The Los Angeles Dodgers outfield situation is something that was understandably going to garner an endless amount of attention once Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene in June of last season. Since that time, the Dodgers four great outfielders of Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford had never really been healthy at the same time. Kemp has now returned to the team after an off-season of surgery to his shoulder and ankle and clubbed two long home runs off San Francisco Giants’ starter Matt Cain to loudly announce his return. While Kemp’s fantastic game was a bright spot in his attempt to put all his injuries behind him, Puig is now day-to-day with a thumb injury that could have been a lot worse.
The revolving door never seems to end for the Dodgers outfield, as one player gets hurt seemingly right after another of the quartet returns. Puig jammed his thumb diving head-first into first base against the Giants on Saturday, but x-rays were negative and the Dodgers dodged a significant bullet.
In a game that may have provided a glimpse into the near future, superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez also belted a pair of home runs. The performance represented the first time LA has had these two sluggers healthy and hitting at the same time. The conundrum still lies in the outfield where Don Mattingly is going to have to shuffle his four stars in and out. The odd man out at this point appears to be Andre Ethier, to no fault of his own. Kemp and Puig are simply far too good when healthy to leave out of the lineup on a given night. Ethier and Crawford both struggle mightily against left-handers, so look for Mattingly to mix and match the two of them when the club is facing a southpaw, also tossing in an occasional start for right-handed bat Scott Van Slyke here and there.
A trade is not an option at the moment. The market for a $15 million plus outfielder is not good, especially an injury-prone declining one like Crawford. The Dodgers have stuck their necks out and brought these players in and signed them to massive deals, so they will have to see it through to the end. Given the consistent injury history that surrounds all four players, it is beneficial to have all four at Mattingly’s disposal. Giving Kemp a night off here and there against a righty will go a long way toward both keeping him healthy and also keeping Crawford and Ethier involved and in rhythm. Kemp logged just 73 games last year and is coming off a couple of major surgeries. It is unreasonable to expect him to be the guy who missed just four games in a three-year span from 2009-2011 , at least not right away.
Good days are ahead for the Dodgers who now have one of the most prolific talents in baseball back and apparently locked in already. Puig should return soon and finally complete a loaded outfield that fans are hoping can finally stay healthy and productive for the long haul. The outfield situation is an ongoing saga with no end in sight, but the Dodgers just wouldn’t have it any other way. Nothing would be more fitting in the City of Angels.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Los Angeles Dodgers