Jansen a pleasant surprise in Dodgers' 'pen
Rookie putting up gaudy numbers but 'still developing'
SAN DIEGO -- Perhaps overlooked in all that has gone wrong with the Dodgers this year is the pitching of rookie Kenley Jansen, one graduate of the farm system who has exceeded almost anyone's expectations.
Converted from catching to pitching during the 2009 season, Jansen was called up July 23 from Double-A Chattanooga and has posted numbers gaudy by any standards, let alone for a rookie who began the season in Class A.
In 16 games with the Dodgers, he has a 1.08 ERA, 27 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings and opponents have a .158 batting average against him. Those are closer-type numbers.
Meanwhile, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and bullpen coach Ken Howell have been working out the rough spots in this work-in-progress before games. They changed the grip on his breaking ball, firmed up his front side and tried to eliminate upper body rotation.
"Realistically, the guy is still developing at this level," said Howell. "We do dry work every day. It might look like we're doing Minor League things, but it's what we need to complete the package."
Jansen is expected to go to Instructional League after the season to work on his move to first base and slide steps, among other things. Jansen's fastball has hovered around 92-93 mph and Howell said there is more in his arm, but he's already deceptive enough to get late swings, and nobody wants Jansen to start overthrowing looking for more velocity.
"I don't want him to force it," said Howell. "I just want him to understand pitch execution and location. I don't trip on velocity. The hitters let you know. He's only got 40-something innings [this season]. He's just starting."
Torre shares blame for LA's shortcomings
SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre still wouldn't talk about his future plans Wednesday, but he did address his club's recent past and how it's gone so wrong.
"It's my responsibility, no question it's my responsibility," Torre said, recalling that he hasn't come close to being in the role of spoiler since 1993.
"I deal with it philosophically. I wish I could have found something that made a difference. That's my job. It wouldn't be fair to sit back and say this guy is not doing this and it's not my fault. It's my responsibility to help them through it."
The tone of the questioning followed Torre's announcement that Clayton Kershaw's next start had been pushed back from Saturday in Houston to Tuesday in San Francisco.
Torre said he hadn't thrown in the towel on a postseason berth, but was looking at the club's situation realistically. When asked if the Dodgers were still in a race, he said:
"Ask me if we are at the end of the road trip. We need to put something together. We just can't get in unless we win games. We haven't sustained anything. Am I giving up? No, I'm not giving up. But talking about it is not getting it done. We can do all the arithmetic we want, but unless we do something right and follow through the weekend, winning a series is not enough. We need to go over and above that."
Torre has said he will discuss whether he returns as manager of the Dodgers when they clinch a postseason berth or are eliminated.
Kershaw's next start pushed back to Tuesday
SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who already has thrown a career-high 183 1/3 innings, will have his next start pushed back from Saturday in Houston to Tuesday in San Francisco, with rookie John Ely starting Saturday.
Manager Joe Torre didn't say that the change meant he had given up on the season, or that he hadn't. Protecting Kershaw's 22-year-old arm was part of the decision.
"It's a double-edge sword," Torre said. "Kershaw will pitch against the Giants. That's a team in better shape than we are. It's just the fair thing to do.
"He'll have the same number of starts [four]. We'll stick Ely in there [Saturday]. This way, Kershaw will have one start with regular rest [and extra rest for the other three]."
Kershaw is 11-10 with a 2.99 ERA. Kershaw is second in the National League with 197 strikeouts, tied for second with 29 games started, tied for fifth with a .220 opponents' batting average and in the top 10 for day and road ERA.
After a tough-luck loss Tuesday night, Kershaw said throwing 200 innings is a personal goal.
Mitchell makes big league debut for Dodgers
SAN DIEGO -- The slumping Dodgers offense led to Russell Mitchell making his Major League debut Wednesday night as the starting first baseman against the Padres.
Manager Joe Torre started Mitchell instead of James Loney and put Reed Johnson in right field instead of Andre Ethier.
"We'll try a couple pieces," Torre said.
Mitchell was called up Monday.
"I've got butterflies, I can't lie," said Mitchell. "[Third-base coach Larry] Bowa gave me a heads up last night, so at least I had time to think about it."
Mitchell said he played about 30 games at first base this year for Triple-A Albuquerque while primarily a third baseman, but he was a first baseman the previous two seasons.
"I'm comfortable enough," he said.
The Padres were starting left-handed rookie Cory Luebke.
"I faced him three weeks ago in Portland," said Mitchell, who went 0-for-2. "I know what he does."
Loney is batting .220 since Aug. 1. Ethier has struck out 40 times in the past five weeks after striking out only 11 times in the first five weeks of the season.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.