Today’s rehabilitation assignment begins Carl Crawford’s road back to the Los Angeles, but his arrival is sure to create a traffic jam.
Expected to finish his recovery from a strained left hamstring with four games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Crawford will join a Dodgers outfield including the game’s hottest hitter and two cornerstones of the franchise.
The question is, how will Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, rookie sensation Yasiel Puig and Crawford coexist in one outfield?
“I wouldn’t want to be the one making the decisions about who’s going to play,” Dodgers utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. said. “But it’s a good problem to have.”
One day after he allowed five runs in two innings to swell his earned-run average to 6.35, the Dodgers optioned right-handed reliever Peter Moylan to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Called up to take his place in the bullpen was Jose Dominguez, a 22-year-old with a 100-mph fast ball. The right-hander is highly regarded, but began the season serving a 25-game suspension for violation of the minor league drug prevention program. The specifics of his violation are unknown.
Luis Cruz and Don Mattingly were using the same term, but referencing entirely different things.
In every sense of the word, the Dodgers infielder’s timing was right on Tuesday.
With his days on the parent club’s roster seemingly numbered as Hanley Ramirez works his way back from a hamstring injury, Cruz produced his first extra-base hit of the season when he needed it most. The timing of the 29-year-old’s two-run home run in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Angels couldn’t have been better, according to Mattingly.
The Dodgers manager was grateful it gave his team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Cruz was happy the timing of his plant foot and his swing were properly coordinated, something that has been plaguing him during a season-long slump during which his batting average has ranged from .087 to .115.
Matt Kemp’s frustration was nearly as obvious in his postgame interview as it was when he was yelling in manager Don Mattingly’s general direction after being pulled in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the St. Louis Caridnals Saturday.
Six times Kemp used the phrase “bad at-bat” in reference to his inning-ending strikeout with two runners on base in the sixth inning of a one-run game. Both Kemp and Mattingly said independently that the center fielder wasn’t shouting at his manager when he exited in a double-switch.
“I was just frustrated,” Kemp said. “It had been a bad day for me. I didn’t do much to help the team win. It’s over now.”
Given the deluge of speculation that Don Mattingly will be fired, the Dodgers manager is happy not to have a choice in one matter.
It’s certainly unconventional to start four consecutive left-handed pitchers, but when Clayton Kershaw starts tomorrow’s series finale with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers will have done so for the first time in four years. Hyun-Jin Ryu picked up a win on Wednesday, Chris Capuano a loss in the series opener against the Cardinals Friday with Ted Lilly going today.
“It’s kind of like having all righties in the bullpen,” Mattingly said. “For us right now, it’s been our healthiest guys. If I had four Kershaws, would you not like that? It’s just how we’re throwing the baseball, not too much that it’s a lot of lefties.”
Luis Cruz has fallen a long way from the stabilizing force at third base he was late last season. He may soon be falling further.
After more than 1,200 games and 10 years in the minor leagues prior to last season’s success with the Dodgers, Cruz doesn’t want to consider a move back to the minor leagues. His .090 batting average, his fifth straight game not in the starting lineup and the fact that infielders Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. are soon to come off the disabled list could equal a demotion for the player that began the season with expectations to be the everyday third baseman.
“I don’t even think about the minors, cause that’s negative thinking,” Cruz said. “If there’s one thing I know, I can hit. I’ve been fighting for my spot my whole career, so I just got to be ready the next time they give me a shot.”
Paco Rodriguez fumbled for the words far too long before the Dodgers’ 22-year-old rookie reliever just gave up and laughed.
“If you would have asked me at this time last year if I would be in the major leagues today, I would have laughed at you,” Rodriguez said. “From one year to another, you know, your life changes completely.”
Exactly one year ago Saturday, the left-hander pitched two scoreless innings to close out a win for the University of Florida. The Dodgers’ second-round draft pick last year is not only the first player from the 2012 draft class to reach the major leagues, he sports the second-best earned-run average in the Dodgers’ bullpen. That’s not saying much considering Dodgers relievers have the fourth-highest collective ERA in the major leagues.