With all eyes focused on London the next couple of weeks, the Dodgers have a chance to quietly make believers out of the doubters or worse, go quietly into the night.
Their time for a big push is now. The Dodgers open a three game weekend series at the home of the first place Giants Friday night. That will be followed by a return to Dodger Stadium for a nine game homestand against three sub-.500 teams, the D-backs, Cubs, and Rockies. The Dodgers currently find themselves three games behind the Giants and two games out of the second wild-card spot. The schedule gives them an opportunity to either take over the division lead or “leapfrog” the other three teams ahead of them for the newly added post season slot.
Some Dodgers fans felt starting pitcher Chris Capuano got a raw deal when the All-Star team was announced. Capuano was 9-4 with a 2.69 ERA when July 1st rolled around. But it was his teammate, Clayton Kershaw, who got the nod in spite of having three less wins than Capuano and an ERA only 0.04 better(2.65 versus Capuano’s 2.69).
Capuano didn’t say anything since he is probably just happy to be back in baseball after elbow surgery cost him the ’08 and ’09 seasons. It wasn’t until 2011 that he was able to regain his form as a starting pitcher. The Dodgers knew his health was fragile when they signed him to a 2 year, $10 million deal this winter. So far, at at least, he has paid off quite handsomely. But his “comeback” story may have had a page left unintentionally blank.
Capuano is 1-3 in his last four starts and has given up 18 runs, 14 earned, in his last 23 innings. What doesn’t bode well is that manager Don Mattingly recently “promoted” Capuano to the number two starter spot in an effort to get him as many starts as possible during the dog days of summer. No one has mentioned the “I” word (injury) but if his fall off continues some may start to question if his physical health is still 100%.
More Trade Talk
This week, the Dodgers obtained the prone-to-explode-anytime infielder Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins, along with the $38 million in salary he still has coming to him. That huge commitment certainly hasn’t slowed down the trade gossip in Los Angeles.
The word is the Dodgers are talking to the Twins about their first baseman, Justin Morneau. Morneau, 31, helped lead the Twins to the Central Division title in 2006 when he hit 34 home runs and drove in 130 runs. He won the MVP award and was an All-Star the next four seasons. Morneau was on his way to another MVP-like season in 2010 until he suffered a concussion in early July that sidelined him the rest of the season. He came back to start the 2011 season but a series of injuries, including another concussion, limited him to just 69 games.
This season, Morneau is batting .253 with 11 home runs. There is talk he is still suffering lingering side effects from the concussions. In order to perhaps “protect” him, the Twins have made Morneau their DH about 25% of the time this year. If the Dodgers were to get him, that would likely mean Dodgers first baseman James Loney’s days are numbered. Loney is batting .251 with just two home runs and becomes a free agent at the end of the season. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Loney is part of any deal the Dodgers and Twins may be discussing.
The Dodgers are also, reportedly, still hoping the Cubs decide to move starting pitcher Ryan Dempster. Dempster says that even though he vetoed a trade to the Braves, he would be willing to join the Dodgers. There are also stories brewing that the Cubs are attempting to throw outfielder Alfonso Soriano and his $18 million dollar a year contract into the Dodgers deal for Dempster. Soriano’s glove in left field is considered a liability by some but the Dodgers have had a gaping hole at that position since Manny Ramirez was sent off to the White Sox in 2010. Soriano has 19 home runs and a .274 batting average.
Finally, the Dodgers are also looking at Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields. Shields, 30, is from Newhall, California, a suburb less than an hour north of Dodger Stadium. He is currently 8-7 with a 4.52 ERA. The Angels are also in the mix since they are caught in a tug-of-war with the Texas Rangers to obtain Zack Greinke. Shields may become their target if the Rangers land Greinke.