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Dodgers Dugout: When will the bullpen be fixed?

Dodgers Dugout: When will the bullpen be fixed?
Jim Johnson is pulled from Sunday's game by Manager Don Mattingly. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

Hi, welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I'm pretty sure Chris Hatcher would be a welcome breath of fresh air in the bullpen nowadays.

Bullpen collapse

I finally get to watch a game on TV and it had to be Sunday’s game? Nine runs in the seventh inning, with eight of them charged to Jim Johnson in a 13-6 loss to Pittsburgh. Could someone please let Don Mattingly know that you are indeed allowed to change pitchers in the middle of an inning, and if you have a lefty like J.P. Howell warming up in the bullpen, you might want to use him when left-handed hitters come up.

So the Dodgers get swept by the Pirates, with the bullpen giving up 11 runs in 10 innings. Johnson has a 29.45 ERA with the Dodgers. The bullpen has a 7.94 ERA this month. Yeah, this looks like a team that will win a World Series.

The need for speed

It appears the Dodgers are indeed aware that they are one of the slowest teams in baseball. In an excellent article on Sunday, Times baseball columnist Bill Shaikin talked to director of player development Gabe Kapler about the team's newest innovation: speed camp.

Basically, the Dodgers are hoping to develop a designated runner that they can use in the stretch run and during the playoffs by opening a base-running academy. 

They started with five people and are now down to three.

“We said, 'We have an opportunity for you to be a professional baseball player again,'" Kapler said. "That's not a tough sell."

The three have played in 40 minor league games, with zero at-bats and 27 stolen bases in 36 attempts. All they do is pinch-run.

"Everybody knows they're running," said Class A Rancho Cucamonga Manager Bill Haselman. "If they can have a good success rate with that challenge, that's pretty good."

The three players: 

Edwin Drexler, 23. The second cousin of NBA Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, Edwin Drexler was chosen in the 38th round of this year's draft. He has played 11 games in the minors with 10 steals and two caught stealing.

Robbie Garvey, 26, no relation to Steve. He had played six seasons in the minors without getting past A ball. In 14 games with double-A Tulsa, he has seven stolen bases and four caught stealing.

Kyle Hudson, 28, had 2,350 at-bats in the minor leagues and 28 in the major leagues. He has 11 steals and four caught stealing in 15 games. And he's on the DL right now because of a strained calf.

This type of idea has worked in the past, most recently with Chone Figgins with the Angels in 2002 and Terrance Gore with the Royals last season. But it is easier to do in the AL, where you don't have to worry about having a pinch-hitter for your pitcher.  It's certainly an idea worth exploring, so if you see one or all of the above three players called up in September, you will know why.

Andre is a pro

I have to admit that Andre Ethier was never my favorite Dodger. I always found him to be overrated and a bit of a whiner. But I have changed my mind this season. Instead of complaining all through spring training about not being in the plans for the starting lineup, Ethier just went out and played. He got himself ready for the season. He started the season on the bench until Carl Crawford got hurt. Ethier stepped into the void and has been one of the most valuable players on the team, hitting .280 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs.

When Crawford came off the DL, Mattingly kept Ethier in the lineup and put Crawford on the bench. 

"I never lost faith," Ethier told Times reporter Kevin Baxter. "I maybe doubted myself a little bit. You start to wonder. But you never really give up."

And that is the perfect attitude for a professional.

This date in Dodgers history

Aug. 10, 1979: Don Sutton sets the franchise record with his 50th shutout, a 9-0 win over the Giants. The shutout breaks a tie with Don Drysdale.

Aug. 10, 1995: The Dodgers are forced to forfeit their game against St. Louis at Dodger Stadium when fans refuse to stop throwing promotional souvenir baseballs onto the Dodger Stadium field. 

Aug. 13, 1982: Steve Sax sets the Dodgers rookie record by stealing his 41st base of the season. He finished the season with 49 and wins the Rookie of the Year award.

Aug. 15, 1926: The Dodgers end up with three players at third base after Babe Herman doubles with the bases loaded. The runner on second rounds third but decides to go back as the runner from first reaches third. A few moments later, Herman slides in to join his two teammates.

Where's my money?

With the release of Chris Heisey last week, the Dodgers are now paying 15 players to no longer play for them this season. They are: Hector Olivera (Atlanta, $29.2 million), Matt Kemp (San Diego, $18 million), Brian Wilson (out of baseball, $10 million), Dan Haren (Miami, $10 million), Brandon League (out of baseball, $9.5 million), Chad Billingsley (Philadelphia, $3 million), Dee Gordon (Miami, $2.5 million), Ryan Webb (Cleveland, $2.2 million), Heisey (out of baseball, $2.16 million), Juan Uribe (N.Y. Mets, $1.96 million), Sergio Santos (N.Y. Yankees, $335,792), Paco Rodriguez (Atlanta, $331,202), Chris Withrow (Atlanta, $148,470), Dustin McGowan (Philadelphia, $124,795) and Michael Morse (Pittsburgh, $38,251). That's almost $90 million.

And finally

The Dodgers' magic number to clinch the NL West is ... what, too soon?

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston

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