Josh Beckett, RHP: After throwing 128 pitches to complete the first no-hitter in the majors this season, Beckett felt like he normally does after a start. “Like I got hit by a truck,” the 34-year-old veteran right-hander said the day after, on Monday. That will make Beckett’s Friday start an interesting one to watch. The Dodgers contemplated giving him an extra day of rest by using Paul Maholm or a minor league starter, but he said he was happy to stay on turn.
Yasiel Puig, RF: It’s hard to shake Puig from this list. He has reached base in 29 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors. His concentration just isn’t ebbing and, almost every night, you can see him making adjustments. Homer Bailey tried to back Puig off the plate with a 94 mph neck-high fastball inside. Puig barely budged, but he hit the next pitch, a hanging slider, over the right-field wall and seemed to enjoy it. The ball nearly hit the top of the wall, but Puig was only about six steps from home plate when it cleared it.
J.P. Howell, LHP: He’s easy to miss, because he doesn’t pitch the sexy innings and because most left-handed relievers are overlooked. But this bullpen would be a disaster without his steadying influence in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Howell has given up one run and has struck out 10 batters in his eight innings since April 30.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP: The Dodgers’ ace isn’t in a slump. That’s too strong a word. His numbers are skewed by that one awful outing in Arizona in which he lasted only 1 2/3 innings. Since then, he has steadied himself without looking dominant. He hasn’t gotten into the kind of groove that made him the best pitcher in baseball the three previous seasons. Kershaw had never been on the disabled list before he missed six weeks because of a strained muscle in his upper back, so he’s probably finding it strange to work his way into a season in May.
Matt Kemp, LF: The Dodgers were on their first semi-roll of the season, having won six of eight games, and Kemp was openly pouting about his lack of playing time. He sat five straight games -- four of them Dodger wins, including the no-hitter. Now, he’s being asked to be the every-day left fielder, so we’ll see how that works out. He looked fine in the field in his first game out there in eight years. The Dodgers would feel better about the situation if he could get hot at the plate. He is hitless in his last nine at-bats.
Maholm, LHP: It’s not that he hasn’t been effective in relief. In fact, he has been far better pitching out of the bullpen than he was as a spot starter, probably because he’s facing fewer right-handed hitters. The problem has been finding a role for him. Since Maholm left the Dodgers’ rotation more than two weeks ago, he has made two appearances. By carrying two long relievers -- Jamey Wright is the other -- the Dodgers have effectively blocked some younger relievers at Triple-A Albuquerque, including pitchers they could use in high-profile roles such as Chris Withrow.