Sunday, September 29, 2013

Banged up outfielders plaguing the Dodgers heading into October

Remember when Yasiel Puig was called up from Double-A back in June, and the major question was how Don Mattingly would juggle four starting outfielders?

Mattingly has yet to answer that question because he hasn't needed to.  And with the playoffs less than a week away, that's a bit of a problem.

Matt Kemp was a late scratch from the lineup on Saturday, which turned out to be a 1-0 loss to the Rockies, and Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier sat out as well.  Oh, and Carl Crawford got the night off to not risk any injury to him, too.  Add that all up, and the starting outfield consisted of Scott Van Slyke in left, Skip Schumaker in center, and Chili Buss in right.

I'm guessing that's not exactly the lineup that's going to get it done in the NLDS.  Or in any game.

Look, Kemp actually deserves credit for sitting out on Saturday with his sore left ankle.  I'm not sure he would've used that same caution even a year ago, so not getting hurt worse in a meaningless game was the smart call.  But it's also giving the Dodgers more reasons to worry that one little thing will cause him to go down again.  That's the way it's been the last two years.

The Dodgers know they will open the NLDS on the road in either Atlanta or St. Louis.  Mattingly is doing all he can to give his guys rest, while not having them sit too long and get rusty.  It's a tough balance when you manage a team that gets hurt so much like this one.

At this point, it looks like Crawford, Kemp, and Puig will be the starting outfield in Game 1, with Andre Ethier either sitting out the first round, or available off the bench because of his ankle.  That could go either way.  Basically it's four guys all banged up at various levels, and that can't be very comforting for Mattingly.

Who this does benefit is guys like Schumaker, Nick Punto, and possibly Jerry Hairston to make the 25-man roster for the NLDS.  Those guys don't have nearly the impact bats that the other guys do, but the Dodgers need that insurance just in case something else happens.  And if we've learned anything from this season, it's that the next injury could be a foul ball off the leg away, ala Puig on Friday.

Maybe some rest until Thursday is exactly what the Dodgers need, as it's certainly a better scenario than playing in a do-or-die Wild Card game on Tuesday.  Don't be surprised, however, to see Mattingly using all sorts of different combinations in the NLDS because of one injury after another.

Hey, at least he's used to this.

No comments: