Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. Did anything happen while I was off?
Recapping a busy two weeks
While I was gone, the Dodgers went 11-6, including a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies that extended their National League West lead to 13 games. (It’s now at 12 after Monday night’s loss to the Diamondbacks in Arizona.) The Dodgers are 54-26 this season, on pace to finish 109-53. And whenever I get excited about that, I remind myself that the 2001 Seattle Mariners went 116-46, lost in five games in the American League Championship Series and haven’t made the playoffs since.
But sometimes you have to forget the destination and just enjoy the ride. No team in major league history had ever won three games in a row via walk-off home runs hit by three different rookies, so we can all say we have witnessed something that had never happened before and might never happen again. That’s pretty cool. So this has been an amazing ride this season. If not for the bullpen, I believe the Dodgers would be 80-0. OK, perhaps I am exaggerating. But let’s not get so worried about the playoffs that we forget to enjoy what is happening in the moment.
While I was off, I received a lot of emails with questions, so let’s answer a few.
Who are all these new guys?
Matt Beaty, who hit the game-winning homer Friday night, is, as written on the Dodgers’ website, “a fringy runner with an average arm. Beaty has split most of his career between first base and third base. He’s a decent defender at either corner and also has made brief appearances at second base, left field and right field as a pro. He also did some catching as an amateur, and his versatility will come in handy as he tries to crack a Los Angeles roster with an overload of corner-infield options.”
Beaty is the 29th-ranked prospect in the Dodgers’ system.
Will Smith, who hit the game-winning homer Sunday, has “outstanding athleticism for a catcher, and it translates into quality defense behind the plate. His average-to-solid arm strength plays as a plus because he has quick footwork. With his soft hands and agility, he receives and frames well, and he also has shown he’s a capable third baseman and passable second baseman. Los Angeles has had Smith add loft to his right-handed swing, and he has shown more power than he did at Louisville while seeing his strikeout rate soar from 10 percent in college to 24 percent in his first three years as a pro. He probably won’t produce much in the way of batting average, but he could provide 15 to 20 homers per season along with a healthy amount of walks. He also has solid speed and can steal an occasional base.”
Smith is the fifth-ranked prospect in the Dodgers’ system.
Kyle Garlick, who is batting .333 in 26 plate appearances, was taken out of Cal Poly Pomona in the 28th round of the 2015 draft. He signed for $1,000. He is not even listed among the Dodgers’ top 30 prospects, which is a testament to the organization’s depth of talent. Garlick hit .290/.380/.634 for triple-A Oklahoma City this season.
Tony Gonsolin is a 25-year-old right-hander who was drafted in the ninth round out of St. Mary’s in 2016. He will be called up to start Wednesday’s game against Arizona. “Gonsolin began 2017 with an 88-92 mph fastball but was hitting 100 by the end of that season, and he operated at 93-97 mph as a starter in 2018 while maintaining his velocity into the late innings. His upper-80s splitter devastates hitters with the way it dives at the plate, and his low-80s curveball has become a consistent plus offering with nice shape. He also uses a mid-80s slider to give hitters a different look. He still needs to refine his command, and Los Angeles would like to see him work inside and up in the zone more with his fastball.”
Gonsolin is the fourth-ranked prospect in the Dodgers’ system.
What happened to Rich Hill?
Hill came out of his last start after one inning because of tightness in his left forearm. He was diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon, which can be a precursor to needing eventual Tommy John surgery. He’s out until at least August and could very well have thrown his last pitch as a Dodger because he is in the final season of his three-year, $48-million contract.
Hill is 39, so Tommy John surgery would probably end his career. He is currently undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy. He needs to come back, though, because if he doesn’t, who will Dave Roberts remove too soon from a World Series start?
What is A.J. Pollock’s status? Why is Joc Pederson playing first base?
These two questions are related, so we’ll answer them at the same time. Pollock is on track to have a rehabilitation assignment during the All-Star break, which means he could be back in mid-July. Roberts has said that when Pollock gets back, he will be the starting center fielder, with Alex Verdugo moving to left. You might wonder why the Dodgers would just give Pollock his job back, but the general rule is that you don’t lose your job because of an injury. So, if Pollock is in center and Verdugo is in left, where does Pederson go? First base. And one thing having a huge division lead allows you to do is get a guy like Pederson some on-the-job training at a new position.
Pederson hasn’t exactly looked smooth at first base, but the Dodgers are confident he will learn the position. “He’s going to be fine,” Roberts said. “It’s not a finished product, but this is something we’re committed to, his teammates are understanding of, and we’ve all bought into. It’s not all going to be good. It’s not a finished product. That’s OK. The more you run a player out there, the more comfortable he gets. The more conversation you have about situations and bunt plays … I would expect Joc to be much more tired mentally than physically these last few days, but I trust his acumen, his eagerness to learn and his ability to play the position.”
What about Corey Seager?
He too should be playing rehab games over the All-Star break.
Whom can the Dodgers acquire to bolster the bullpen?
In Thursday’s newsletter, we will look at relievers who could be available via trade before the July 31 deadline.
Broadcasting games is not easy. The best broadcasters make it look easy, but it’s really not. However, there are things you expect a baseball announcer to get right. Like whether a ball is a home run or not. Vin Scully taught all Dodgers fans every season to not watch the ball, watch the outfielder. The outfielder’s reaction will tell you whether the ball is a home run or not. If you apply that lesson when you go to a game, you quickly see that it works.
Someone desperately needs to tell Dodgers radio announcer Charley Steiner this little trick because he seems to have no clue as to whether a ball is a home run or not.
Here’s his call of Will Smith’s walk-off homer Sunday:
“Pops it up to center field … now drifting back … (yelling now) THAT’S MORE THAN A POPUP … THAT’S A WALK-OFF HOME RUN. THE BALL KEPT CARRYING AND CARRYING.”
Um, if you watched the game, you saw the outfielders immediately running back toward the fence. You should immediately know that’s more than just a popup.
Dodgers fans on social media quickly blasted Steiner for this, using the hashtag #Steinered.
Extend the netting?
A woman was hit in the head by a line foul off the bat of Cody Bellinger during Sunday’s game and was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. In the wake of that, the Dodgers announced Monday that they plan to extend the protective netting to shield fans.
“We have been talking for some time with different providers and looking at different options,” team president Stan Kasten told the Orange County Register on Monday. “Surely we will be expanding netting. I don’t know yet the final configuration. Obviously, there are some different choices to be made and different products which each come with their own set of challenges.”
Will it be extended before the end of the season?
“I can’t say that for sure, although I think it’s likely,” Kasten said. “For sure, something is going to be done. As for the exact timing, I don’t know that yet.”
Erwin Goldbloom, whose wife, Linda, died last August after being hit by a foul ball while sitting in the loge section on the first-base side at Dodger Stadium, told ESPN, “I’m glad to see they’re taking a positive step — finally, they’ve admitted there’s a problem, after ignoring it.” Goldbloom would also like the netting to be raised to protect the loge section. “You never think it’s going to happen to you, but having sat there for years, I know that’s a hot spot.”
Adventures at Dodger Stadium
I went to Saturday’s Dodgers-Rockies game with my wife, Diana; my oldest daughter, Sabrina; and her husband, Rafa. It was a great game, with a walk-off homer by Verdugo. We all really enjoyed the entire experience.
One of my favorite things to do is to watch the people around me at games. The following people sat near me, and I find them very amusing.
-- The two women sitting in front of us who took about 300 selfies during the game. I believe they occasionally noticed there was a game going on, as one of them desperately tried to get Bellinger to notice her. She seemed to be trying to give him a lap dance from hundreds of feet away. The guy sitting in front of her should have turned around and given her $20 at least.
-- The woman sitting across the aisle from me who decided to dump two bags worth of peanut shells into the stairway (getting some on my shoes) instead of just putting them under her seat like the rest of the free world. She and the person she was with had spent time tossing their peanut shells onto the seats in front of them. When the ticket holders for those seats arrived, all the peanut shells had to be brushed off the seats. The peanut people were completely oblivious to the fact that they had the social skills of hyenas.
-- The woman sitting behind my daughter who felt she needed to yell at the very top of her lungs to every Dodger who was batting. I’m not talking normal yelling at a game, I’m talking “had a megaphone implanted in her throat”-level yelling. “Let’s go, JT!” “Let’s go, Belli!” Lucikly, I am deaf in my left ear, so it didn’t bother me, but I believe my daughter is not deaf in her right ear.
-- The guy sitting a couple of rows back and to the right who wanted to impress the girl he was with using his vast knowledge of the Dodgers. But he obviously knew nothing about the team. “They got Muncy in the Puig trade.”
People like this really help fill the dead time between pitches. Except for the screamer. She just needs to stay home.
I also noticed a lot more staff on hand than the last game I attended, and more security.
Saturday was also Christian Faith Day at the game, and we stayed afterward to listen to Hillsong United play some music and Dodgers Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Pollock and Colorado player Daniel Murphy offer their testimony as to how God and Jesus have impacted their lives. It was very inspirational, and I highly recommend you go next season if you are into that sort of thing. I’m sure the Dodgers (some of whom don’t like what I write) are shocked to hear a sportswriter believes in God, but it’s true. Some of us do.
NL West standings
A look at the division standings after Monday’s games:
Dodgers, 54-26, ---
Colorado, 41-37, 12 GB
Arizona, 40-40, 14 GB
San Diego, 38-40, 15 GB
San Francisco, 33-44, 19.5 GB
If the season ended Monday, Colorado would play at Milwaukee in the wild-card game, with the winner taking on the Dodgers in one National League Division Series. The other NLDS would be Chicago at Atlanta.
In the AL, Cleveland would play at Tampa Bay in the wild-card game, with the winner taking on Minnesota in one American League Division Series. The other ALDS would feature Houston at New York.
These names seem familiar
Here’s how players who were with the Dodgers last season and earlier this season are doing around the majors this year (through Sunday):
Travis d’Arnaud, Rays, .241/.293/.446, 95 OPS+
Brian Dozier, Nationals, .235/.318/.436, 91 OPS+
Kyle Farmer, Reds, .242/.281/.463, 90 OPS+
Logan Forsythe, Rangers, .275/.384/.427, 110 OPS+
Yasmani Grandal, Brewers, .274/.384/.544, 136 OPS+
Daniel Hudson, Blue Jays, 3-2, 2.94 ERA, 1 save
Tim Locastro, Diamondbacks, .244/.392/.341, 95 OPS+.
Matt Kemp, Mets, .200/.210/.283, 28 OPS+. Still recovering from broken rib.
Manny Machado, Padres, .278/.354/.493, 126 OPS+
Yasiel Puig, Reds, .240/.286/.461, 88 OPS+
Zac Rosscup, Blue Jays, 2-0, 4.80 ERA. Re-signed with Dodgers on June 12. In minors.
Alex Wood, Reds, on IL with sore back. Out until at least the All-Star break.
Today: Dodgers (Ross Stripling) at Arizona (Robbie Ray*), 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin) at Arizona (Taylor Clarke), 12:30 p.m.
The Dodgers get three straight walk-off homers by rookies. Watch them here.