Of course, it’s only 2 games and the games were against the team that may be the worst in the National League this year, but we still have reason to believe this year could be special.
We started in the Spring by losing LaRoche, Nomar, Kent and Abreu and realizing that Jason Schmidt might not pitch until June (if ever). Since then we have discovered that Blake DeWitt is a solid “stop-gap” replacement 3B. We now have to hope that he can hold the position for a month. Even if he hits .200, he plays the position very well and we should be fine until Nomar and/or Abreu return later this month. Tony Jackson writes that “Tony Abreu will head to extended spring training tomorrow to begin rehabbing his right groin injury. Extended spring doesn’t count as a minor-league rehab assignment, so the clock isn’t ticking yet.” We will have to make some roster decisions before then. It’s obvious that if Nomar AND Abreu return, Chavez and DeWitt will go back to AAA. The news on Schmidt is encouraging. We know that he is throwing off the mound on a regular schedule and has not experienced any setbacks recently after his “tired arm” earlier in the Spring. I look for him to start a rehab assignment about May 1st – 15th and be ready to pitch by June 15th. Abreu and Nomar should be ready to start rehab assignments in a coule of weeks, barring setbacks, so I think we will have one or both by May 1st. Jeff Kent made an amazing recovery and I predict he will put up excellent numbers this year – something to the tune of .300 /25/110 with Jones hitting behind him.
With the maturation of Loney and Kemp and the addition of Jones, we should have additional power throughout the lineup and I think it’s likely we will have 5 players with around 25 HR (Loney, Ethier, Kemp, Kent, Martin). LaRoche would have been part of that group as well. I don’t think we’ll see him until around June 15th. The Dodgers did lead the National League with 35 HR this Spring (tied with the Rockies), so it’s not without precident that I predict that, and remember, Jeff Kent didn’t play most of the Spring.
A healthy Rafael Furcal makes all the difference at the top of the lineup – we hve seen it in both of our games. Last night, it was pure speed and hustle that won the game. If he goes down we have Pierre to step in – it’s a long season. If players sense that this year could be something special, they can put personal goals aside for the sake of the team (it’s Torre’s job to convince them of that).
Speaking of Joe Torre, he just brings class and a certain swagger to the Dodgers that hasn’t been there for quite a while. While getting Torre was important, I think it’s more important that we brought in Larry Bowa! “Fire and ice” is how Torre describes himself and Bowa. It was also a stroke of genius for the McCourts to bring in Dr. Charles Stienberg. He creates an atmosphere for the fans that can’t help but charge up the players as well. It’s a synergy that will serve us well throughout the season. Speaking of Stienberg, I wish I was at the Ravine on Opening Day. If you haven’t read what Bill Plaschke wrote yesterday in the LA TIMES, and you are a Dodger fan, you need to read it right now! It all starts with ATTITUDE and attitude is not just one thing – it’s a hundred little things and part of that attitude comes from creating a special expierence with the fans. McCourt is doing it right!
Brad Penny is establishing himself as an elite starter and Lowe looks solid as well. Sure, they may not have been at the top of their games, but I like what they are doing. Our pitching looks very, very good and any fears about Saito were dispelled after his 3 strikeouts last night. In two games, he is perfect, and hasn’t had a ball leave the infield. Ramon Torncoso showed why the Dodgers kept him last night. With the bases loaded and 1 out, he induced a double play ball. Nice! He could be a great addition for us. He has some really great movement on his pitches and was throwing 94-96 MPH. He’s 25, so he’s not just a “kid.”
To me this looks like a team ready to “break-out!”
There will be bumps in the road. We will have injuries, but I truly belive that we have the horses to ride this team to the World Series! We have players we can “plug-in” when one or four go down. And, lest we forget, we will probably get our best pitcher back in June or July. Jason Schmidt? No, it’s a kid named Clayton Kershaw. The KershawShank Redemption will be back! Watch for it. It’s going to be special.
Check out this blog: http://dodgersblog.mlblogs.com/ It’s written by a New York High School Sophmore. Not bad!