I had a few thoughts about the state of the Dodgers going into the home opener against the Giants. This will be partly a regurgitation of what we already know, but also partly a rant.
The Kershawless Pitching Rotation
Without Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu slip from #2/#3 to #1/#2, even though it doesn’t look that way in terms of the days they pitch. Rather, it looks like Ryu has moved into the #1 position, as he is about to start his third game in the sixth game for the Dodgers. But that’s really because Greinke was held back from going to Australia. Now whether he was held back by his calf injury or whether he held himself back and had a phantom injury, I will leave that for you to contemplate.
The rest of the rotation is slowly coming together. Haren looked great last night, so he slips into the #3 position. That leaves us with who can do a credible job at #4 and who can do at least semi-decent at #5 when that need arises. Maholm is slated to be the #4 man at this time, and we’ll get our first look at his abilities or inabilities to fill this role on Saturday against the hated ones. It will be some time before we need a #5 starter. With that extra time, Beckett may be available, but I for one have a nagging feeling that he may not be ready. In that case, we will likely use Fife as an emergency spot starter. Zach Lee would not likely be used until the team needs a #5 starter on a more permanent basis. By then, Billingsley may also be ready.
Well, Brian Wilson pretty much said that he didn’t have enough time in Spring Training to get in all the work he needed. That’s what precipitated him having to move to the DL. He’ll be back, hopefully in fifteen days. In the meantime, we need to find a new set up man for the eighth inning. The answer to that need is not immediately obvious. If it was me making the decision, I would use Paco. He was lights out last year until he got tired late in the season.
Impact of the Australia Trip
This reminds me of last year, when Hanley broke his thumb during the World Baseball Congress. Don’t mess around during Spring Training. It’s called Spring Training for a reason. This is the time to get the team ready for high level, professional, major league baseball.
The Return of Matt Kemp
The four outfielder conundrum returns. Who will be shipped off? Probably SVS, rather than Baxter. Why? (1) Options (2) Baxter is the left hander off the bench. Why does that matter if Crawford or Ethier will be on the bench? Keep Scott Van Slyke on the MLB roster. His bat is the bat we need off the bench. No more Michael Young, no more Sweeney. Get rid of Baxter, he hasn’t done a thing.
Somebody is getting into Mattingly’s head and moving the baserunners. Look at the surprise bunt by Puig to move Crawford to third base. Look at Ethier and Hanley stealing bases. I think this is the impact of Wallach as bench coach and it is a great impact. I’d like to see more of it. This will keep the opposing pitchers off balance when we’ve got guys on base. This is the National League, you don’t sit around and wait for home runs.
Puig is here to stay and will continue to be a force both offensively and defensively. Does he still have rough edges? You bet. How many? Well, let’s see there’s (1) baserunning mistakes, (2) doesn’t always hit the cutoff man, (3) missed a sign while batting last night. I’m sure there’s more than that. He is still a work in progress. He needs to take advice from both the coaches and his teammates. He’s getting there, but don’t expect him to be a veteran player by the end of this season. Meanwhile, right now he’s one of the most interesting hitters to watch. The others being Hanley and Matt.