January is ending on a cold, wet note here in Los Angeles, but Dodger fans have nothing to feel but sunny optimism this Spring. With essentially the same team intact which nearly made it to the Fall Classic in 2013, this new and fresh season may give us the rosiest outlook of any Spring that I can recall. Here are 5 things that I’m especially excited for this Spring, one of which is of course the return of Dodger baseball in general.
1-The Dodgers have an outstanding pitching staff.
Not only do the Dodgers have the best pitcher in all of baseball with two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, but they also have a second ace in Zack Greinke. A Kershaw-Greinke duo dynasty just spells World Series Co-MVPs to me, doesn’t it? Hyun-jin Ryu has already been preparing early for the upcoming season, and the Korean superstar is looking to make a big sophomore splash in 2014 as well. Dan Haren will add some stability to the backend of the rotation and may just surprise us all with a stellar season after signing on for a one-year gig. The last slot could go to any number of in-house options which all seem worthy of a shot on the big club including top prospects Zach Lee and Ross Stripling. The Dodgers could add another veteran starter via free agency, but their rotation is already solid enough to go without such a deal.
Pitchers and catcher report to Arizona soon, and there is a lot to look forward to. Photo: Stacie Wheeler
The bullpen is more multi-dimensional right now than any other Dodger pen I have seen in quite some time. Not only do they have a decidedly nasty 1-2 punch in the late innings with Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson, but their middle relief has gotten a whole lot more depth with two talented lefties in Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell. Remember when the Dodgers were scouring for left-handed relief pitching and their lone southpaw out of the bullpen was Hong-Chih Kuo for awhile? They will also may have a potentially potent comeback in Chris Perez, and I’m looking forward to see what a little Rick Honeycutt magic can do with the former closer. Jamey Wright will be looked to if a long-man is needed, a designated spot which was often overlooked last season. Brandon League will still be a question mark, but he cannot possibly be any worse than last year. Right?
The Dodgers will also have a plethora of extra arms including rehabbing Chad Billingsley (who looks to be ahead of schedule and has thrown four bullpen sessions), Josh Beckett, and Scott Elbert. The Dodgers will also have to make a decision at the end of Spring Training on Rule 5 Draft pick-up Seth Rosin who already intrigues Ned Colletti. Pedro Baez, Stephen Fife, and Matt Magill all will be vying to break camp with the big team as well. For relievers, there is also extra ammo in flamethrower Jose Dominguez, Chris Withrow, Onelki Garcia, Daniel Moskos, Chris Reed, Jarret Martin, Yimi Garcia, Javy Guerra, and Red Patterson. Overall, this Spring will be chalk full of talented pitchers to watch which I’m extremely energized about.
2- The launch of SportsNet LA and new Dodgers programming will give me a new favorite television channel.
Even though there is still questions surrounding the new Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA television station and which cable providers will carry it, I’m giddy as can be to watch new Dodger television programming which will include a new broadcast team and Dodger themed shows. I suffered during the Time Warner/KCAL blackout last season, and while I wanted to jump ship from TWC during that awful time, I’m glad to know that I will receive the new SportsNet LA beginning February 25th on my TV. After Dodger games are over, I’m always left wanting more. More Dodgers! 24-7 Dodgers!
3- Finding Redemption for those players who have been off the field for too long will be a driving force this
Jan 29, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers player Matt Kemp (27) watches the game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Of course Matt Kemp is the first name which comes to mind when you hear the word redemption. I for one really look forward to see Kemp bounce back to his old Beastmode self and help this team win a championship. While I have become admittedly frustrated with his health issues, there’s nothing more that I want to see then some Bison Blasts this Spring. I’m also eager to see Chad Billingsley and Scott Elbert back on the mound, and even Javy Guerra has a sparkle in his eye with a goal to come back into his own this Spring.
4- I’m planning my first trip out to Camelback Ranch.
In all my years as a Dodger fan, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit during Spring Training. Part of the reason was that Vero Beach was always too far away, but I also never had the time to go out to Arizona due to other commitments which include my two little Dodger fans who were too young to travel. I’m thrilled to say that I’m planning my first trip out to Camelback Ranch-Glendale with my family, and I will be photographing, videotaping, and writing about my experience to share with you all. While Spring Training games are sometimes overlooked as meaningless to a season, I see the whole journey from Spring Training to the playoffs as part of the journey. I’m so eager to see the Camelback Ranch campus and to watch both the regular players, prospects, and hopeful Major Leaguers play and workout amidst the cactus of Arizona rather than under the lights of Dodger Stadium for the first time in my life.
I’m sure Vin will have plenty of fascintating stories in Australia. Photo: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
5- Vin Scully will be back and opening the season by putting a shrimp on the barbie.
Beloved Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully will be making the 17-hour plane trip to Sydney in order to announce both Opening Series games versus the D-backs this March, and there’s nothing I look forward to more this Spring than to hear his beautiful voice say “It’s Time for Dodger Baseball” from the Sydney Cricket Grounds before the Boys in Blue take the field for the first time in the 2014 season.