MID SEASON’S POINT AND YANKEES CANNOT SCORE

At Season’s Midpoint, Yankees Struggle to Score

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

C. C. Sabathia after giving up a home run Friday. The Yankees’ pitching staff is feeling the effect of a slumping offense.

By SCOTT CACCIOLA
Published: June 30, 2013

BALTIMORE — The tarp was smothering the infield when the Yankees arrived Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards. It appeared to be a gloomy night for baseball, with dark clouds overhead, and the weather made for an easy metaphor. The Yankees have struggled in recent weeks, their prospects dimming by the day.

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Their meeting with the Orioles was to be their 81st game of the season, marking the midpoint of a trying year. The Yankees entered the game in third place in the American League East, and a glance at a handful of statistics — a collective .240 batting average and 80 home runs, to name two — made it easy to see why they had won just 42 games.

Even before the game, the Yankees were assured of having assembled one of their worst first halves in recent history. They were scoring 3.9 runs on eight hits per game. Their O.P.S., a metric that combines on-base percentage and slugging percentage, was .682, which was on pace to be their lowest at a midpoint of a season since 1990, when it was .658. By comparison, the Boston Red Sox are leading the league with an O.P.S. of .795. Not coincidentally, they are in first place.

Even when the Yankees were hobbling their way to a 40-41 record through the first half of 2007, they were producing a respectable 5.3 runs per game along with an O.P.S. of .787. Bolstered by improved pitching, that team caught fire over the second half of the season and won 94 games to make the playoffs. And in 2005, the Yankees were 42-39 through 81 games, with a .275 batting average and a lineup that was scoring 5.4 runs per game. They went on to win their division.

Manager Joe Girardi continues to be a lonely voice of optimism. He has seen enough solid at-bats, he said before Sunday’s game, to feel confident that the team will improve. Plus, his pitching staff and its 3.86 earned run average had done what it could to keep the team from free-falling through the standings.

“We’d like to be in better position, but that’s not the case,” Girardi said, adding, “It should be a very interesting second half.”

The Yankees have been hindered by age and injury. Sunday’s lineup was again missing the big-name stars: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, all sidelined with various ailments. Their replacements went by the names David Adams, Lyle Overbay, Zoilo Almonte and Jayson Nix.

Even Travis Hafner, a designated hitter and one of the team’s top off-season acquisitions, was having serious problems at the plate ahead of Sunday’s game, hitting .156 with four home runs since May 22. His woes underscored the team’s inability to hit the baseball very far.

“I think you have to have the ability to hit home runs in our division,” Girardi said. “It’s hard when you’re not doing that to score five or six runs a night.”

The Yankees last finished out of the playoffs in 2008, when they went 44-37 through their first 81 games. It was Girardi’s first season as manager, and that team also struggled to produce much pop, averaging exactly one home run per game through the first half of the season.

For now, Girardi can only hope that his many fill-ins — the Overbays, the Nixes, the Almontes — can do an adequate job until the Jeters and the Grandersons return.

“I think it’s probably fair to say it’s not real clear,” Girardi said of the team’s second-half prospects, “because you don’t know exactly when the guys are coming back or how they’re going to feel. You make the assumption that they’re going to come back and be good players. I mean, I make that assumption. There’s nothing that tells me they won’t be.”

PHELPS KEEPS ROTATION SPOT Despite getting pummeled by the Orioles in Saturday’s 11-3 loss, David Phelps is keeping his spot in the rotation — for the time being, at least. Girardi said Phelps would start Thursday against the Minnesota Twins, even after he gave up nine runs in two and a third innings. Ivan Nova, who came on in relief and limited the Orioles to two runs in five and two-thirds innings, will continue to throw out of the bullpen, though Girardi said there was a chance he could find Nova a spot “somewhere else.”

Nova said: “My mind is just on doing my job. I’ll take advantage of any opportunity that I get.”

INSIDE PITCH

Entering Sunday’s game, Mariano Rivera had pitched only once since June 22, thanks largely to the team’s losing ways. Joe Girardi said he was not concerned about Rivera’s inactivity. “Mo really knows how to prepare himself,” Girardi said. “When you’ve done it as long as he has, he knows what he needs to do to be sharp. Our biggest concern is always keeping him fresh. We’ve been able to do that for a number of different reasons. The way we’re doing it right now is not my favorite.” … Girardi said Alex Rodriguez had three hits in six simulated at-bats Sunday at the team’s training complex in Tampa, Fla.

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O’s HOPE TO BREAK OUT BROOMS ON YANKS

O’s hope to break the brooms out on Yankees

By Sports Network June 30, 2013

(Sports Network) – Winners of three straight and four of the last five outings, the Baltimore Orioles are preparing themselves for the possibility of a rare three-game sweep of the New York Yankees as the clubs clash in Camden Yards on Sunday night.

Baltimore, which is now just 2 1/2 games behind Boston for first place in the American League East, played the Yankees to an even 9-9 last season after bowing to the Bronx Bombers in 26 of 36 meetings in the previous two campaigns.

On Sunday, though, the O’s have a chance to win their fifth straight decision versus New York.

The major league leader in home runs was back at it again on Saturday night for the Orioles as Chris Davis circled the bases twice and knocked in a total of five as he reached the 30-home run plateau with two weeks remaining before the All-Star break. Four other Baltimore batters had at least two hits in the 15-hit barrage, with Nick Markakis accounting for three singles and two runs scored.

Davis, who had just 33 home runs all of last season, now has 54 extra-base hits which means he is on pace to record 106 this year, a number that would smash the previous club record of 92 set by Brady Anderson in 1996.

“I don’t think it’s anything you can predict,” said Davis of his productivity. “It’s something you obviously work hard toward in the offseason, to try and carry it into Spring Training and then into the season. I’m not going up there to try and hit home runs. I’m just trying to put good swings on good pitches. I think that’s the biggest thing. Last night I was a little too aggressive, and it worked against me. Tonight I was a little more patient, and I saw the result of that.”

Ryan Flaherty, who delivered his sixth home run of 2013, plated three runs, while Chris Dickerson knocked in another two as well.

Baltimore starter Zach Britton evened his record at 2-2 as he worked his way through 5 2/3 innings, permitting one earned run on six hits and three walks.

Over on the other side David Phelps, who was bumped to Saturday in favor of CC Sabathia on Friday night, lasted a mere 2 1/3 innings as the O’s peppered nine hits and scored nine times. Ivan Nova came in during the third and went the rest of the way for the Yankees, allowing two runs on six hits, while fanning four.

Nine different players had hits for New York. However, only Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano had two knocks, the former coming up with a pair of doubles in the losing effort, the fourth straight for the club as it fell to 5 1/2 games out of first in the division.

Now in his fifth major league season, all of them with Baltimore, Chris Tillman is aiming to register his 10th win of the 2013 campaign which would be a career high, with still the second half of the season to be played. The right-hander, who was 9-3 in 15 appearances last year, has won five straight appearances and six consecutive decisions overall since his last setback on May 19 versus Tampa Bay.

On Tuesday the California native went up against Cleveland and allowed three runs on four hits and as many walks, but he tempered his questionable accuracy with six strikeouts in seven innings as well.

A bit wild in his last three wins, Tillman has one more walk issued (11) than strikeout as he goes into this meeting with the Yankees trying to even his all-time record versus the club, currently at 2-3 through seven appearances.

Countering for the visitors tonight will be Hiroki Kuroda as the Japanese native tries to put an end to a three-game slide.

In each of his last five appearances Kuroda, who broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2008, has watched the Yankees land in the loss column. In fact, the last time the right-hander took the field and NY posted a victory was back on May 17 when the team defeated Toronto at home by a score of 5-0.

Kuroda’s last appearance for New York was back on June 13 when he made it through eight full innings, allowing two runs on two hits and a couple of walks, while striking out three, but still the Bombers suffered a 3-2 setback at Oakland.

For his career, Kuroda is 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA in four all-time outings versus Baltimore, including an ugly showing back on May 22 when he was shelled for five runs on eight hits — two home runs — in a mere two innings of work.

INTEREST IN PAPPLEPUCK

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

Just a few days ago general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. insisted that the Phillies have no plans to trade any significant pieces, including closer Jonathan Papelbon.

And yet today Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that “the Phillies believe there are at least three teams–Red Sox, Tigers, and Cardinals–that may have some interest in Papelbon at the trade deadline.”

“Believe” and “may have” in that sentence make it something less than a juicy rumor, but Cafardo adds that “it’s no secret the Phillies are scouting those teams with Papelbon in mind.”

Papelbon has been fantastic this season with a 1.46 ERA and 23/3 K/BB ratio in 25 innings,, although given that he’s under contract for $13 million in 2014 and $13 million in 2015–with a $13 million vesting option for 2016 that could easily be achieved–it’s hard to imagine teams lining up to acquire him, let alone offering any sort of significant prospects in return.

A-LOSER-ROD…CAN’T WAIT TO GET BACK

A-Rod: ‘Can’t wait to get back’

MLB Yankees Alex Rodriguez
Despite some recent tension, Alex Rodriguez insists his relationship with the Yankees is OK.
FOX Sports
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Updated Jun 29, 2013 7:11 PM ET
   

TAMPA, Fla. (AP)

Alex Rodriguez says he feels great and his relationship with the New York Yankees is fine.

 

Rodriguez didn’t indicate when he will start a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment or rejoin the big league team, saying Saturday he “can’t wait to get back.”

“So far, no issues,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just working really hard. I’m having fun. It’s exciting to be back on the field.”

The All-Star third baseman is taking at-bats at the Yankees’ minor league complex as he comes back from hip surgery in January. He also is fielding grounders, running the bases and doing sliding drills.

“I feel like my swing is definitely getting back to form,” Rodriguez said. “(Defensively) moving better the last few days. Everything is coming along.”

His rehabilitation became a point of contention in the past week.

Rodriguez posted Tuesday evening on Twitter that his hip surgeon had cleared him to play in rehab games, an announcement that angered general manager Brian Cashman because Rodriguez has not been given the go-ahead by team doctors.

When asked if everything is OK with the Yankees, Rodriguez said “absolutely.”

“Ready to get back on the field,” Rodriguez said. “All good.”

Yankees captain Derek Jeter took five simulated at-bats, which included a swinging strikeout and line drive single to right off 20-year old Cuban left-hander Omar Luis.

The shortstop ran four times first to third and four times from third to first on the grass just behind the infield dirt.

Eduardo Nunez, who strained a muscle on his left side while filling in for Jeter, is set to play in his third minor league game Sunday with Class A Tampa.

CLUELESS HAL OPENS UP ABOUT YANKES STRUGGLES

Steinbrenner opens up about Yanks’ struggles

Managing general partner discusses A-Rod, Mets sweep, team’s spirit

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com | 6/3/2013 9:43 P.M. ET 

Recap: BOS 3, NYY 0 – F/600:02:14
Daily Recap: Clay Buchholz shutout the Yankees over five innings while David Ortiz and Jose Iglesias each went deep in a 3-0 Red Sox victory

NEW YORK — The Yankees have lost seven of their last nine games, including four in a row last week to the Mets and a pair this weekend to the Red Sox, always their top rivals in the American League East.

But Hal Steinbrenner, the team’s managing general partner, is certainly not panicking.

“Well, they’re struggling, no doubt about it, but they’re going to keep fighting,” Steinbrenner told the collective media after a press conference at Yankee Stadium that announced a new eight-year deal for the Big 10 to participate in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl college football showcase.

“The morale is good. I know that for a fact. I was down there earlier today. They’re going to keep fighting and let’s keep perspective here. We’re three games out in the toughest division in baseball. We’re right in the middle of the fight and that’s going to continue. But we do need to start hitting, there’s no doubt about it. They know that. They know that.”

In a six-minute off-the-cuff gathering prior to Monday night’s opener of a three-game set against the Indians, Steinbrenner fielded questions about Robinson Cano’s contract, the future of Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees and the four-game sweep by the hands of the crosstown Mets.

No news on Cano’s contract

About Cano, the Yankees All-Star second baseman who can be a free agent this offseason, Steinbrenner said there was no news.

“I have nothing new to report, nothing new to report,” he said. “If there’s something significant, you guys will be the first to know.”

Hoping A-Rod will ‘act like a Yankee’

About A-Rod, who is rehabbing from hip surgery at the club’s complex in Tampa, Fla., Steinbrenner was asked to respond to comments made by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball that it was tough for the third baseman to live up to his eight-year, $275 million contract.

“It’s something I think even Alex would tell you, he couldn’t live up to that,” Cashman said.

Responded Steinbrenner: “Well, it’s a big contract to live up to. I didn’t see Brian’s comments, to be honest with you. Look, we just hope he comes back healthy as he did in ’09 after the surgery and we hope he contributes in a big way. I mean, he’s a heck of an athlete and if the surgery has fixed the problem, you may see good things out of him. We certainly hope so. … We all hope he’s going to act like a Yankee and do the best he can to live up to it.”

Asked if Rodriguez has acted like a Yankee, Steinbrenner added: “Well, we’ll see. We’ll find out when he comes back. I know he’s been working hard and he’s been working hard to come back. And he does work hard. He knows what it means to be a Yankee. He knows what we expect of him. He knows what his teammates expect of him. We just hope he comes back strong. We need all the help we can get.

“There’s no doubt at times that we’ve been disappointed in him and we’ve conveyed that to him and he understands that. But everyone is human. Everyone makes mistakes. If you’ve got a guy over the course of 10 years, there will be times when anybody is going to make mistakes in a decade, right?”

About Major League Baseball’s investigation of A-Rod’s steroid use through a now defunct Miami clinic, Steinbrenner said: “We haven’t been told anything so it hasn’t complicated [our relationship] at all. He’s been in Tampa. He’s been rehabbing. We hope he comes back strong. But there’s innocent until proven guilty, right? We haven’t heard a thing.”

Staying calm over Mets sweep

Steinbrenner took over management of the club in the waning days of his father George’s life. The man they called “The Boss” passed away nearly three years ago at the age of 80.

In recent days, as the Yanks were swept by the Mets, there has been much talk about how the late Steinbrenner would have handled it. He was well-known for his quick outbursts, sudden firings and written public apologies to Yankees fans after a series of losses like the ones that have occurred in recent days.

But the current Yankees hierarchy has handled the situation with an even and calm hand, as Hal Steinbrenner conveyed again Monday.

“He went through a few [of these],” Steinbrenner said about his dad. “Some of them he handled better than others, right? Some of you guys were here. So I can’t say. Maybe he would’ve been fine, maybe not. It’s a long season and we’re right in the middle of it, right in the middle of it.”

But losing two at Citi Field and another pair at Yankee Stadium to the Mets? How does that feel in the present tense?

“Look, they are the crosstown rivals, there’s no doubt about that. But I concern myself a little bit more with the teams in our division. You have to. But does it feel good? No. Does it sting? Yes, absolutely, absolutely.”

‘Very much in this fight’

In summing up a season during which almost $100 million of star players have been on the disabled list, one the Yankees are still playing without A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli and Michael Pineda, Steinbrenner said he’s pleased that the Yankees are where they are.

“I think about the team, a lot of people expected the doomsday scenario around April 1,” he said. “I don’t think anybody figured we’d be three games out of first place in the American League East. I think the team has done well against adversity. The pitching has been great. You can’t say enough about the pitching the entire season. And the guys we’ve brought in, the veterans, have done a good job and some of the young kids have done a good job.

“Look, the last week has hurt. There’s no doubt about it. It’s not a fun place to be when you’re slumping. Again, let’s try to keep the perspective that we’ve very much in this fight and we’re right at the top.”

IRIOLES TRADE POSSIBILITIES INCLUDE GARZA

Orioles trade rumors: Bud Norris, Matt Garza among possibilities

By on Jun 29 2013, 11:27p  @ChrisCotillo +

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Bob Levey

The Orioles are looking like they are ready to make a move for a pitcher before the trade deadline.

The Baltimore Orioles, currently 2.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East, are in the midst of a comprehensive search to add an established starting pitcher before the trade deadline.

Here’s a rundown of some of the possibilities:

Bud Norris (Astros)

The Orioles are “highly interested” in Houston Astros‘ starter Bud Norris and have had multiple talks with Houston in recent days, according to MASN.com’s Roch Kubatko. Norris, who has been linked to the Pirates and Giants in trade rumors, is one of the most likely arms to get traded in early July. While many teams seem interested in him, Baltimore seems to have the most serious interest in him to this point and may emerge as the favorite to acquire him as other teams shift their focus to other starter options on the market.

Orioles ‘aggressively pursuing’ rotation upgrades, sitting on 2B

Baltimore is considering Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Jason Vargas, and others — but will likely stand pat at 2nd base.

Matt Garza (Cubs)

After being lukewarm on him at first, the Orioles now have interest in Chicago Cubs‘ starter Matt Garza, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

Heyman adds that the O’s currently find the Cubs’ asking price for Garza to be too high, although they have scouted him in recent days, according to a report from MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat.

As detailed in yesterday’s piece, Garza is expected to be traded very soon and is drawing interest from many teams.

Yovani Gallardo (Brewers)

Milwaukee Brewers‘ starter Yovani Gallardo, who may be the most attractive pitcher on the trade market this summer, seems like a perfect fit for the Orioles, but they are one of ten teams on his no-trade list, as MLBDailyDish’s Chris Cotillo reported yesterday. Because the Brewers would like to make a deal with no restrictions, Gallardo to the Orioles is an unlikely scenario at this point.

Ricky Nolasco (Marlins)

Miami Marlins‘ righty Ricky Nolasco, who is expected to be traded very soon, has been consistently linked to the Orioles, but Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com report that they are “less confident’ in their chances to acquire him. The Dodgers, Padres, and Giants are seen as Nolasco’s most serious suitors, and a deal should happen soon.

Edinson Volquez (Padres)

The Orioles and San Diego Padres may be able to match up on a July trade, according to Bill Center of U-T San Diego, who writes that Baltimore is interested in Edinson Volquez and San Diego is interested in Orioles’ righty Jake Arrieta. With the Padres known to be active in talks for other starters, they are not expected to move Volquez before the deadline.

Other options:

The Orioles are also looking at Andrew Cashner (Padres), Scott Feldman (Cubs), Jake Peavy (White Sox), and Joe Saunders (Mariners), according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

CHRIS DAVIS HITS TWO TO PUND YANKEES

Davis hits 2 HRs as Orioles pound Yankees

CBSSports.com wire reports

June 29, 2013

 

Chris Davis hits two more home runs to up his major league-leading total to 30 as the O's top the Yanks.  (USATSI)

BALTIMORE — Curveball, fastballs, good pitches, bad pitches, it doesn’t matter to Chris Davis.

They’re all flying off his bat and into the seats at a record pace.

Davis homered twice to raise his major league-leading total to 30, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Yankees 11-3 Saturday night to extend New York’s losing streak to four games.

Davis hit a three-run drive in the first inning and added a two-run shot in the sixth, his third multihomer game of the season. The five RBIs gave him 79, second-most in the big leagues and just six short of his career high.

Davis is the first player in Orioles history to hit 30 home runs before the end of June. With one more long ball in the next 14 games, Davis will break the franchise record for home runs before the All-Star break, set in 1996 by Brady Anderson.

“You can’t make mistakes,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We made two mistakes with two curveballs tonight. We left them up in the zone and he hit them both out. He’s not hitting 1.000, but I will say he is having a tremendous year. You have to make your pitches.”

Given that Davis’ career high for home runs in a season is 33, who could have seen this coming?

“I don’t think it’s anything you can predict,” Davis said. “I think it’s something you obviously work hard toward in the offseason to try and carry it into spring training and then into the season. I’m not going up there to try and hit home runs. I’m just trying to put good swings on good pitches. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Davis scored three runs and upped his batting average to .333. The five RBIs tied a season high.

“You can see him grinding and working on it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s not satisfied. He wants to continue to contribute at a high level for his teammates.”

Ryan Flaherty also homered for the Orioles, who built a 9-0 lead in the third against David Phelps (5-5). Baltimore will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Sunday.

“They’re a tough opponent and we get a chance to see them a bunch during the season, but we have a chance to go for the sweep,” Davis said. “It would be huge for us.”

Zach Britton (2-2) limited the offensively challenged, injury-riddled Yankees to one earned run over 5 2-3 innings. New York began the day ranked 26th in batting average and 23rd in runs among the 30 major league teams.

Phelps surrendered nine hits and a career-high nine runs in 2 1-3 innings. The right-hander was 4-0 in his last nine starts against AL East foes since Aug. 27, 2012.

“I don’t care what our offense is doing. If you give up nine runs, it’s a big hole to dig yourself out of,” Phelps said. “The last four or five games I’ve gotten good run support. It’s frustrating to go out there and not give them a chance to do it.”

The Yankees have lost 12 of 17 to fall within four games of .500 (42-38) for the first time since April 26 (13-9). In addition, New York has dropped four straight in Baltimore during a single season for the first time since 1982.

“You just have to keep fighting,” said Robinson Cano, who had two hits. “Hopefully, sooner or later, we’ll turn it around and start winning games so we can get closer. We got beat tonight. It’s not like we making errors. There was not much you could do.”

After Britton worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first, Baltimore batted around in the bottom half. Singles by Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones produced a run before Davis got under a 2-1 pitch and sent it soaring into the bullpen area beyond the center-field wall for a 4-0 lead.

The Orioles added five runs in the third. Two walks and a single loaded the bases for Chris Dickerson, who singled in two runs. Flaherty followed with a three-run shot to chase Phelps, who was replaced by Ivan Nova.

New York chased Britton in the sixth. After Zoilo Almonte hit a sacrifice fly, another run scored when Davis booted Lyle Overbay’s two-out grounder to first. With the bases loaded, Jair Jurrjens came in and retired Austin Romine on a fly ball.

Davis homered off Nova in the bottom half after a single by Markakis. Successive doubles by Chris Stewart and Brett Garner off Pedro Strop made it 11-3 in the ninth.

Notes

  • Brian Roberts (hip, knee) is scheduled to return from the DL and start at 2B for Baltimore on Sunday. The 35-year-old last played on April 4.
  • Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound for New York on Sunday. Chris Tillman seeks his career-high 10th win for Baltimore.
  • Nova is going to be part of the Yankees’ six-man rotation heading into the All-Star break, and he could start in the upcoming series against Minnesota, manager Joe Girardi said.
  • The Orioles recalled Jurrjens before the game and designated 1B Travis Ishikawa for assignment.
  • The only starter in the Baltimore lineup without a hit was Nate McLouth, who went 0 for 5.

BECKETT TO HAVE SEASON ENDING SURGERY

Beckett to have season-ending surgery

By The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – 2 hours 4 minutes ago

Right-hander Josh Beckett‘s season is over before it ever really got going. The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Saturday that the 33-year-old pitcher will undergo surgery on a nerve in the neck area, referred to a ohoracic outlet syndrome. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Greg Pearl in Dallas during the week of July 8. The recovery time is estimated at three to five months, ending Beckett’s chances of returning this season. But he is expected to be ready for spring training next year. Beckett had struggled to a 0-5 record with a 5.19 ERA in eight starts this season. He went on the disabled list in May with a groin injury but also had numbness and tingling in his pitching fingers that didn’t improve after he took four weeks off. Beckett resumed throwing for the first time in a month this week and the problem persisted.  “Josh kind of went backwards a little bit,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I know he had some tingling again (Friday) after throwing. He didn’t throw very long.”  Beckett, who came to the Dodgers in a trade last summer, is making $15.75 million this year and in 2014.