Dodgers Still High on Gordon Despite Demotion

In 2008, Clayton Kershaw was brought up to the majors on May 25, made eight starts, compiled a 4.42 ERA and walked 24 in 38 2/3 innings. Then 20 years old, Kershaw spent three weeks in the minors, then returned to the majors for the rest of the season, making 13 more starts, compiling a 4.24 ERA and walking 27 in 68 innings.

The Dodgers hope a midseason demotion, after an earlier-than-expected promotion, will have the same impact on rookie shortstop Dee Gordon.

"He may be reminiscent of Kershaw, who came up a little bit early, pitched for a while, went back down to catch his breath, then came back and did great," general manager Ned Colletti said Monday before the Dodgers lost 5-2 to the Mets to fall a season-high 12 games under .500.

"The speed is obvious to everybody. He's got a real good feel for the game. He was able to slow it down more times than not. The first time somebody gets called up, you don't know how they will react. He's got a great mind. He's got the desire to really become a great player."

In fact, it was about 10 days ago, during a routine batting practice conversation at Dodger Stadium, when Gordon told manager Don Mattingly, "I want to be the best."

"You see the ability -- everybody sees the ability on the prospect lists and everything like that," Mattingly said. "To me, I see a swing that's gonna work, range, a ton of ability, but the biggest thing you see is that he wants to be really good."

Mattingly reiterated that Gordon will be seen again in the majors before this year is over. At the latest, that would be in September when rosters expand. Considering the injury history of Rafael Furcal, it could be sooner. A trade of Furcal before the July 31 deadline isn't out of the question either.

Gordon was disappointed about the demotion to Class AAA Albuquerque, but considering the number of questions he answered about the possibility over the weekend, it's not as if it surprised him.

"It's fine because I'm a player," Gordon said. "I'm not worried about it because I'm just going to play and make myself a better player. I'm just going to work hard enough so that the next time I come, I won't have to go back down."

Gordon hit .232/.250/.280 with no homers, four RBI and eight steals in 22 big-league games.

Eugenio Velez, who was hitting .339/.371/.463 in the Pacific Coast League, was promoted to take Gordon's place. Velez can play the infield or outfield, which is important because Marcus Thames hasn't been able to play the outfield for the last week due to a strained left calf.

Thames, in fact, is one of three players who could take some grounders at first base this week. The Dodgers need a backup first baseman for James Loney now that Casey Blake is on the disabled list. The other candidates are Juan Uribe and Andre Ethier.

Blake goes to DL as Furcal returns
The look on Casey Blake's face during Saturday's game was somebody who clearly didn't feel right. Blake didn't like going nearly two weeks without starting much, knew the team needed him, so decided to "sink or swim" with the pinched nerve in his neck.

Head athletic trainer Stan Conte told him during the game, "let's give you a standing-eight count" and removed him after seven innings. Blake didn't want to go on the disabled list for a third time this year, but when he was told Rafael Furcal was returning Sunday, he agreed to be sidelined.

Ivan De Jesus Jr. was pulled after three at-bats in Class AAA Albuquerque's game Sunday. It's likely he gets called up to replace Gordon. Apparently, the Dodgers don't want Gordon sitting on the bench in the majors, but don't mind the fellow rookie De Jesus doing it.

Gordon remains the shortstop of the future, but Furcal is the shortstop of the present. Furcal went 1-for-4 with a stolen base and run scored in the Dodgers' 3-1 loss to the Angels on Sunday night.

"Obviously, we don't want Dee to be here and not play," manager Don Mattingly said. "I know Dee has come up with a splash, and everybody is excited about Dee. But when Fookie really gets rolling, that is really when our team plays its best baseball. Raffy is our shortstop. Dee is a player who is going to get better and who is a big part of the future of the organization."

The question is, when does the future merge with the present?

Considering Furcal's injury-plagued tenure with the Dodgers, it could be a day, a week or a month until he goes down with another injury.

The other consideration, which the Dodgers don't want to admit publicly, is showcasing to contending teams over the next month what a healthy and productive Furcal can do for their lineup. Trading Furcal, who will be a free agent when the year ends, would open a spot for Gordon on the roster again.

Some of the teams who could use an upgrade at shortstop are the Brewers, Reds, Mariners, Nationals, Rays and the Giants.

Yes, the Giants. They need a shortstop more than any team in baseball. The Giants traded pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney to the Dodgers in 2007 for a minor-leaguer. But the longtime rivals haven't made a significant trade since Dec. 11, 1985, when the Dodgers sent Candy Maldonado to the Giants for Alex Trevino.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti is obviously very close to Giants GM Brian Sabean, his mentor and former boss. Perhaps they're too close or there's too much history between the storied rivals to make a deal.

Both executives would be so concerned with making sure they get the better of a trade, it's hard to imagine they agree on the players. Even if it was a trade that "helped both teams," it would drive Dodgers fans crazy if Furcal helped deliver the Giants another world championship.

But that's a discussion that can wait for another three weeks. Colletti doesn't want to sell at the trading deadline. He wants to be a buyer. Besides, it all depends on Furcal's ability to stay healthy -- and that's been a struggle the last four years.

Kuroda could be on the move
If Hiroki Kuroda continues pitching this way, the Dodgers will have one of the top starting pitchers available to shop at the trading deadline. How long it takes for them to accept this, or take advantage of this, remains to be seen.

Kuroda won't get the attention -- or the prospects in return -- that CC Sabathia or Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt received in recent years. But in a year without a lot of starting pitchers who can make a difference available for trade, Kuroda might even be the best out there. At least publicly, the Dodgers haven't waived the white flag on the 2011 season.

Trading Kuroda would make sense because he's a free agent when the year ends, this might be his last season in the United States, he's making $12 million this year, and the Dodgers are still 10 games out of first place even after Friday's 5-0 win over the Angels.

Kuroda has a full no-trade clause in his contract. He's indicated that he's willing -- for the right compensation -- to waive that clause to join a contender.

Contenders no doubt liked what they saw Friday night from Kuroda. He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk, while striking out four.

Kuroda no doubt liked finally getting some run support in his last start, a 5-0 win over the Angels. The Dodgers stranded 16 runners on base (the most since 2005), but they scored single runs in the first four innings, then one more in the seventh without a hit, and that was plenty.

In June, the Dodgers scored seven runs in Kuroda's five starts. That meant despite a 2.12 ERA that ranked 11th in the National League, he compiled an 0-4 record. Kuroda came into the start ranked 67th among 71 qualifiers in run support.

The biggest problem with trading Kuroda is the lack of starting pitchers to take his place. Even if the season is probably lost, the Dodgers simply don't have a logical choice to replace Kuroda in the rotation.

Garvey/Hershiser Group 'Oversubscribed?'
Dodger greats Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey are investigating a possible ownership bid for the Dodgers, if the team is ever put up for sale. Several other legendary Dodger figures and celebrities are also part of the still-forming ownership group, though they are not ready to publicly come forward until the team is in fact for sale.

"I think the goal long term is not to stop with myself or Garvey," Hershiser told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I think the goal long term is to convince the people that are alongside us that this is to build Dodger tradition and regain the trust of the fans. And of course any significant Dodger names we would love to reach out to."

Hershiser, an analyst for ESPN who broadcast Sunday night's game, compared the status of his ownership bid to "warm-ups" and noted that "we don't even know if there will be a game, or when it will start." If there is a game, however, he said he's confident the group would have the financing to compete in a bidding process for a franchise that could fetch between $800 million and $1 billion.

"I would say that we've got a chance to be over-subscribed," Hershiser said, when asked about the financial weight behind his and Garvey's venture. "It would be unbelievable to have enough people involved with the idea and the concept, that people would come alongside and there would be more money than you would need. I don't see that as being an unrealistic goal."

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Rubby De La Rosa retired the first 11 batters he faced, walked Mets RF Carlos Beltran with two outs in the fourth, then retired four more in a row before SS Ruben Tejada broke up the no-hit bid with a clean single to left to start the sixth. CF Angel Pagan, Beltran and 1B Daniel Murphy all hit RBI doubles in the sixth to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. De La Rosa pitched a scoreless seventh, finishing with five strikeouts and one walk.

--CF Matt Kemp hadn't heard from Prince Fielder, who's the captain of the National League home-run hitting team, about possibly participating in the All-Star Workout Showcase. If asked, Kemp would be very excited and isn't worried about the competition messing up his swing. Kemp was selected for his first All-Star game Sunday, overtaking St. Louis' Matt Holliday in the fan vote late to claim the final starting outfield spot.

"They did a good job voting and getting me in there," Kemp told reporters. "It's pretty overwhelming. It hasn't sunk in. I'm really excited. I've got to wear my GQ. I've got some suits ready to bust out.

I've been waiting for this." --LHP Clayton Kershaw felt getting selected by his peers into the All-Star Game made it more special. Kershaw will start against the Mets on Thursday, so he'd be working on four days rest in the Midsummer Classic and is hopeful of getting to throw at least an inning. He wouldn't list any specific names, but he's hoping to face a few of the left-handed power hitters on the American League roster.

--SS Rafael Furcal was activated from the disabled list Sunday and started, batting second. Furcal, who had been out with a strained left oblique, went 1-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored.

--LHP Ted Lilly was pushed back one day and will start Tuesday, instead of Monday. Lilly hasn't thrown his between-starts bullpen session in his last three starts (in which he's given up six runs each time) because of a tender left elbow. Lilly sometimes need a little longer getting warmed up, but it hasn't affected him during games.

--RHP Chad Billingsley took advantage of the shadows from the 5:10 pm starting time Sunday, giving up just three hits in eight innings in a complete-game, 3-1 loss. It was the third time this year Billingsley allowed three hits or less -- and he's 1-2 in those games.

--RF Andre Ethier joined forces with White Sox 1B/DH Paul Konerko for a dual campaign to get each other into the All-Star Game in the "Final Vote." Ethier and Konerko are both natives of Arizona. The Dodgers and White Sox share a spring training facility in Arizona. Manager Don Mattingly said he might even log onto the Internet to vote for his right fielder. Teammate Matt Kemp reminded his 15,000-plus Twitter followers numerous times Monday to vote for Ethier. After the first day of voting, Ethier was in second place, trailing Philadelphia OF Shane Victorino.

--1B James Loney still isn't hitting for much power, but he continues getting on base at a very high clip. Loney's two-out single in the second inning gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead, and his RBI single in the fourth made it 2-0. Since May 30, Loney is hitting .351 (40-for-114) with two homers and 16 RBI.

--RHP Matt Guerrier allowed two inherited runners to score, running his total to nine of 21 scoring this year. After starting the year with 10 2/3 scoreless innings, Guerrier has since allowed 33 hits and 19 earned runs in 29.2 innings (5.76 ERA).

--C Rod Barajas had a minor setback after testing his sprained right ankle heavily before Friday's game, so his timetable to begin a rehab assignment is on hold. He has been on the disabled list since June 19.

-- There is a high likelihood that Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jon Garland, the veteran right-hander the team signed as a free agent last winter largely because he hadn't been on the disabled list in more than a decade, is done for the season, a well-placed source said on the condition of anonymity. Garland, who has been on the DL twice since the Dodgers signed him last winter to a one-year, $5 million contract with an $8 million club option for 2012, has been sidelined for the past month with what officially is being termed right-shoulder inflammation. But he was scheduled to see Los Angeles Angels team physician Dr. Lewis Yocum on Saturday to get a second opinion -- the first opinion had been rendered by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache -- to determine whether he needs season-ending surgery.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3
-- Los Angeles Dodgers with a .300-plus batting average, 20-plus home runs and 60-plus RBI at the All-Star break. Matt Kemp is the latest with .324-22-64 this year. Mike Piazza was .325-21-76 in 1994 and .363-24-63 in 1996, while Gary Sheffield was .334-27-71 in 2000.

BY THE NUMBERS: .045 II
-- Opponents' batting average against reliever Kenley Jansen, since Jansen came off the disabled list. Jansen pitched a scoreless inning Saturday, his seventh since coming off the DL, and the league is 1-for-22 against him. Jansen has struck out 14.1 batters per nine innings overall this year (44 in 28 innings).

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"Rubby was pretty solid as far as handling himself. I thought he did a fine job of bouncing back the next inning. That shows what kind of kid he is." -- Manager Don Mattingly, talking about RHP Rubby De La Rosa's poise after the rookie lost his no-hitter and shutout in the sixth inning.

QUOTE TO NOTE II:
"I hope (Matt Kemp) has a lot of fans on his Twitter. This is a great opportunity for the LA fans. I know it's a tough time to rally, not just because of what's going on off the field, but our performance as a team. It's tough to support the team when you're in last place in the division. It's tough to show up and watch a game. Hopefully, they can show their support and show they still care about this team, and still want individuals to succeed." -- RF Andre Ethier, one of five finalists for the last spot on the National League All-Star roster, which will be chosen by an online fan vote.

*M*A*S*H* 4077 MEDICAL WATCH
--LHP Ted Lilly (tender left elbow) had his turn pushed back one day, and he will start July 5 instead of July 4. Lilly hasn't thrown his between-starts bullpen session in his last three starts because the elbow issue.

--3B Casey Blake (sore neck) went on the 15-day disabled list July 3. He had been playing through the ailment for several weeks.

--C Rod Barajas (sprained right ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list June 19. He had a setback July 1, delaying his progress toward a rehab assignment.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton (bone bruise on right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 4. He threw a bullpen session June 7. He made rehab appearances on June 21 and 23 for Class AAA Albuquerque, but he felt tightness in his elbow when playing catch June 25. He was shut down from throwing until late July.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right radial nerve irritation) went on the 15-day disabled list May 14. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 29, but was shut down in early June due to a neck ailment. He underwent neck surgery June 16, and he will likely miss the rest of the season.

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