The week started inauspiciously enough. Legendary Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda suffered a heart attack, it was announced Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was fighting an inflammation of the foot known as planter’s fasciitis, and the team entered June having lost six of the last eight games they played in May. Who knew they’d rather be in Philadelphia.
The Dodgers began the first full week of June by sweeping a four game series from the defending NL East champion Phillies. It marked the first time since the Dodgers road uniforms read “Brooklyn” on the front that they were able to take a four spot in the city of brotherly love. Ironically, the 2012 version of the Dodgers has some things in common with the 1946 team that last accomplished the feat.
That post-WWII team ranked 7th out of the eight NL teams in home runs; this year’s Dodgers rank 14th out of 16th. That “powerless” ’46 team still managed to win 96 games; the current Dodgers are on pace to win 103. Of course, fans are hoping this year’s team can best that team in one other way – the ’46 Dodgers didn’t make it to the postseason. The run to the 2012 pennant is looking very bright in spite of one question: How the hell are they doing it?
Once again, the heroics didn’t come from the names you’d expect to see but from the names no one east of Needles has yet to hear. Infielder Elian Herrera had the game winning hits in the first two games and scored three runs while driving in another in the last two games. Herrera, 27, toiled in the minor leagues for seven years and was called up on May 15th to replace injured second baseman Mark Ellis. He has certainly taken advantage of his first appearance in “The Show.”
On Monday Herrera singled home a run in the top of the ninth to turn a 3-3 tie into a 4-3 win and on Tuesday, his eighth inning double off of the Phillies Cliff Lee drove in the only two Dodgers runs in their 2-1 victory. Herrera is currently hitting .293 with 22 hits in 22 games.
Reliever Kenley Jansen may have proven he has what it takes to be the Dodgers closer instead of the set up man he became in 2011. He earned three saves between Monday and Wednesday. Although he only needed 26 pitches to close out the first two games of the series, he labored through a 32 pitch, ninth inning in the Dodgers 6-5 win on Wednesday. Of course, Dodgers fans are treading lightly when it comes to closers. Towards the end of last season, Javy Guerra made his mark on the closer’s role when he too saved three consecutive games. But Guerra struggled early this season and lost his job to Jansen. And remember it was Guerra who took over for a struggling Jonathan Broxton last year. Broxton ultimately suffered a season-ending injury last May opening the way for Guerra to save 21 games in 23 chances. Sadly, Guerra sort of matched Broxton again – he just went on the DL with a bad knee. Here’s hoping he can make it back soon.
The rest of the bullpen proved their value as well. The who-are-these-guys tandem, which included Todd Coffey, Jamey Wright, and Ronald Bellisario, combined to give up just one run in eleven innings of work. Bellisario continues to impress after coming back from a 25 game suspension, due to testing positive for cocaine, that delayed him from joining the team until May. He has pitched scoreless relief in 14 of his 16 appearances and carries a 1.17 ERA.
Foot to be tied?
Kershaw’s foot injury, plantar fasciitis, is something that could heal up but it could also be chronic. Manager Don Mattingly is saying Kershaw can pitch with the injury but can’t run very well.
Plantar fasciitis is the painful swelling of the tendon that goes from the heel to the toes. A player may possibly continue to play with the injury but can be severely hampered by it. In 2010, Dodgers outfielder Scott Podsednik hit .304 in the month of August only to suffer the same injury. He batted .115 the remainder of the season.
Sports Illustrated profiled the injury and based on the facts, the cornerstone of a rotation the Dodgers hope to have in place the next decade may be in danger of crumbling.
Drafting a message?
The Dodgers draft made it clear they are going to make developing everyday positions a high priority. Their first two draft picks were shortstops which may or may not be sending a message to current prospect Dee Gordon. Gordon is struggling at the plate hitting just .230. The team also wondered if lightning could strike twice by drafting the sons of former Dodgers. The junior side of one-time ace Orel Hershiser and Jose Valentin were among the picks.
Our friends over at Truebluela.com have done a nice analysis of the first 15 picks. Click here to read it
Did he bleed Dodger blue?
Finally, it appears legendary Dodgers manager is recovering as expected from a recent heart attack. Lasorda, 84, was in New York for the draft and felt nauseous. That in turn led him to be diagnosed with a heart attack. Here is the official press release sent out by the Dodgers on Tuesday.
Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda suffered a mild heart attack Monday while in New York for the Major League Baseball 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Lasorda, 84, was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center for treatment.
Doctors inserted a stent to correct a blocked artery in Lasorda’s heart. He is resting comfortably and in stable condition.
“The doctors confirmed I do bleed Dodger Blue,” Lasorda joked. “I’m looking forward to being back at the stadium to cheer on the Dodgers.”