Notes: Order gets makeover
Little attempts to spark offense by tweaking his lineup
CINCINNATI -- Tough talk from the manager on Thursday, and actions to back it up.
Grady Little, his team in an offensive crisis, demoted Juan Pierre in the Dodgers' batting order and said more changes would follow if results don't improve after three consecutive shutout losses heading into Thursday's day game.
"Players won't get the message in one day game after a night game, but spread over a stretch of time," said Little, who dropped Pierre to seventh in the lineup because of a low on-base percentage. "If that doesn't work, maybe some of the bodies in there will be different bodies than you see now."
Little implied his disappointment extends beyond Pierre to every player counted on entering the season. He didn't mention other names, but they would include the veteran core of Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Kent.
"There are a lot of guys in the lineup that we were depending on over the winter and coming into Spring Training and the season and it's not happening," said Little. "You can't come into a season saying you're depending on the young players to get us through; it's clearly evident not even Russell Martin [can carry us] after only one season. The bottom line is, the people we're depending on are not getting it done."
Little gave Pierre more than four months of everyday play to show that his run-scoring ability compensated for a low on-base percentage. But Pierre's on-base percentage of .315 is the lowest of his career, even though he's on pace to score 95 runs, about his career average.
So Little said he will lead off Furcal, as he has most of the season, with Martin hitting second. Olmedo Saenz hit third and played first base Thursday, but Garciaparra could return to that spot. He was rested Thursday, as was Gonzalez. Or hot-hitting Andre Ethier, with a .363 on-base percentage, might be elevated. Thursday's lineup, loaded with right-handed hitters to face left-hander Phil Dumatrait, included Delwyn Young in left field, Matt Kemp in right and Ramon Martinez at third base.
"We need more on-base percentage at the top," Little said. "It's a pure numbers thing there. To get people to score runs, you have to get people on. We need a little more on-base percentage from this man [Pierre]. Look at [Cincinnati's] lineup. They have a first baseman, Scott Hatteberg, leading off. You wonder what's the reason? Just look at the stat sheet. He has a .400 on-base percentage or better."
Little said he told Pierre of the move after Wednesday night's game and that Pierre wasn't looking forward to it because he had rarely done it in his career.
"But I'm not doing this," Little said. "I'm writing it down, but the numbers dictate this. What I go by is the bottom line. Early in the season, it was hard to judge by the amount of at-bats. Now there are a lot of numbers to judge by. Maybe this will help Juan get it going."
Little, who joked the night before that Cincinnati pitching coach Dick Pole might have been able to shut out his team, referred to Pole on Thursday. The two coached together in Cleveland.
"Another number I look at as a result of the last week or so is people in their jobs," he said. "When we played Cincinnati [sweeping a May series], we played a small part in getting the manager [dismissed]. Right now, I feel we're playing a small part in getting the pitching coach a raise or an extension of his contract.
"We changed hitting coaches in the middle of the [season] and it jump-started us a little bit. I don't think we can continue to do such things as that. I do think something has got to start happening different around here. Enjoy the weather. It's the only thing hot around here right now."
Inside catching: FOX Sports analyst Kevin Kennedy, a former catcher and Minor League manager with the Dodgers, demonstrated with video Wednesday night how, in his opinion, Martin tips off pitches by the way he sets up.
"I know with breaking balls I spread out a little because it helps me block balls in the dirt," said Martin. "With runners on base, I do it at the last minute. It would be pretty tough to relay that to the hitter that late. It would be bad if they could. But it's not like they got a lot of hits last night [one run on eight hits]."
Shutout trivia: Since 1900, the Dodgers have not been shut out in four consecutive games. In 1937, however, they were shut out three consecutive games, scored one run in the fourth game and were shut out again in the fifth game.
Coming up: Brad Penny (13-3, 2.66 ERA) opposes Adam Wainwright (10-8, 4.53 ERA) in Friday night's series opener in St. Louis.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.