The return of Manny Ramirez from a 50-game suspension will bolster the Dodgers’ offense, but another problem must be solved if the team is to succeed for the rest of the 2009 baseball season.
The Dodgers reached the halfway point on the Fourth of July weekend when Ramirez hit a home run in Saturday’s game against the Padres in San Diego.
But the innings are piling up for late inning relievers Ronald Belisario and Ramon Tronsoso, both rookies who’ve been called upon frequently because starting pitchers don’t work deep into games.
In order for the Dodgers to hold off onrushing San Francisco and Colorado in their division and do well in the playoffs something must be done about the pitching.
General Manager Ned Colletti is well aware of the need and is working on potential deals. An established starting pitcher would be preferable, but it’s possible the Dodgers will instead add another reliever who can take over some innings.
The Dodgers won two of the three games in San Diego, but fatigue among the relievers was evident when Belisario and Troncoso both were ineffective in Saturday’s loss and closer Jonathan Broxton faltered in the ninth inning Sunday. The Dodgers, who were cruising with a 6-1 lead, gave up five runs in the ninth and required 13 innings to earn a 7-6 victory.
Eric Milton, who’s been the Dodgers’ fifth starter when healthy, went back on the disabled list over the weekend. Randy Wolf is a starter who doesn’t last long enough to get a decision, which puts a strain on the bullpen.
Manager Joe Torre reflected on Ramirez’ return following the slugger’s ban for violating baseball’s drug policy.
“I love the game and it’s important the fans trust what we do.” said Torre, “We have to regain their trust.”
Torre said he’s not certain how the pitching situation will unravel but he’s sure Ramirez will provide a lot of help once he adjusts to live pitching following the long layoff.
“He’s very confident of his ability,” said Torre.
Ramirez walked Friday in his first at-bat and contributed to a five-run inning by getting on base and setting the stage for others. After playing Saturday Ramirez sat out Sunday’s game due to sore legs except for a pinch-hitting appearance in which he flew out to short right field.
Even a hitter of Ramirez’ caliber requires some games to regain his timing. For anyone doubting that he’ll be providing power in time. Merely look to the Angels, where slugger Vladimir Guerrero has been struggling through the season after being idled with a chest injury. While some journalists were wondering if Guerrero’s power-hitting days are over he ripped long home runs both Saturday and Sunday to trigger come-from-behind wins over the Baltimore Orioles.
It remains to be seen how Ramirez will be greeted in opposing ballparks. It wasn’t a test in San Diego because a lot of Dodger fans made the journey and the overall reaction was mixed.
Ramirez was in for a different reception when the Dodgers visited the New York Mets in their next series.