It’s still early, but the Los Angeles Dodgers started the 2009 baseball campaign by answering some of the preliminary questions about the youth and inexperience of their roster.
The Manny Ramirez contract negotiations, and eventual re-signing, captured the national headlines. But many seemed to wonder, outside of the aging $45 million fan favorite, if the roster had anything left to offer for a legitimate pennant chase.
After 13 games played, Ramirez is batting .326 with two home runs, with opposing hurlers still pitching around the game-changing right hander. As a result, the supporting cast has provided the punishment.
Third-year player, Andre Ethier, has jacked four out of the park in the opening weeks, nearly missing a fifth on Sunday.
His 16 RBI lead the team, narrowly edging another third-year player, Matt Kemp (14,) who is coming off a multi-homer game against the Rockies, which included a grand slam.
Orlando Hudson was acquired as an insurance policy, in the event that Ramirez could not be signed. Now coupled with Manny, Hudson began his career in Los Angeles by becoming the first Dodger since 1970 to hit for the cycle, and leads the team with a .385 batting average.
Contributions by Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal won’t exactly mirror or label the Dodger bats as “Murderers row,” but so far, have created a consistent row of production.
One of the biggest questions surrounded the Dodgers pitching rotation. With Kuroda, Kershaw, Billingsley, Wolf, Stults, and McDonald, manager Joe Torre is fielding the youngest pitching rotation in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
In fact, the current rotation has less major league experience than the starting rotation of the Albuquerque Dukes, a Dodgers farm club. Contrary to early worries, and even with Kuroda on the DL, the starting rotation and strong bullpen support leads the national league, with a combined ERA of 3.16, and places third overall in the majors.
The baseball season is long, and a fair evaluation won’t be received until the midseason break. But as for the opening weeks, the Dodgers have been making a splash in their fountain of youth, easing concerns, and providing comfort to fans not knowing what to expect.
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