Category Archives: Injuries

Matt Kemp has a setback, Sue Falsone leaves Dodgers

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So we learned today that Matt Kemp is going to have surgery on his left ankle, which means that the prognosis for him being fully recovered from this injury has moved from the start of spring training to “he is expected to be competitive in time for the regular season,” as it was worded in the email the Dodgers sent out to media. That may not sound like a significant setback, but it’s a difference of a few weeks. I’m told all it really means is that he may be on some form of restrictive activity during the early stages of spring training, so it doesn’t sound like any kind of major setback. But in theory, it could affect what the Dodgers do over the winter. We all pretty much expected them to try to trade one of their four outfielders so as to, you know, relieve that alleged logjam that existed for all of TWO games this year. Now, the Dodgers might opt to hold onto all four because even if Kemp is expected to be “competitive” by opening day, there is no guarantee that he will be.

By the way, here is the video I posted shortly after the final game of the regular season, when Dr. Neal ElAttrache seemed to indicate it was unlikely Kemp would need surgery on the ankle. It also is worth mentioning that Kemp now has done five stints on the DL in the past two seasons with four different injuries, and that doesn’t even count this late-season setback with his ankle, when he was never officially placed on the DL.

On another note, remember two years ago, when the Dodgers made Sue Falsone the first female head trainer for a team in a major American professional sport? Well, I received confirmation she officially stepped down today, that the decision was completely hers and that it had nothing to do with the crazy number of injuries the Dodgers suffered this year. It also is confirmed that Stephen Downey, who was in his second season as strength and conditioning coach, won’t be retained as part of the major league staff. Downey could return somewhere within the organization. He spent five seasons as strength coach for Dodgers minor league affiliates, including at high Single-A in 2007-08 and at Triple-A Albuquerque from 2009-11.

One other thing, regarding the strange comments of Don Mattingly from earlier today: it seems the national media has a much different take on this from the Los Angeles media, which is mostly bewildered by the whole thing (your humble correspondent included). Nationally, Mattingly is being hailed for having the fortitude to stand up for himself. Here is a great column by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

Ramirez grits and guts his way to an image makeover

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The rehabilitation of Hanley Ramirez‘s public image, a long, gradual, methodical process that began around the time the Miami Marlins traded him to the Dodgers last summer, may have been officially completed tonight. Any last remnants of the perception of this guy as a petulant, selfish superstar-in-waiting finally disappeared, displaced forever by the profile of a true gamer, a gritty warrior who pushed himself onto the field for a National League Championship Series game his team simply couldn’t afford to lose, a guy whose long list of on-going ailments now includes a hairline fracture to one of his ribs. He even added a couple of hits to boot.

This is the new Hanley. The one without whom the Dodgers probably couldn’t have gotten very far in this postseason.

There is a plethora of reasons why the Dodgers won tonight, cutting the St. Louis Cardinals’ lead in this best-of-seven series to 2-1. There were the seven shutout innings by Hyun-jin Ryu, the big hits by Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez and the suddenly awakened Yasiel Puig, the dominating late-inning performances of relievers Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen.

But the inspirational star of this game was Ramirez, and it wasn’t so much because of that insurance run he drove in during the bottom of the eighth inning. That was just a well-placed pop-up that happened to find grass at a time when the right, fleet-footed teammate happened to be running off second base.

No, this was more about the symbolic nature of Ramirez’s mere presence at shortstop when the Dodgers starters jogged out to their respective positions to begin the game. Ramirez already had a sore throwing shoulder, an irritated nerve in his lower back and pain in his hamstring resulting from the back thing. And since he stepped into the batter’s box for the first time in this, his first career NLCS, when he was plunked in the left side by the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly, Ramirez has had a broken rib, something he didn’t find out about until earlier today when he underwent a CT scan.

By all accounts, since acquiring Ramirez on July 25, 2012, the Dodgers have experienced none of the behavior for which Ramirez, rightly or wrongly, gained a reputation during his Marlins days. Since arriving here, there is nothing to suggest he ever has been anything other than a good teammate and a dedicated soldier, a guy who has been willing to play through pain and do whatever has been asked of him. But reputations can be a hard thing to shake, especially when your standard workday includes being followed around by media members who like to shade their stories with background and perspective, and so the questions still are routinely asked of manager Don Mattingly and the front office about what Ramirez has been like to have around.

Those questions might come a little less often now.

Ramirez went 2-for-4 at the plate, but neither one of those hits was hit particularly hard — they both were just kind of bloopers over the head of whichever Cardinals second baseman was in the game at the time, Matt Carpenter on the first one, Kolten Wong on the later one — nor was the routine fly ball he hit to right field in the fourth. He did turn on an inside pitch in the sixth and hit a smash down the third-base line, but the Cardinals’ Daniel Descalso, who was in the game only because David Freese had left with calf tightness, lunged to his right to pick it off and, with his momentum carrying him into foul territory, fired across his body to nab Ramirez, robbing him of what might have been a double.

Ramirez also flawlessly handled the only ground ball hit to him all night, as well as taking a throw from first baseman Adrian Gonzalez at second and throwing it right back on a doubleplay attempt that Descalso barely beat out in the seventh inning.

Ultimately, though, none of that is what anyone will remember about what Ramirez delivered for the Dodgers tonight. For a guy who was in so much pain 48 hours ago that he could barely move, just the fact Ramirez managed to be in the starting lineup and get through eight innings before being doubleswitched out of the game in the ninth, that was how Ramirez left his mark on a game that could prove to be a turning point in a series that suddenly is a long way from being decided.

Ramirez wasn’t alone in his heroics. Andre Ethier, who was in the starting lineup for the first time in a month for Game 1 then missed Game 2 when he experienced increased soreness in his left leg after playing all 13 innings (minus one batter) of the opener, was back. He played the entire game, without incident, and figures to be in there again for Game 4, as does Ramirez.

Whether the Dodgers win or lose this series, Ramirez’s gallantry tonight will fade from the memories of the national media and the general public, lost in the numerous memorable moments still to come in this postseason. But the Dodgers, they won’t soon forget it. Because suddenly, and perhaps against all expectations, they had their most important offensive player back on the field tonight, warts and all.

And just as suddenly, we now have a truly compelling NLCS on our hands.

Hanley Ramirez scratched from Game 2 lineup

Don Mattingly hinted earlier that this could happen. Said if it did happen, it would be entirely due to rib-cage soreness after he was hit last night, not because of any of the myriad other aches and pains Hanley Ramirez has been battling all season. Here is the new lineup.

Crawford LF
M Ellis 2B
Gonzalez 1B
Puig RF
Uribe 3B
Schumaker CF
A Ellis C
Punto SS
Kershaw P

Updates on Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez

Andre Ethier underwent precautionary X-rays here at Busch Stadium last night, but he’s mostly just sore, which is why he isn’t in the lineup today. Don Mattingly said he is a possibility to come off the bench today and that there is every indication he return to the starting lineup for Game 3 on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

“That was a worst-case scenario last night, going 13,” Mattingly said. “He doesn’t feel like he went backward at all.”

Hanley Ramirez, meanwhile, is sore from getting plunked in the left rib cage. He is in the lineup for now, but Mattingly left open the possibility that Hanley could be scratched before the game. He would’ve also undergone precautionary X-rays after the game, but the on-site X-ray machine didn’t have the capability of getting the X-rays that were needed, so he would’ve had to go to a local hospital. Mattingly said that if Ramirez gets any more sore than he already is, he probably will have X-rays tomorrow when the team gets back home.

Andre Ethier returns to Dodgers lineup just in time for NLCS

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The decision to insert Andre Ethier back into the Dodgers starting lineup for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series tonight was based on a very simple litmus test: Ethier said he felt he was ready.

The last time we saw Ethier do anything other than pinch hit was on Sept. 13 — exactly four weeks ago tonight — when he aggravated his left-ankle sprain while legging out a double. What has followed has been a methodical rehabilitation process designed to get him back into the everyday lineup soon enough to help the Dodgers through what is arguably their most promising postseason run in recent memory. Manager Don Mattingly said he liked what he saw of Ethier at yesterday’s workout. That coupled with the fact Ethier declared himself good to go made for an easy decision.

Club officials are still keeping their fingers crossed. It’s not just a slam dunk that Ethier is going to be in there every night the rest of the way, and Mattingly hinted he might even be cautious with Ethier to the point of resting him for certain games. But this is a big step forward.

On another Ethier-related note, I was somewhat surprised he was slotted seventh in the order, a spot he didn’t hit in once during the regular season. I really thought Mattingly would move Yasiel Puig back to the two-hole and put Ethier fifth, given that the reason Puig was hitting fifth in the NLDS was because of the power the Dodgers were missing in the middle with both Ethier and Matt Kemp out. But the Dodgers offense clicked so well during that series, perhaps in a way it hadn’t all year — they had 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, and posted a .572 collective slugging percentage, the second-best ever by an N.L. club in a postseason series behind the 1969 Mets.

So apparently, Mattingly didn’t want to disrupt that any more than he had to. And, by putting Ethier near the bottom, it lengthens the lineup and means Cardinals pitchers will have to deal with power threats all the way through.

Encouraging news on Andre Ethier …

The great David Vassegh posted this great audio clip on Twitter just now in which Don Mattingly talks of how he believes Andre Ethier‘s ankle has progressed to the point that he will be able to take on a greater role in the National League Championship Series than he did in the N.L. Division Series — although Mattingly said this BEFORE today’s workout, when Ethier was expected to subject the ankle to further testing. If you listen to this clip all the way to the end, it transitions into another Vassegh interview with Ethier himself.

My best advice for Game 5 is …

So I won’t be attending the Dodgers workout at 5 p.m. today, the main reason being that it’s hard to get there from Phoenix, and the other reason being that is the start time for Game 5 of the other National League Division Series, and quite honestly, I would much rather watch that than watch the Dodgers take batting practice for the 5,000th time this season. I’m guessing many of you feel the same way, that you’re going to be glued to the television for much of the twilight hour tonight to learn the identity of the Dodgers’ next opponent.

A few of you will even take a rooting interest in one team or the other. And I’m guessing there are a handful of you who are confused right now, wondering WHETHER you should take a rooting interest and, if so, which team you should root for.

So I’m here to offer you some advice. Or just some pros and cons, really.

At first glance, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be a better team than the Pittsburgh Pirates. This is borne out by the fact that the Cardinals won the National League Central by a three-game margin over the Pirates. A 162-game season generally tells you who the better team is. A best-of-five series, well, not always. But anyway, we can deduce at this point that the Cardinals are the better team.

And so, in that regard, should Dodgers fans root for the Pirates tonight, the presumption being that because they appear to be the lesser of the two teams, they would present less of a roadblock on the Dodgers’ path to the World Series? And keep in mind also that the Cardinals are a veteran-laden team that has been through these wars about a million times. They’re in the playoffs pretty much every year, or at least that’s what it seems like. The Pirates? Until now, they hadn’t even finished with a winning record since 1992. They are a young team, one that you would assume might get tighter and tighter as the playoffs get deeper and deeper.

Also, the Dodgers would have homefield advantage against the Pirates, which they wouldn’t have against the Cardinals. That fact alone could be enough reason to root for the Pirates.

On the other hand …

If we can assume the Cardinals are the better team, maybe you SHOULD root for them. You remember when the Dodgers last won the World Series in 1988? Do you remember how much of the baseball world kind of scoffed at the whole thing, called it a fluke, pointed out that the Dodgers weren’t even CLOSE to being the best team in baseball that year? Well, many of those people made a convincing case for all that, but there is one thing you have to admit about the ’88 Dodgers — the two teams they beat on the way to that world championship, the New York Mets and Oakland A’s, were LOADED. Monster teams. The Dodgers might not have been the best team, but they didn’t come by that title cheaply. They beat two really, really good teams, and beat one of them, the A’s, soundly.

The Cardinals are a really, really good team, one that might even be favored in a head-to-head NLCS matchup with the Dodgers. If the Dodgers were to win a best-of-seven with the Cardinals, then go on to beat either Boston or Oakland or Detroit in another best-of-seven, they would have vanquished the best of the best in succession.

And also, when you think about National League history, is there any more compelling matchup than Dodgers-Cardinals? Seventeen world championships and 36 pennants between them? And don’t get me wrong, I love a good underdog story as much as anybody, but frankly, when you get to this point in the playoffs, I’d rather see a clash of the titans, and Dodgers-Cardinals would be that in every way.

Now keep in mind, there is no rule that says you have to root for EITHER team. You could just sit back and enjoy the game while waiting to see whom the Dodgers will play. That’s probably the best, least-stressful approach. And given this run the Dodgers have been on, aren’t you ready to watch a game stress-free?

And then, finally, there is this: no matter which rooting interest you choose tonight — Cardinals, Pirates, utter indifference — it will have NO bearing on the outcome, on who plays the Dodgers in the NLCS or on the Dodgers’ odds of actually winning the NLCS and advancing to the World Series.

So don’t worry, be happy. And enjoy Game 5. I’ll be doing something here, but I haven’t decided what yet. Might be a straight game thread, might be just serial blog-posting, we’ll see.

Now, to take care of some other business.

I know there has been some controversy over remarks made by Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers yesterday to a Phoenix radio station questioning why his pitchers didn’t throw at Dodgers hitters in a Sept. 9 game at Dodger Stadium. Honestly, I have listened to this entire interview AND read the news report that was written off that interview — you can do both here — and the only people Towers really is calling out here is his own pitching staff for not protecting teammates. He used that game as an example — referring to the Dodgers “stuffing bananas down their throats,” which, if you recall, was a couple of teammates feeding Juan Uribe a banana in the dugout after one of the three home runs he hit that night — but Towers wasn’t trying to start some war of words with the Dodgers or warn of an impending 2014 beanbrawl war with the Dodgers. It’s completely understandable that the Dodgers and their fan base would interpret these as fightin’ words, but as an impartial observer, I just don’t see that. Maybe I’m missing something.

This showed up in my in-box yesterday from MLB Productions. It’s a video clip of Vin Scully calling Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the Don Larsen perfect game. Have seen this before on MLB Network, but it’s definitely worth another look.

By the way, Matt Kemp went ahead yesterday with the shoulder surgery we knew he was going to need sometime this winter. It was basically just a clean-up, and given that he is unavailable for the rest of the playoffs while his ankle heals, it was a good time to get it done. It carries a six- to eight-week recovery time, so he should be good for spring training. Whether he’ll continue to travel with the team during these playoffs, I honestly don’t know, but I’ll find out in the next couple of days.

And finally, the Dodgers, in response to parking issues they ran into at the NLDS in which several cars had to be turned away due to the lot being filled to capacity, are offering free general parking for the rest of the postseason for carpools of four persons or more.

Cross their hearts and pinky swear, Hyun-Jin Ryu is fine, just fine

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Here is his entire, postgame interview-room transcript, so you can see the words for yourself.

The question was asked of Don Mattingly first, but only because he came into the interview room before Hyun-Jin Ryu did. Here is Mattingly’s answer:

“It seemed like he had trouble getting settled in, and tonight was one of those nights. Usually with him, there is more swing and miss, and there was really no swing and miss tonight. His velocity was OK. It seemed like he touched 93 (mph), and we have seen him starting out at 90-91, which is pretty normal for him. He just didn’t seem to have that same finish and be able to locate. So you know, it was just one of those rough nights. … It just seemed like he was a little out of sorts tonight. Just got going a little too fast. … He was fine (physically). There were no restrictions on him tonight. … If there had been anything physically wrong, we wouldn’t have let him pitch today.”

And then, there was a follow-up from one of the Korean reporters, asking if Ryu will be given another chance to pitch in this postseason.

“We hope,” Mattingly said. “You know, if we can win, put another win on the board, he gets another opportunity. We don’t turn our back on guys that have had great seasons for us after one game. So yeah, he is part of what we do.”

And then a little while later, Ryu himself came into the interview room and answered questions through an interpreter. He was extremely contrite about the two botched defensive plays on back-to-back hitters in that third inning. But when asked about his physical well-being, he was just as insistent as his manager that there is nothing wrong.

“There was absolutely no injury whatsoever,” he said. “Of course, there was anxiety, and I was a little bit nervous taking the mound. … I was fully confident that my body was fine. I know myself better than anyone else. It doesn’t matter what people say. I’m not hurt, so it wasn’t a distraction at all.”

Well OK, then.

By the way, you will notice that the postgame video that I normally post wasn’t posted tonight. That was because I was told by a Major League Baseball official that I wasn’t allowed to videotape anything from the interview room. I went to the clubhouse and got a little bit from Chris Capuano, which I will post, but most of the guys who really played a significant part in the outcome of tonight’s game were brought to the interview room.

I don’t think this is going to be a problem beyond tonight. I have known this particular MLB official for years and always have had a good working relationship with her. I asked her later to clarify exactly which rule prohibits me from shooting and posting video from the interview room, and she was perfectly conciliatory, said she would check and get back to me tomorrow and that it might be perfectly OK for me to do it, she just wants to be certain. So just bear with me on this, and hopefully things will be back to normal by tomorrow.

And if the Dodgers wrap up the series tomorrow, I’ll try to get video of the clubhouse celebration just as I did when they clinched the division two weeks ago.

Finally, just as I guessed it would, the whole Clayton Kershaw-or-Ricky Nolasco thing became a moot point when the Dodgers took care of business tonight.

“The biggest thing was getting the win today,” Mattingly said. “That has kind of been the plan the whole time, is kind of to win every day. I would like to be able to close us out tomorrow. I didn’t know there was a debate (about Kershaw vs. Nolasco for Game 4), really. Lot of questions, right? You never know what happens. Twists and turns of this game.”

I’ll have another, longer post on Hanley Ramirez coming up shortly. Oh, and the Capuano video.

The next step for Ethier: he can run the bases “station to station”

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That is what manager Don Mattingly said in his media session today — I’ll post the video in a few minutes — that Andre Ethier has reached a point in his recovery from a severe left-ankle injury that if he were to pinch hit and reach base, Mattingly now would feel comfortable letting him stay in to run the bases if it was a “station-to-station” situation where Ethier wasn’t likely to be asked to make turns on the bases at full speed. Now, I don’t know much about this game, but it would seem to me that it’s pretty difficult, if not utterly impossible, to predict whether a guy is likely to run the bases only in a straight line, as he would going from one base to the next base and then stopping, or turning corners, as he would if he were going, say, first to third or second to home or first to home. But I guess they know what they’re doing.

As far as any chance of getting Ethier back in the starting lineup during this round of the playoffs, that doesn’t appear likely at this point.

“I haven’t really counted on that,” Mattingly said. “It’s getting better and better, but I really just resigned myself to the fact that this is a guy off the bench.”

Ethier not ready for CF, says he’s ready for anything else

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Andre Ethier confirmed after the Dodgers workout at Turner Field what we pretty much already knew, that he won’t be in the starting lineup tomorrow. What he said that we DIDN’T already know was that the lineup already has been set — but don’t get excited, a team official told me it isn’t going to be released. The NLDS roster MAY be released tonight, this person said, but then again, it may not. Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be submitted until 10 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow.

Anyway, back to Ethier.

“I’m prepared for whatever capacity they want me for,” he said. “If it’s pinch hitting, I’m ready for that. We have to be ready to do whatever we can do to win.”

So deduce from that what you will, but it sounds to me like Andre will be on the roster, and that isn’t exactly a surprise. There is always the possibility he could be well enough to play center field at some point during this series, he is perfectly fine hitting now, and his ankle continues to improve every day.

“It’s just not as fast as we want,” he said. “It’s not getting any more sore, and it’s not setting me back at all. This was a good day. That is what we’re happy about after today’s workout.”