09/30/12 4:02 PM ET
As free agency nears, League shows value to LA
By Ken Gurnick and Alex Angert / MLB.com
League will be a free agent when the season ends. When he was acquired from Seattle on July 30 for Minor Leaguers Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom, he was a deposed closer who had struggled all season, and the Dodgers were looking to rent a veteran middle reliever.
Coaches Rick Honeycutt and Ken Howell ironed out a mechanical flaw, and right around the time League got his game back, incumbent closer Kenley Jansen had a relapse of an irregular heartbeat. League became the closer and has pitched scoreless relief in 18 of his last 19 appearances.
"This is one of the better runs I've had," League said. "I'm absolutely grateful. It's been a long year, I've learned a lot and been able to turn my season around and I'm thrilled to contribute to a run at a playoff spot."
League earns $5 million this year and has re-established his value this month. Coming into this season, the Dodgers thought they were set at closer with Javy Guerra and Jansen. Guerra, however, lost the job, needed knee surgery and now is healing from a strained oblique. Jansen faces serious offseason surgery for his heart condition and the Dodgers must be wary of his health.
Although Ronald Belisario is worthy of consideration for National League Comeback Player of the Year, he has a history of reporting late for Spring Training. Matt Guerrier might need offseason elbow surgery, Scott Elbert just had elbow surgery and Todd Coffey's blew out before the All-Star break.
"I don't know what's going to happen next year," manager Don Mattingly said of his closer situation.
Kemp rounding back into form down stretch
LOS ANGELES -- The first few weeks of September didn't exactly go Matt Kemp's way, but things have started to look up for the center fielder entering the final four games of the regular season.
Kemp has gone 15-for-42 (.357) in his last 10 games with four homers, 11 RBIs and nine runs. The slugger had been batting only .115 (7-for-61) in 14 games since hurting his left shoulder and knee after running into the wall on Aug. 28 in Colorado.
"I feel good," he said. "I feel like any other player would feel in the month of September. Everybody is banged up at this moment. You can't make any excuses."
Manager Don Mattingly said he has seen Kemp look more comfortable at the plate and added he wasn't swinging at strikes while trying to do too much earlier this month.
"We know Matt is banged up and stuff is going on," Mattingly said. "He's ready to go everyday."
Just how banged up is the center fielder?
"It's kind of irrelevant how banged up he is and banged up doesn't mean every swing you take hurts," the skipper said. "It means you have trouble getting loose and you are stiff in the morning. If you've got stuff going on, it doesn't mean you can't play and do some things. You still know the guy isn't 100 percent."
Mattingly happy with steady presence of Blanton
LOS ANGELES -- Joe Blanton's numbers with the Dodgers aren't pretty. The righty is 2-4 with a 4.99 ERA in 10 starts and he's given up 66 hits in 57 2/3 innings.
But manager Don Mattingly has been pleased with what the veteran has done since being acquired in August, especially after the past few starts.
Blanton has given up just one run in his last two outings (11 2/3 innings) and just four runs in his past three (17 1/3). On Saturday, he was pleased with his cutter, curveball and slider as he kept the depleted Rockies from scoring despite surrendering seven hits into the seventh.
"I thought he was going to give us quality outings as much as anything," Mattingly said. "We didn't expect him to be [Clayton Kershaw] or anybody else, but someone to give you solid innings and a guy you could count on to keep you in the game that knew what he was doing with experience. I think he's done it."
Luis Cruz, who exited Saturday's game before the eighth inning with a headache, was in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's game. While swinging off a tee before Saturday's game, Cruz was hit by the ball on the left side of his face right above his jaw, underneath his ear.
He batted sixth against Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa on Sunday to protect Hanley Ramirez in the lineup with Andre Ethier sliding down to seventh because of struggles against lefties.