Not the fast start they were hoping for

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have played 15 games, and they've already been in a brawl, benched their best player for lack of production (at least, for most of one game) and traded a starting pitcher who, it turns out, might have come in handy.

It hasn't exactly been that rip-roaring start they were looking for as they try to ease into the high expectations that come with a record payroll.

Although it's early and although the Dodgers could well be one clutch hit away from breaking out of their doldrums, manager Don Mattingly was concerned enough after a sloppy series against the San Diego Padres to bring his team together for its first postgame meeting Wednesday.

The topic, it would appear, was confidence and the energy it can generate. Right now, the Dodgers aren't generating much of anything, and certainly not energy.

"If we're going to make some noise, we're going to be a confident club that says, 'Hey, we're never out of a game,'" Mattingly said. "Getting down a couple runs, you want to be sitting there on the bench thinking, 'We've got all day, we're going to put some runs on the board.'

"Right now, I can't tell you that you get that feeling on the bench."

If this team is to take on a bit of swagger on the East Coast, where it plays the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets over the next week, it probably will need to see a few confident signs from Matt Kemp. Batting .182, Kemp can't seem to catch a break, even when he's supposed to be getting one.

Mattingly tried to give Kemp a game off but used him as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning with the bases loaded. After what looked like a bad call on a 3-and-0 pitch, Kemp struck out. He left five runners on base in just two at-bats.

The Dodgers could use a spark. Just seeing a hint of good things to come from their No. 3 hitter could go a long way.