Only two weeks until Opening Day and still questions abound regarding what the Dodgers roster might ultimately look like. Most of the pieces are in place with only a couple spots left to be filled. Two areas of immediate interest (one exciting, the other filled with concern) are the utility infielders and the backend of the starting rotation. Infielders Alex Guerrero and Justin Turner offer both proven production and intriguing potential to the Dodger bench while the two new starting pitchers signed in the offseason have yet to convince.
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Coming off the bench…
With $14 million still owed him and a contract that protects him from being sent to the minors, Guerrero could’ve been forgiven for coasting through spring by relying solely on his offensive output. Instead he has done anything and everything to prove he belongs at the Big League level by pushing himself on defense. Guerrero came up as a shortstop but has also spent time this spring at third and left after playing second base last season in the minors. It appears he’s willing to play anywhere Don Mattingly wishes in order to show that the perception of him being a poor fielder is now passé. Mattingly has made note of the improvements in Guerrero’s game and could now be envisioning the 28-year-old as another useful utility man to place alongside Justin Turner
After an eye-catching first year with the Dodgers last season, Justin Turner spent most of the winter in LA working on his conditioning and strength. The results are apparent. “What I like as much as anything is how he looks right now,” said the Dodgers skipper. “He’s moving better, he’s healthier, he’s a lot more confident in his body holding up.”
Again, Turner is playing all over the infield, spending time at all four spots. His bat is also looking ready for another industrious year. The Dodgers expected starting infield of Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, and Juan Uribe has an average age of 33. Making another run in the re-tooled NL West will require these guys to get their rest when possible without experiencing a drop in production.
Holding up the backend…
The backend of the rotation was a big question mark for Dodger fans during the offseason, and spring training hasn’t exactly alleviated much of that concern. In his latest start against the Cubs, Brandon McCarthy struggled with his command, pitching four-innings and giving up eight hits and six runs. “I kind of like sometimes failing in spring, because it gives you a clearer picture of what you need to do,” said McCarthy. Dodger fans are hoping this process of clarity speeds up a little.
Brett Anderson didn’t fare much better in his last outing against the Angels. “It wasn’t like I was walking a bunch of people, I was just missing,” Anderson said after the game. “My stuff wasn’t very crisp…It was terrible by all standards, but better to get it out of the way now.” The Angles roughed up Anderson for 3 runs on seven hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Yes, please get it out of the way now.
Call to the Pen
Granted these are still early days for the starters. They’re getting used to new teammates, new battery partners, new coaches. Anderson just had back surgery last August and the Angels game was only his third taste of live game action since then. The plan is that once the offseason rust is shaken off, and routines of the regular season kick in, the two additions to the rotation will be able to settle in and provide opportunities for the team to win games when the Big 3 aren’t involved. Again, that’s the plan.
Anderson and McCarthy were chosen by Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers FO due to their potential upside. They are rolling the dice that the injury issues both pitchers have had in the past will bear limited effect on them this year. The irony so far this spring is that Anderson and McCarthy haven’t been the ones with injury concerns while Zack Greinke (elbow), Hyun-jin Ryu (shoulder), and Clayton Kershaw (line drive off the face) have all spent time being looked at by the physicians.
What other areas of concern do fans have as we roll closer to April 6? Comment below with what you are fearful of and what you are looking forward to as the season approaches.