LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers head to spring training in Arizona this week with a rookie manager, the usual high expectations and plenty of questions after another early playoff exit.
Dave Roberts replaces Don Mattingly, who guided the Dodgers to three consecutive National League West titles, and the former major leaguer will oversee a roster that lost Zack Greinke to division rival Arizona, robbing Los Angeles of half of its one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Greinke.
Making Greinke’s loss worse was the Dodgers’ failure to land any other big-name pitchers over the winter. Kershaw will anchor a rotation heavy on left-handers like himself, including Brett Anderson, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood. Looking to fill the void left by Greinke’s departure will be Japanese newcomer Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. Other than Kershaw and Greinke, the rotation was 98-98 over the last three years.
Here’s some things to look for when the Dodgers open camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, on Friday:
YASIEL PUIG: The 25-year-old right fielder will be watched closely after missing over half of last season with leg injuries. Roberts has said the enigmatic Cuban will get a fresh start with him after Puig’s behavior has been disruptive in the clubhouse at times over the last two years. Puig will be seeking a return to the form that made him a rookie sensation.
COREY SEAGER: The 21-year-old is set to become the club’s first rookie shortstop since Jose Offerman in 1991, replacing veteran Jimmy Rollins. Seager was called up last September and hit .337 with 14 walks in 27 games. Given a full season in the majors, Seager’s power and run production figure to make him a strong contender for NL rookie of the year honors. He follows center fielder Joc Pederson as the second rookie to be given a starting job in two years. Pederson’s first-half numbers last season had him contending for rookie honors before he hit just .178 with six homers in the second half.
PITCHING PROSPECTS: Julio Urias, a 19-year-old left-hander, and Jose De Leon, a 23-year-old right-hander, have both been invited to camp. Urias is one of the most highly rated prospects in the minors, while De Leon has boosted his prospects immensely with a velocity in the mid-90s.
COMEBACKS: Ryu will be counted on to regain his form after missing all of last year because of shoulder surgery. The left-hander is pushing himself to be ready for the April 4 season opener. Catcher Yasmani Grandal is coming off left shoulder surgery after the injury dragged down his numbers in the second half last year. Veteran outfielder Carl Crawford has struggled with injuries since 2010. Infielder Chase Utley returns for his second season with the team at age 37 after injuries nagged him.
HITTING: First baseman Adrian Gonzalez remains the team’s most durable starter, hitting .275 with 90 RBIs and 28 homers. Seager should inject fresh power into the lineup. Infielder Justin Turner has a .314 average since joining the team two years ago, although he’s coming off knee surgery. Kike Hernandez, who had offseason shoulder surgery, hit .307 last year when he played six positions. Veteran outfielder Andre Ethier hit .294 with 14 homers last year.
BULLPEN: Kenley Jansen returns in the closer role, having gone 36 for 38 in save chances with a 2.41 ERA last year. He’s averaged 14 strikeouts per inning in his six-year career. Beyond him, however, the bullpen remains unsettled. Left-hander J.P. Howell had a 1.43 ERA. The rest of the relief corps converted just 8 of 26 save chances with a 4.37 ERA.
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