The good news for the Dodgers is that all-world lefthander Clayton Kershaw just has a mild herniated disk in his back and should be able to come off the disabled list right after the All-Star break.
That means Kershaw will be able to help Los Angeles hold on to second place in the National League West. Because first place is unrealistic for this expensive-yet-flawed team that has no one else near Kershaw’s class.
Before back problems landed him on the DL, Kershaw went 11-2 with a league-best 1.79 ERA. He also leads the league in WHIP (0.727), walks per nine innings (0.7) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (16.11). The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner made the days he pitched on the must-see event in the league. And he could end up with one of the special seasons in the history of the game. He was a lock to start the All-Star Game on Tuesday in San Diego if not for the injury.
The Dodgers believed Kershaw topped a deep starting rotation, but that’s not what has played out. They just activated Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list. They have free-agent pickups Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. They quickly traded for Bud Norris when Kershaw went down. Not an impressive group behind the ace.
When Zack Greinke opted to depart for Arizona as a free agent after last season, the Dodgers failed to bring in a suitable replacement, and it shows. As a result, the Dodgers entered Saturday 14-2 when Kershaw starts, 35-38 when he doesn’t. Because of injuries and ineffectiveness, the Dodgers have used 11 different starters this season.
Los Angeles deserves some credit for winning six of its first nine games once Kershaw was placed on the DL. But their deficit in the division actually grew from six games back to 6 ½ as San Francisco continues to play well.
For a team with a whopping $249 million payroll, the Dodgers lean on Kershaw to lead the way. Offensively, the Dodgers entered the weekend ranked 20th in the league in runs scored. The bullpen is anchored by top closer Kenley Jansen but lacks depth.
But if the rotation stabilizes and the offense kicks it up a notch, the Dodgers could get on a roll. But that’s asking a lot. The Giants look to be the class of a division that has only two teams over .500.
The Dodgers’ best chance for a postseason berth looks to be as a wild card, which would be their sixth playoff appearance — but no World Series appearances — since Kershaw reached the majors. Kershaw’s postseason numbers (2-6, 4.59) have been poor, but he’s still baseball’s best pitcher.
So it seems like the Dodgers, despite all their resources, are not taking advantage of the best years of Kershaw’s career.
Indians: Joe Colon is getting a chance to help Cleveland’s bullpen. The righthander had to serve a 50-game suspension at the beginning of the season for a second positive test for a banned drug. Once he was reinstated, Colon posted a 0.59 ERA in 15 ⅓ innings for Class AAA Columbus. He walked eight but struck out 14.
Closer Wade Davis, above, became the latest Royal to land on the disabled list Tuesday. This one should be watched closely, as Davis has a forearm strain. He said he believes the injury is minor, but forearm injures can be a signal that elbow problems are coming and therefore can’t be taken lightly.
Tigers: Detroit entered the weekend scrambling for a starter after lefthander Daniel Norris landed on the 15-day disabled list because of a right oblique muscle strain. They called lefthander Buck Farmer from Class AAA Toledo, but he’s only relieved in the majors. Detroit hopes Norris needs only the minimum 15 days.
White Sox: Chicago is on a roller coaster. After starting 23-10, then falling out of first place, the White Sox on Wednesday won their fifth straight series and were 11-5 over their past 16 games. Rookie infielder Tim Anderson has been a boost since his promotion June 9, batting .295 and playing solid defense.
Three observations …
• Uh-oh. Giancarlo Stanton is batting .338 with seven homers over his past 18 games, and blasted a 470-foot homer Wednesday. Someone poked the bear with a stick.
• Bert Blyleven alert! The Royals’ Chris Young has given up a league-high 26 home runs with half a season to go. Will he remain in the rotation and make a run at Blyleven’s record of 50 given up in 1986?
• The Twins shouldn’t move Ervin Santana just to get his salary off the books. They should be willing to eat some of the contract in order to get a quality return.
... and two predictions
• Look for Cleveland to add an outfielder and a reliever before the trade deadline.
• The Rockies’ DJ LeMahieu will win the National League batting title.