Jun 30

Fife, Dominguez glow amid Puig spotlight

That there is any other Dodger to write about besides the one who got his 44th hit in his 100th at-bat would be remarkable in any year, much less one that still features a last-place team in Los Angeles.

But here we are on the final day of June with not only the remarkable Yasiel Puig to talk about, or even the sizzling Hanley Ramirez, but two others who are turning heads.

You’ve met Stephen Fife – but have you met Stephen Fife? The 26-year-old, whose 2011 acquisition was derided in most quarters (including this one), not only threw seven shutout innings today, he lowered his June ERA to 2.21 – the best of anyone this month in the Dodger starting rotation.

Yes, the rotation. I mean, do you realize that Fife is in the rotation now? He’s not some stopgap spot starter. He’s in. He’s taken a regular turn for six straight starts now, striking out 30 in 36 2/3 innings. It’s hardly too late for his chariot to turn into a pumpkin, that he’s John Ely in disguise, but 12 starts into his major-league career, he has a 2.78 ERA.

In his own small way, far from the Puig spotlight, he has helped the Dodgers win eight games in their past nine and pull within four games of first place in the National League West, which has generated its own level of skepticism but for now remains the third-best division in baseball.

Games over .500
33 AL East
22 NL Central
-8 NL West
-11 AL West
-12 AL Central
-24 NL East

Even at 38-43, the Dodgers are in a much more enviable position at the halfway point of their season than seemed fathomable just last weekend. The future looks brighter than any point since Opening Day. And again, that’s not just thanks to Puig. The Dodgers’ newest freshman, Jose Dominguez, exactly four months older than Puig, delivered the most electric debut this side of their precocious rightfielder.

Hitting 101 on the radar gun, Dominguez relieved Fife in a perfect eighth inning, striking out his first major-league batter and displaying a tantalizing change to go with that fastball. Making it clear that he wasn’t equating Dominguez with Pedro Martinez, Vin Scully nevertheless said you couldn’t help thinking of the future Hall of Famer while watching the baby San Pedro de Macoris native. I can hardly wait to see him again, and I’m sure the Dodgers feel the same way.

We’ll wait to see how Dominguez’ control plays out, but it’s easy to draw renewed bullpen hope in a potential lead trio of Dominguez, Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, with J.P Howell and Ronald Belisario in secondary roles. And that’s no small reason why there’s renewed hope in the Dodgers as well.