Daily Distractions: What to watch for in the second half.

Matt Kemp

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.

5. Outfield playing time. Only left fielder Carl Crawford seems assured of an everyday place in the lineup. For all their talent, the others each have something to prove: Kemp that he doesn’t need occasional rest to be a productive hitter; Yasiel Puig that he’s not a strikeout machine; Andre Ethier that he’s not a platoon player (his batting average against left-handers is down to .245 and at home it’s .226).

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Someone likes the Dodgers’ odds of winning a World Series.

The online gambling website Bovada released its midseason list of World Series favorites, ranking the Dodgers – drumroll please – fifth, at 9-to-1.

Here are Bovada’s top 10:

Detroit Tigers                            13/2
St. Louis Cardinals                    7/1
Atlanta Braves                           8/1
Boston Red Sox                       9/1
Los Angeles Dodgers                9/1
Oakland Athletics                      10/1
Texas Rangers                          12/1
Cincinnati Reds                         15/1
Washington Nationals                15/1
Pittsburgh Pirates                      16/1

At a glance, this is a case of one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other. The Tigers, Cardinals, Braves and Red Sox are all in first place in their division, comfortably above .500. So are the A’s. The Rangers, Reds and Pirates are all in playoff position.

And then we have the Dodgers at 47-47, with plenty of flaws, 2 ½ games out of first place but only 6 games out of last place in the National League West. Bovada gives the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks a 20-to-1 chance of winning it all.

In spite of their slow start, in spite of the 25-year drought since they last won the World Series, don’t call the Dodgers underdogs. Apparently having a $230 million roster and a Best Breakthrough Athlete ESPY Award runner-up speaks volumes.

And who’s ready for that 2006 and 1968 Tigers-Cardinals World Series rematch?

Some bullet points for a Nelson Mandela Day:

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Daily Distractions: Yasiel Puig jersey sales already rank 10th in 2013.

A list of the most popular jersey sales on MLB.com/shop was released today:

1. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
2. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
4. David Wright, New York Mets
5. Matt Harvey, New York Mets
6. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
7. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
8. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
9. Mike Trout, LA Angels of Anaheim
10. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
11. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
12. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
13. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
14. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers
15. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasiel PuigIndeed, a player who began the season in Double-A has sold more jerseys than all but nine players through early July.

More on Puig in a bit. Let’s not overlook that Ryu jersey sales rank 11th, only Puig separating Ryu from the buzz-worthy title of “Dodgers rookie sensation.” And that four Dodgers (with the cross-cultural appeal that comes with representing four different ethnic groups) rank among the top 15.

Onto the bullet points:

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