Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Young Dodgers fitting in nicely
By Tony Jackson ESPNLosAngeles.com
PHILADELPHIA -- If this was a glimpse into the Los Angeles Dodgers' future, well, then what the heck, let's go ahead and resort to all the usual hyperbole.
Yes, Dee Gordon was incredible in what for all practical purposes was his major league debut even though he had pinch run the night before. And yes, Rubby De La Rosa was amazing in his first big league start as well, although not so much for the way he pitched as the way he recovered from what looked early on like an unmitigated disaster in the making.
But this was not a glimpse into the Dodgers' future. We know this because after the game, a 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies before 44,721 on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, manager Don Mattingly said so.
Dodgers pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and short stop Dee Gordon make exciting young additions to L.A.
"It's fun to watch it and see what it's going to look like," Mattingly said. "But I don't think we want to give anybody the impression at all that we're trying to look to the future. We're trying to win right now, and I think these guys give us a chance to do that."
Looking at it through a cautiously optimistic lens, we can say that the Dodgers' future is in good hands. Gordon got hits in each of the first three plate appearances of his career and wound up 3-for-5 with a run scored and a stolen base. De La Rosa went five innings and gave up a run on four hits and five walks with all of them coming in the first and second. I mean, they need some other stuff too, the most important of those being an ownership change. But where Gordon and De La Rosa are concerned, the kids are all right.
But what of the present? Can these two be the saviors in a season that is still very salvageable? Truthfully, that's way too much to put on a couple of rookies. But can they help the cause? Absolutely. And despite De La Rosa's mild case of the yips in the early innings -- catcher Dioner Navarro said he was just going too fast -- they don't appear to be overly awed by any of this.
Really, they kind of fit right in.
"Definitely, I was nervous, but I wasn't as nervous as I once thought I would be," Gordon said. "I laid down and thought about this moment for a long time. I just thanked God. He had to be the one that helped me with those nerves."
It certainly wasn't his proud father who helped calm them. Tom Gordon, the three-time All-Star reliever who retired not long after helping the Phillies win a World Series in 2008, flew here from Orlando for his son's big moment, sat in the front row near the Dodgers' dugout and exchanged more than a few glances during the game with his favorite rookie shortstop.
"Probably three or four times," Dee Gordon said. "That actually added a little more to the nerves. But it was fun."
The left-handed-hitting Gordon, batting in the leadoff spot, went the other way for a line single off Roy Oswalt to begin the game, pulled a single through the right side off Oswalt in the third and bounced an infield single over Oswalt's head in the fifth before striking out and grounding to third against the Phillies' relievers.
It was that fifth-inning hit that was most telling, because charging second baseman Chase Utley didn't even have time to make a throw to first to get Gordon, who appears to have enough speed to beat out just about anything with any bounce to it. Gordon, who says he has been given the green light to run on his own, then stole second, diving in just under the tag.
"I just went," Gordon said. "I had watched [Oswalt] my first two times at first base, and I felt like I could get him. I saw his leg go up, and I just went."
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De La Rosa's performance didn't go as smoothly, but it was good enough to get a win, for both himself and the Dodgers (29-33). Only a couple of nice plays behind him by second baseman Juan Uribe saved De La Rosa from disaster in the first inning, when he walked two. He walked three more in the second, including Placido Polanco with the bases loaded.
"I tried everything in my repertoire [to calm him down]," Navarro said. "I don't think it was unusual for the first time out, especially the kind of team the Phillies are. He was just going too fast. His stuff is way too good to be doing that, but it's a learning process. He battled and he struggled, but when he needed to make a pitch, he made it and got us out of there. I think that was the bottom line."
In the third, when he was focused more on throwing strikes, De La Rosa gave up three hits, but he was saved from another run when right fielder Andre Ethier made a perfect throw to Navarro to nail Raul Ibanez trying to score from second on a hit by Wilson Valdez. De La Rosa (2-0), who also had gotten a win out of the bullpen when the Dodgers walked off against the Florida Marlins on May 27, retired the next six batters in a row before hitting the showers.
Except he didn't hit the showers, at least not right away. He stayed in the dugout the rest of the game, apparently wanting to take in every precious moment of an evening he will never forget. Some distant day, we will know whether this game was as pivotal and significant for the Dodgers as it was for Gordon and De La Rosa.
All anyone knows right now, though, is that Gordon and De La Rosa played important roles in a Dodgers victory in a season in which every victory figures to loom large in a wide-open National League West. And that is exactly what they were brought here to do.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.