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Sarah's Take: Dodgers need more than Puig

The crowd chants, "Puig, Puig, Puig!"

Since the Los Angeles Dodgers promoted Yasiel Puig from Double-A before last Monday's game against the San Diego Padres, the energy in Dodger Stadium has been incredible for a last-place team. No matter how well the 22-year-old rookie plays, he can't always make the Dodgers win, but he makes them more enjoyable to watch on a nightly basis.

Earning the National League Player of the Week honors in the first week that he has been in the Major Leagues, Puig has done everything.

In eight games, Puig has had 16 hits, including four home runs. On Monday night against the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, batting cleanup for the first time in his young Major League career, Puig had three hits.

To go with his offensive prowess, Puig has had two outfield assists, including one that ended a game.

While the rest of the Dodgers can't do much right and make everything look difficult, Puig makes the game look easy. On his young face, the enthusiasm and energy for the game is evident, and this has been missing on the Dodgers. Dodger Stadium hasn't seen this much excitement for a player since Fernando Valenzuela produced Fernandomania in 1981. If Puig continues dominating the league, I would not be surprised if he's the National League Rookie of the Year, even though Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti were cautious about rushing him to the Major Leagues after he had fantastic Spring Training.

While Puig gives hope to Dodger fans everywhere, the Dodgers must play better to have any chance of going to the playoffs or even having a .500 record. Although injuries have decimated the team, the Dodgers can play better than they have. Mattingly must have creative thinking to find solutions to their problems.

With 99 games remaining, the Dodgers need to win 63 games to have 90 victories. Generally, 90 wins will enable a team to earn a Wild Card spot. In order to win 63 or more games, the Dodgers must be much better than they have thus far.

Mattingly must remove Brandon League from the closer role. Even though he did well in that role last year after coming from the Seattle Mariners, he has struggled in the same role this season. He has blown four saves, including Monday night when the Dodgers had a two-run lead going into the ninth. Any time a team loses a game in the late innings when they had led for most of the game, it's a heartbreaking loss that damages morale.

The Dodgers have Kenley Jansen who can close games. Before they obtained League, Jansen did well in that role. Since he had his heart problem corrected this past offseason, he hasn't had any health problems. At 25, Jansen has spectacular stuff and great control. Changing closers might lessen the late-inning losses, helping morale.

The Dodgers must stop utilizing the disabled list as much as they have. Ted Lilly went back on it for the third time this season with a sprained neck. The Dodgers had to start Matt Magill on Sunday, and he couldn't locate his pitches, resulting in walks and home runs.

Before Spring Training began, the media worried about the Dodgers' surplus of starting pitchers. Right now, they can't find five healthy quality starters. Unless an intensive four-week rehabilitation program cures a compressed nerve, Josh Beckett will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

Neither Lilly nor Chris Capuano can stay off the disabled list. Lilly's neck problem is chronic. At the non-waiver trading deadline, general manager Colletti must look for starting pitching if the ownership will let him even with a record-setting payroll. Since every team that might have a chance of going to the playoffs will be looking to improve its starting rotation, finding a starter will be difficult and expensive.

On Sunday, Matt Kemp suffered a setback in his recovery from a strained hamstring. Even though the Dodgers hoped he would return to the active roster Friday, he won't. When he returns, Mattingly must sit Andre Ethier. In his efforts to improve his hitting against left-handed pitchers, Ethier has seemed to have forgotten how to hit. No team can have a regular outfielder with a batting average of .229. If Scott Van Slyke is healthy, he deserves to play because he has demonstrated incredible power and can usually come through in the clutch, qualities that the Dodgers desperately need.

Hanley Ramirez hasn't played in five games because he has a tight hamstring. Coming off the disabled list last Tuesday from a severe hamstring pull, Ramirez's hamstring situation scares the Dodgers. Even though Ramirez had an MRI that showed no damage to the troublesome hamstring, he can't run at full speed without pain. He vowed not to return to the disabled list for a third time this season, but the Dodgers might need to disable Ramirez to prevent another injury.

If the Dodgers will get into the race for the playoffs, they must get healthy, have good starting pitching, a good closer, better defense, and better timely hitting. Watching Puig is exciting, but one fabulous player can't carry a last-place team to the playoffs.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at [email protected].
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