Talk about your well kept secrets. In any other year, chances are the Los Angeles Dodgers being in first place would warrant page one of the local sports section. On Monday, their story couldn’t be found until about page 7.
The Dodgers are used to losing space to the “ho-hum-we’re-in-the-playoffs” Lakers this time of year. What makes this spring different is the Dodgers may not even rate a number three behind the NHL and the poor-man’s answer to the Lakers, the LA Clippers.
The Los Angeles Kings sweeping the St. Louis Blues to return to the Western Conference final for the first time since 1993 as well as the Clippers taking a 2-1 lead in their playoff series with Memphis, has relegated the Dodgers to the third or even fourth wheel these days.
In spite of clinging to a four game lead in the NL West, this year’s version of the Dodgers doesn’t quite have the city talking. Part of it may be that the team has yet to sell itself to the fans as a legit contender since they went 2-4 on this week’s road trip against two sub-.500 teams, the Rockies and Cubs. The other may be that this team has delivered more bad news than good in regards to injuries and a questionable bullpen.
Both outfielder Matt Kemp and infielder Jerry Hairston have been felled, at least temporarily, by hamstring injuries. Kemp was scratched from Sunday’s starting line-up due to a strain. Hairston came up limp while running down to first base on a grounder in the second inning of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Cubs.
The two currently lead the team in hitting (Kemp is at .388, Hairston is second best at .315) so a trip to the DL would only cripple; pardon the pun, an offense that is weak to begin with. Kemp felt good enough to pinch hit in the seventh inning Sunday and keep alive his consecutive game streak. He has appeared in 393 straight games but sounds as though he does not want to take any chances of playing hurt in an effort to keep the streak alive.
“It’s something that maybe just needs to rested one day,” Kemp said. If I try to go out there and do something stupid, it could end up being two weeks. Hopefully, I can play tomorrow (Monday).”
If Hairston goes down, the Dodgers would be left without a proven shortstop to back up the struggling Dee Gordon (.226). Juan Uribe is still day-to-day as he recovers from a nagging wrist injury. Utility infielder Adam Kennedy is next in line but he has a whopping two career innings at short.
Is Mattingly closer to a closer decision?
Closer Javy Guerra couldn’t close out the game on Sunday and, once again, manager Don Mattingly was asked if he is rethinking his bullpen strategy.
Sunday, Guerra, who saved 21 games in 23 chances last season, gave up two hits, a walk and a run in the bottom of the ninth and allowed the Cubs to tie a game the Dodgers would eventually lose. It was Guerra’s third blown save of the season. In his last five appearances, Guerra has surrendered twelve hits and five runs in four innings. When asked about how long he will stick with Guerra, Mattingly would only say “I’ll have a look at it, for sure.”
Overall, the Dodgers bullpen did not have a very good weekend. Relievers combined to give up 10 hits, seven walks, and four runs in eight innings of work.
The only bright spot, albeit it a brief one, may have been the comeback attempt of hard throwing reliever Ronald Belisario. Belisario returned from a 25-game suspension and pitched a scoreless inning on Saturday. It was his first appearance since 2010.
Belisario, a native of Venezuela, had a terrific rookie season in 2009. He finished with a 2.04 ERA and opposing hitters mustered a paltry .201 batting average against him. But his ride towards bullpen stardom took a few detours. He was arrested for a DUI in 2009 and that arrest led to visa problems which did not allow him to return to the team until after the first month of the 2010 season. The same issues kept him stuck in Venezuela for the entire 2011 season. Belisario tested positive for cocaine during the winter and that led to him being suspended as the 2012 season kicked off.
Even billionaires like ice cream
The new Dodgers ownership group immediately won many fans over when they announced the price of general parking would be cut from $15 to $10. Now, they may attempt to appease fans in their stomachs as well as their wallets.
One of the new owners, Peter Guber, says he was a big fan of a popular ice cream sandwich, the Cool-A-Coo, which was sold at Dodger Stadium concessions for many years until they disappeared under FOX ownership in the late 90’s. Guber is looking to contact the Los Angeles based company that makes them and talk about returning a favorite to Dodger Stadium.
As someone who broke a few teeth on them when the freezer worked a bit too well, all I can say is “cool.”