Between now and July 2, the Los Angeles Dodgers have only three off-days, and they must play a doubleheader on June 2 because of Saturday's rainout in Denver. The baseball season is a brutal marathon, but not having regular off-days can affect any team's chances of going to the postseason.
The Dodgers are designed to withstand this tough period of their schedule better than most teams. Since president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi joined the Dodgers last October, they have been adding depth to the organization. So far this season, it has paid off.
Despite the injuries to important players, the Dodgers have the second-best record in the Major Leagues. Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn't thrown a pitch in a competitive Major League game yet this season, and no one knows when he will be able to return to the starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy already has undergone Tommy John surgery and will be out for the remainder of the season. The Dodgers have been mixing and matching from Triple-A Oklahoma City to find starters for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation -- and so far, so good.
Kenley Jansen, the projected closer for the Dodgers, hasn't thrown a pitch yet as he recovers from foot surgery. He should return to the active roster on the current homestand. Joel Peralta, the projected eighth-inning setup man, has been on the disabled list. Brandon League, who figured to play an integral role in the Dodgers' bullpen, has been trying to recover from a serious shoulder injury.
Until Monday's game against the Miami Marlins, the young Dodgers bullpen had been marvelous. Yimi Garcia blew a one-run lead in the ninth, but Scott Van Slyke hit a three-run homer to lengthen the Dodgers' winning streak to four games. Instead of being the Achilles' heel of the team as in 2014, the bullpen has become a strength.
At the beginning of last offseason, everyone who followed the Dodgers at all knew the front office wanted to trade at least one outfielder in aims of lowering the payroll. Many fans hoped it would be Andre Ethier. After all, he had two consecutive poor offensive seasons, and he makes a lot of money. But Ethier has the ability and willingness to play any outfield position.
In hindsight, it was the correct decision for the Dodgers to trade Matt Kemp instead. With a troublesome hamstring, Yasiel Puig doesn't have a date to return to the active roster. Carl Crawford has a torn oblique, and severe oblique injuries can take up to two months to heal.
Since Kemp can play only right field satisfactorily, he would have limited manager Don Mattingly's options in the outfield. Keeping Kemp probably would have blocked Joc Pederson from coming to the Majors, and Pederson has played an important both offensively and defensively in the Dodgers' early success. He is better defensively than Kemp, and his highlight-quality catches have prevented countless runs from scoring. Pederson's nine home runs are third in the National League and his 28 walks lead the league. He brings excitement to the team.
New Commissioner Rob Manfred has revealed that there have been discussions about shortening the season to 154 games, like it was before 1962. Since then, baseball has added three rounds of playoffs, lengthening the postseason. Although sports medicine has much more knowledge how to prevent injuries, baseball has a lot more injuries nowadays. Baseball needs to shorten its season to 154 games and pass a rule that no team can play more than 14 consecutive days. This will decrease the revenue for the owners but might prevent many injuries.
Since the Dodgers have more depth than most teams, they should survive the tough portion of their schedule better than most. But no team should have to endure the lack of off-days that the Dodgers are facing.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.