Biggest Winners and Losers from the 1st Week of Dodgers Baseball

Nick OstillerContributor IIApril 4, 2014

Biggest Winners and Losers from the 1st Week of Dodgers Baseball

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    Associated Press

    After sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers returned to the United States and found similar success against the San Diego Padres this week.

    Don Mattingly's bunch took two of three from their divisional foe to the south and now own a nice 4-1 record heading into this weekend's series with the San Francisco Giants at Chavez Ravine.

    Winning four out of the first five games away from home should definitely give Los Angeles confidence in the early stages of the season, but not everything is going according to plan.

    The following slides take a look at the biggest winners and losers that have emerged during the first week of Dodgers baseball.

Honorable Mentions

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    Lenny Ignelzi

    Dee Gordon (winner)

    For most of the winter, most assumed that Cuban defector Alex Guerrero was going to be the Opening Day second baseman for the Dodgers despite having never played a single inning in the majors.

    Injuries derailed Guerrero's development and opened the door for Dee Gordon to revive his Dodgers career at second base. Los Angeles decided to have Guerrero begin the season in the minors, which was a huge win for Gordon.

    The lanky shortstop-turned-second baseman has started all three games of the Dodgers' domestic schedule so far and has compiled a .385 batting average to boot. It seems like second base will be his position to lose.

     

    Andre Ethier (loser)

    One of four Dodgers outfielders who will be fighting for three spots, Andre Ethier has not made the most of his guaranteed starts so far. He is batting .211 with no extra-base hits and six strikeouts in Los Angeles' five games this season.

    Matt Kemp is expected to return to the lineup on Friday, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. With Kemp back in the fold, either Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford or Ethier will be forced to sit. Puig is batting .250 with a home run, and Crawford enters the weekend at .308. These stats seemingly leave Ethier as the odd man out, especially considering his struggles against left-handed pitching.

     

Yasiel Puig, Winner

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    Lenny Ignelzi

    Yasiel Puig didn't give Dodgers fans much to be excited about this spring, batting just .122 in 14 games. This came after he showed up to camp 26 pounds heavier than last season. Despite the negative attention, the young right fielder pushed through and has started to rediscover his rhythm at the plate.

    The most noticeable confirmation came in the form of a 410-foot home run at Petco Park on Tuesday. Puig also has a double and leads the team in runs batted in with four so far this season. 

    Although his .250 average is mediocre, it's already better than anything he's put together since last season. With the home crowd on his side for the first time this weekend, look for Puig Mania to quickly return to Chavez Ravine.

Brian Wilson, Loser

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Brian Wilson may not have left his heart in San Francisco, but he definitely left his stuff in Australia.

    After striking out two in a perfect inning of work against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opening series, Wilson imploded in more ways than one upon returning to American soil.

    Last Sunday in San Diego, Don Mattingly summoned Wilson in the eighth inning to preserve a 1-0 lead, a role the Dodgers had envisioned the bearded righty playing in 2014 after re-signing him to a one-year deal over the winter. He promptly served up the game-tying home run to Seth Smith before giving up two more runs and ultimately taking the loss.

    Wilson's three earned runs were triple the amount he surrendered in almost 20 innings of work last season.

    The bad news didn't end there, as the team immediately placed him on the 15-day disabled list after discovering nerve irritation in his pitching elbow, the same one on which he had Tommy John surgery in 2012.

    According to ESPN's Mark Saxon, Wilson underwent an MRI exam on Monday, which Mattingly said did not reveal any ligament damage.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Winner

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    Lenny Ignelzi

    It's not very often that a pitcher starts back-to-back games for his team, but that's precisely what Hyun-Jin Ryu did for the Dodgers this year due to quirky scheduling associated with the Australia trip.

    The Korean left-hander started the second game of the opening series in Australia and was called upon a week later for the domestic opener last Sunday after Clayton Kershaw was placed on the disabled list.

    Ryu sparkled in both outings, and he would have been the quickest pitcher to achieve a 2-0 record if it wasn't for Brian Wilson's eighth-inning debacle.

    Heading into his third start of the season Friday night against San Francisco, Ryu has yet to allow an earned run and has struck out 12 batters in 12 innings of work.

Clayton Kershaw, Loser

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    Kelvin Kuo

    If there's something that can easily dampen a 4-1 start, it's a team's ace going down with a concerning injury.

    Less than three months removed from inking what at the time was the richest contract in baseball history, Clayton Kershaw will likely be sidelined until May with a strained Teres Major muscle behind his left shoulder, per MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.

    It's unclear exactly when the 2013 Cy Young Award winner sustained the injury, but team physicians officially diagnosed it a few days after he tossed a gem against Arizona in the Dodgers' first game of the season in Australia.

    According to the Dodgers, Kershaw will spend the next two to three weeks rehabilitating the muscle with what the team is calling a "submaximal throwing program." If all goes well, the lefty would still probably need to make a minor league rehab start before being cleared to return to the big club.

    But when $215 million is on the line, Los Angeles will most likely proceed slowly and with caution.

     

    All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.