Tracy picks three catchers; Ishii, Nomo, Jackson left off
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Jim Tracy speaks to the media in St. Louis on Monday before the NLDS. (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)
ST. LOUIS -- When the Dodgers submitted their roster for the Divisional Series on Tuesday morning, it contained the names of seven players that weren't even in the organization at the All-Star break.
But it did not mention three pitchers that at the beginning of Spring Training were assumed to be in the starting rotation.
Left off the roster were Hideo Nomo, the Opening day starter; Kazuhisa Ishii, tied for the team lead in victories; and Edwin Jackson, the 21-year-old rookie whose season has been one problem after another.
"I'm comfortable with how it ended up," said general manager Paul DePodesta. "Ultimately, it's up to (Jim Tracy) how to utilize the players. You give the manager the tools he feels he needs to use most often."
The Dodgers went with three catchers, adding Tom Wilson, instead of an extra hitter/base runner (Antonio Perez), because manager Jim Tracy wants the flexibility to pinch-hit for light-hitting catchers Brent Mayne and David Ross without the specter of sticking outfielders Jayson Werth or Jason Grabowski behind the plate with Eric Gagne on the mound.
They went with the experience of Elmer Dessens for long relief instead of Jackson, whose potential is limitless but his performance this year was erratic.
"To ask a 21-year-old [to perform] in this environment and put him in a role that he's not acclimated doesn't set up for success," said DePodesta.
Tracy said he has the tools he needs to manage these strategically involved games the way he wants. He also indicated Ishii would likely be added for a seven-game League Championship Series, but was not needed when the decision was made to go with three starters for this best-of-five series.
As for Nomo, who last pitched a 1 1/3-inning start Sept. 17, Tracy said he took the news well.
"Our team has gained strength just having his presence," said Tracy. "They realize if it wasn't for his health, he'd want the ball today."
Speaking of Gagne, Tracy said he would be available for more than one inning in Game 1. Although Gagne received a cortisone injection six days earlier, judging from his quick recovery, the medical staff is reasonably confident the reliever simply slept wrong on his arm.
Werth hurt: Werth played the entire Game 1 and expects to be in the lineup for Game 2 Thursday, despite feeling an elbow twinge on a throw home in the third inning.
Werth attempted to throw out Scott Rolen at the plate on Edgar Renteria's two-run double. When the play was over, he was shaking and flexing his right arm.
"I felt something in the elbow, but I don't think it's serious," said Werth, pointing to the inside of the elbow. "It's not a good spot. But everybody's banged up. You do whatever it takes and you get through it."
Werth said he has never had an elbow injury, it did not bother him swinging a bat and he was not required to make another strong throw so he was uncertain if the sensation would recur. Werth is a former catcher.
Time for revenge? The last time the Dodgers played the Cardinals in the postseason, things didn't go too well. The only current field staff member still around from that series is coach Manny Mota, who was a coach that year when the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers in six games on Jack Clark's home run off Tom Niedenfuer at Dodger Stadium.
"The dagger in our heart," said Joe Amalfitano, then the third-base coach and now a senior advisor.
The Dodgers won the first two games of that series in Dodger Stadium. Cardinals leadoff hitter Vince Coleman suffered a freak leg injury during Game 3 warmups when the electronic tarp roller pinned his leg, crushing his shin, and he was lost for the series.
The Cardinals swept the three games at Busch Stadium, as Ozzie Smith hit a walk-off homer off Niedenfuer in Game 5, setting up Clark's fateful game-winner.
"I remember Ozzie hitting one just over the fence and just inside that foul pole," Mota said. "We thought we would win that series. They rose to the occasion. For me, that was the most disappointing time. We expected to win at least one game here, but it didn't happen."
Fernando Valenzuela, now a Dodgers broadcaster, started Game 5 in St. Louis.
"I pitched eight innings, one run, but Ozzie hit the home run," said Valenzuela. "I remember."
Jose Lima / P
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
At ease: Jose Lima arrived for Saturday's eventual title-clinching game wearing an authentic Army-issued camouflage battle fatigue, complete with the name of Corp. Vincent Mlodinoff on a breast patch and a combat badge stitched onto the sleeve.
Fellow Dominican pitchers Duaner Sanchez and Yhency Brazoban snapped to attention and saluted Lima.
"Don't laugh. This is my lucky shirt," said Lima, recalling that it was presented to him before a May game by a soldier recently discharged after a year tour of duty in Iraq.
Lima being Lima, he fully believes the shirt played a part in Saturday's ridiculous clinching comeback. So he located the corporal and spoke to him by phone.
"This is amazing, that Jose Lima thinks my shirt gave the Dodgers luck," said Mlodinoff, a Westlake Village resident who spent three years stationed in Germany and returned home after a full year on the front lines in Baghdad as a mortar man squad leader with the 1st Armored Division, 26th Infantry.
"I hadn't seen the Dodgers in five years and I went to the park that day and saw Lima signing autographs for kids and I told him I didn't want an autograph but I wanted to shake his hand for all that he and the ballplayers had done to support the troops.
"I told him to take the shirt, that it was good luck. I didn't know he'd take it seriously. That's amazing, that Jose Lima thinks my shirt brought the Dodgers good luck. I had a lot of good times in that shirt. It brought me good luck because I'm still here."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.