Is too much eagerness a bad thing? It is if you’re a parent or guardian and Christmas is coming and you have a small child in your household. And it can be for a baseball team too, one that has tasted the World Series twice in the last two years and have yet to win that ring.
There have been a few injuries to start camp, and one can infer that they are from too much eagerness. To get the year going, to prove something to the fan base, the baseball world at large, to the players themselves.
I wrote previously about what the Dodgers now know having gone through this twice before, but apparently some of them are not listening to small time bloggers like me.
As the latest player to rejoin the Dodgers after having been away for years, Russell Martin is delighted to be back in camp. So much so that he over extended himself in the batting cage, and had to be sidelined due to back soreness.
Martin came into camp eager to prove that he still has the skills and body to play behind the plate often and still contribute at the bat. He’s played in three games so far, and has two hits in eight at bats, one of which was a double. All ‘it’s only spring training’ caveats aside, I think we’d all be happy with that level of production from Martin through the year – a .250 batting average with some timely RBI and extra base hits.
Martin was tentatively slated to DH today against the Indians, but this morning it was reported that he is healing more slowly than hoped, and he is being pushed back to the weekend to resume baseball activities.
Clayton Kershaw may feel he is the biggest name on the team with something to prove, as he has seen his velocity decline over the last season or two. It seems he worked too hard over the winter to regain some of that, and as such, sidelined himself. He has thrown on consecutive days and is slated to throw again today, with some small improvements each time.
Today, however, manager Dave Roberts conceded for the first time that Kershaw may in fact miss being the Opening Day starter. And as huge a fan as I am of Kershaw, that’s okay. Opening Day starter is an honor Kershaw has seen time and time again, but it’s just ceremonial. There is a lot of discussion of when Walker Buehler will overtake Clayton as the ace of the team, and I’m sure he will sooner rather than later. But this team needs all of their pitchers healthy at the end of the season, not necessarily the beginning.
The Dodgers rotation without Clayton would be Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and probably Julio Urías. That is still an excellent rotation that can handle duties for as long as Kershaw needs to rest and get himself back to full strength.
There have been some other slight issues, such as Cody Bellinger having to take a rest due to his back, but he looked great at the plate yesterday, going 3-3. The Dodgers are imposing limits on Buehler, hoping to rein him in a bit so he doesn’t have too much of a work load so soon. But all in all, the team looks good. And more importantly, able to handle a slow-starting Kershaw, and they should handle him with kid gloves. Opening Day isn’t important. The last day of the season is.