Don Mattingly gets tested more each day

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
10:39
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly's afternoon didn't start off well. He was planning to give slumping outfielder Andre Ethier a day off to get things together, but then he ran into trainer Sue Falsone, who told him Carl Crawford's hamstring had tightened up again.

It didn't seem like a good night to have Elian Herrera and Skip Schumaker manning the outfield corners, so Ethier -- and his .243 average -- wound up back on the lineup card.

A few hours later, Mattingly got another little treat. His All-Star first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, dove for a foul popup (and missed it), landed awkwardly and aggravated the strained neck that had cost him last weekend's games in San Francisco.

Don Mattingly
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesIt has been a tough start to the season for Don Mattingly, and it would be unfair to pin the Dodgers' poor play so far on him.
So now Mattingly had .220-hitting Juan Uribe jog over to play first and inserted .090-hitting Luis Cruz at third. Oh yeah, and Schumaker -- batting .151 -- showed up in the ninth inning anyway.

You can say a lot of things about Mattingly. Maybe he's too laid-back for some fans' taste. There were no signs of sprayed coleslaw from a spread-flipping postgame tirade anywhere in the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse after Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers' seventh loss in a row. But what you can't say, with any degree of validity, is that this team is losing because of Mattingly.

Not when Gonzalez and Crawford have been in and out of action, and Matt Kemp hasn't looked the same in months. Not when Mattingly's rotation has been a turnstile, and the roster from Triple-A Albuquerque has been quietly taking over his clubhouse, locker stall by locker stall.

"It's nothing down the hall in the manger's or coaches' office. It's all about the players, what's going on in here. It's up to us to step up," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It doesn't matter who's in the lineup card, who's on the mound that day. We're the Los Angeles Dodgers."

They are, kind of, but three of the guys in the game at the end opened 2013 in the minor leagues. Three others started the season firmly planted on Mattingly's bench, which was a lot stronger before it became his infield.

Gonzalez told reporters he will be healthy enough to return to the lineup Friday, and Crawford was healthy enough to pinch hit Wednesday. Perhaps those guys will simply get better soon, but if you assume that, you haven't been paying attention to this team's luck lately. It's weeks from Memorial Day -- some pools aren't even open -- and the Dodgers have used the disabled list 14 times.

"From Zack [Greinke] forward, it's just been a stream. I can't let my club think that we can't win because we've got some guys banged up," Mattingly said. "It's been a little bit of a rough patch, obviously, with the number of guys, but I don't really know what you do about injuries. It's not something that you really coach or teach; you just kind of deal with it."

The Dodgers are not exactly dealing with it well, so far, of course, not with a six-game losing streak closely followed by a seven-game skid. The Dodgers can hardly afford to lose games when Clayton Kershaw pitches, and Wednesday was one of those nights. Everything was headed in a happier direction before Kershaw threw a high fastball to Paul Goldschmidt and the scariest Dodger killer in baseball right now pummeled it into the left-field bleachers in the sixth inning.

And so, yeah, even a great player such as Kershaw deserves some of the blame, a very small slice, anyway.

"I'm frustrated. I think the rest of the team is, too. It's no fun to come to the park and lose every single day," Kershaw said. "I think you need to check yourself if you're not a little frustrated right now."

Notice he didn't say, "Check the manager."

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
20 1.80 228 190
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .300
HRA. Gonzalez 25
RBIA. Gonzalez 111
RD. Gordon 90
OPSY. Puig .873
ERAC. Kershaw 1.80
SOC. Kershaw 228