By no means do two games define a season, but already we have seen the Dodgers perform on many different levels, especially when it comes to playing down to the abilities of their opponent. After Friday night’s marathon loss, fans were reminded of some of the aspects of play that saw Los Angeles need a divisional playoff game to capture their sixth-consecutive NL West crown. While it’s certainly too early to make any predictions, there are a handful of things that followers can watch which may be critical, at least in the early portion of the season.
Injuries—The Dodgers have been bitten by the injury bug early, as a trio of lefty pitchers—Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Tony Cingrani—have all began the season on the injured list. There’s no timetable for Cingrani, but progress suggests that both Kersh and Hill might not be too far away from potential returns.
On Friday night, Justin Turner was smacked on the wrist by a Matt Andriese pitch in the later stages of a game, reminding fans of how one split second can conceivably change the landscape of the season. JT now wears a pad on that exact area of a wrist, but a flash of a disaster was in the minds of everyone for a few short seconds.
Depth—We’ve been hearing it for years—the Dodgers are probably the deepest team in baseball. But, is the depth good, or is it just a group serviceable, mediocre players on the Triple-A fringe? Early looks may be revealing how sub-par Brock Stewart and Yimi Garcia actually are; yet, how many squads can say they have youngsters like Julio Urias and Caleb Ferguson ready to slide in and potentially bolster a starting rotation?
In the same breath, there’s a new generation of prospects on the 40-man roster. Players like Matt Beaty, Edwin Rios and Josh Sborz may be getting opportunities sooner than many think, giving the club a chance to prove how good its depth actually is.
Lineups—Skipper Dave Roberts and boss Andrew Friedman are undoubtedly in better positions to defend their lineup choices than the fans, but the frustration already began to circulate on social media Friday when the team revealed a rather unorthodox lineup, at least compared to what onlookers saw on Opening Day. This is something to keep an eye on, specifically against lefty pitchers when the coaching staff is known to be a little more creative.
Roberts forewarned the fan base when speaking with the media after the season opener.
“We are going to move guys around. Our guys have done it for three years and we’re going to do it again,” the skipper told Bill Plunkett of the OC Register on Thursday.
Bullpen—The bullpen has been less than stellar so far, but I’ve decided to hand out mulligans for the first several series, giving the relief corps a chance to settle in and establish their roles. Joe Kelly, Stewart and Garcia took the brunt of the damage in the first two games, but that may change when Kersh or Hill become healthy, perhaps bumping Urias, Ferguson or Ross Stripling back into a relief role.
On a brighter note, Kenley Jansen‘s cutter appears to be cutting just fine, something that took a great deal of time to occur last year.
Coaching Staff—The was some concern with the departures of third base coach Chris Woodward and hitting coach Turner Ward after the 2018 season, but the consensus was the Dodgers did just fine with the hirings of Dino Ebel and Robert Van Scoyoc.
For those unfamiliar with Ebel, here’s a clip from MLB.com showing him mic’d up for an inning during a Cactus League game a few weeks ago.
Regardless, Ebel was briefly criticized for not sending Enrique Hernandez to the plate on an Andriese wild-pitch in extras.
Van Scoyoc was seemingly among the team’s underlying heroes in the opener, but the club’s success at the dish quickly faded after squandering more than several opportunities in Friday’s contest, reflecting the team’s propensity to under-perform with runners on base last year.
“It’s downhill from here,” Roberts joked about Van Scoyoc’s tenure about his opener.
Skip better watch what he quips, because his team sure can be streaky, as we have see for all so long.