Off Base
Anatomy 101

September 11, 2009, 5:05 p.m. So Randy Wolf has pain and stiffness in his surgically-repaired left elbow.

Not to worry, we’re told. Because, yes, the Dodgers actually trotted out the old “it's not in the area he was cut on” line, it's all good. It must be, since they said so. Well, I’m convinced.

Look, excuse me, but just how big is Wolf’s elbow? Sure, Wolf’s calves are rather large, I’ll give you that, but does the largeness of one area of the human body necessarily mean that all areas of said body possess a correspondingly over-sized, uh, over-sized-ness?

Please. It's a damn elbow, not a large intestine that goes on for miles, deep within the bowels of the male thorax, or wherever the hell it’s located.

Try this at home, OK. Step away from the computer now, and take a good look at your elbow. It's really not that big. Sure, you and I, we’re not professional athletes or anything, but c’mon. An elbow is an elbow.

If a baseball player has pain in the elbow, anywhere on the elbow, and he’s had surgery on that elbow, the pain is in the area of the operated-upon elbow.

In other words, Dodger fans, add Randy Wolf to your ever-growing list of major concerns, right up there with Clayton Kershaw, he of the “I’ve-got-a-long-way-to-go-to-catch-Greg-Maddux-but-I’ll-be-damned-if-I’m-not-getting-started-on-that-closet-full-of-Gold-Gloves-right-now-so-watch-me-run-into a-wall-during-batting-practice whats-its. Which happens to the best of them.

That accident seems to be one of those goofy, nerdy things, that only a left-hander can possibly do. But apparently Kershaw’s non-throwing shoulder is unusually large, and he doesn’t need it much to pitch, so no problem there. And since the club has Chad Billingsley, all is right with the world.

I’m thinking exactly what you’re thinking. I think. It's starting to look like the Dodgers have blown the division and home field, and that, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, are being bested by the Jim Tracy Colorado Rockies. Notice the past tense there?

Obviously there’s plenty of time, and the Dodgers can right the ship starting tonight at China Basin, while the Rocks go to Petco for three days of struggles against the improving Padres, and it’s possible Los Angeles is back up five games Sunday afternoon. Possible, but not likely.

What’s probable is that the Dodgers gain a single game or lose one over the weekend and either lead by three or find themselves a day away from being caught.

I’ve been saying for weeks that there’s no predicting, absolutely no forecasting the way a pennant race will unfold, and I’m sticking to that story now. I continue to have confidence in the thoroughly battle-tested Dodger veterans, like Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez, and the young players like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney. And I very much trust Joe Torre to out-smart Tracy.

Is that enough? I have no idea. September is a wonderful time of year, second only to October in the seasons in which we’re lucky. I’ve purchased my postseason strips and cleared the calendar of all non-pressing matters. And I’m prepared to take it a day at time. As if I have a choice.

But I’m going to be incredibly disappointed with a wild card entry. Incredibly. And the Dodgers cliché-filled reassurances about the health of their precious arms aren't helping…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

More on Dodgers Pitching: In case you missed anything, let’s sum up for a minute. Randy Wolf has a sore and/or stiff elbow and has had a cortisone injection and is missing at least one start. Kershaw either did or did not mildly or partially separate his non-throwing shoulder for no good reason, and is missing at least one start. Chad Billingsley is either nursing a hamstring or he isn’t, but is still in the rotation for the moment.

Bills first. With all the heat he took last fall for pitching badly against the Phils, while failing to protect his hitters, it makes sense that Billingsley might hide an injury to show the team he’s no lightweight.

If that’s not the case, then he's simply struggling, as most young pitchers do for months or years at a time. Perhaps Billingsley pulls it together Sunday against our beloved Brad Penny, or maybe a coupla starts down the road, or never.

I imagine Randy Wolf has weighed the prospect of finally making it to and winning in the postseason, versus the very real possibility that another six weeks of action may ruin his chance to take a healthy arm into free agency come November. And I imagine he’s decided to go for it, large or small elbow be damned. And I imagine the Dodgers will let him.

Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, gets no such decision-making power from his employers, and rightly so. He simply won’t pitch again this season if there’s even the slightest chance of injury. There will be no compensating for pain one place at the expense of another.

The Dodgers and Joe Torre are notorious for hearing only what they want to hear at times, and if a guy says he’s fine, they run him out there. But not this one time. Not with Kershaw.

So, you might be looking at a home-stretch and October rotation of Wolf, Hiroki Kuroda, Billingsley and Kershaw, or something entirely different. Maybe Kuroda’s unable to go as well, for a variety of reasons, probably psychological, and the Dodgers end up sporting something like, say, Jon Garland, Vicente Padilla, Charlie Haeger and Jeff Weaver.

Stranger things have happened. And for all we know, it just might work. Enjoy your baseball weekend everyone…

Media Savvy: Interesting stuff about the Gold Glove worthiness of left fielders, by Joe Posnanski, of, and a rare Media Savvy inclusion from the LAT’s business section, about Moneyball and the Oakland A’s, by Michael Hiltzik.

And a nice piece on San Fernando Valley 100-win major league pitchers, from old stand-by Tom Hoffarth, of the Los Angeles Daily News…

September 11, 2006: No doubt I’d handle it differently now, but here’s what I wrote three years ago today

Russell-Martin-Day-Off-Oh-Meter: After lounging with a freak-of-nature four days off in August, which must’ve felt like a visit to a bleeping spa, Russell Martin is back to his usual role as the overused Dodgers catcher. He’s played in 11 straight games, with 10 of them behind the plate.

I get that it’s September, and that Martin’s work with the pitchers is vital to the team’s success, but he’s neither hitting nor fielding well enough to warrant so much work.

And it’s not even a matter of rest anymore. Of course, he needs the rest, but the o-fers are increasingly hurting the club. I’m not suggesting Martin be replaced by Brad Ausmus in any way, shape or form, but one or two starts for the backup man per week is more than overdue. And we’ll just keep beating a dead horse until it happens…

Statue for Sandy: Wednesday, September 9 marked 44 years since Sandy Koufax pitched his perfect game at Chavez Ravine. As we approach the 50-year anniversary of the Dodgers first championship in L.A., we think this is a great time to honor Sandy with a monument at the ballpark. Not just a great time, the perfect time.

The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….






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