Eovaldi Latest Dodger to Skip Class AAA

It's becoming more and more clear that while Albuquerque might be the Dodgers Class AAA affiliate, it's not the final step before reaching the Dodgers -- at least for their top pitching prospects. Nathan Eovaldi's successful big-league debut Saturday (five innings, two runs) continued the pattern of jumping straight from Class AA to the majors.

Eovaldi became the 11th youngest LA Dodger to make his MLB debut as a starting pitcher Saturday. He was 21 years and 174 days old. Eovaldi also became the latest in a string of pitching prospects in the Dodgers' system to skip Class AAA and make the jump from Class AA Chattanooga (Tenn.)

Eovaldi allowed two runs in five innings Saturday and struck out seven to earn the win.

Clayton Kershaw jumped from then-Class AA Jacksonville to the majors in 2008, was sent back to Jacksonville, before returning to the majors to stay. On Sunday, Kershaw allowed two runs in the first inning and then a two-run homer to journeyman Cody Ransom in the seventh inning for a 4-3 loss to Arizona.

Last year, Kenley Jansen's conversion from catcher to pitcher in the minors ended at Class AA Chattanooga. When Jansen was briefly optioned to the minors this year, it was again at Chattanooga.

New closer Javy Guerra, injured starter Rubby De La Rosa, and reliever Josh Lindblom also all jumped from Class AA. Lindblom, in fact, was at Class AAA last year and endured a brutal season. He re-established his career at Class AA this year.

The Dodgers have promoted a few from Class AAA this year: Ramon Troncoso and John Ely. But those two are considered more organizational players than prospects these days.

The main reason for ignoring Class AAA is altitude. In the center of Albuquerque, it's 5,280 feet -- one mile high. That's higher than Denver, it's well documented what impact the altitude has had at Coors Field for Rockies home games, and there's no humidor in Albuquerque to neglect the atmospheric conditions.

That altitude helps the ball travel further and curves to spin less. That leads to more offense in general, more home runs specifically, bloated ERAs, a loss of confidence for the pitchers, and changes the way pitchers attack hitters.

Many other cities in the Pacific Coast League -- Colorado Springs, Tucson, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Reno -- are also high altitude locations that lead to higher offense as well. This makes it difficult for the Dodgers to evaluate their hitters and pitchers from Class AAA.

The atmospheric conditions are much better for judging performance in Chattanooga, Tenn. and around the Class AA Southern League.

The other reason is, Dodgers pitchers and staff rave about Chattanooga pitching coach Chuck Crim, a former major leaguer who was known for a great slider.

The four pitchers who began the season with Chattanooga and made their debut with the Dodgers this year -- Eovaldi, De La Rosa, Guerra and Lindblom -- have combined for a 2.98 ERA this season with 96 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings.

It should be noted this trend of bypassing Class AAA does not include hitters. The Dodgers haven't promoted a hitter from Class AA recently.

All their top position players this year -- Dee Gordon, Jerry Sands, the since-traded Trayvon Robinson, and the just-acquired Tim Federowicz -- have had to pass through Albuquerque before reaching Los Angeles.

Eovaldi has had Tommy Jhn surgery but his story is different than those of most pitchers but is becoming less unusual. He had the surgery in 2007 during his junior year at Alvin High in Texas.

Yes, in high school.

Dr. James Andrews, who will perform the surgery on Rubby De La Rosa, said a few years ago that from 2004 to '07 he performed the surgery on 588 pitchers, including 146 who were in high school or youth league players.

"I never had any arm problems in high school or anything," Eovaldi told Chattanooga TV station WDEF earlier this year. "(The injury came) just kind of out of nowhere. Just threw a pitch, and it didn't feel right. ... I was back on the mound in like seven months. No problem at all. Still to this day, I don't have any problem with my elbow."

--SS Dee Gordon left Saturday's game with an injured shoulder after diving to tag out Kelly Johnson on a rundown play. Gordon didn't start Sunday. But the shoulder was not separated or dislocated, he was available to pinch-run Sunday, and it's possible he might start when the Dodgers return home Monday. Gordon even tweeted to his followers: "Hey #dodgerfans I'm gonna be ok, just tweaked my shoulder alittle bit...I'll be back really soon!"

--OF/1B Juan Rivera started for the ninth straight game Sunday, and he's started 18 of 21 games since his arrival from the Blue Jays at the All-Star break. He's slashing .308/.347/.446 during those games, and hit the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning Sunday. That gave the Dodgers a short-lived 3-2 lead over Arizona.

--RHP Chad Billingsley reached double-digit victories for the fifth consecutive season with a win Friday night. The last Dodger to accomplish that was Chan Ho Park (1997-2001). Billingsley's 62 wins since 2007 are the sixth-most in the National League, behind Tim Lincecum (65), Adam Wainwright (64), Bronson Arroyo (63), Cole Hamels (63) and Cole Hamels (63).

--RHP John Ely was sent back to Class AAA Albuquerque when Nathan Eovaldi was promoted. Ely spent five days in the majors and didn't pitch out of the bullpen.

--1B James Loney connected on his fifth home run of the season, a solo blast in the fifth inning. It was his first home run since June 12.

--INF Jamey Carroll was named the Dodgers' "Heart & Hustle" award winner, as voted upon by the members of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Last year, Carroll was selected by his teammates for the Roy Campanella Award.

--RHP Stephen Fife, one of three players obtained in the often criticized Trayvon Robinson trading-deadline swap, allowed one run in five innings in his Dodgers debut for Double-A Chattanooga. He allowed two hits, one walk and struck out three.

--The sharp drop in attendance at Dodger Stadium this year is likely to cost the Dodgers at least $27 million in reduced ticket sales, concession and parking revenue for the 2011 season. Based on the Dodgers' $286 million of total revenue in 2009, the most recent year for which public figures are available, this season's attendance-related declines would amount to at least a 9.4% drop in the Dodgers' total annual revenue.The announced paid attendance is down an average of 7,902 a game so far this season at Chavez Ravine amid the ownership fight between owners and the team's sub-.500 play. That is the biggest per-game drop this season among the 30 Major League teams. Baseball overall is averaging a per-game attendance decline of 91.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Consecutive saves by Javy Guerra to begin his career, after an injury to Jonathan Broxton opened the closer's role. The last Dodger to do that was Takashi Saito in 2006, when he converted 12-of-12 with a 1.69 ERA, upon replacing the injured Eric Gagne as closer. Broxton replaced Saito in 2008 as closer, when Saito was hurt.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "These are still big situations. I don't care if it's a race or not, it's still a tough situation. Watch the way he's reacted, his demeanor. I don't think he goes out there saying, 'We're 13 back, it doesn't matter.' Other than the San Diego game when the bases were loaded, most of his (saves) are non-top-steppers." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on the performance of rookie closer Javy Guerra.

--SS Dee Gordon (sore right shoulder) left the Aug. 6 game and did not start Aug. 7. He is day-to-day.

--RHP Rubby De La Rosa (sprained ulnar collateral ligament in right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 1. He will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery Aug. 9.

--RHP Kenley Jansen (irregular heartbeat) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 27. He was hospitalized after the July 26 game, and he was released from the hospital July 27.

--INF Juan Uribe (left hip strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 24.

--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, and he was shut down from throwing. He was cleared to begin a throwing program in early August, and he might be able to return in early September.

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

--RHP Jon Garland (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 2. He played catch June 21 but had to shut it down quickly. He underwent season-ending surgery during the All-Star break and began his rehab.

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