Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: The Dodgers went nearly two months with spotty production from one of their middle-of-the-order bats, but Gonzalez has had a good trip (8-for-22, two doubles, a homer, five RBIs and four walks). The dramatic shifts teams have been employing on Gonzalez have had an effect, but it looks as if he's learning to deal with them and getting into a more comfortable groove. He plays an important role, the steady backdrop against which streakier hitters like Yasiel Puig best function.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: It's not that Sunday night's start in St. Louis was so great. By his standards, it was sub-par. He had little idea where many of his pitches were going and, on a good night, he certainly doesn't give up a home run to a hitter such as Peter Bourjos. But he clearly won some points with his teammates for retaliating when Hanley Ramirez got hit by a Carlos Martinez pitch. Kershaw handled it exactly as the Pittsburgh Pirates did a couple of nights later. He hit the next batter he faced, Matt Holliday, in the back. It should have been over at that point. Teams protect their best hitters whether they were thrown at intentionally or not. Call it medieval. It's the game. Kershaw has a little more Bob Gibson in him than many people realize.
Dan Haren, RHP: Dodgers fans may not have him to kick around any longer. The Dodgers are taking advantage of a couple of off days to skip his turn in the rotation. If they're able to land a starting pitcher between now and July 31, they might skip more than a turn or two. His future in the Dodgers' rotation is in doubt, put it that way. Then again, Haren is a competitor and, if he's given more opportunities, he just might battle his way back into the picture. Let's not forget, he was 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in April pitching with the same stuff.
Josh Beckett, RHP: His Tuesday start, in which he didn't make it out of the fourth inning, can be written off because of rust. But he's also pitching with a torn labrum in his hip that has undergone some pretty serious treatment and endures. At 34, there is a lot of wear and tear on that body. The Dodgers are keeping their fingers crossed he can keep it together for two to three more months, but the way he's talking lately, that seems doubtful.
Fringe relievers: Few teams have six or seven lockdown relievers. Virtually every team has a soft underbelly in the middle innings. But the Dodgers' is softer than many and, when they went on a record spending spree to fix their bullpen last winter, it wasn't supposed to be this way. Chris Perez, Paul Maholm and Jamey Wright, like Haren, are on alert. The Dodgers are also looking for relief help and none of their spots is guaranteed. Their money is, but not the job.