s been consistent with him, whether you agree with him or don’t agree with him, he’s never lost his excitement for the game and his passion to do the right thing,” Torre said.

“It’s tough to not get emotional when you see how long he’s been doing this, and they wouldn’t have anything like this unless it was for him, because this ballclub left in ’65 and it looked very bleak for this city.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.