The Los Angeles Dodgers opened the 2014 season with two wins over the Arizona Diamondbacks; making the early statement that the success from the second half of last season should carry over.
Here’s a look at who’s trending up and down this week for the Dodgers:
After struggling through Spring Training, Clayton Kershaw put it all together in his first start of the regular season. The left-hander struck out seven in 6.2 innings pitched and resembled the form that won him his second Cy Young Award last season. Not that there was necessarily serious concern that Kershaw’s spring performances would carry over into the regular season, but it was uncharacteristic to see him struggle in one start after the other.
Kershaw won’t pitch in any of the three exhibition games with the Los Angels of Anaheim and instead is likely to take the mound for the Dodgers’ U.S. opener in San Diego on Sunday.
Matt Kemp’s recovery from off-season ankle surgery got off to a slow start before picking up speed and leading to optimism. Kemp has been able to increase the amount of activity involved in his workouts and it is now possible that he’ll be activated from the disabled list for the Dodgers’ home opener on April 4. The 2011 NL MVP runner-up has struggled at the plate through several minor league games, but his focus has been on how his ankle responds to playing in games.
Kemp has made no qualms about his desire to play and not simply serve as the team’s fourth outfielder. While Kemp may feel strongly about his ability to contribute, the Dodgers must still caution against overworking him, even if he’s activated for the series with the San Francisco Giants.
Scott Van Slyke
Kemp isn’t the only Dodger outfielder heading in a positive direction, as Scott Van Slyke also saw a rise in his stock. Starting in place of Carl Crawford, who was placed on the paternity list and left behind at Camelback Ranch in Arizona, Van Slyke provided the offensive punch in the first game against the Diamondbacks. Van Slyke went 2 for 3 with a double, home run and two RBI.
At times, Van Slyke proved to be a capable outfield reserve and at the plate last season, and his being able to play first base makes him even more of an asset. The Dodgers have had a string of bad luck with the health of their outfield, which Van Slyke appears to be able to help mitigate.
When Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero was signed, many believed it was a move aimed at filling the void at second base left by Mark Ellis’ departure. Guerrero however was slowed by a hamstring injury, which led to minimal opportunities in winter ball and thus stymied his learning curve at playing second. Guerrero’s results in Spring Training were mediocre and he slowly began to fall behind the other options at second base, namely Dee Gordon.
With an eye on finalizing the roster for the regular season, the Dodgers optioned Guerrero to Triple-A on Tuesday. Gordon and Justin Turner were platooned at second base in the two games with the Diamondbacks and that appears to be the plan moving forward. Guerrero isn’t completely eliminated from potentially making an impact at the big league level this season, but for now, he’ll need to contribute in Albuquerque.
Though it has only been two games, Hanley Ramirez hasn’t looked the part of the Dodgers No. 3 hitter. Ramirez went 0 for 4 in the first game of the season and followed that up with a 1 for 3 effort, including two walks. Prior to being hit by a pitch in the ribs in Game 1 of the NLCS, which effectively ended his season, Ramirez was as hot a hitter as anyone in MLB. Like Kershaw, Ramirez’s Spring Training results weren’t as expected, but unlike the southpaw, Ramirez’s struggles have carried into the regular season — for the time being.
On top of wanting to win a World Series, Ramirez has extra motivation as this is the final year of his current contract. The 30-year-old shortstop has plenty of time to rectify his issues at the plate and in doing so, should receive a generous contract offer from the Dodgers.
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