- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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NEW YORK -- If you're going to hit rock bottom, it's a lot better to do it in late April than in late September. And that's about as positive a spin as you can possibly put on the predicament in which the Dodgers find themselves.
Following a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the New York Mets, 4-0 and 10-5 before 32,012 on Tuesday night at Citi Field, the Dodgers are left to deal with an offensive attack that has suddenly gone into the deep freeze, a leadoff hitter who is suddenly unavailable because of a hamstring problem, a starting rotation that still isn't consistent enough and still doesn't go deep enough into games, a bullpen that is overworked and a defense that entered the day leading the majors in errors and committed another costly one in the nightcap that led to three unearned runs.
And that all happened after general manager Ned Colletti made a series of pointed comments about his club during his weekly radio interview with 790 KABC's Peter Tilden on Tuesday morning, calling out the Dodgers for having underachieved to this point in the season.
"I talk to [manager] Joe [Torre] all the time, and he understands my position and my frustration level," Colletti said. "I have grabbed a couple of players one-on-one to let them know I'm not satisfied with their approach. This isn't an easy game to play, and when you think you have it mastered and you think you can take it easy and you think you can walk to your position without hustling, the game catches up with you. That is where we are at in some cases right now. Some guys might think they are better than what they are and think the opponent will just roll over.
"We have lost two of three to Cincinnati, two of three to Washington and two of three to Pittsburgh. No offense to those teams, but we are better than they are."
Colletti specifically called out center fielder Matt Kemp, the reigning National League Gold Glove winner at his position, for his baserunning and defensive play.
"It is below average," Colletti said. "The baserunning is below average, and the defense is below average. Is it because he got a new [two-year, $10.95 million] deal? I can't tell you. But you know what? It's below average, and if this was the last day of the season and people were going for the Gold Glove, his name wouldn't be on the ballot.
"It is a shame to go from where he was a year ago to revert back to when the ball goes up in the air, you're not sure where it's going or if it's going to get caught.
Finally, Tilden asked Colletti if his message was clear to the players.
"My messages are always clear," Colletti said. "Whether or not they want to accept it, that is up to them. But I don't leave much to be deciphered. They aren't long, and I don't lose their interest in a minute and a half or two minutes. It is time to get it going. I take every game seriously, and I take every pitch seriously. If other guys ain't doing it, if they don't want to be in L.A., we can figure that out, too."
Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger struggled again in the nightcap, lasting only four-plus innings and giving up five earned runs and five hits over four innings. He is now 0-3 with a 7.45 ERA, and his spot in the starting rotation -- and perhaps even on the roster -- appears to be in jeopardy.
"I think we're going to look at it," Torre said. "Right now, we need a starter for Saturday, and we don't know who that is. We have to figure it out. Haeger is one of our options."
Working in Haeger's favor is the fact that as a knuckleballer, especially given that he threw only 78 pitches in this game, he is the one Dodgers starter best equipped to pitch on three days' rest, which he also was doing on Tuesday night because of an injury to Vicente Padilla. The doubleheader further muddles the rotation, but if Torre decides he has run out of patience with Haeger, he might use a reliever, either Ramon Ortiz or Carlos Monasterios, as a spot starter Saturday night against Pittsburgh.
With the bases loaded and two outs in a third inning in which the Dodgers already had scored three runs to tie the score, James Loney took a called third strike from Mets reliever Hisanori Takahashi on a pitch that appeared to be in about the same spot as one plate umpire Angel Campos had called a ball two pitches earlier. The usually mild-mannered Loney lit into Campos for several seconds, and after being led away by first base coach Mariano Duncan and third base coach Larry Bowa, Loney calmed down and walked back toward his position.
But when Loney casually tossed the batting glove he still had in his hand in the general direction of the one he had left at home plate -- where Bowa was still having a spirited discussion with Campos -- Campos ejected Loney from the game.
Loney said he tossed the glove toward the other glove so the bat boy could grab both of his gloves at the same time.
"The call was one thing, but getting thrown out, I believe that was an error in judgement," Loney said. "I had my back turned to him. I think he just got frustrated with everybody yelling at him on the field. ... Anybody can look at the video and determine what they think. He isn't perfect. Nobody is perfect. It's just something we have to deal with."
Torre was a bit more pointed in his comments toward Campos.
"There is a lot of pressure on these players, and I think sometimes, the umpires forget the pressure that is on the players involved in the game and react too soon," Torre said. "I know one thing, James isn't someone who would cuss out an umpire, for sure, or who would cuss out anybody for that matter."
As expected, the Dodgers will officially purchase the contract of right-hander John Ely from Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday, and Ely will make his major-league debut against the Mets in place of Padilla, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of a nerve irritation in his right forearm.
To clear a spot for Ely -- who was 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts at Albuquerque and 14-2 with a 2.82 at Double-A Birmingham last season before the Chicago White Sox traded him to the Dodgers for Juan Pierre -- the Dodgers optioned reliever Jon Link to Albuquerque. Link was the other player the Dodgers got from Chicago for Pierre.
Link pitched in both games of the doubleheader, giving up five runs (two earned) in a total of one-third of an inning.
To clear a 40-man roster spot for Ely, the Dodgers transferred catcher Brad Ausmus (back surgery) from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who felt tightness in his hamstring running out a double-play grounder in the first game, didn't play in the nightcap. Torre said Furcal won't start Wednesday, but he wasn't sure whether Furcal would be available off the bench.
Lost in the shuffle
At a time when the game was out of hand, Monasterios, the rookie who had made only two appearances above Single-A before the Dodgers took him from Philadelphia in the Rule 5 draft in December, turned in another solid outing, facing the minimum over two innings and giving up only one hit.
Monasterios shaved his ERA to 1.69 and bolstered his candidacy for the starting assignment against the Pirates on Saturday. He also is stretched out to some extent, having pitched at least two innings in three of his appearances this season. That includes a pressure-packed, 2 2/3-inning stint on Saturday at Washington in which he limited the Nationals to two hits in the 11th, 12th and 13th innings.
Quote of the day
"For me, it's a thrill just being there. If it turns out that we're lucky enough to win the race, I can't tell you how I will feel.'' -- Torre, who owns a 10-percent share in Homeboykris, a horse that will run in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
Opposing Ely will be veteran right-hander John Maine (0-1, 8.64), who returns to the mound for the Mets after being scratched from his previous start because of an elbow ailment. He is 1-4 with a 4.54 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers. The Dodgers will be looking to avoid a three-game sweep and end the Mets' six-game winning streak.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
2hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com