During their torrid start to the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked like a team destined for a magical year and a playoff appearance. While that still may happen, the task has gotten tougher as the season has gone one. LA got off to a great start, they separated themselves from the other teams in the NL West and Matt Kemp was showing why many people thought he should’ve been the NL’s MVP as opposed to Ryan Braun. Then, halfway through May, Los Angeles suffered their first huge blow, a feeling that would become a reoccurring theme throughout the middle stages of the year. Matt Kemp suffered a significant hamstring injury that cost him most of the first half of the season. Then five days later, Mark Ellis went down.
Right when it looked like things couldn’t have gotten any worse for the Dodgers, at the end of June, the club suffered yet another huge blow when Andre Ethier got injured. Through all the setbacks, the Dodgers have been able to stay afloat and remain right in the mix in the NL West. With Kemp, Ethier and Ellis having returned to the lineup, this is the time when the Dodgers need to make their run again. It’s clear that Los Angeles is a different and better team with them in the lineup but the lead they worked so hard to build at the beginning of the year is gone and now they are looking up at the San Francisco Giants in the NL West standings. Don Mattingly joined Fox Sports Radio with Petros and Money to talk about how he feels about the Dodgers coming out of the All-Star break, whether the rotation is a little bit concerning, when he expects Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to return to form, what the feeling is surrounding the team coming out of the All-Star break and how he feels this year compared to last year.
How he feels about the team coming out of the All-Star break:
“I think we’re happy to be where we’re at. I think if we would’ve been talking about not playing with Matt over half the games in the first half, had a lot of injuries to the back end of our bullpen and you were going to be starting the second half with a half game lead we would’ve said ‘we’re in, let’s skip the first half and start from here.’ We would’ve liked to have held on to that lead and kind of given ourselves a little bit more of a cushion but in reality the guys kind of hung on as long as they could it seemed like and then it was just kind of the wall broke. Now we’re kind of getting back to full strength and full strength is for me looking at it like this is the best club that we have and this is what we have the best chance to win with and best chance to compete with.”
Whether the rotation is a little bit concerning:
“The rotation is a little bit of a concern. Obviously I don’t worry about Clayton (Kershaw). He hasn’t gotten the wins that he got last year but he’s still pitched well. (Chris) Capuano has pitched really good, (Aaron) Harang has kind of came on strong, Bills (Chad Billingsley) has been inconsistent and that’s what you worry about because you don’t really know what you’re going to get. The rotation is a little bit of a concern and some of those guys are veterans so some times in the second half that shows up too.”
When he expects Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to return to form following injury:
“Hopefully right away. Matt, for me, is a little bit of a wild card but he always starts pretty well and Andre starts well. Andre hasn’t been out that long and he’s been able to keep swinging the bat. Matt’s missed a lot of competition and that one you don’t know if it’s going to be there right away. I’m a little more apprehensive about Matt but with Matt you never want to sell him short because he seems to come out on fire all the time. We’re going to need him and we get Mark Ellis back. With the two, three, four in our lineup, we’re going to need these guys to be consistent and if we’re going to make a run and be in this thing the whole way then those guys are going to have to produce.”
How the team is feeling come out of the All-Star break:
“I think they’re excited about the second half. As a player, coming back, you kind of go into the All-Star break feeling like you’re worn down a little bit and those three days are out there looking at you and you’re thinking ‘man I can’t wait to get a couple of days off.’ Once you come back you’re into that second half and then you start thinking about a pennant. If you’re a team that’s in that pennant race every game is important, every play is important and it’s the most fun time. You’re in a long race like that you know the first half is kind of putting you in position. We kept ourselves in good position. We put ourselves in a position to win this thing and now we have to go out and play and we put ourselves in a good spot.”
On how different this season is compared to last season for him:
“I’ve been a lot more comfortable that’s for sure. The second time around with our staff, second time around with the players, and they know me a little better and we have played better. That’s always a lot more fun. As a guy that is coming back with pretty much the same club we’ve been a club that has won and when you’re winning everything is good. It’s definitely been a lot better for me having a half game lead at the break instead of last year. I think we were maybe close to 10 games back and feeling like you’re fighting to get to.500. Now we’re a club that’s fighting knowing that if we play well we’re going to be in a pennant race.”