Los Angeles Dodgers: Rough weather in the merry month of May(?)

Years ago,  Chicago-born actor Bill Murray was a guest in the Chicago Cubs broadcasting booth.  As the Cubs embarked on a rally against the opposing pitcher, the manager came out to give him the hook.  “Too bad, we were hitting him so well,” Murray quipped.  The same may hold true for the Dodgers.

Bobby Abreu (left) and Andre Ethier will have to carry the offensive load in Matt Kemp's absence.

The team’s terrific start is being offset by the dearth of bodies going on the DL.  Matt Kemp, arguably the most exciting player in baseball today, became the fifth Dodger to etch his name onto the disabled list since the season began. Too bad, he was hitting pitchers so well (.359 BA, 12 HR).

Kemp became the third Dodger to join the list due to a hamstring injury.  Infielder Jerry Hairston (.315 BA) and Juan Rivera have been out with hamstring injuries as well.  Rivera’s injury is more serious since he actually tore the hamstring.  His return date has been summarized as “anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.” Also on the DL are infielder Juan Uribe (wrist) and pitcher Matt Guerrier (elbow tendonitis).

“It qualifies for next year in Spring Training,” joked manager Don Mattingly when he was reminded the line-up for Wednesday’s game against the Padres included only one position player, Andre Ethier, who was on the opening day card.  “We’re in a situation like a lot of other teams where guys are down.  We’ve just got to weather the storm. We’re lucky, we’ve got it, but they’re temporary. It seems worse because it came in bunches.”

In regards to hamstring problems, one is reminded of a minor controversy that surrounded the Baltimore Orioles a couple of years ago when they too encountered multiple injuries.  Some fans wondered if the head trainer hadn’t designed an adequate “pre-game” stretching routine.   It may be interesting to note that the Dodgers received a lot of positive press for appointing Sue Falsone as the first female head trainer in pro sports this season. As progressive a move as it was, can a trainer’s pre-game stretching program impact injuries?  Or is that a bit of a stretch itself given that a recent study proved warming up before a long run doesn’t necessarily prevent injuries?

The entire offensive burden may now rest on the shoulders of Ethier. He currently leads the NL in RBI with 35 and has 8 home runs.  Ethier has gone 15 for 36 (.417) over his last 10 games.  The problem is the five batters who followed Ethier in the line-up Wednesday  are hitting a combined .214.

This may be the first time Ethier will be able to prove he can do it alone. Ethier shot to stardom in 2009 with 31 home runs and had 106 RBI.  But pundits were quick to point out Ethier had the luxury of batting in between then-emerging star Kemp and Manny Ramirez. During Ramirez’s 50 game suspension for using a banned substance, Ethier’s average went from .312 to .256.  Then in 2010, Ethier was putting up Triple Crown like numbers until he was felled by a broken pinkie. He only spent a couple of weeks on the DL but claims his drop in home runs (23) was due to the pinkie hampering his swing all season. In 2011, his knee began acting up and by early September he was shut down for the season and underwent surgery.  Ethier is a free agent after this season.

 Who woulda thunk it?

The Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend in a match-up of two, somewhat surprising, division leaders. Many expected both teams to struggle this year. And Friday night’s pitching match-up is a good example of why both are doing well: the two starters are a combined 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA.

The Cardinals Lance Lynn is 6-1 with a 1.81 ERA. Dodgers starter Ted Lilly has started the season 5-0 and carries a 2.11 ERA.

It may be interesting to watch the attendance figures for this series given the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings are all in town. Josh Rawitch, the former head of public relations for the Dodgers, once told me Dodgers crowds are smaller when the Lakers are playing; either home or away. The Dodgers are averaging 35,700 fans a game in 2012. A four game series with the Cardinals last year drew an average of 32,404 fans.

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