Oh boy. Well, there are just a couple more hours remaining in the month of April, and the end of the month couldn't come quickly enough for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The National League champs have struggled out of the gate to begin with, then they lose three out of four in San Francisco in a span of 48 hours. Just 24 hours after that, they've found out that their shortstop is out for the year, and we find out that the reigning Rookie of the Year was benched for allegedly not hustling. But like they used to say in those Ginsu knife commercials, “But wait, there's more.”
In the Dodgers' lone win over the weekend, outfielder Yasiel Puig crashed into a wall while making a catch, and will be out for at least 10 days. Add to all of this that Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood have combined for exactly one win, and relievers can't seem to get anybody out. You would have gotten nice odds if you had bet that Hyun-Jin Ryu would lead the team in wins and earned run average through the club's first 27 games.
In the news of the day that broke about three hours before game time, it was announced that Corey Seager has a torn ligament in his elbow, will undergo the infamous 'Tommy John surgery' and will be out for the remainder of the season. Seager has been battling elbow issues dating back to last season, and hardly played at all during spring training, yet no broadcaster or writer ever mentioned that Tommy John would be a possibility. In an injury that's more common in pitchers, the surgery usually requires 12 to 18 months to recover, but the Dodgers are saying they think Seager will be ready to go by spring training next year. Big loss.
Missing Seager for the next 135 games is definitely the top story here, but lost in the muck and mire that is the Dodgers season so far, is an apparent episode Sunday with manager Dave Roberts, and second year slugger Cody Bellinger. Bellinger doubled in the fifth inning, and then was subsequently out at second on a line drive double play. An inning later, in what seemed fairly innocuous at the time, Roberts took him out. Roberts has a tendency to use his entire bench by the seventh inning anyway, but this seemed like a move to indicate that perhaps Bellinger was hurt. After the game, Roberts told the media that Bellinger didn't hustle, and the double should have been a triple. He also said Bellinger shouldn't have been doubled off of second.
Bellinger told a different story, and said he didn't go for third because the Dodgers were trailing, and he didn't want to make an out. He also seemed caught in no-man's land on the line drive that resulted in the double play but admitted he could have reacted better. Bellinger also said all the right things regarding Roberts, but still insisted he did nothing wrong.
This could be a non-issue between Roberts and Bellinger going forward, but did we learn something about Roberts in this exchange? For the first time in his managerial career, he is facing adversity, and this was the first time we've seen anything regarding disciplining a player for lack of hustle. When Yasiel Puig would admire a fly ball he thought was a home run and ended up with a single, he was never taken out of the game. If a batter didn't run out a ground ball to first, he wasn't removed. So why Bellinger? And why now?
Roberts over-manages, and perhaps now he's starting to over-react, too. If you only have four players on your bench, and essentially two of them are catchers, you can't really afford to play lefty-righty matchups in the fifth or sixth inning. He does it anyway. It does give him room to trot out eight pitchers in a game, though, even if none of them are playing very well right now.
There was a note today that the Dodgers have never before been seven games out of first place in the month of April. They were going into tonight. They had a fairly lackluster April last year, too (14-12), but they also had a 60-game stretch where they went 51-9. That doesn't seem likely to happen again.
Memorize these names. You'll need to know then if you are going to continue to follow the Boys in Blue—Max Muncy, Alex Verdugo, and Breyvic Valera. Not exactly Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, or Corey Seager, but you play the hand you're dealt, right?
This just in from Phoenix. Final score: Diamondbacks 8, Dodgers 5. Dodgers end April with a record of 12-16, and 8 games out of first place. So long, April, and don't come back soon.
Launch this: For the first time in Major League history, there were more strikeouts and hits for an entire month. It's a trend baseball can't be proud of, but today's hitter is more interested in 'launch angle' than getting a single. While trying to hit the ball in the air, they are more likely to miss, thus striking out. Players right now don't really seem to care.
Roster shuffle: Major League Baseball has this weird rule that when a team plays a doubleheader, they are allowed to add a 26th man to the roster, just for that day. That's not really necessary, but okay, whatever. The thing that makes that rule really stupid is that teams can also make roster moves between games. Saturday, Puig got hurt for the Dodgers in game one, and Alex Verdugo was there to magically replace him in game two. The Giants also took advantage, and brought up a pitcher.
Pitching Panda: The Dodgers' lone win this weekend was a 15-6 blowout of the Giants in game one of the day-night doubleheader Saturday, but the highlight came with the game already decided, Not wanting to burn up the bullpen anymore, Giants manager Bruce Bochy brought third baseman and crowd favorite Pablo Sandoval in to pitch. Working quickly, and even throwing curve balls, Sandoval retired Max Muncy, Yasmani Grandal, and Chris Taylor all on groundouts. Even Dodger fans and players were laughing and applauding. It was a great moment.