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HELENE ELLIOTT

Dodgers can't buy more time to find right chemistry

The Dodgers have made several roster moves to upgrade their talent level, but there may not be enough games left to build some needed cohesion. Their loss Thursday leaves them 4 1/2 games out of first.

August 30, 2012|Helene Elliott

One game away from September and it's still impossible to tell if the Dodgers are a bunch of high-priced talented players thrown together during a frenzied shopping spree, or if they have the makings of a cohesive team.

One game away from September and 30 games from the end of the season and the Dodgers are at a low point. They stood 41/2 games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants after their 2-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, and although they're still in the cluster of four teams jockeying for the wild-card spot, is that all that $260 million can buy these days?

The Dodgers' new owners have deep pockets, but even they can't buy time. And that's the deficiency that could become the Dodgers' undoing.

After all the major changes they've made, with Matt Kemp out of the lineup on Thursday because of a tight left shoulder and what Manager Don Mattingly called "a number of sorenesses" following his crash into the outfield wall in Colorado, with closer Kenley Jansen out indefinitely because of a recurrence of heart problems and starter Chad Billingsley getting an injection on Thursday in his sore elbow, is there enough time for this group to become a team?

"That's a great question, because some of the things we talk about, there's definitely a different feel for us," Mattingly said.

"We've had almost a 30% turnover, really, with our club at this point. And there's definitely something to be said, I definitely believe that, about a group of guys working together for something. That being said, there's time to win games and at this point, these guys know how to play. They've done well before. They've got great track records. We're capable."

Chemistry, he said, is crucial. But working on a short timetable, constantly adjusting to injuries and new players' quirks, the Dodgers haven't developed the kind of cohesion that can overcome many faults.

"But I think the question is, does it come from winning or does it come from getting along?" Mattingly said. "Usually if you're winning, the chemistry is there. It's pretty good.

"I do think it is nice to be in a work environment that you like the guys you're working with. You're after a common goal. You've been fighting for it all year long. There's something for that. So I think it's important that a group of people is working for a common goal. That's hard to get 25 guys working in that direction. And I think that's the fight that we kind of have now, is getting to know each other while we're trying to do that. And we don't have much time."

Shane Victorino, who had one of the Dodgers' five hits Thursday, acknowledged they're being squeezed by the calendar.

"Would you like to have more time as a team, as a whole, and put it all together? Absolutely," he said. "But at this time of year your games are definitely numbered."

Victorino saw both sides of the high-spending, high-expectations equation while with the Philadelphia Phillies. Money doesn't solve every problem — spending wisely is more important than simply throwing dollars at holes in the lineup. There were years the Phillies spent a lot but didn't win. Yet, in 2008 that elusive chemistry was one of their most potent weapons in winning the World Series.

"There are no guarantees in this game. Just because you put this great team together, it doesn't mean we're going to go out there and win," he said.

"Looking at 2008, when we won, we weren't the best team. And I can say we weren't the best team in the playoffs that year and yet we walked in and we ended up winning the championship."

Maybe the most discouraging aspect of the Dodgers' major makeover is their seven losses in the last 10 games. They're 2-4 since Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto joined the lineup from Boston, a small sample, certainly, but not what anyone was looking for.

"Would it be nice to get on all cylinders and roll and be that team? Yeah, it would be great," Victorino said. "But obviously we haven't had that success yet and we haven't been able to do it.

"But it's never too late. And if we go out there and focus on tonight, and do those kind of things, that's what it takes."

At this rate, they will soon run out of tonights and tomorrows.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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