This past week, the Los Angeles Dodgers competed in their final exhibition games of the spring against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim once they returned from Australia. Although they swept the Diamondbacks in their overseas Opening Series the previous weekend, the team struggled a bit in the Freeway Series allowing the Halos to take two wins in the three game series. Although ace Clayton Kershaw was placed on the 15-day DL, the Dodgers looked ready to put the spring behind them as they restarted their regular season on Sunday with Hyun-Jin Ryu on the mound. Although once Brian Wilson got the call from the bullpen, Ryu’s hard work was erased and the Dodgers undefeated season was over.
Grade of the Week: C+
The good: Ryu was absolutely the Dodgers’ shining star of the week. Although the Korean starter gave up an uncharacteristic two walks in the first inning, he quickly regained composure retiring 16 consecutive batters allowing no hits after the second inning. In total, the 27-year-old pitched seven innings against the Padres dishing out seven strikeouts allowing only three hits, three walks and no runs. He probably could have pitched another inning, but he told Mattingly that he was feeling a little tired and didn’t want to push it in early in the season, especially when expected to start the home opener this Friday against the Giants.
His impressive outing on Sunday proved a number of things to the organization. First off, Ryu really stepped up to the plate for an injured Kershaw, and the number three guy in the rotation threw with the poise and composure of an ace. Based off his two early starts, the left-hander is showing that the sophomore slump won’t be phasing him this season now with a year of major league experience and cultural transition under his belt. He was also coming off a toenail injury from the Australia series which was bothering him leading up to Opening Night, showing a glimmer of his ability to bounce back from injury. With a little more run support, Ryu easily would have had the win yesterday.
In regards to activity off the field, rumors about meetings with Yasiel Puig were swarming this past week, and many initially believed the meeting was solely between Mattingly and Puig. Although, we learned that the youthful right fielder was actually the one that called the meeting with Mattingly as well as some veteran teammates asking for advice on how he can improve as a player and as a teammate. Being highly scrutinized after underperforming this spring, these are huge signs of maturity from the former rookie phenom that the organization has not seen before.
The not-so-good: The disappointing outing from Wilson on Sunday is no secret, and the numbers don’t lie. The setup man failed to record a single out and gave up a home run to Seth Smith to lead off the eighth. In total, he gave up two hits, three runs and one walk before Chris Perez was called on to take over. He blew the Dodgers one run lead, diminshed Ryu’s hard work and ultimately cost his team the game. Although Perez and Paco Rodriguez did a flawless job following Wilson, they were unable to erase Wilson’s blunder.
This past December Wilson signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Dodgers. After coming off of Tommy John surgery and missing a majority of the 2013 season, he sported impressive numbers in his 18 appearances toward the tail-end of the season and became all the more attractive to the Dodger bullpen. Wilson has the rest of the season to prove himself worthy of the $10 million contract, and it is likely that he will, but his second outing and loss was a disappointing one for everyone.
Additionally, in Dan Haren’s last spring start before the season began, the right-hander only logged two innings of work giving up back-to-back homers and allowing a total of six hits and six runs. A scary outing to say the least, especially considering the health of the Dodgers’ starting rotation.
Kershaw was placed on the 15-day DL this past week and was forced to miss his start originally scheduled for Sunday. Although Ryu did a fantastic job in his place, another injured Dodger starter is a little scary considering the fact that Josh Beckett is also on the disabled list. The rotation is likely going to have to temporarily rely on off-season signee Paul Maholm, and hope that Kershaw returns in time for his next scheduled start.
Overall: The Dodgers are 2-1 over three regular season games, and it may not be fair to scrutinize Wilson so heavily. Although the reliever certainly gave fans a scare, the Dodgers have every reason to improve heading into the rest of their series with the Padres and their home opening series against the Giants. As long as Kershaw returns soon, the rotation should look as solid as ever once these minor injuries are overcome.