Hi, welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, hoping that none of the Dodgers relievers ever apply for jobs as hockey goalies, because they have trouble saving things.
Before we talk about the bullpen, let’s take a look at the Dodgers’ latest move, acquiring second baseman Chase Utley from the Philadelphia Phillies for minor leaguers Darnell Sweeney and John Richy.
Basically, what the Dodgers are saying is that they don’t have faith that Kiké Hernandez is the answer at second base while Howie Kendrick is out. Hernandez is, after all, hitting only .366 with three home runs in August. Of course, this does allow Hernandez to go back to his most valuable role of super sub, able to play almost any position, including center field, where he can start in place of Joc Pederson when there’s a tough left-hander on the mound.
The Dodgers are rolling the dice with this move. If Utley comes in and hits like the Chase Utley of old, then this will be a good move. If he hits .217, as he has with the Phillies this season, it’s not such a great move. Utley, however, is 15 for 31 since coming off the disabled list Aug. 7, so perhaps he has regained his form. It’s also important to note that Utley has played in 46 postseason games, with 10 home runs.
As Jimmy Rollins, Utley’s old teammate with the Phillies who is reunited with him again, put it: "Hopefully, first and foremost, he's healthy and in a good place. With that being the case, the way he's swung the bat since he's been playing, anyone can use that and we can definitely use it."
The problem I have with the move, though, is that it doesn’t address the Dodgers’ biggest problem:
The bullpen is horrible
I should just save this and cut and paste it into every newsletter. The Dodgers bullpen, other than Kenley Jansen, is atrocious. And here is what is so frustrating about it: After last season, if you asked Dodgers fans what the team needed to address in the off-season, 90% would have told you the bullpen. And it would be the same today, because the team has done nothing to improve the bullpen. They traded in a cast of nondescript pitchers such as Jamey Wright and Paul Maholm for a new cast of nondescript pitchers, such as Jim Johnson and Juan Nicasio. This is why most Dodgers fans are still pessimistic. What killed the Dodgers in last year’s playoffs is still killing them today. The two guys they acquired at the trade deadline, Johnson and Luis Avilan, have ERAs of 21.00 and 7.20 with the Dodgers. J.P. Howell, great all season, is going through his usual end-of-season, overworked swoon, with an ERA of 5.19 in August. There is no one reliable to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. It’s the one area where I feel sorry for Don Mattingly. He has no one to turn to, and in the end it might cost him his job. However, there may be an answer.
Time for Urias
Remember 1980, when the Dodgers brought up a young left-hander from the minors, a kid named Fernando Valenzuela who dominated the league, going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in September as the Dodgers rallied to tie the Houston Astros to force a one-game playoff (curse you, Dave Goltz)? Remember 2002, when the Angels brought up a kid named Francisco Rodriguez, who posted a 0.00 ERA in September and went 5-1 in the playoffs as the setup man for Troy Percival as the Angels won the World Series?
Here’s my proposal: The Dodgers should bring up their top pitching prospect, Julio Urias, either now or Sept. 1 when rosters expand, and see if they can catch lightning in a bottle with him pitching in relief. In three minor-league seasons, Urias has struck out 256 batters in 212 innings, giving up only 162 hits. He has a 3.03 ERA in double-A Tulsa this season, with 71 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings, giving up only 49 hits and 15 walks. I say bring him up and give him a shot. He’s only 19, but so was Fernando. He throws a 95-mph fastball to go with a curve and changeup that makes his fastball seem even faster. Give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen?
To make room for Utley, the Dodgers designated Alberto Callaspo for assignment, meaning the backup at third base now is Alex Guerrero. However, General Manager Farhan Zaidi said they may have another candidate: “I think we’re going to start trying to get Chase a little work over there, and if it’s something he’s comfortable with, we may try to get him in there too, especially with the way the long-run picture shapes up in September.”
Utley has played 1,551 games in his career. Of those, exactly zero have been at third base.
Ask Ross Porter
Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be answering select reader questions for the rest of the season. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on to him. Here’s his first response:
James Landon asks: "As a kid growing up in western Pennsylvania in the early ’50s, I listened to Dodgers play-by-play announcer Johnny Most, not Red Barber or Vin Scully. Did the Brooklyn Dodgers have two radio networks?"
Ross: "Johnny Most was best known for announcing the Boston Celtics games from 1953 to 1990. Between 1958 and 1972, Johnny served as a host of a Red Sox postgame show on television which was a short scoreboard program in which he read baseball scores and gave details of those games. James, that might be what you remember. There is no mention of baseball play-by-play in the career history of Most. He once worked on the New York NFL Giants broadcasts.
“Besides Vin and Jerry Doggett, the Brooklyn Dodgers announcers over the years were Barber, Ernie Harwell, Connie Desmond, Andre Baruch, Al Helfer, Marty Glickman, Nat Allbright and Jim Gordon."
Can we get a do over?
That deadline deal for Mat Latos hasn’t worked out as planned. The Dodgers have demoted him to the bullpen at least until September. Latos is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA with the Dodgers, perfect numbers for this bullpen.
The Dodgers travel to Houston to take on the Astros in a three-game series starting tonight. Here’s how funny baseball is: The Astros have the seventh-best record in baseball and are heralded as a great success and a threat to win the World Series. The Dodgers have the sixth-best record and are considered by many a disappointment.
Remember in the last newsletter, when I pointed out the great play the ball boy down the left-field line made in a recent game? His name is Javier Herrera, and Bill Plaschke wrote a great column about him. Go here to read it.