Matt Kemp Injury: Can Andre Ethier, Bobby Abreu Pick Up Slack for Dodgers?

Richard LeivenbergContributor IIIJune 2, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11:  Andre Ethier #16 celebrates his homerun with Bobby Abreu #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of Ramon Hernandez #55 of the Colorado Rockies for a 6-1 lead during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

With Matt Kemp going to the DL for another month, can the Los Angeles Dodgers continue their winning ways with the likes of Andre Ethier and Bobby Abreu?

This is not a question to be taken lightly, and you can bet that the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and the rest of the division are licking their chops at the prospect of a Kemp-less Dodger team.

As they should. When Kemp went down the first time, he was leading the league in almost every key statistical area, coming off one of the best Aprils in MLB history.

But, now Kemp is gone for at least another month, having re-injured his hamstring.

Can Ethier, who is up for a new contract at the end of the season, and Abreu, who was unceremoniously let go by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim earlier this season, pick up the slack?

Ethier is having a great year at the plate, tied with Carlos Gonzalez for the NL lead in RBI and batting .333 from the clean-up position.

For those who doubt his abilities, just look back at 2010 when he was leading the National League in home runs, RBI and batting average, but  broke the pinky finger on his right hand and was placed on the 15-day disabled list three days later. Last year, he had a 30-game hitting streak, but was beset by knee problems that slowed him in the second half of the season.

The 30-year-old left-hander has one of the sweetest swings in baseball, and he is showing it. Now, with some solid years behind him, he is leading a team of wide-eyed rookies and wayward vets to the top of the division.

Meanwhile, Abreu should have been left out in the cold and not in left field as he is with the Dodgers. Who could have foreseen the clutch hitting and solid performance that the future Hall of Famer is giving? Certainly not the Angels, who could have used his bat the last couple of months. And, if Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was behind the choice, it was seemingly brilliant.

To date, Abreu is batting .302 and while he doesn't have any home runs, he has been one of the main cogs in the wheel of success. 

At 38, Abreu is proving that once a hitter, always a hitter. He is teaching by example as he did throughout his long career, and that is a good sign for the Dodgers, who have so many unproven players on their roster. When he was with the Angels, he was known for taking the first pitch and being patient at the plate. Now he seems more aggressive, perhaps empowered and even a bit resentful.

The Dodgers are five games ahead of the Giants. They just lost four straight to the Milwaukee Brewers and one of their top pitchers, Ted Lily, has gone on the DL. They may be in for a June swoon or they may continue their unusual success.

You might think the Dodgers are in good shape what with guys named Gwynn, Hairston and Van Slyke playing key roles, but these are the sons, not the originals.

There is little question that losing Kemp, rated by some as the best player in the game, has been a big blow to the Dodgers. Where are they going to find those 100-plus ribbies, 40 homers, 30 stolen bases and .325 average?

But, they have Ethier and Abreu and for whatever reason, these guys look like they can take the Dodgers to a division championship.

And, who knows, maybe even to a World Series.