Zack Greinke isn’t going to Australia, and that’s OK

greinke_2014-02-27

G’day, mate.

When I opined last week that Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should skip the Dodgers’ trip to Australia, I had the scenario playing out differently. I certainly didn’t have Greinke suffering a calf injury on his fourth pitch of his first 2014 spring training appearance that would effectively force out of the game.

But here we are — five days later — and Greinke is only now beginning to play catch. Don Mattingly told reporters after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the A’s that Greinke was not an option to go down under. That’s great. Now, if we can just convince Mattingly to hold back Kershaw — who was roughed up for a second consecutive spring start (no, it isn’t time to panic) — we’ll be sittin’ pretty.

Greinke’s injury is minor enough that it shouldn’t have a bearing on his regular season performance or readiness, especially since he’s staying in the past.

Mattingly said whichever starting pitchers the Dodgers take to Australia, they will be on strict pitch counts (90-100). If the Dodgers take Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren to pitch against Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill, I like their chances. Yes, their chances would improve dramatically if Kershaw were to pitch, but I’m more than confident in Ryu and Haren being able to take at least one game from the Corbin/Cahill duo.

Because of the strict pitch counts, the Dodgers are going to have to bring a long man or two just in case Ryu and/or Haren falter. That man could be Seth Rosin (pronounced Ro-ZEEN, as some have wonder in the comments section), whom Mike wrote about earlier. How good has he been in his first five innings? Eight strikeouts and no runs allowed — doesn’t get much better than that. Eric Stephen at True Blue LA laid out just how Rosin could join the Dodgers in Australia.

“The Dodgers have to submit a 28-man opening day roster to MLB by 7 p.m. PT on Friday, March 21, six hours before their opening game against the Diamondbacks in Australia. Three of the 28 names, which must be designated simultaneously with the roster submission, are ineligible to play in those two games. These will people likely left behind in Arizona to continue to work in minor league games but not on the disabled list, with candidates like Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett, to name two.

This potentially opens up a spot for an extra relief pitcher or two, at least for those two games in Australia. The Dodgers do have to cut down to a normal 25-man roster by March 30, the date of their first game in the U.S., against the Padres in San Diego.”

If only Brandon League weren’t a thing…

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And just for shiggles, since EephusBlue brought it up on Twitter today, here’s a video I shot last year that “features” the Camelback Ranch Lemonade Man in the background of a Yasiel Puig at-bat.

Really hope this guy is still there selling tons of limonada.

Zack Greinke Is Feeling Better, But Ross Stripling Is Not

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Ow, my elbow.

Dodger fans everywhere held their collective breath yesterday after Zack Greinke left his first 2014 Cactus League start with a mild calf strain (poor little cow). They’ve since exhaled. Now, another pitcher is ailing.

Prospect Ross Stripling (No. 6 on my preseason Top 50), will have a contrast MRI today after feeling discomfort in his elbow. He reportedly felt something in his elbow 5-6 days ago and chose not to tell the training staff. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, right.

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From Dodgers Digest Medical Correspondent VND, a contrast MRI differs from a “normal” MRI by “the addition of gadolinium. In this case not injected via IV, rather introduced directly into the articulation (joint).” Additionally, “(It) increases the contrast to help visualize soft tissue structures within the elbow, in this case specifically the ligamentous structures.”

The purpose of the contrast MRI is to provide more information not available in a standard MRI, and to accurately diagnose ligament tears.

From the National Center for Biotechnology Information:

“MR arthrography may extend conventional MR capabilities because contrast solution distends the joint capsule, outlining intra-articular structures such as ligaments, cartilage, and joint capsules and their abnormalities. MR arthrography is also useful to assess the stability of osteochondral lesions in the articular surface and delineating loose bodies.”

No doubt the doctors are looking at his ulnar collateral ligament. If his UCL is torn or damaged beyond natural repair, he’d likely need to undergo Tommy John surgery.

One way or the other, it doesn’t sound good. It’s marginally better than a shoulder injury (ala Taijuan Walker), but it still isn’t good for the 24-year-old righty who figured to make his MLB debut this season (still might, if the MRI doesn’t reveal anything terrible).

Greinke, on the other hand, was seen walking without a limp after being pulled yesterday, which is great news. He could even throw a bullpen session as early as Saturday. I suggested he and Clayton Kershaw should skip the Australia trip. While this minor setback doesn’t ensure that will happen, it helps the case more than it doesn’t — especially since Greinke said yesterday he wants to pitch if he goes down under.

Side note: Don’t backpedal, Zack. Stick to your stance and don’t let the media influence you. And, most importantly, it makes me look smart, which doesn’t happen often.

Matt Kemp‘s ankle MRI results won’t be due back until the weekend. J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News has the details.

“There is no news on Matt Kemp, who was scheduled to undergo an MRI today on his surgically repaired left ankle. Kemp actually had the MRI Thursday, but Mattingly said that team Dr. Neal ElAttrache would not be relaying the results until ‘sometime this weekend.’

Kemp took the field with teammates as usual for stretches but still hasn’t been cleared to run. The team is in no rush to have Kemp on the field for the season-opening series in Sydney, Australia on March 22-23. The 29-year-old outfielder figures to begin the season on the disabled list regardless of the MRI results.”

Non-injury related: Drew Butera is the designated hitter today, which is terribly ironic.

Zack Greinke Really Doesn’t Want To Go To Australia, Probably

This is Zack Greinke this afternoon to Cliff Pennington:

See that hop there? That’s what is being termed a “right calf strain,” one that ended his day for “precautionary reasons” because later being termed “mild.” You’ll remember that Greinke dealt with right elbow soreness that blew up his spring training last season — before he was actually blown up by Carlos Quentin — so this is likely much ado about nothing. If you’re into conspiracy theories, this is a pretty good way to get off a plane to the other side of the world, though of course while we joke, it’s ludicrous to take that seriously.

Chris Withrow followed, and the Dodgers are already into Red Patterson before the end of the second. Spring games are just the best.

A case for Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke skipping the Dodgers’ Australia trip

It’s assumed by everyone Clayton Kershaw will start the first game of the season. He’s the ace, he pitches the first game — not unlike the second baseman batting second in Don Mattingly‘s lineups.

But, it might actually make sense to hold Kershaw back from starting the first “official” game of the season in Australia.

It’s still February, and the Dodgers have already expressed concern about Kershaw’s 2014 workload — they want him to be as fresh as possible for the postseason. If Kershaw were to start three of the first six games of the season (the schedule allows for that), the Dodgers wouldn’t be doing that.

Teams should want their best pitcher throwing as much as possible, but there is something to be said for big workloads these days. Kershaw has averaged 225 innings in the last four years, including an career-most 236 in 2013 (259, if you count his 23 postseason innings). While he was nails against the Braves in the National League Division Series and in the first game against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, Kershaw looked tired in Game 6, and the results showed as much.

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I first heard David Vassegh mention this possibility on Dodger Talk last week. While I don’t agree with a lot of comments and opinions on the show, this one actually makes some sense.

Hitters are always ahead of pitchers in spring training. All these guys are used to a full month of games before breaking camp. The Dodgers (and Diamondbacks) have the shortest camps this year because of the opener down under. The Dodgers begin games today, and their final game in Glendale is March 16 (I’ll be there!). They come back after the trip and have the Freeway Series on March 27-29, with their first real stateside game March 30 against the Padres on Sunday Night Baseball.

Kershaw is entering his age-26 season and just signed a mega deal. The last thing the Dodgers need is have him pitch meaningful games before he’s ready. That could be said about all their pitchers, but with the investment they made in Kershaw, it’s much more magnified. Skipping the Australia trip is more about his being ready for 32-33 starts from April through September, and hopefully 5-6 starts in October.

If Kershaw does remain in Glendale, he can get plenty of work in on the back fields. While he wouldn’t be facing major leaguers (or future major leaguers), it’d be true game action, and would help him get his arm where it needs to be.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine. Kershaw has a specific routine, and throwing a regular season game in Australia in March probably isn’t part of it.

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Zack Greinke about there being “zero excitement” for the trip, seeing as he’d be probably be slated to start the game that was reserved for Kershaw.

Greinke caught some flak for that comment, but I see nothing wrong with it. Greinke is one of the most honest athletes in sports today, and that’s rather refreshing. It’s better than a standard or canned, “We look forward to playing in Australia to open the 2014 season.”

So, if Kershaw is out, who goes to Australia? Greinke — despite his comments — would have to go. I mean, the Dodgers couldn’t conceivably refuse to throw Kershaw and Greinke in the first two meaningful games of the season… right?

Hyun-Jin Ryu would be one of the starters for sure. He’s one of the international faces of the club, and what better way to promote the Dodgers by sending a Korean pitcher to Australia?

Since the Dodgers don’t need a fifth starter much in April, even if they don’t throw Kershaw as much as they can, perhaps Ryu and Dan Haren could get the first two starts, with Josh Beckett (the leader for the No. 5 rotation spot) ready to spell Haren for a start in April. Remember, Haren spent time on the disabled list last season because he was tired, not because he was hurt. Limiting Haren’s workload might be a little more important than limiting Kershaw’s at this point (but only a little).

If Greinke isn’t excited (at all) for the trip, then maybe it makes more sense to hold him back as well. He and Kershaw give the Dodgers the best 1-2 combination in baseball. If the team sends Ryu and Haren — and the team loses both games — is it really the end of the world? I know, I know, games in April (well, March, in this case) mean just as much as games in September. However, the Dodgers returning home 0-2 isn’t devastating. Sure, it’d suck, but there is far too much talent and veteran presents on this team to let an 0-2 rattle it.

Oh, and Ryu and Haren are good pitchers. There’s every chance the Dodgers come back 2-0, despite sending their No. 3 and 4 starters. Then, all the hand-wringing about not sending Kershaw and Greinke will have been for naught.

It’s almost like playing with house money. Send Ryu and Haren to face off against Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill or whomever the Diamondbacks are sending to Australia — I like the Dodgers’ chances in those match-ups.

There’s a real possibility Kershaw doesn’t go, and Greinke probably shouldn’t go. I don’t see the scenario playing out like this, but it’s something that should at least be considered by Mattingly and Co.

Pitcher Hitting – The Dodgers’ Secret Weapon?

The Dodgers’ current starting rotation is shaping up to be one of the strongest in the league. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, and Josh Beckett is a combination that most teams in the league envy for their pitching ability. The Dodgers’ projected rotation has a hidden talent, though: they can hit. I’m not talking about sacrifice bunting, either. That’s boring. When compared to other pitchers, they can do more than that.

The graph below shows each of the projected starting five in terms of wRC+ (minimum 35 plate appearances) by season. The average wRC+ for a position player is 100, and the average wRC+ for NL pitchers is the light blue line.   Pitcher_Hitting_Chart

The graph shows that all of the Dodgers’ starting five is consistently better than the average pitcher with the bat. Let’s break this down pitcher-by-pitcher:

Clayton Kershaw

Best season: 2013. 92 PA, .182/.241/.260, 42 wRC+, 0.6 oWAR

Career: 424 PA, .154/.192/.175, -3 wRC+, 0.8 oWAR

Best moment: 4-1-13 Opening Day HR


GIF Link

An easy choice. We’re not going to forget this moment for a long time.

Conclusion: Kershaw struggled with the bat during his first three years in the majors, hitting just .076/.103/.076 in his first 171 plate appearances. However, he’s improved his hitting line to .204/.247/.238 in his last 253 plate appearances. He’s been consistently competent with the bat over the last three seasons, and there is no reason to think that this won’t continue in 2014.

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