Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Is it really a surprise that Zack Greinke
admitted he signed on with the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason because of
the heaps of money that were thrown his way?
The cash, $147 million over six years, was just as enticing as the vaunted
lineup the Dodgers could possibly roll out in 2013. Greinke hopes to be a part
of something special with a roster laden with talent from the pitching staff
down to the coaches.
Pitching is arguably the most important area for any ballclub and by signing
Greinke this offseason, the Dodgers have proven they're ready to take it to
the next level. Los Angeles is already doing that by the checks the new
ownership group has written out. Signing Greinke, the AL's 2009 Cy Young Award
winner, to join Clayton Kershaw, the NL's 2011 Cy Young Award recipient, has
put the Dodgers in the driver's seat for an NL West title. The San Francisco
Giants, of course, would argue that and have two World Series rings in the
lost three years.
Greinke, though, will likely start the year on the disabled list as he
continues to recover from elbow inflammation.
A few players on the Giants have already questioned chemistry issues with the
Dodgers for their recent deals and spending sprees. And rightfully so. Who
knows how the season will turn out for an L.A. team stacked with a bevy of
both pitchers and hitters? Injuries will take their toll on any club,
especially ones that lack depth. That could be an issue for the Dodgers.
Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp had a few words on those who doubt chemistry.
"I'm not worried about our chemistry. I keep hearing we don't have any. I can
tell our chemistry will be good," Kemp said. "We built it at the end of the
year, so I don't care what people say or how they feel. We have a great team.
We have pitching, we have hitting, we have defense. We have it all. There's
going to be no excuse if we do lose. If everybody does his job, we'll be
successful, and I don't care what anybody says about us."
Obviously, what people are saying and what actually unfolds could be two
separate entities. Kemp is expected to take on more of a leadership role and
staying healthy should be his main concern. Plagued by injuries last season,
Kemp, who underwent shoulder surgery in October, feels he will be ready for
the long haul this season. He gained weight rehabbing his shoulder, but has
since trimmed down for spring training and the upcoming campaign.
The Dodgers don't need Kemp to steal bases; they have Dee Gordon and Tony
Gwynn Jr. to do that. But Kemp will lead a band of heavy hitters that when
healthy includes Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl
As good as Los Angeles can be, there are some injury concerns in the lineup.
Crawford is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and is questionable for
the start of the season, while Ramirez will miss the first two months after
undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb following an
injury at the World Baseball Classic.
Below we take a capsule look at the 2013 edition of the Dodgers, with a
personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2012 FINISH (86-76) - Second Place (NL West)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: RHP Zack Greinke, LHP J.P. Howell, 2B/OF Skip
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: OF Shane Victorino; 1B/OF Jerry Sands; 1B/OF Juan
Rivera; OF Bobby Abreu; RHP Joe Blanton; RHP Rubby De La Rosa; RHP John Ely
PROJECTED LINEUP: LF Skip Schumaker, 2B Mark Ellis, CF Matt Kemp, 1B Adrian
Gonzalez, RF Andre Ethier, SS Luis Cruz, C A.J. Ellis, 3B Nick Punto
PROJECTED ROTATION: LHP Clayton Kershaw, LHP Hyun-jin Ryu, RHP Chad
Billingsley, RHP Josh Beckett, LHP Chris Capuano, (RHP Zack Greinke - Injured)
PROJECTED CLOSER: Brandon League
MANAGER: Don Mattingly
WILL CHEMISTRY BE AN ISSUE FOR THE DODGERS?
Having a large payroll usually ups the ante for a team to succeed. The
Dodgers are a perfect example of that. Many sports teams go on spending sprees
and the results can go either way.
The New York Yankees never had a problem jelling despite the wads of cash
given to their players. Will it be the same for the Dodgers in 2013?
"Chemistry comes from playing with one another," Kemp said. "You don't have to
like everybody if everybody has one common goal of winning games. Just stick
together and we'll be fine. If you win, chemistry will be there and everybody
will like each other."
As far as the sluggers go for Los Angeles, Kemp and Ethier are used to playing
full seasons together with a mix of free agents or acquisitions sprinkled in.
Last year's midseason additions of Gonzalez, Ramirez and Crawford didn't
really get a chance to come together in their new digs. So a full offseason
and spring training has the west coast abuzz about their Dodgers, who haven't
reached the postseason since losing back-to-back NLCS in 2008-09.
"I'm not burying my head in the sand. I know people expect us to win,
basically," said manager Don Mattingly, who's in the last year of his
contract. "We're in a division with the team that's won the world championship
two of the last three years. Arizona has a good club, San Diego is good and
Colorado has the chance to be good.
"All the expectations are just noise to me and the club, that we should win
the Series and all that. My job and my staff's job is to prepare the club to
play the best it possibly can, and I can't worry about the noise. The job
WHAT WILL L.A. DO WITH ITS SURPLUS OF STARTING PITCHERS?
To say the Dodgers have depth in their rotation is an understatement. Save
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the rest of the staff is unknown.
Kershaw is a bona fide star and Cy Young candidate, while Greinke is perhaps
just a tier under the left-hander. So who fills out the rest of the rotation?
Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly may
have to play a round of H.O.R.S.E. to decide who gets a spot, or the Dodgers
will send some to the bullpen and trade others.
The Dodgers committed $62 million for Korean hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu. He could
land in the No. 3 or 4 spot in the rotation. Mattingly said Harang "doesn't
seem like the kind of guy that pitches out of the 'pen, to me", so that could
mean the right-hander may be on the trade block.
"It's set up to be competitive," Mattingly said. "If we've got eight guys
healthy, we've got tough decisions to make. "Once spring training is over and
if they're not on our roster, we don't have any control anymore. So eight
really turns into five."
If the Dodgers send some of those starters into the bullpen, then they'll have
one of the more impressive relief staffs in the majors. They would join the
likes of closer Brandon League, setup men Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario,
CAN CRAWFORD REVERT BACK TO HIS DOMINANT WAYS?
Whether it's safe for Crawford to visit a Boston diner remains to be seen, but
the expectations of the veteran left fielder are once again high in
Tinseltown. Much like his dominant days in Tampa Bay which led to a megadeal
with the Red Sox, Crawford is starting fresh in a new town.
Crawford's tenure in Boston was short and fizzled faster than a Roger Clemens
fastball. Injuries and a lack of production at the plate ended his Beantown
tenure in a blockbuster deal with the Dodgers. Crawford, a four-time All-Star
with the Rays, was once a five-tool phenom and came to Los Angeles last August
with Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto for James Loney, Rubby De La
Rosa, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus Jr., and Allen Webster.
Crawford had an outstanding season in 2010, his last with Tampa Bay, hitting
.307 and setting career highs with 19 home runs, 90 runs batted in and 110
runs scored. His eight four-hit games were also a major-league best. He then
appeared in 130 games with the Red Sox in 2011 and batted .255 with 11 homers
and 56 RBI. Last season, Crawford saw action in a career-low 31 games and had
just three homers and 19 runs batted in.
"I felt like he's really excited and can't wait to get going and get back on
the field," Mattingly said of Crawford in January. "It's been like two years
that he's really been healthy. He's ready to put the whole Boston thing behind
him. He feels like just moving forward and just playing."
X-FACTOR: ROLE PLAYERS: A strong rotation? Check. Sluggers in the lineup?
Check. A formidable bullpen? Check. But what happens if some players go down
because of injury? The Dodgers aren't fretting and believe they have enough
talent around the diamond and off the bench. These players may not garner as
much attention as the likes of Kemp, Ethier or Gonzalez, but Mark Ellis, Luis
Cruz, A.J. Ellis, Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto are names Mattingly will go to
often in the time of need. Of course, no manager wants to see his star players
injured and must rely on reserves when players need rest. And sometimes that
occurs when games need to be won.
With a payroll more than $200 million, general manager Ned Colletti pulling
strings with a permanent smile and the cash cows that are Magic Johnson and
the Guggenheim Partners, this could finally be the year the Dodgers reach the
World Series. The exorbitant costs of talent will only pay off if the players
can come together as a team and finally overthrow the Giants in the NL West.
Let's be honest: the NL West will come down to a two-horse race. Anything less
than an NL pennant for Los Angeles will be a major disappointment. L.A.
started hot in 2012 until injuries reared their ugly head. Kemp suffered the
biggest bite and an MVP-type season this time around isn't far-fetched.
Hitting and pitching are L.A.'s strengths. Will it last an entire 162-game
schedule? The tremendous odds are in the Dodgers' favor.
The Sports Network