10 Questions for the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers baseball logoThe Mets will be facing a very different Dodger team than the one they faced in June, so we’re counting on our “Dodger Insider” Aaron Jay Sapiro of Rockin’ the Ravine to provide us with the details on the first-place Dodgers.

1.The Dodgers are holding on to first place, but the pitching staff has been decimated by injuries. The latest to go down is Randy Wolf. When will Wolf be back, and who has stepped up to pick up the slack?

Well, They told us that Wolfe was supposed to be back today. Actually, he is eligible to come off the DL today. Unfortunately he has done nothing but play a light catch and he’s far from game time ready. He’s probably going to spend one more set on the DL, then make a rehab start, then finally be back with the team. Who has stepped up? Well, Brad Penny and Derek Lowe are pitching like they’re two of the best pitchers in baseball right now. Chad Billingsley is getting
it done, he’s still undefeated, but he stepped into the role when Jason Schmidt went down. Right now we’re starting Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko because Hong-Chih “The Met Killer” Kuo is on the DL too. Hendrickson got shelled the other day, and Tomko is Tomko, we could probably use some pitching help.

2. Are the Dodgers going to make an impact deal at the deadline, and if so, for
what? And who is the bait?

I don’t really see us making a monster deal, but I do see some sort of deal happening soon, probably for some sort of a pitcher. Initially, we all thought we needed a power bat, but after the DL Debacle that is our pitching staff, that’s where we’re going to need the most help. Hendrickson and Tomko aren’t exactly you’re ideal starters, and aren’t getting themselves too far into games, because of that, our bullpen is getting used and abused pretty bad as well. Whether the help comes in the form of a starter or a reliever, I see us making some sort of a deal. As far as bait goes, our farm system is as deep as any team’s, and a lot of players are getting close to MLB ready. Delwyn Young is ripping Triple A pitching to shreds, but there really is no spot for him with the Big Club, Andy LaRoche could still be moved. Scott Elbert, probably our top pitching prospect, is looking a little bit more expendable (if necessary), with the
emergence of Clayton Kershaw. Also, Tony Abreu, Hong-Chih Kuo, D.J. Houlton, and Eric Hull, who have all seen time in the majors this year could be high on other team’s lists.

3. Russell Martin has played in 90 games this year — starting 86 — and he’s stolen 17 bases. Is there concern that he’s going to be out of gas come mid-September, and why isn’t Mike Lieberthal playing more often to spell him?

Mike Lieberthal isn’t playing because Russell refuses to sit. I have never in my life seen a player play with as much tenacity and love for the game as Russell Martin does. Paul LoDuca used to be like this when he was a Dodger, he cried when the Dodgers traded him, then got way too hot headed, and now he’s kind of a punk. Russell Martin won’t slow down this year, maybe it will take a toll on him later in his career, but the dude just refuses to sit.

4. How is Nomar doing at third base? With Andy LaRoche tearing up AAA, could Nomar be moving again?

Ehh, LaRoche is hitting .300 in Triple A, he’s shown decent power, and he was given his chance in the Big Leagues already. I could see him getting a call up when September 1st and the 40-Man hit, but that’s about it. Nomar has been basically platooning with Betemit over at third, I don’t really see that changing.

5. We know we’ll see Broxton in the 8th and Saito in the 9th. But, with all the juggling with the pitching staff, who will we see in the seventh?

Hopefully our starting pitcher if we’re lucky. But right now, it’s Joe Beimel. Before our bullpen completely went to hell, Beimel was supposed to be the “situational lefty.” As pitcher after pitcher went down, Beimel has emerged as our third best reliever. If the starter can’t go more than 6, I’d expect to see Beimel. But who knows, we just signed and called up 42-year old Roberto Hernandez from the Indians, he’s got 326 career saves, good for 11th all-time, we’ll see how that goes.

6. Getting James Loney and Matt Kemp into the lineup seems to have been a boon for the offense. It also seems to have sparked Juan Pierre. Does Pierre smell the possibility of losing his starting job, and would the Dodgers bench him?

Having these guys in the lineup has been great. If anything, I think Matt Kemp’s presence has lit a fire under Andre Ethier, who is hitting .469 in the month of July. All four outfielders that we have are going to play every single game. Juan Pierre is our centerfielder, he isn’t going anywhere. He’s been stellar this past month as well, and is in the middle of an 11-game hitting streak. Sometimes he doesn’t play as well as we all hope, but he works his butt off, and he won’t get benched.

7. With Loney in the lineup and Nomar at third, Wilson Betemit’s playing time has dwindled. Does he have a future in LA, or is he trade bait?

Wilson Betemit, who started this month with a batting average under the Mendoza Line, has been the story of the month for us so far. He’s hitting .471 in July to go with a SLG of 1.000. At this point he’s getting two to three starts a week and he’s pinch-hitting nearly every game he doesn’t start. He’s a switch-hitting young slugger, making less than half a million per year, and he can play every position in the infield. I don’t ever see him being a star for us, but management likes having him around.

8. We know Chad Billingsley is a great talent. However, he had to make a quick switch from the bullpen to the rotation. How was this transition managed and how is his endurance? Is he on a pitch count?

Billingsley has been nothing but great for us. He is such a tremendous talent that it’s upsetting when he doesn’t fully get the job done. He’s been asked to fill nearly every role for us this year except closer. That’s what people don’t realize is the mental capacity that this kid must have to be able to just turn on the starter’s switch out of nowhere. He threw 113 pitches yesterday, which was a career high. I don’t think Grady will let him do that again, but we’re trying to save an already exhausted bullpen. Billingsley is a superstar in the making, he just needs to get out of his own head and start consistently throwing strikes.

9. If the Dodgers don’t make a deal, is there anyone left on the farm — besides LaRoche — who can come up and make an impact down the stretch?

Well, seeing the way that our pitching staff is depleted right now, there are guys that should be on the farm contributing right now. D.J. Houlton and Eric Stults (whom you should remember) are coming out of the bullpen right now, and we’re playing a whole lot of young guys every day. When the roster gets expanded, it will be a whole different story, but until then, I don’t really see anything other than a Tony Abreu recall making that big of a difference.

10. The Mets just added Marlon Anderson to their roster. What was his role with the Dodgers, and do you think he can help the Mets?

Of course the Mets picked up Marlon Anderson, sometimes I don’t understand how they have so many roster spots, I honestly feel like they pick up all the Dodgers scraps all the time and make success stories out of them, but how’s that Aaron Sele treating you? Anyway, Marlon was awesome last year, Vin called him Merlon because he was pure magic for us down the playoff stretch. He took the Left Field job right out of Andre Ethier’s hands, and was probably the best
hitter we had while trying to make the playoffs. This year, he was nothing but a left-handed bat that we couldn’t find many AB’s for. He’s a solid player, and he really loves the game of baseball and winning, he’ll be enjoyable to watch. If he succeeds, well, that’s another story.

Thanks again to Aaron, and be sure to visit his Los Angeles Dodgers blog, Rockin’ the Ravine.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.