Matt Kemp leaves the field with athletic trainer Nancy Patterson on after straining his right hamstring in a 4-3 loss to the Angels. (Associated Press)
The “second half” of the season will consist of 68 games for the Dodgers. Here’s what to watch for:
1. For lack of an obvious turning point in the Dodgers’ schedule over the next month, check out the Diamondbacks’ road trip from July 30 to August 4: Two in Tampa, one in Texas (a makeup game), followed by three in Boston. The Dodgers play the Cubs four times in that stretch, making it a good time to make up ground in the division.
2. The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. They belong to Ricky Nolasco and Stephen Fife, once healthy, until further notice. The Dodgers are expected to announce a decision on Ted Lilly today — one that doesn’t involve him going back into the rotation — and move Chris Capuano to the bullpen once Fife returns from the disabled list.
3. The bullpen. As I indicated in my midseason report card, the Dodgers need more than three reliable pitchers out of the bullpen. With two open spots on the 40-man roster, count on one going to a relief pitcher over the next six weeks. Maybe it’s Carlos Marmol. Maybe it’s someone outside the organization who can provide a better right-handed complement to Kenley Jansen than deposed closer Brandon League.
4. Matt Kemp‘s shoulder. How much will a week’s worth of rest and a few rehab games do for Kemp’s swing? His power was almost nonexistent in the first half, as reflected in a devilish .666 OPS. Kemp could easily find himself batting fifth or lower when he returns next week from his latest stint on the disabled list.
Carl Crawford was a late lineup scratch from the Dodgers’ game against the Colorado Rockies with back stiffness.
“I think it’s minor,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Carl’s a guy we’ve got to pay attention to as far as how much work he does. He struggled on that road trip and was hitting and hitting and hitting and we got to kind of monitor him and make sure he doesn’t hit too much. We think it comes a little bit from just doing what Carl does. And from what players do in general is when they’re not doing what they want, they keep working. It’s a characteristic that we like but we got to make sure it doesn’t go too far.”
The eight-starter experiment was basically a big game of “what if”: What if Chad Billingsley‘s elbow doesn’t hold up? What if Ted Lilly isn’t the same pitcher he was pre-surgery? What if the best pitcher in Korea can be one of the best pitchers in the United States? What if he can’t?
Here’s another “what if”: What if the Dodgers hadn’t gone out and acquired Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and entered this season with the same collection of starters they had a year ago?
Now you’re looking at Nathan Eovaldi stepping into the fifth starter’s job to replace Billingsley. Oh, wait. Eovaldi hasn’t pitched since spring training because of a shoulder issue. He’s on the 60-day disabled list (currently the Miami Marlins’ problem). Come on down, Stephen Fife.
He leads the Senior Circuit in batting average (.464), on-base percentage (.531), is tied for fourth in OPS (1.246), tied for eighth in runs (8) and seventh in stolen bases (2).
Less than 10 games into the season, we can cherry-pick a few more eye-raising stats.
Three Dodgers – Mark Ellis (4.83), A.J. Ellis (4.67) and Andre Ethier (4.32) – are among the top eight in pitches per plate appearance. The Mark McGwire effect? Maybe. Adrian Gonzalez is seeing the seventh-fewest pitches per plate appearances in the NL, 3.30, tied with some kid named Bryce Harper. Yet somehow Gonzalez has more walks (4) than strikeouts (3) this season.
As for Ethier, who turned 31 yesterday, he’s batting .429 against left-handed pitchers and .182 against righties. His lefty-righty splits were .222 and .325 last year.
On the flip side, Matt Kemp‘s batting average is .167.
Clearly, the guy doesn’t belong in the big leagues.
Here are some bullet points for a Thursday morning:
Carl Crawford is playing his third straight game in left field tonight as the Dodgers visit the Kansas City Royals in Surprise.
The Dodgers didn’t want to pencil in Crawford as their Opening Day left fielder until he passed a threshhold for throwing distance, mentioned previously at 125 feet. He has passed that threshhold “and he’s still got five days of throwing,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly noted Monday. That’s great news for Crawford, who underwent Tommy John surgery just last August and was initially speculated to be out until May.
That’s not great news if you were hoping to see Yasiel Puig in left field come Opening Day.
Dee Gordon will start at shortstop today against the Cincinnati Reds, and Carl Crawford will make his debut in left field tomorrow against the Chicago White Sox, as the Dodgers explore options for their Opening Day lineup.
In case you missed it, I wrote about Carl Crawford‘s return to the Dodgers yesterday. It was an emotional one. He’ll be back in the lineup today against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch, leading off as the designated hitter. He’s expected to do the same tomorrow against the A’s. Crawford said Monday morning that he’s still pain-free in his surgically repaired left elbow.
As sometimes happens, there wasn’t room in the paper for everything I wrote. Here’s what you missed:
Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford will DH in a minor-league game again today. He did the same yesterday and his seven plate appearances “went good,” in Crawford’s words. (Major-league players on rehab assignments are allowed to bat once an inning, in different spots in the order, in minor league games.)
“My timing’s getting better,” Crawford said. “I took a a few good swings. I’m starting to track (the ball) a little bit.”
If he had to hit in a major-league game tomorrow? “I think I’d be OK,” Crawford said.
Update (9:30 a.m.): Crawford may get to find out. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that he may use tomorrow’s home game against the Milwaukee Brewers to get Crawford his first at-bats of the spring. The Dodgers also have a split-squad road game scheduled for 1 p.m. against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If Crawford doesn’t play tomorrow, he could DH in Monday’s home game against the Diamondbacks. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson has already disallowed use of the DH in a game once this spring, but use of the DH in spring games is determined by the home manager, regardless of whether the game is in an American or National League park.
“Even though I want the pitchers to hit, Carl takes precedence,” Mattingly said.
For the third straight day, Crawford will test his throwing from approximately 90 feet, the same distance he was throwing from when team trainers temporarily shut down his rehab program two weeks ago.
Crawford underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last August and remains questionable to play Opening Day. He hasn’t appeared in a game since August 19, 2012.
Carl Crawford took his first swings against live pitching on Feb. 25, but was shut down four days later.
Carl Crawford was scheduled to face three live major-league pitchers Tuesday, teammates J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League. He saw about 20 pitches each from Howell and Jansen, pouncing off one Jansen pitch that bounced off the left-field fence. Then Crawford walked off the field along with coaches and a trainer; League had to face a pair of Dodgers minor-league hitters instead.
Rick Renteria, manager of Team Mexico, stops for an interview after his team’s 10-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday. If you watched this interview on TV in Mexico, now you know who that goofy-looking guy with the cell phone camera was.
The Dodgers are hosting the Texas Rangers today. Scott Van Slyke is starting at first base in his first call-up to the major league side since being demoted from the 40-man roster last year.
Keep an eye on the Rangers’ bullpen. Former Dodger Josh Lindblom, traded last year to the Philadelphia Phillies for Shane Victorino, is scheduled to pitch for Texas. Not many 25-year-old middle relievers can say they were traded for two former All-Stars, but Lindblom can (Victorino and Michael Young).
Three significant bits of injury news were widely reported out of Glendale this morning (I’m in Tempe) that I’ll pass along:
1. Zack Greinke, feeling better today after missing yesterday’s start with a flu, will throw a bullpen session Friday and pitch Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
2. Carl Crawford took 50 swings off a tee today and told reporters he felt fine.
3. Scott Elbert felt fine one day after throwing on flat ground for the first time since elbow surgery in January.