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Dodgers looking to find a rhythm

SportsLos Angeles DodgersMajor League BaseballBaseballDon MattinglyArizona DiamondbacksOakland Athletics

Don Mattingly didn't have to come to the ballpark Monday, so the Dodgers manager said he got his hair cut, inflated the tires on his bicycle and, basically, took the evening off.

"A lot of nothing," he said with a smile. "It was productive."

That remains to be seen. Because for players accustomed to playing every day over a six-month schedule, the start to the Dodgers' season has been a whole lot of nothing.

BOX SCORE: Dodgers 3, Tigers 2 (10)

Monday's off day was the third in eight days for the Dodgers, who get two more days off over the next week. Talk about a spring break.

And all that down time is making it difficult for some players to find their regular-season groove.

"It's hard to get into that rhythm," said reliever Paco Rodriguez, who watched the Dodgers beat the Detroit Tigers, 3-2, in 10 innings on Carl Crawford's walk-off double for their second consecutive win. "At the beginning of the season you want to get into that rhythm, you want to be playing all the time because you start building that routine where your body gets used to it."

Building that routine was further complicated by the season-opening trip to Australia, where the Dodgers played a two-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That was followed by a couple of off days and three exhibitions before the domestic season-opener — which was, of course, followed by another day off.

"We're all creatures of habit, it seems like, in the baseball world. What we do and times and all that," Mattingly said. "But also I think guys are fairly flexible.

"You fly across the world and you play, you come back and you take some days off and you play again. Guys are pretty versatile. So I think we'll just deal with what we have coming and then we'll get into the routine."

After all, it's been done before — though that hasn't gone so well either. Although the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are the first teams to open their schedules in Australia, eight teams have done so in Japan and only one of the eight – the 2008 Oakland Athletics — won more than half of their first 10 games back home.

With Tuesday's victory, the Dodgers improved to 4-3 in the U.S. while the Diamondbacks are 2-6.

Publicly, however, the Dodgers are done blaming Australia for their problems. Especially because injuries have also contributed to — or maybe caused — the team's sputtering start.

In less than two weeks, the team has sent pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson and starting catcher A.J. Ellis to the disabled list and outfielder Yasiel Puig has played only one game at home this season after hurting his left thumb.

Then there are rehabbing pitchers Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, who began the season on the disabled list and have suffered minor setbacks in their rehabs.

"It's a little test," said Mattingly, who has had his best lineup on the field together only once this season. "It's not unlike other teams that have little things going on."

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, one of four Dodgers to have played in all of the team's games, said one

way to deal with the distractions is to simply put them out of your mind.

"It's something I can't control. So I'm not going to whine about it and blame it on that," he said. "I just go the cage, do whatever I'm going to do to get my timing right."

And enjoy it while he can. Because after next Monday's travel day, the Dodgers are scheduled to play 29 games in 30 days.

"We'll hit that stretch," Mattingly said. "It's coming up that we're not going to have any off days and we'll be playing mostly night games and day games on the weekend.

"So it's coming. But it's a little bit different right now."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsLos Angeles DodgersMajor League BaseballBaseballDon MattinglyArizona DiamondbacksOakland Athletics
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