- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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CINCINNATI -- What is the difference between John Ely the rookie sensation and John Ely the work in progress? What happened between May, when the promising right-hander played a small but significant role in the turnaround of the Los Angeles Dodgers' season, and June, when he hit a wall?
And finally, how did Ely end up where he was on Thursday, on the hook for a 7-1 shellacking by the Cincinnati Reds before 25,585 at Great American Ball Park, a game in which he issued three walks that led to three runs and gave up a three-run home run to the opposing pitcher?
The answer is simple: What was so refreshing about Ely when he grabbed everyone's attention -- he was a rookie pitcher who actually attacked the strike zone -- is suddenly absent. Ely has walked 12 batters in his past five starts, spanning 29 innings, after he walked one batter over his previous four starts spanning 25 2/3 innings.
"I have noticed that I have been falling out of pitcher's counts more often lately, and that is definitely something I need to correct," Ely said. "It could be [the result of] a few different things. I'll look at the video and figure out if it's my mechanics, and if it is, I'll try to fix that. But I don't think that is what it is. I just need to attack the zone, that's all. That's the bottom line."
Ely (3-4) needs to correct the issues more for the Dodgers (38-28) -- who fell into a first-place tie with the idle San Diego Padres, half a game ahead of the San Francisco Giants -- than for himself. With right-hander Chad Billingsley having just gone on the disabled list and Vicente Padilla just coming off it, the team isn't in much of a position to make rotation changes.
"[Ely] had some success early," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Now, we have to find out how he gets back on track. I certainly think he is a big league pitcher. But as I have said before, he is a youngster, and it is unfair to expect things from him. I think we just have to see how he bounces back. He is going to get another shot to do it."
Ely's major league debut April 28 came at the end of a frenetic stretch in which he was called up with little notice and thrown into the fire on a day when the weather was abysmal and the team wasn't playing well. He had nothing but smooth sailing from then until June 6, when he gave up four runs on nine hits and lasted just five innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game the Dodgers won in 11 innings.
Ely followed that with another mediocre start against the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday, then basically blew up against the Reds.
After giving himself a 1-0 lead with his second career hit and first career RBI -- he followed consecutive walks by A.J. Ellis and Jamey Carroll in the second inning with a bloop single to left-center -- Ely gave up a one-out double to Jay Bruce and issued a two-out walk to Corky Miller. Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo followed with a three-run homer to left.
"That was kind of frustrating," Ely said. "Bronson can swing the bat, no doubt, but that wasn't one I take lightly. That one hurt a little bit."
Ely later walked Brandon Phillips to start the third, and Joey Votto followed with a two-run homer, making it 5-1. And after Ely issued a two-out walk to Scott Rolen in the fifth, reliever Justin Miller gave up a single to Bruce, driving in Rolen to make it 7-1.
Ely's final line was the worst of his brief career: 4 2/3 innings, eight hits, seven earned runs. And on an afternoon when the Dodgers hit into three double plays and stranded 10 baserunners, six of them in scoring position, that was sloppier than Ely could afford to be.
"There is no reason to lose confidence," Ely said. "If you start losing your confidence, there is a problem there. I still know that when I make pitches, I can get outs."
So if Ely is going to stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future, and apparently he is, then the Dodgers need him to start making those pitches and getting those outs again.
"The best thing I can do at this point is move on, take as much away from this game as I can and really try to bring it next time," he said.
Lost in the shuffle
Chin-lung Hu didn't have much of an effect on the game. He entered defensively in the bottom of the eighth, and his spot in the order never came up in the ninth. But he was on the field, in uniform -- something of an accomplishment in itself.
The utility infielder, who had logged big league time each of the past three seasons, was told he was being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque for the first time in 2010 at about 1 a.m. Thursday, when he was awakened by a ringing phone. Hu took the roster spot of shortstop Rafael Furcal, who was placed on the bereavement list and flew home to the Dominican Republic to be with an ill relative.
Hu said he was on a flight out of Albuquerque at 7:05 a.m. He landed at a little before 2 p.m. ET and was at the ballpark by about the fourth or fifth inning. He said after the game he didn't even know what the circumstances were that led to his call-up and that he hadn't been told that his stay in the majors might be a short one.
Players on the bereavement list must miss at least three games, but they can miss no more than seven games.
Right-hander Carlos Monasterios (3-1, 2.98) was supposed to be back in the bullpen by now, but Billingsley's injury meant a temporary reprieve. The rookie was torched for four runs on seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings in his most recent start on Sunday against the Angels. He will be opposed on Friday by Boston Red Sox lefty Felix Doubront, who will be making his major league debut. Doubront began the season in Double-A and made just four starts at Triple-A, going 2-1 with a 1.08 ERA for Pawtucket, before being promoted to the majors.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The magic wears off a bit for the Dodgers' John Ely.