Not much has gone right this season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were expected to contend for a World Series title.
Instead, the Dodgers occupy the basement in the NL West and with a banged-up outfield they are expected to have top prospect Yasiel Puig in the starting lineup on Monday night for the opener of a three-game series with the San Diego Padres.
Los Angeles is set to begin a 10-game homestand following a 1-4 road trip. Despite a payroll that tops $200 million, the Dodgers are last in the division with a 23-32 mark, 8 1/2 games out of first place.
Star outfielder Matt Kemp (strained right hamstring) is one of several key players sidelined with injury and fellow outfielder Carl Crawford could join him on the disabled list due to a nagging left hamstring ailment. That led to the Dodgers announcing on Sunday night their intentions to recall Puig from Double-A Chattanooga.
Puig, ranked the Dodgers' top prospect by MLB.com, was signed to a seven-year, $42 million deal last June. The Cuban defector is hitting .313 with eight homers, 37 RBI and 13 stolen bases through 40 minor league games this season and will look to provide a spark to the struggling club.
"You don't want to build him up to where it's impossible for him to live up to all the hype," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly cautioned on his team's website. "In my mind, he's still a young player, obviously with huge potential.
"There's still so much baseball, and I don't say that in a flippant way that these games don't matter. But you saw with the Angels and Mike Trout last year, he came up and things completely turned around with what he brought to the table. It's unfair to say that happens here, but he could make a big impact."
The Dodgers need something after Sunday's 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Magill was recalled from the minors earlier in the day to make a spot start in place of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was scratched because of a bruised left foot suffered last Tuesday. Magill, though, was pounded for seven runs -- six earned -- over six innings, yielding four homers and nine walks.
"You're not going to be able to walk that many people ... and have any success," Mattingly said. "(Magill) has to get that worked out."
He'll do so in the minors after getting optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque after the game to make room for Puig on the roster. He was forced to gut out his six innings on Sunday after the Dodgers had played through a pair of 10-inning games to begin the series.
The Dodgers may need to use a spot starter again tonight as Chris Capuano is battling a left triceps cramp that forced him out of last Wednesday's meeting with the Los Angeles Angels after 5 2/3 innings. The lefty took the loss, charged with three runs on six hits and four walks.
Right-hander Stephen Fife is likely to replace Capuano if he can't start. It would be the seventh start of Fife's career and second this season.
The 26-year-old made his season debut on April 21, getting a no-decision in Baltimore. Fife yielded four run over 4 2/3 innings while pitching with a sore shoulder that landed him on the DL.
Owner of a career 3.45 earned run average, Fife has never before faced the Padres, who turn to Eric Stults on Monday night with the left-hander coming off his best start of the season.
Stults, a former Dodger, lasted eight innings for the second time in three starts in Wednesday's no-decision versus Seattle. He struck out a career-high 12 batters and yielded one run on three hits.
"He's pitched some very good games for us ... but I don't know how you throw any better than that," Padres manager Bud Black said on his club's website. "That's impressive."
Stults remained at 4-4 through 11 starts this season to go along with a 3.86 ERA.
The 33-year-old, a 2002 draft pick by the Dodgers, has split a pair of starts against his former club this season. He did pick up a win at Los Angeles on April 15, yielding three runs over six innings.
The Padres won the first two games of their series with the Toronto Blue Jays, including a 17-inning contest on Friday, before losing Sunday's finale 7-4 in 11 innings.
The Blue Jays tagged Padres reliever Brad Boxberger for three runs in the 11th. Boxberger was the seventh pitcher used by San Diego in the game.
Most of San Diego's offense came off the bat of starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, who clubbed his first career home run with a three-run shot. However, the righty gave up four runs on six hits and three walks over five frames on the hill.
San Diego has won four of six versus the Dodgers this season, sweeping a three-game set in Los Angeles from April 15-17.