After taking two of three from the Nationals over the weekend, the Mets meet up with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field for a three-game set beginning tonight. Off of an 86-76 season in 2012, the Dodgers continued to add lots of money to their payroll but have since gotten off to a rocky 8-10 start. In order to help us preview the series, Eric Stephen of True Blue LA agreed to answer a few questions about the Dodgers.
Amazin' Avenue: With all the money the Dodgers have spent over the last few months, the expectations coming into this season were sky high on a national level. I'm curious to find out how Dodgers fans perceived this team coming in. Also, any worry about how Ned Colletti may spend said money in the future?
True Blue LA: Even with all the spending by the Dodgers, they still have a lot of question marks, many of which haven't yet been answered in the affirmative. But even with the slow start the talent is there for a win total in the low 90s, so I expect them to compete for the division title. I would say any worry about just how Colletti might spend money has been washed away in some respect by the seeming lack of a budgetary limit. I suspect there is a limit, somewhere, but I also think if the team wants to acquire a big-money player this July (like Cliff Lee, for instance) they will have the wherewithal to do so.
AA: Matt Kemp is off to a slow start through his first 75 plate appearances. What's gone wrong for him at the plate so far and has he shown any signs of getting back on track?
TBLA: Both the team and Kemp say he is fully healthy, though it's hard to say since he had major shoulder surgery in October and couldn't swing a bat until January. He developed some bad habits in his swing while dealing with the shoulder injury last season and has been working through those now. Kemp has shown some signs of coming out of the slump, squaring up a few balls over the weekend (and he was 8-for-22 for the week), but we're still waiting for that power to come around.
AA: The trade of Aaron Harang combined with injuries to Zack Greinke, Chris Capuano, and Chad Billingsley have thinned out what looked to be a well-stocked rotation. It looks like Ted Lilly will take over the 4th slot but do the Dodgers have an adequate option for the 5th spot? Is there any worry about pitching depth now?
TBLA: There is definite worry about the pitching staff, given that the Dodgers started the season with eight starters under contract and are now already on Stephen Fife, who was the ninth man on the depth chart. If the Dodgers are going to do anything, they need Greinke and he's out for two months after surgery to repair a broken collarbone. Chad Billingsley gets his elbow checked out on Tuesday in Los Angeles, but given that he partially tore his UCL last August we are basically fearing the worst, that he's out until some time in 2014. Now the rotation includes Ted Lilly, who had shoulder surgery in September and hasn't pitched in a major league game since May 23, and Fife, a command guy who doesn't have overpowering stuff, at least until Chris Capuano returns from his strained left calf. It's a mess.
AA: Shortstop and third base have been black holes for the Dodgers through the first few weeks. Once Hanley Ramirez gets back, where does he play and how do you think they'll fill the other position? Do you think they'll have to go outside the organization for an upgrade? And what's up with Dee Gordon?
TBLA: The Dodgers have been adamant essentially since February that Hanley Ramirez is their shortstop, that he will play shortstop, and that only Hanley Ramirez can move Hanley Ramirez off shortstop. I expect Ramirez to play short when he returns, which could be before the month is out, as it sounds like he's trying to rush back from the original diagnosis of a May 17 return. That would make third base a grab bag of sorts, with Luis Cruz, Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Nick Punto all in the mix. The Dodgers would like Gordon to continue to develop in Triple-A, but if the whole left side continues to slump as badly as they have so far, maybe they turn to Gordon at shortstop with Ramirez at third base. But it would mark a departure of the team plan from the start of spring training.
AA: Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches in Thursday's game. The Dodgers gave the 26-year old a 6 year deal worth $36 million to pitch for them. Give us a little insight into Ryu's repertoire and what to expect from him.
TBLA: Ryu has pitched pretty well so far in the early going. He is a confident guy who was a seven-time All-Star in Korea and seems to know what he's doing on the mound. He has good command of four pitches and changes speeds well, though he'll give up his share of hits. I have heard more than one comparison of Ryu to David Wells, and it seems to fit and not just because of body type.
Thanks again to Eric Stephen for giving us a preview of the Dodgers! Here are the pitching matchups for this series: