Spring Training is about practice and learning to play together as a team before the games count in the standings. It is often a time of jubilant clubhouses and diamonds of play. It is a time for the players to have fun and get to know the new faces on the team acquired in the offseason via trade, free agency, or young minor leaguers making their way through the system. It is an exciting time for all of baseball, fans, coaches, and players alike.
Spring Training is fitting in its title. The promise of spring means that one could spring forward their thoughts to their favorite team having a great season, while making and winning the World Series. A wonderful thought indeed.
As was spoken so beautifully before, paraphrasing from Baseball: A Film By Ken Burns (1994): Baseball follows the seasons of life. It begins in the spring with new life and hope. It stretches on through the hot and humid summers. It ends in the fall with either the highest triumph of winning the World Series, or disappointment, and everything else in between.
Having patiently awaited your teams arrival through the cold winter, we have undergone patiently the first couple of weeks of Spring Training in Arizona and Florida. The anticipation is almost as thick as the Florida air in the Grapefruit League. April will be here soon, but in the meantime, let us look at how your Los Angeles Dodgers have fared to date.
- Clayton Kershaw is, well, Clayton Kershaw.
Through three games started, Kershaw leads the team in wins (2), strikeouts (10), earned run average (0.90) and WHIP (1.10). Kershaw’s 2.43 career earned run average should be just fine as his preparations lead him to success during the regular and post-season.
- Injuries, especially to pitchers not named Clayton Kershaw, are commonplace.
Previously we wrote about how depth matters. That depth has been tested. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been slow to come back from shoulder surgery. Brett Anderson is out for three to five months after a second back surgery was needed. Brandon McCarthy seems to be the only pitcher on the mend (Tommy John surgery) who is recovering well. Alex Wood is sidelined with forearm soreness. Without discussing the bullpen (Joe Blanton is looking like a terrific free agent signing though), Kenta Maeda, Clayton Kershaw, and Brandon Beachy have pitched very well. Young stud Julio Urias has looked great. Another young stud, Jose De Leon, has struggled a bit. De Leon may be throwing too hard and not relying on his secondary pitchers, which is expected for younger pitchers.
- New Manager Dave Roberts has been very committal to assigning positions during Spring Training.
To date, we know Joc Pederson will start in center field, Corey Seager, despite being sidelined with a sore knee, will start at short stop on Opening Day in San Diego (if healthy), Justin Turner will be at third base, Andre Ethier in left field, Yasiel Puig in right field, Yasmani Grandal behind the plate, Adrian Gonzalez at first base, and Howie Kendrick at second base. The bullpen, the fourth and fifth starters, are to be determined based on injury and performance during Spring Training, the regular season, and hopefully the playoffs.
Roberts has a very deliberate approach and has committed to the younger and veteran players early on, which builds trust and reason for accountability among the players as they prove their worth. Roberts leadership is showing and proving itself when looking at the team’s performance and personality. The player most likely to bat leadoff is to be determined, which is a result of how the team is built from a depth standpoint and a front office led by a mixture of analytical and traditional baseball minds. The flexibility will be fun to watch.