With Ethier Injured, Five Dodgers Must Rise To the Occasion
Andre Ethier broke a bone in his right pinky finger on Saturday. Such is the consequence of taking extra batting practice.
The Dodgers, currently riding a six-game winning streak, scored four runs in the first game of Andre's absence.
Last year, L.A. lost outfielder Manny Ramirez for 50 games due to his suspension. While the team could have collapsed with Ramirez out, Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp and Either's contributions kept the team afloat.
Los Angeles' 2010 season is up in the air. If the team can play as they have over the last 15 games while the triple-crown leader heals, the Dodgers will be going places.
L.A. has made back to back NLCS appearances, sweeping the competition in both Division Series.
Despite the recent success, Los Angeles is still a maturing, developing team.
Joe Torre's players are being bread for one thing, to win. They are unsatisfied and have something to prove.
This just may be the time to prove it. Championship quality teams know how to win when a man goes down.
With Eithier sidelined, several key players must amplify their game to take the Dodgers to the next level.
Kershaw started the season, like most pitchers his age, with shaky control. He also paid the price when hitters made contact.
Over his last two starts, though, Kershaw has shown significant improvement.
The lefty went head to head with Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, allowing no runs, two hits, and striking out nine in eight innings.
Against division leader San Diego on Saturday, Kershaw delivered seven quality innings. If he can find some consistency, look for the young pitcher to break through around the All-Star break.
He could become the backbone of L.A.'s rotation.
Despite earning two All-Star starts in his first three years, Russell's numbers have declined over the past two seasons.
The young veteran has logged more innings than any catcher in the big leagues during that span, which may explain his steady regression at the plate.
This year, however, Martin has come out swinging. Rafael Furcal has been out of the lineup for over a week, and the team hasn't missed a beat with Russell batting lead off.
The catcher's offensive revival has provided an unexpected jolt for the Dodgers. Torre should continue to put Martin ahead of James Loney in the lineup (if production is right) when Ethier returns.
Sherrill's ERA has exploded to 7.30 this year. Even in spring training, his mechanics were out of whack.
Most of his misses have been high and away, and his pitches have been blasted when they do cross the strike zone. Sherrill's frustration has been evident.
However, he is making progress and should continue to work hard until he gets comfortable. The Dodgers gave Sherrill a contract, now he must live up to it. The team will need his services with Andre sidelined.
Matt Kemp, despite all the praise and attention, has really produced one defining year. Kemp needs to elevate his game to become a co-defining franchise player for the Dodgers.
The outfielder started strong with seven home runs in April. But his average has sunk to .275. Luckily, he snapped out of a slump on Friday, finishing with a two run homer and multiple hits against San Diego.
This is the spot where Torre works his baseball mystique on a young player. Managers are at their best when they turn good players into great ones.
Kemp has yet to create the numbers his organization is relying on for years to come, but he has enough harnessed talent to put up All-Star stats. Look for him to make his move.
James Loney, the team's X-factor, has finally developed power. Loney has four homers on the year. Number 7 may have 18+ in him this season.
Imagine a healthy lineup for the Dodgers. It might look something like this:
Blake DeWitt/ Ronni Belliard
This team is looking primed for a breakout year. And not just from one player.
If the front office pulls the trigger on a number one starter around the All-Star break, look out.
The Dodgers will look to make it a very blue October.