My, how things change! A week ago when I sat down to write this column, the Dodgers were down in the dumps. An 8-0 shellacking by the Rockies on Saturday, May 8, had highlighted their biggest problem: the lack of dependable starting pitchers. Compelled by journalistic duty, I relayed the whole sorry state of affairs and sent it off to press.

But this paper is a weekly, and before the ink could dry, the Blue Crew started winning, and kept on winning en route to their longest win streak of the season. The starting rotation, suddenly red hot, made a mockery of my words day after day. So now I must dutifully report that the Dodgers are blazing hot. Furthermore, the sudden resurgence is due largely to the starting pitching, most especially from the contributions of a boy from Illinois, 24-year-old John Ely. The rookie starter came to the Dodgers in a trade for fan favorite Juan Pierre, who was sent to the Chicago White Sox. After pitching consecutive stellar performances, including seven and a third shutout innings in one outing, is it too early to call him a “rookie sensation”?

Perhaps … yet there is no denying that his presence has had an invigorating effect on the team. Young Ely, with all the enthusiasm and raw emotion of a first-year player thrilled to be in the big leagues, does not try to hide his excitement in the clubhouse. Like the player for whom he was traded for, Juan Pierre, Ely wears his pants cut just below the knee with socks pulled high in the fashion of old-time players. The look expresses a certain love and respect for the game and its traditions.

The question is: Has Ely’s success had a contagious effect on the other young starters on the team, namely Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley? We may never know for sure, but the sudden reemergence of Kershaw and Billingsley suspiciously correlates with the success of Ely. In the last week alone, both Kershaw and Billingsley have had their own triumphs, each pitching seven-plus shutout innings in their respective starts.

In other news, Andre Ethier has been benched because of a jammed finger incurred during batting practice. The handsome left fielder is off to his best start in his young career, leading the national league in homeruns, batting average and RBIs. How long he will be out of the lineup remains unanswered for now since he has not been placed on the disabled list. His superstar performance in the first part of the season has been the saving grace for the team as it has struggled to stay out of last place. The return of Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal from the disabled list for bothered hamstrings appears just in time to offset the temporary loss of Ethier.

Commenting on the injury, manager Joe Torre did not sound discouraged, saying, “Sometimes you discover interesting things when you lose a player for a time.”

The suggestive comment could be a reference to second string outfielder Reid Johnson, whose tenacity has been a major boon for the team thus far. In many ways, he’s been this year’s Juan Pierre, providing speed on the base pads and fantastic fielding wherever he’s placed in the outfield. Regrettably, the same sort of praise cannot be laid for veteran outfielder Garret Anderson, who has yet to find his groove at the plate during the regular season despite a very strong spring training.

All in all, the resurgence of the Dodgers in the last week of play has made the National League West among the most interesting divisions in baseball. Enjoy.