6 Early-Season Los Angeles Dodgers Storylines to Follow Most Closely

Seth Victor@sh_vicContributor IIIApril 9, 2013

6 Early-Season Los Angeles Dodgers Storylines to Follow Most Closely

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    One week into the season, the Dodgers sit in third place in the NL West, one game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies

    So far, the team has allowed just 10 runs in six games, demonstrating the strength of its pitching staff.  It has certainly been an impressive start, but there are some things to watch for as the season progresses.

    Here are the six best early-season storylines.

Hanley Ramirez’s Absence

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    Ramirez injured his thumb during the World Baseball Classic, and he is expected to miss two months of the season. The left side of the infield, already a question mark even with Ramirez in the lineup, will be sorely tested. So far, Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers have gotten the majority of the run at third base and shortstop.

    However, the two have struggled. They have combined for just one hit on the season. If the Dodgers cannot get better production from Cruz and Sellers, it will be a problem. They will be hard-pressed to keep pace with the Giants if their infield performs so badly.

Hyun-jin Ryu

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    Ryu struggled mightily in his first start. He allowed just one earned run, but 10 hits, and his average fastball velocity was just under 90 mph. His second start was an improvement, though, as he allowed just five total baserunners and struck out six.  

    If he is more like the second Ryu than the first, the Dodgers will be pleased. But he was so hittable in his first start that there has to be some concern.

Zack Greinke’s Elbow

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    In the spring, Grienke was shut down with elbow inflammation. He was given a few days' extra rest and had his first start pushed back to the fifth game of the season.  He was fantastic, though, and there were no reported issues about his elbow after the game. 

    If the Dodgers were really concerned, they likely would have held him out longer. It is, however, something they are aware of and something to keep an eye on. 

Yasiel Puig

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    Puig hit over .500 this spring, which prompted some to call for his inclusion on the Opening Day roster. But with the three outfield spots taken by Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, there was no place for Puig. So he will begin the season in Double-A Chattanooga, but if he continues to slug .700, he may force the issue. 

    Barring injury, there likely won’t be a spot for him in the big league outfield anytime soon, but Dodgers fans should be watching to see how he develops.

Chad Billingsley

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    Billingsley began the season on the disabled list, and while it is only a minor finger injury, it’s worth noting that he missed the end of last season with an elbow problem. His health will be a key to the Dodgers’ playoff hopes, as he is an important member of the rotation. 

    One of their biggest strengths is the immense depth of their pitching rotation, but if he is out of commission for an extended period of time, it will force manager Don Mattingly to dip into his bullpen and bring either Ted Lilly or Chris Capuano into a starting role—both of whom are not as good as Billingsley.

April Schedule

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    The Dodgers have a relatively easy April schedule, as they have six games against the Padres, three against the Mets and three against the Rockies. 

    If they can take advantage of the easy slate they’ve been dealt, they will have an easier job of bridging the gap until Hanley Ramirez returns.