LOS ANGELES -- When the Dodgers this week promoted outfielder Scott Van Slyke, last year's Minor League position Player of the Year, from Triple-A Albuquerque to Los Angeles, they also promoted Shawn Tolleson, last year's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, from Double-A to Triple-A.
Maybe the dots connect or maybe it's coincidence, but the Tolleson move comes as reliever Todd Coffey continues to struggle. Coffey couldn't finish off Friday night's ninth inning that started with a six-run lead, requiring manager Don Mattingly to use Ronald Belisario for the final out.
Mattingly virtually excused Coffey -- whose ERA is 16.20 -- because his use has been "inconsistent." Of course, that's because he hasn't pitched effectively enough for the manager to want to use him consistently.
Coffey also missed 13 games on the disabled list with what was announced as a knee injury, although that move coincided with a roster numbers jam and was made one day after Coffey said he was fine.
What is clear is that while Matt Guerrier is on the disabled list and Mike MacDougal will be released on Sunday, Josh Lindblom and Belisario are now getting the innings Coffey was expected to eat, and the club seems to be preparing Tolleson for his Major League debut.
Meanwhile, bullpen coach Ken Howell, nearly fully healed from a diabetes-related wound, studied Coffey's poor outing Friday night and suggested the right-hander move his position on the rubber from the third-base side to the middle.
"Everything is to one side of the plate," Howell said. "He's having trouble throwing away to right-handers, everything is running back over the middle and it's easy for the hitter to track balls that way. We know he has the ability to do better. When he tries to get pitches out there, now he's yanking them. I think shifting his position will help."
Hamstring strain slows Kemp's steals pursuit
LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp is on pace to slug 60 home runs, but the stolen-base part of his 50/50 goal is virtually off the table.
Kemp has only two stolen bases with the season roughly 20 percent over. At this point last season, Kemp had nine steals and finished with 40.
He was only 2-for-5 in attempts when he was healthy this year and now he's playing safety first while nursing a left hamstring strain.
Kemp and manager Don Mattingly are in agreement that his bat is too valuable to the lineup to take chances by doing anything "stupid," as Kemp puts it.
Kemp has already had more hitless games in May than he did for all of April and he hasn't homered since last month, but Mattingly said it's not because of the hamstring.
"I don't think it has anything to do with it," he said. "The first day after, he had four hits. Matt's no different than anybody else. He's not going to hit .430. He'll go through periods and I don't think it has anything to do with the hammy.
"Any time Matt struggles, it's going to be, 'What's wrong with Matt?' He's been so good for so long that any time he struggles, he's hurt, what's wrong? He is human."
Generous Ethier leaving fans, manager in awe
LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier gave an autographed bat to 11-year-old Daniel Millan, a Little Leaguer battling Ewing's sarcoma who had his Make-A-Wish fulfilled Saturday by meeting the Dodgers outfielder.
"I was in shock," Daniel said after meeting Ethier. "I was kind of speechless."
Ethier not only is impressive in what he's giving away, he's impressing manager Don Mattingly with what he isn't giving away this year -- namely, at-bats.
"He's been unbelievable," Mattingly said of Ethier. "He expects so much and is really hard on himself when he's not having success. We talk about it, that you can't come through all the time, but you can fight all the time."
Ethier and Matt Kemp have responded to Mattingly's spring appeal for them to be leaders and, in Ethier's case, that includes controlling his emotions and fighting through tough at-bats.
"The guys leading your club have got to play hard all the time," Mattingly said. "If they don't, the next guy won't either. It's important for the better players to play hard. Then there's no question for anybody else."
Mattingly happy to have Miles back in fold
LOS ANGELES -- On Friday, the Dodgers put Jerry Hairston on the disabled list and announced the signing of free agent Aaron Miles, but manager Don Mattingly said one move did not directly lead to the other.
"We were talking to Miles before that happened," Mattingly said.
Nonetheless, Miles is already working out at extended spring training in Arizona and will likely head to Triple-A Albuquerque when he's game ready, unless the Dodgers need him by then.
Miles was coming off one of his better seasons last year when he drove in 45 runs and played more than expected with injuries to Juan Uribe and Casey Blake. But he apparently priced himself out of the market by asking for a multi-year contract and wound up with no contract, the Dodgers instead turning to Adam Kennedy for bench depth.
"I can't say we have a plan that Aaron Miles will be here, but I can say it's nice knowing he's there," Mattingly said. "He drove in close to 50 runs. I'm shocked he's not playing somewhere. I think it's a great sign. You never know what's going to happen."
Rash of hamstring injuries concerns Mattingly
LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp, Jerry Hairston, Juan Uribe, Matt Angle and Alex Castellanos.
The three Major Leaguers and two Minor Leaguers all have dealt with hamstring injuries in the past few weeks and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admits he wonders why.
"You wonder, are we doing anything different?" Mattingly said. "It doesn't sound like we are. Maybe it's coincidental."
Any injury to Kemp is a big deal, but Mattingly pointed out that other key players have been stricken.
"Juan and Jerry are two important guys with what we do," he said. "I'm not happy with any injury. We just want to weather the storm, be smart, get healthy. We don't want them to come back too quick."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.