|19-21 (3rd place, NL Central)
19-22 (3rd place, NL West)
Shaun Marcum (4-1, 2.72)
Jon Garland (1-2, 3.66)
Randy Wolf (3-3, 4.11)
Hiroki Kuroda (4-3, 3.21)
NH: The starting pitching struggled to start the year but seems to be back on track. Are you concerned the struggles from the beginning of the year will return? They've had a stretch of 17 quality starts in 22 games but the team has only won 10 of those games. Now that you're secure in pitching, do you need to start worrying about offense? Where do you see the spark for a slumping offense coming from?
ES: The starting pitching has been very good, even great at times, but yes the offense is terrible. As it stands now, the offense consists of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jamey Carroll, and five outs, with occasional power from the on-base-challenged Rod Barajas and Juan Uribe. The Dodgers have scored fewer runs than the Padres this season!
The spark, if any, will come from Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake returning from the disabled list, but that won't happen for this series. James Loney has been terrible this season (.230/.266/.270) and since last year's All-Star break (.218/.278/.308); he went over a month without an extra-base hit, but now has doubles in his last two games, so any improvement from him would be a help to the offense. Also, rookie Jerry Sands hit 35 home runs last year between Single A and Double A, then hit five more in 10 games in Triple A this season before getting called up. He has hit .194/.280/.292 in 22 games as a Dodger so far, with no home runs, but he does have seven doubles so Dodger fandom is waiting for those doubles to start landing beyond the fence.
NH: Hong Chih Kuo was just sent to the DL with an anxiety disorder, though some inside the Dodgers have labeled it a case of the pitching "yips" where he's not hitting his spots and not able to correct himself. Though he was an All-Star last year, this is his 2nd DL stint this season and already his sixth in his career. What do you expect down the road for Kuo? Was the All-Star season a blip, or do you see that kind of output for him in the future?
ES: Kuo if anything is a battler. He has had two Tommy John surgeries and two more surgeries throughout his career. I expect he eventually will be back, but it might be a month or two before that is the case. Kuo dealt with the yips in 2009 as well, and missed three months, but came back to be very effective over the final two months of the season. His All-Star season last year definitely wan't a blip, as he has been very successful (since the beginning of 2008, Kuo has a 2.03 ERA, a 2.23 FIP, and 2.98 xFIP)
NH: Injuries have plagued the Dodgers to start the season. I think your blog said 11 different guys have made trips to the DL. Do you have the minor leaguer depth and bench playerse to account for this, or will you spend the season lamenting the loss of talent to DL stints?
ES: With Blake Hawksworth hitting the DL with a strained right groin on Sunday, the Dodgers are up to 11 players on the DL this season, with 13 different stints. The big losses have been Furcal, Blake, Kuo, and Jonathan Broxton. The Dodgers do not have the depth to deal with this, as Aaron Miles has started 26 of 41 games (some of this is a choice by Don Mattingly, but the alternative to starting Miles has been Ivan DeJesus and Russ Mitchell most of the time, so it's not like Miles is holding anyone back or anything). They might have the depth to overcome the losses in the bullpen; right now the back end of the pen is Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier, and Kenley Jansen.
NH: Obviously the McCourts and Selig have been a big back story to the beginning of the season. How much of an impact does that have on you as a fan? Do you think it has an impact on the product on the field?
ES: As a fan, I want to concentrate as much as possible about the team on the field as possible, so I hate anything that distracts me from that. The McCourts right now are definitely a distraction to me as a fan; I don't believe they are much of a distraction to the players, except for maybe the times when reporters ask the players about ownership. The players are pretty singularly focused, though this mess of a situation isn't necessarily something they completely ignore, I'm sure.
Change in Dodger ownership seems inevitable to me at this point. Bud Selig wouldn't have moved in with MLB unless the end game was to get McCourt out one way or another. The situation should accelerate in the next two weeks or so as the Dodgers reportedly don't have enough cash to make payroll at the end of May. At that point, MLB would completely take over (and guarantee the players get paid), or perhaps McCourt could declare bankruptcy, which would also likely trigger MLB action. I expect there to be some fight between McCourt and Selig; whether it gets to a courtroom, I don't know, but I just want the situation to be over as soon as possible so I as a fan can move on.
Thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions!