Saturday we will see our Boys in Blue on the field for the first time in 2014 as pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch to kick off Spring Training. With 57 players in Major League camp for Spring Training, the inevitable cuts and roster decisions will come sooner this Spring than in years prior due to the condensed Spring schedule and Australia trip scheduled for the end of March.
Usually the final decisions come down to the wire during or even after the Freeway Series with the Angels, but this year’s schedule will most likely cause the Dodgers to decide much earlier who will be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day in Australia on Saturday, March 22nd. The Dodgers may bring some players who may not end up on the 25-man roster to Australia since they are scheduled to play in a special exhibition game versus Team Australia on March 20th before the Opening Series.
After the Dodgers return from Sydney, there will be four off days between the Opening Series and the Freeway Series which begins on March 27th at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers will then resume the regular season down in San Diego on Sunday, March 30th. We will have to wait until Friday, April 4th to watch the Dodgers open at home for the season when they take on the Giants. With the schedule the way it is laid out, we could see Clayton Kershaw opening all three “opening days” (March 22 vs. D-backs in Sydney, March 30th vs. San Diego, and April 4th vs. San Francisco).
With the abbreviated schedule at Camelback Ranch, the starting pitchers will need to work up their stamina and innings before they head down under. This is an important aspect of Spring Training, and one which will be overseen by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. While the starters will get their needed work in, Honeycutt and the Dodgers will also have to give crucial innings to those pitchers rehabbing like Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, and Scott Elbert. Elbert and Billingsley are not projected back until June and July, but Josh Beckett will need to be evaluated in order so that he could slot into that fifth spot if the Dodgers should want him there.
Matt Magill, Stephen Fife, Ross Stripling, Seth Rosin, and Zach Lee will also all need some work in order to gauge where they should land in 2014. Rosin’s fate, which may be one of the more important decisions to be made this Spring, will no doubt get a few starts in order to allow him to showcase his skills for management. Rosin would have to be offered back to the Mets if the Dodgers do not add him to the 25-man roster and keep him there for the entirety of the 2014 season.
As far as the bullpen, it seems pretty set right now. Notwithstanding a major injury during Spring, the pen will include: Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Brandon League, and Jamey Wright. There may not even be room for Chris Withrow, but the Dodgers will give him and the other arms some innings to perhaps highlight their strengths which could be used at the Major League level at some point this season.
for Opening Day, then we may see Joc Pederson make his debut early in the season. The Dodgers will also have Nick Buss, Mike Baxter, and Scott Van Slyke at their disposal. All three are already on the 40-man roster, and Scott Van Slyke most likely will grab a bench spot regardless. Dee Gordon could also be used as a fourth outfielder temporarily (although that’s very doubtful) if Matt Kemp isn’t ready to go in Sydney.
The infield seems to be where the biggest competition lies and where the biggest decisions will have to be made. Will Alexander Guerrero be strong enough at second base to open the season as a starter at that crucial position? Who will win out amongst the remaining infielders in camp which include: Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, Justin Sellers, Brendan Harris, Dee Gordon, and Clint Robinson? Only Gordon and Sellers are currently on the 40-man roster. I expect cuts to the infielders to be last minute as this will be one of the more important decisions to be made this Spring.
Catchers will be needed throughout camp in order to handle all 31 pitchers, so even though I expect A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz to be the catching duo for the Dodgers in 2014, don’t be surprised to see Miguel Olivo, Drew Butera, and J.C. Boscan stick around longer than some of the other non contenders this Spring. Butera, who is out of options, will also need to be evaluated since he could be potentially claimed off waivers if sent down to the minor league side.
This Spring will be streamlined more than usual, and Sydney will be approaching sooner than we think. There are still some tough decisions to be made, and it might come down to performance on the field at Camelback Ranch. Sometimes there are surprises, and other times there are injuries which factor into roster decisions going into Opening Day. Luckily there will be no World Baseball Classic this year, so our Hanley Ramirez should be intact and ready to go next Thursday!