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Friday, May 10, 2013
Still waiting on Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier

By Mark Saxon

LOS ANGELES -- The storyline seems to be that the Los Angeles Dodgers put together the most expensive team in baseball history and that it hasn’t worked out, because all those pricey moves backfired.

Matt Kemp
While Matt Kemp looks as if he might be rebounding from the worst slump of his career, his longtime Dodgers teammate Andre Ethier has entered a similar downward spiral.
Nice storyline, if only it were true.

Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford were the prime pieces of August’s big trade with the Boston Red Sox, and they’ve been the Dodgers' best hitters.

Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu have pitched well, and how were the Dodgers to know Carlos Quentin was nursing a three-year-old grudge and was going to break Greinke’s collarbone in his second start? Similar deal with Hanley Ramirez: How were they to know he would sustain two fluke injuries and miss all but four games so far?

What has been dragging the Dodgers down lately are the guys who were here before all this turnover started. Unless Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier can resume their All-Star form of years gone by, this team has no chance of escaping the brambles of massive disappointment.

An eight-game losing streak is survivable. Being buried in the standings in May is a lot better than being buried in the standings in August.

But what about the homegrown big bats? Just when Kemp starts showing signs of emerging from the worst slump of his career, his longtime teammate goes into a similar nosedive.

Kemp nearly ignited a rally in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 5-4 loss to the Miami Marlins on Friday, when he led off with a single and stole second. But Ethier hit a lazy fly ball to right field -- a skill he seems to have mastered -- and helped ease the pressure on Miami’s far-from-intimidating bullpen.

Kemp is hitting .316 during this modest nine-game hitting streak, although he’s never had a power outage of this length before (one home run in 125 at-bats).

Ethier is in the midst of a spiral, batting .209 with just three extra-base hits since April 20. Only two right fielders in the league, Jayson Werth and Jay Bruce, have a worse OPS.

“Dre’s swing always looks good to me, but he seems frustrated early on, and that’s not going the right direction,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

The Dodgers on Friday brought back Scott Van Slyke, a player with a poor track record in a short major league stay but a red-hot hitter in the minor leagues. He had an otherworldly 1.236 OPS at Triple-A Albuquerque.

It might be time to give Ethier a day to get his thoughts in order, and see whether Van Slyke can stay hot and help ignite the spark that has been missing on this team in weeks. Right now, Ethier is not getting it done for the only major league team he has ever known.