LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers have been a bit of a wreck, a fact they’d like to change and also not get too hung up on, it being the second week of May, them having ruled their division for a half-decade, them still kicking World Series dirt from their spikes. Still, a bit of a wreck, there’s no getting around that.
They run the National League West until they don’t, an endearing platitude paid by opposing clubs who’ve outpitched, out-hit, out-hunted and out-scored a team whose legs have gone heavy. It’s a long way back to October. November, in this case. And the few Dodgers still standing have been unable to carry those who have fallen, which is to say the Dodgers are 15-20, kicking around near the bottom of the division, and look it.
They could wait for Clayton Kershaw to pitch them out of it, except he’s on the disabled list. Or for Justin Turner to hit them out of it, but he’s on the disabled list too. So’s Corey Seager. And Yasiel Puig. And Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Everybody’s got problems. As some old manager once said, and probably some old somebody else before him, “Half the people don’t care about your problems. The other half are glad you got ‘em.”
So here they are. A bunch of guys healing or trying to. A bunch of guys with baseball games to play, endeavoring to be what they were last year and then some, telling their legs to get going. There’s a point, of course, when you are what your record says you are, except nobody’s going to believe that, beyond, well, that’s what I was yesterday, but not today. Until it happens again. And they figure there are enough bad and maybe mediocre teams out there to at least have them ride out the worst of it. Then in just the past two weeks they’ve lost series to the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins. If you’re in a series and can’t pick out the lousy team, it’s very possible you’re in the offending uniform.
Clayton Kershaw is suffering from biceps tendinitis. He would be seen Tuesday afternoon in the Dodger Stadium outfield, running around, stretching, talking it over with a trainer, then doing it again. He arrived an hour later at his locker, his hair smushed with sweat. This was supposed to be his day to pitch. Instead, he was confirming a “pretty clean” MRI on his left shoulder, and shrugging at requests for a schedule for his return, and hinting at mechanical adjustments he said could ease future irritation.
Given their start, the Dodgers’ season likely hinges on this particular hinge, along with the sort of patience Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi will have for a roster (when whole) so similar to the one that played to the first day of last November, and for how long they’ll resist changes, or if they’ll opt to wear it and assume the best. In the latter case, they’ll get Turner and Yasiel Puig back soon enough, and Ryu in mid-summer, and Kershaw when he’s without symptoms, perhaps not much beyond that DL assignment. Or, what the heck, spend some prospects for Manny Machado and Michael Fulmer. Except that’s not really their style, beyond the occasional Yu Darvish. Besides, it’s way too early to panic, unless it’s just being pragmatic, and we’ll know at the end when they start counting it all up.
Meantime, Kershaw tolerated questions about the health of his shoulder. He’s not ordinarily much for these conversations. No, he said, his ailment probably isn’t about the slight increase in breaking balls he’s thrown this season. And, definitely no, it’s not about a decade of hard innings.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve joked about being old. I don’t think it has anything to do with deterioration. I just think there’s some things I can do to get better. Physically, I’ve felt great this whole year. Back, everything, has felt really good. So, I’m not worried about deteriorating. I think I’ll be all right. … Maybe it’s just a fluke injury and it won’t ever happen again.”
It would be difficult to imagine the Dodgers chasing down the Arizona Diamondbacks without Kershaw doing a good bit of the chasing, which is what caused the chill last weekend, when Los Angeles wondered aloud what else could possibly go wrong, and the answer was Kershaw flying home from Mexico. Perhaps it is time for Cody Bellinger to hit home runs again. And Chris Taylor to retake 2017. And the bullpen to reorganize. And young men Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo to find they belong. Perhaps.
While they wait, manager Dave Roberts gets to explain it twice daily.
“For some reason,” he said, “we’ve lost more than we’ve won.
“We’ve all just gotta do a better job. We haven’t played many complete baseball games.”
Partly, it’s because the team isn’t complete. But, then, nobody’s is. Not ever. And when you think that’s a problem, you’ll likely find you’re alone in that.
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