It’s been a bumpy start to the season for the Dodgers. My theory to the Dodgers’ slow start is the trip to Australia that cut the Dodgers’ spring training short. Because of a short spring training, the Dodgers lost key players early in the season like Clayton Kershaw and A.J. Ellis to injuries to players in bad slumps. The players won’t admit it, but somewhere in the back of their minds, they know that shorten spring training, the day flight to Australia and back messed up their mindset and routines in preparing for the season. I already know the Dodgers are preparing for a new start of the season when Kershaw returns today and Ellis due to return sometime down the road.
Losing Kershaw and Ellis early in the season really hurt the Dodgers because it threw the whole team mindset off. The Dodgers played decent enough without Kershaw and Ellis, but all of confused mindset will be put back on track when Kershaw returns to make his first start since Australia. Dodgers pitching prospect, Pedro Baez, who made his major league debut yesterday, is the most likely player to be sent back down to the minors in place of Kershaw’s return. When Ellis returns, the Dodgers will have to make a big decision of whom to send down and risk losing in waivers between Drew Butera and Miguel Olivo.
Butera, who is out of options, made the Opening day roster in Australia, while Olivo was sent down to Triple-A because ultimately, Olivo was not on the 40 man roster. Olivo, also out of options, initially didn’t want to play in Triple-A and wanted to look for major league job, wanted to opt out of his contract, but the Dodgers didn’t let him. It all worked for Olivo, who decided to stay at Albuquerque, where he was batting .393 with 4 home runs when he got called up to replace fellow catcher, Tim Federowicz, with injured pitcher Chad Billingsley moved to the 60 day disabled list. Olivo was asked to provide a spark in the lineup and delivered the immediate spark when he first joined the team in Minnesota and kept the momentum going. It is going to be interesting to see who Mattingly decides to keep.
Butera, kept mostly for his glove, is one of the better defensive players on the team, but it might not be enough to save him, if Olivo continues to provide a spark to the lineup. Butera has great glove and works well together with starting pitcher Zack Greinke, but I believe that Butera is the one that goes because the chances of losing him on waivers is lower than losing a bat like Olivo on waivers. At this time, I think it’s wiser to keep the bat in Olivo on the bench because the Dodgers need more production from their backup catcher and the rest of the bench, with the exception of Scott Van Slyke. Butera and Federowicz aren’t job done with the bat. Butera goes and Olivo earns a spot to stay.
Let’s not forget Hyun-jin Ryu is also on the 15 day DL and is also expected to return shortly after finding out that Ryu is pain free that his arm didn’t need a MRI to check to make sure that he is healthy. Ryu, who has been one of the most important Dodgers to step up in Kershaw’s absence, even though struggled a bit, but he, along with Greinke and Dan Haren helped keep the boat floating. When Ryu returns, I expect utility infielder Chone Figgins to be the prime candidate to get sent back down to Triple-A.
Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Brian Wilson and Hanley Ramirez are all in the middle of their slumps and it hurts the Dodgers. Ramirez and Crawford look like they are finally seeing the light at the end of tunnel and will be bouncing back soon. Wilson, I believe the main reason for his slump is short spring training. it messed up his routine as well, I’m sure the other players. As for Kemp and Ethier, it’s like they come together in a package. If Kemp slumps, Ethier slumps. The Dodgers need at least one of the two to get out of the slump first, so the other can follow. I see Kemp as that guy that breaks out of slump and gets the ball rolling and Ethier follows.
As soon as Kershaw, Ellis and Ryu all return and provided that no other key Dodger gets hurt in the process, that is when the real season begins because the Dodgers will have their intended 25 man roster. The team will get a big morale boost when Kershaw returns. Kershaw is the leader of this team and where Kershaw goes, the team follows. There is no doubt that the players don’t stay healthy all season. Injuries are part of the game, someone is going to get injured and someone on the team has to step up to the plate to help cover the production that is missing from that player. The Dodgers will rally and will be one of the toughest teams to face when the Dodgers get comfortable out on the field knowing that their leader is back healthy.