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Dodgers Youth Movement Stirs Old Memories

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On opening day April 5, 2005 at the then-SBC Park in San Francisco, the Dodgers starting lineup was this:

1. Cesar Izturis - SS
2. Hee-Seop Choi - 1B
3. J.D. Drew - RF
4. Jeff Kent - 2B
5. Milton Bradley - CF
6. Jose Valentin - 3B
7. Ricky Ledee - LF
8. Jason Phillips - C
9. Derek Lowe - P

Although losing that game 4-2, the Dodgers would go on to win 12 games out of their next 13 and take an improbable 4 ½ game lead in the division. Then like the 5 freeway through the Grapevine on a foggy night, injuries started to pile up.

The team, managed by Jim Tracy with General Manager Paul DePodesta, started bringing up their young players like Willy Aybar, Cody Ross, Dioner Navarro and Antonio Perez when they realized Jayson Werth, Jason Repko, Mike Edwards, Paul Bako and Norihiro Nakamura couldn’t really cut the cheese. While they played admirably, they still couldn’t turn the team around from their eventual 71-91 slide.

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It wasn’t until the following season that the Dodgers brought up the right young guys for the team - Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and James Loney - when the youth movement finally took and the Dodgers went on to win a share of the division and the wild card under Manager Grady Little and General Manager Ned Colletti.

Doesn’t it sound familiar?

The Dodgers wanted to stick it out with a platoon of Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn, Jr. in left field. Instead injuries took out Thames and Gibbons making way for Jerry Sands. Despite batting only .200 after 41 games, the Dodgers really like Sands enough to send Gibbons packing.

In the infield Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles were to be used to give some regular rest for Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake and Juan Uribe in the infield. But with prolonged disabled-list entries to the three of them, the Dodgers finally brought up Dee Gordon.

Ditto in the bullpen that has seen the Major League debuts of Rubby De La Rosa and Javy Guerra while Scott Elbert displayed his resurgence after a tumultuous 2010.

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Whether this is 2005 or 2006 remains to be seen, but this sure as hell beats the on-field storylines from the Dodgers early in the season: they can’t hit worth a lick and their bullpen sucks. The young arms have somewhat stabilized the bullpen with both De La Rosa and Guerra getting a win each from the bullpen. De La Rosa’s stock rose even higher when he got his second Major League win in a spot-start in Philadelphia Tuesday night going five innings giving up only one run despite a shaky first two innings.

As for the Sands and Gordon, no one expects them to light up Major League pitching although Gordon did tease everyone with three hits and a stolen base in his first start in the Major Leagues Tuesday night. But instead of having to watch the same show night in and night out, there’s just a little more intrigue with the Dodgers now. Instead of bemoaning the lack of hits with runners in scoring position, we get to see how Sands and Gordon responds to the rigors of Major League pitching.

True it’s a distraction to what really ails the Dodgers, but it’s something isn’t it? Let’s just hope the story doesn’t follow the 2007 storyline of a complete clubhouse revolt of the young players versus the grizzled veterans.