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Los Angeles Dodgers getting healthier, looking more dangerous

LOS ANGELES – A few days ago, all of Yasiel Puig's boundless energy was being burned up in Class-A games, three steps short of where it could make an impact, and Howie Kendrick was limping off an airplane with a stiff knee, worried about whether it was going to be an injury that swallowed up what had been a promising start with a new team.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that Yasmani Grandal was still shaking out the cobwebs of a concussion, wondering if one of the hottest-hitting stretches of his life could withstand several days of inactivity.

And, slowly but surely, three of the Los Angeles Dodgers' key players haven gotten healthy and their team has started to look a bit more robust as well. It's probably not a coincidence.

Kendrick didn't know whether his knee was sound until after doctors had ordered an MRI that showed no major damage and he spent several days undergoing every treatment medical science could come up with, taking advantage of technologies both high and low.

"I probably iced more in those two days than I did all of last year," Kendrick said.

Puig -- sidelined most of the season with a hamstring injury -- has brought his energy back to the top of the Dodgers' lineup, picking up five hits and scoring a run in each of his first three games back from the disabled list. Kendrick has resumed his steady production in the middle of the lineup, including driving in all of the Dodgers' runs in their 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday. And Grandal continues to provide depth to the lineup as well as to help keep a promising, but erratic young pitcher on track for a team that desperately needs him to grow up fast.

Is it really any wonder the Dodgers had cooled off considerably from one of the fastest starts in baseball? They weren't whole, with three middle-of-the-lineup hitters dealing with an assortment of maladies and an even deeper list of pitching injuries.

"The main thing is, when you're getting guys banged up everywhere, it's not your team," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Howie is a middle-of-the-order guy who has gotten big hits for us all year. Yasiel hasn't been around all that much, but now that he's back he gives us a different lineup, allows us to do a lot of different things. Just getting your pieces back allows your lineup to flow."

The Dodgers are gradually getting their feet back under them as they get their lineup back in order, especially when the other team doesn't have St. Louis Cardinals uniforms on. Carlos Frias doesn't seem to care what kind of uniform he's facing. Two starts earlier, he had largely dominated those Cardinals for seven innings in St. Louis. Then, he barely kept it together while giving up 10 hits to them on the first game of this homestand, just soaking up innings so the Dodgers didn't have to go to their depleted bullpen.

And, on Tuesday, he again had to walk a tightrope created by his inability to elude contact, with the Diamondbacks cranking out six hits off him in the first three innings, but scoring just once. Grandal seems to have a settling effect on Frias, whose only run allowed came via a wild pitch -- a ball he spiked into the dirt near Grandal's bare hand while Cliff Pennington was batting in the second inning.

"He's a tough guy to catch. He's live, he's all over the place, but they seem to have a pretty good thing going," Mattingly said.

Frias, who throws a high-90s fastball with scattershot command, remains a project, but with two starting pitchers down -- and Brandon Beachy not even having embarked on his minor-league rehab program yet -- he's pretty much all they've got. So, until they can line up the pieces for a trade for a starter that everyone seems to expect this summer, they need Frias to progress. Grandal said the four days in between each start have been crucial for Frias to refine his mix of pitches and his mechanics.

"He gives glances of how good he can be at times," Grandal said. "Then, he has outings where he doesn't know where the ball's going so I try to settle him back down to earth."