Baseball fans were treated to a taste of major-league action as the Dodgers took on the Diamondbacks in a two game opening series in Sydney, Australia. The Dodgers went back to the states happy, winning both games. As for the D-Backs, they will go back to their home state already trailing the overwhelming National League West favorites by two games. There was a lot of action, excitement and early opinions formulated from the two game tease. Let’s recap some intriguing things that happened.
Yasiel Puig: A lot of skepticism surrounding Puig was brewing. He struggled mightily in September and Spring Training, so when the right-handed slugger went 0-5 with three strikeouts in the first game, alarm bells began to ring. Puig’s plate discipline, or lack thereof, is not a concealed part of his repertoire. The man wants to hit and can with the best of them. It was no surprise when Puig alleviated any concerns the next day, getting on-base four times, three coming by putting the bat on the ball. He was back. The good and the bad. Puig has so much raw talent, albeit he is overzealous at times, which drives Don Mattingly crazy. He made two base running blunders costing the team a chance to crack the game wide-open. However, as usual, his offensive and defensive value overshadow his absence of sound fundamentals.
D’Backs have holes in the rotation: Patrick Corbin will most likely miss a good chunk of the 2014 season, an injury decimating the D’Backs pitching depth. We saw Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill, the now top two in the rotation, struggle with their command. Cahill did not induce ground balls at the same rate off his sinker, which is an absolute must for someone who pitches for contact. Miley does not light up the radar gun and relies on location and his secondary pitches for success. He was erratic with his locating of pitches, which if persisting, will be an enormous issue for Arizona. The Diamondbacks need these two to step up and form a formidable top two punch, and if not, it will be a long year out West.
Dee Gordon needs to learn to play second: With Hanley Ramirez occupying shortstop in L.A. for the foreseeable future, Dee Gordon is going to have to adjust to the nuances of second if he wants to be a regular. Gordon had a big day from the plate and on the bases last night. His ability to beat you with his legs is irrefutable, albeit the offensive potential is a cause for concern. However, if he can prove to be a very good defensive second basemen, then he might just be the guy for them. Gordon had a rough go at second yesterday, butchering a routine line drive and running in front of Ramirez instead of backing up, and what should have been an easy double play, turned into everybody being safe.
A platoon of Scott Van Slyke and Andre Ethier could work: Scott Van Slyke had a huge day at the plate in game one, getting on-base three out of four opportunities. He pulled a smoked wall-ball double and went opposite field on a ball over the right field fence the next at-bat. Ethier is a solid all-around piece, albeit he can not hit left-handed pitching. Last year, he mustered a weak .613 OPS off southpaws and a respectable .854 OPS off right-handers. Until Matt Kemp is healthy, a platoon of Slyke and Ethier makes sense.