Chad Billingsley needs to have a good sinker tonight

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That’s because Andre Ethier is making his first career start in center field for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks and southpaw Wade Miley.

Manager Don Mattingly indicated last night that Ethier would make a limited number of starts in center with Matt Kemp out. Tony Gwynn Jr. will play there against righties, but shifting Ethier to center against lefties allows the Dodgers to get Scott Van Slyke’s bat in the lineup.

Unfortunately, it also makes for a pretty dreadful outfield defense. The Dodgers have Jerry Sands starting in left field alongside Ethier and Van Slyke tonight.

Now, I could live with all of that except for one thing… James Loney is starting at first base tonight. The James Loney who is hitting .152/.200/.212 in 33 at-bats against left-handers this year. The James Loney who is a career .248/.304/.361 hitter in 743 at-bats versus southpaws.

I just don’t see how the Dodgers could possibly be better off with Loney at first base tonight than with Gwynn in center and Sands at first base. Gwynn can’t hit lefties either (career .237/.291/.294 in 262 AB), but at least he’s a superior defensive center fielder. He’d make three positions better by being in the starting lineup.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.