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Dodgers

Dodgers Dugout: Clayton Kershaw can’t be replaced, but here’s why Bud Norris is an intriguing acquisition

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I wonder if any of us can donate our back to Clayton Kershaw.

Anyone but Kershaw

Remember when Chicken Little would run around saying “the sky is falling,” but no one believed him? Well, if Chicken Little went door to door and told Dodgers fans that the sky is falling, they would believe every word.

On Thursday the team announced it was going to put Clayton Kershaw on the 15-day disabled list because of a herniated disk in his back. He was given an epidural shot and the team is not sure when he will be back.  He may not be back until well after the All-Star break.

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“How his body responds to the epidural, that’s the most telling,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t know how it’s going to be. I don’t know. I’m hopeful. But I can’t say either way.” 

Apparently Kershaw’s back has been bothering him for about a month, but it became too much for him on Monday, one day after he struggled against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

A couple of hours after the move was announced, the team acquired right-handed starter Bud Norris and outfielder Dian Toscano and a player to be named from the Braves for minor leaguers Philip Pfeifer and Caleb Dirks.

Norris is 3-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 22 games this season, split between the rotation and the bullpen. As a starter he is 3-5 with a 5.02 ERA. On the plus side, in June he was 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in six games (five starts). In his career, Norris is 59-75 with a 4.43 ERA. His ERA+ is 90, meaning he has been 10% worse than a league average pitcher (his ERA+ this season is 97).

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However, there is some reason to be optimistic. Why did his number suddenly improve in June? He abandoned his change-up and started throwing a cutter instead. Since then he has become a groundball pitcher. In fact, since then he has the third-best WAR among starting pitchers, trailing only Jose Fernandez and some guy named Kershaw.

So, while it is easy to complain that the Dodgers got another mediocre pitcher, there is reason to believe he has turned things around and I can see why Andrew Friedman is taking a chance on him. Let’s give him a couple of starts and see what happens.

Toscano, 27, hit .226 with 10 RBI in 58 games with the Braves’ double-A Mississippi this year.

Dirks, 23, went 3-2 with 6 saves and a 1.44 ERA in 28 relief appearances with double-A Tulsa and Pfeifer, 23, posted a 3-1 combined record with a 2.67 ERA in 17 relief appearances with Class A Great Lakes and Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

This leaves the Dodgers with a rotation of: Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, Julio Urias, Brock Stewart and Bud Norris.

The Dodgers have also been linked in trade talks for Tampa Bay’s Erasmo Ramirez, who has a career record of 25-24 with a 4.17 ERA, but has been 18-12 with a 3.73 ERA since the start of the 2015 season.

Kershaw’s injury will also hopefully end the thought of shutting Urias down for a while to “conserve his innings.” Because that would lead to “conserving our victories.”

Norris, of course, is not a true replacement for Kershaw, because he is irreplaceable. He is the most valuable player to his team in all of baseball, so it seems unlikely the team will make the playoffs if he is out for an extended period of time.

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And yes, the joke “he hurt his back carrying the team for so long” is too easy, so I won’t say it.

Calling all doctors

Here is a list of Dodger starting pitchers on the DL:

Brett Anderson

Kershaw

Brandon McCarthy

Hyun-jin Ryu

Alex Wood

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And here are the other Dodgers currently on the DL:

Andre Ethier

Yimi Garcia

Kiké Hernandez

Frankie Montas

Josh Ravin

Chin-hui Tsao

And that doesn’t include Joc Pederson, who may go on the DL because of a bruised shoulder.

Troubling trend

Trayce Thompson hit just .207 with five homers and 10 RBIs in June.

Seven Dodgers hit below .225 for the month: Adrian Gonzalez (.223), Scott Van Slyke (.206), Chase Utley (.209), Thompson, A.J. Ellis (.188), Yasmani Grandal (.169) and Kiké Hernandez (.158).

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. His latest response:

Ron Rand asks: I was privileged to hear you as one of the voices of the Dodgers. What games stand out in your mind most, Ross, and why?

Ross: During my 28 seasons, Ron, I broadcast about 5,000 Dodger regular season, postseason and exhibition games. That’s quite a few to remember. Here are just a few:

April 7, 1977: Vin [Scully] was at the Masters with CBS so I was the No. 1 Dodger announcer for my major league broadcasting debut on Opening Day in Los Angeles. The first pitch of the season and my first to announce in a big league game was thrown by Don Sutton, and Gary Thomasson of the Giants slugged it into the right-field bullpen for a home run. Sutton allowed only two more hits and scored a complete game 5-1 victory.

Oct. 8, 1977: The Dodgers led the Phillies, two games to one in the best of five National League Championship Series. Rain fell throughout Game 4 in Philadelphia and Tommy John bested Steve Carlton 4-1 to put the Dodgers in the World Series. All I could think about was getting a ring the next spring.

Oct. 18, 1977: On the CBS Radio network’s 600 stations, I announced three home runs Reggie Jackson hit against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Jackson went deep on Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough — all on first pitches.

Oct. 28, 1981: The Dodgers captured the World Series with a 9-2 triumph at Yankee Stadium in Game 6.  It was 1-1 after four innings when New York Manager Bob Lemon inexplicably took his pitcher Tommy John out of the game. The Dodgers erupted for seven runs in the next two innings.

Oct. 20, 1988: Orel Hershiser tossed a four-hitter at Oakland in Game 5 of the World Series to clinch a world title for the Dodgers.

Aug. 23, 1989: In Montreal, the Dodgers and Expos were scoreless in the 22nd inning when Rick Dempsey lined a home run off Dennis Martinez to give the Dodgers a 1-0 win. I announced all 22 innings by myself on radio [and it] is still the longest solo broadcast in major-league history. The game lasted 6 hours and 14 minutes.

May 23, 2002: Shawn Green of the Dodgers tied a major-league record when he hit four home runs in a game at Milwaukee, and it was a thrill to be on the air when he clouted his first and fourth. As nice a person as I have known went 6 for 6 that afternoon (a double and single included) with seven RBIs and six runs scored.

What Vin Scully means to me

I asked you to tell me your best Vin Scully memories, and I got a lot of responses. I will publish selected ones in each newsletter. And keep emailing them to me.

Barry Gold: I’m almost 60, and have listened to Vin Scully my entire life. My late grandfather, father, and sons have listened too, so that’s four generations of my family. Whenever someone asks if I’m a Dodger fan, I always answer, “Actually, I’m a Vin Scully fan first, Dodger fan second.” His warmth, humor, insight, voice and skill have provided an incalculable amount of enjoyment in my life. 

I owned the vinyl version of his call of the last half inning of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, and listened to it countless times. I’ve watched the Kirk Gibson home run on everything from my original VHS videotape to YouTube. 

I got to meet him once before a game through a friend. Though I’d prepared what I wanted to say,  I was tongue-tied and barely coherent. Vin could not have been more gracious, saying how nice it was of me to come say hello. He made me feel as if I’d done him a favor by stopping by, when what he’d done was give me a lifetime memory.  

I got my picture taken with him years later at another event. I had to skip dinner to wait in line for the photo, but that was the best meal I ever missed. That picture sits proudly in my living room, the only one of two dozen that includes a non-relative. 

I will admit that I actually choke up thinking about him, though I’ve just figured out why. It’s not because he’s retiring — we’ve all been so blessed that he’s continued working this long. It’s that Vin feels like family; he elicits a similarly strong, emotional connection in me, as I’m sure he does for so many others. He’s always been there, seeming to talk directly to me, making me feel good, and happy, and comfortable, just like those I’m closest to. Sure, it’s not the literal truth, but it turns out that, at least in my heart, all of the pictures in my living room are of family members.

It’s the picture the cable guy spotted when he came in to work on my system. Though we’re of different ages and from different backgrounds, it gave us an instant connection, as we expressed our shared appreciation for Vin. 

That cable guy is not from Time Warner, meaning I’ve had to take some extreme measures to hear him these last three seasons. I will never forgive Dodger ownership for not stepping in, putting fans first, and finding a way to resolve this problem, even if it cost them some money. Without Vin next season, and unless Clayton Kershaw is pitching, for this 50-plus year fan, it will not be time for Dodger baseball. 

The TV situation

If you would like to complain about the Dodgers’ TV situation, you have three options: The Dodgers, Time Warner Cable and whatever local cable or satellite provider you have that doesn’t carry the Dodgers. Here’s who to contact:

For the Dodgers, click here or call (866) DODGERS ([866] 363-4377). (I hope you like form letters).

For Time Warner, click here.

For DirecTV, call (800) 531-5000 or click here.

For your local cable or satellite provider, consult your bill for the customer service number and for the website.

And finally

Dylan Hernandez writes about Kershaw and wonders why a team such as the Dodgers is so reliant on one player.

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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