Dodgers Dugout: Andrew Toles; rotation is set; Matt Beaty to Padres

Los Angeles Dodgers' Andrew Toles
Andrew Toles in 2016
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I couldn’t believe it when I heard about Dodgers catcher Will Smith storming the stage at the Oscars and slapping ...

Wait, I’m being told it was a different Will Smith. Never mind.

A lot has happened since the last newsletter. Contract extensions, a trade, a key free-agent signing by the Cardinals.

But, with the world being what it is, let’s start with some really good news, something to remember to put on the good side of the Dodgers’ ledger.

The Dodgers renewed Andrew Toles’ contract. Toles hasn’t played for the team, or for anyone, since 2018, when he had a mental health crisis.

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In 2020, Toles was arrested after he was discovered sleeping behind a building at Key West International Airport in Florida. He was homeless and taken to a mental health facility. The last official update we have on Toles is that his dad, Alvin, was taking care of him.

“We are having challenges,” Alvin said in June. “But nothing that God and I can’t handle. Schizophrenia, it’s just so tough. I mean, he can’t even watch TV. He hears voices and the TV at the same time, so it’s kind of confusing. I’ve seen him looking at some baseball games on his laptop, but I don’t think he really understands what’s going on. I just want him to have a chance in life. That’s all. Just to be healthy, live a normal life.”

The Dodgers renewed his contract so Toles could continue to have health insurance and can be paid while he hopefully gets his life under control. It’s a tremendous thing the Dodgers are doing, and it’s not like they send out a big news release that touts how great they are to do this. They just quietly renew his contract.

I still hope for the day that Toles can throw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium so fans can show him, and others who struggle with mental illness, how much they support him.


Dave Roberts’ contract is extended

The Dodgers and Dave Roberts agreed to a contract extension that will keep him managing the Dodgers through the 2025 season.

“I knew it was going to get done,” Roberts said. “I was hopeful. It wasn’t a priority for me individually. I think that us, as an organization, to focus on the players, and then obviously with what happened with Freddie [Freeman] … I completely understood and agreed with. But to get it done before the season, I think, it’s exciting for me and my family.”

Roberts has managed the Dodgers for six seasons, guiding them to a World Series title, three NL pennants and five division titles. It is clearly the right decision to bring him back. Yes, he has made some head-scratching pitching decisions at times, and has been criticized for it, but if you look at the overall picture, well, who would you replace him with? There are no better candidates. And don’t say Mike Scioscia, because Scioscia wouldn’t work too well under the current Dodgers philosophy of manager collaboration with the front office.

Most wins as a Dodgers manager

Walter Alston, 2,040
Tommy Lasorda, 1,599
Wilbert Robinson, 1,375
Leo Durocher, 738
Dave Roberts, 542
Ned Hanlon, 511
Don Mattingly, 446

Winning percentage (min. four seasons)

Dave Roberts, .622
Burt Shotton, .603
Leo Durocher, .566
Walter Alston, .558
Don Mattingly, .551
Jim Tracy, .527

World Series titles

Walter Alston, 4
Tommy Lasorda, 2
Dave Roberts, 1
Everyone else tied with 0

Of course, the biggest Roberts news might not be his extension, it might be that he guaranteed the Dodgers would win the World Series this year.

The following exchange happened on “The Dan Patrick Show”:

Patrick: “The Dodgers will win the World Series if …”

Roberts: “We play a full season and there is a postseason.”

Patrick: “Wait …”

Roberts: “We are winning the World Series in 2022. But I know where you’re going with that. We are winning the World Series this year. Put it on record.”

The baseball gods usually mock people who do things like this, but it was a great thing to say. Remember Pat Riley, after the Lakers won the NBA title in 1987, guaranteed the Lakers would win the title again next year. And they did.

Here’s the 2022 rotation

At least for the first couple of weeks, the Dodgers rotation will be Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Andrew Heaney and Tony Gonsolin.

Buehler will get the opening day start, officially taking the baton from Kershaw as the staff ace. Kershaw has started on opening day nine times, the most for a pitcher in Dodgers history. This will be Buehler’s first opening day start.

The big question here is Heaney, who had a horrible 5.83 ERA last season for the Angels and Yankees. The Dodgers gave him a one-year, $8.5-million deal and felt they could make a couple of tweaks and return him to the average pitcher he once was (career ERA+ before last season: 95).

What has happened so far is a spring training era of 16.88, giving up 10 runs and 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Which is not ideal for your fourth starter. Well, unless the Dodgers can score 17 runs every time Heaney starts.

Heaney is working on those tweaks, but wasn’t able to speak to Dodgers coaches during the long lockout, setting him back.

“If it weren’t for the lockout, with the shortened spring, you’d have more opportunity to work with the player, to kind of work through some things,” Roberts said. “We got him early, gave him some kind of runway of what we wanted to do, but you just don’t know until you get him here. That’s the cost of the lockout and the shortened camp.”

Let’s hope for a quick learning curve.

Farewell Tío Albert and Matt Beaty

Two popular Dodgers will be playing elsewhere next season.

Albert Pujols, who rejuvenated his career with the Dodgers last season after the Angels released him, signed a one-year, $2.5-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals and announced that this would be his final season. Pujols’ best seasons were with the Cardinals, and he is reunited with the organization and longtime friend Yadier Molina, who is also retiring after this season, meaning they both will go into the Hall of Fame together five years from now.

Matt Beaty was designated for assignment last week, then traded to the San Diego Padres for minor league infielder/pitcher River Ryan. There was no real path for Beaty to get much playing time for the Dodgers, as he is subpar defensively, and with Freeman locking down first base, didn’t figure to get many, if any, starts there. He should get a lot more playing time with San Diego and is just the kind of player who usually comes back to play well against the Dodgers. Once Jake Lamb started playing well in spring and Hanser Alberto was signed, there was not much of a role left in L.A. for Beaty.

Ryan, 23, was an 11th-round pick out UNC Pembroke last year. He played 12 games with the Padres’ Rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona Complex League and batted .308/.349/.436 in 43 plate appearances. He was a reliever in college, finishing with a 2.32 ERA there.

This season’s “these names look familiar” will be pretty interesting as we follow how Pujols, Beaty and Kenley Jansen, among others, are doing.

And then there’s Cody

Cody Bellinger had one of the worst seasons in Dodgers history last year, hitting .165/.240/.302 as the Dodgers’ bad bench and injuries to AJ Pollock and Mookie Betts kept him in the lineup. However, he rebounded in the postseason, shortening his swing and hitting .353 with a homer and seven RBIs. The hope was that he couldn’t possibly be as bad as last season. And, if spring training is indication, he’s not. He’s worse.

Through Sunday, Bellinger is three for 22 with no extra-base hits and 15 strikeouts. He has drawn a walk, so he’s got that going for him.

And why? Well, once again, Bellinger has tinkered with his swing. But he promises he is close to figuring it all out.

“Believe it or not, I’m actually feeling a lot better than the results are saying,” Bellinger said Sunday. “That’s real. That’s what spring training is about, obviously. You don’t want to do what I’m doing, but I feel better than what the stat sheets are showing.”

Well, I hope he feels better than what the stats show, because if he felt worse, he’d be in a hospital.

Bellinger will begin the season as the starting center fielder. If he continues to slump, how much runway will he get before the Dodgers decide to do something else? Unknown. But if it’s June 1, Bellinger is hitting .165 and is still playing every day, that’s a problem.

Bauer poll

You were asked “Do you think Trevor Bauer should pitch again for the Dodgers?” Here are the results, after 23,112 votes:

No, 58.9%
Yes, 41.1%

Stories you might have missed

Dodgers starters building up faster than expected, even after lockout delay

Back to where it all started: Albert Pujols agrees to one-year Cardinals deal

Cody Bellinger slumping again as he searches to rediscover his swing and MVP form

Clayton Kershaw is tinkering with a changeup again. Is this the year he sticks with it?

Trevor Bauer’s accuser asks court to void subpoena, end his ‘witch hunt’

Eight years in, how much longer does Andrew Friedman want to run the Dodgers?

Walker Buehler is chosen Dodgers’ opening day starter for first time in his career

After ‘crash course’ in the outfield, Dodgers’ Gavin Lux preparing for utility role

And finally

Highlights from the Dodgers career of Albert Pujols. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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