Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 Things to Watch During Spring Training

Aaron Siegal-EismanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 Things to Watch During Spring Training

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    The excitement around baseball is building because spring training is less than a month away. Players have been signed and traded to different teams in the offseason, which makes spring training a crucial time to get comfortable with your new team.

    If injury plagued a player, then this is the time where the baseball world gets to see if they are back to full health.

    Spring training for the Los Angeles Dodgers will be a time for fans' questions to be answered.  Last season, the Dodgers finished with an 86-76 record, which was just two games back from a wild card spot.

    This year, the expectations are high with the talent on the field and depth in the pitching rotation.

    Here are five things to watch when the Dodgers hit the field for spring training.  

Injury Updates

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers had injury problems that hurt their chances of making a push for the playoffs. 

    Outfielder Matt Kemp's return to full health will be crucial for the team's success this year.

    According to a Los Angeles Times article, Kemp won't play much in Spring Training because of the shoulder injury, but he is trying to be at ready by the first game of the season.

    Kemp is a huge investment for the Dodgers and ownership hopes Kemp can produce this year, just like he did in 2011.

    Carl Crawford is a proven outfielder that had season-ending Tommy John surgery, right before he was traded to the Dodgers.

    Although Crawford's injury was more serious than Kemp's, Dodgers President Stan Kasten feels confident in his return for the start of the season.  Kasten elaborated on the rehabilitation of Crawford in an ESPN article:  "At no time has he felt he wouldn't be ready for Opening Day," Kasten said. "That's exactly how we feel."

    Both Kemp and Crawford won't be playing much in Spring Training, but hopefully they are ready for Opening Day. 

Determine the Starting Pitching Rotation

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers have many starting pitchers on their roster at the moment.

    Signing Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu were major additions to their rotation.  These two pitchers have turned the Dodgers rotation into one of the best rotations in baseball.

    A starting rotation probably won't be set by spring training, but fans can see what the rotation might look like come April.

    Spring training will be a good time for the coaches to see who will be the No. 4 and 5 pitchers in the rotation.

    Possible starting rotation:

    1. Clayton Kershaw 

    2. Zack Greinke

    3. Hyun-Jin Ryu

    4. Chad Billingsley

    5. Josh Beckett 

Where Does Dee Gordon Fit In?

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    Dee Gordon is a young and talented player that is having a problem fitting in to the lineup.  His main position is to play shortstop, but Hanley Ramirez is just a better overall player.

    Spring training will show how often Gordon is used and which position he is at the most.  Playing shortstop could seem like an option, if things happen in Gordon's favor. 

    If third basemen Luis Cruz struggles at some point in the season, would the Los Angeles Dodgers make changes in the infield?  Cruz could be replaced with Ramirez, and then Gordon can earn playing time at shortstop.  Or will Gordon be sent down to Triple-A and brought back up when the Dodgers really need him.

    Spring training will tell a lot about what the Dodgers are looking to do with Gordon.    

Hyun-Jin Ryu's Possible Success in the Majors

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    Investing money into an international player is always a risk, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping that signing Hyun-Jin Ryu turns out to be a reward.  It took the Dodgers over $25 million to negotiate with Ryu and then a six-year, $36 million deal to sign him. 

    Ryu is supposed to be the middle pitcher in the starting rotation by Opening Day.

    Spring training will be a huge test for Ryu to see how he adjusts to pitching against MLB talent, and if he is worth what the Dodgers spent on him.

    The good news is that Ryu committed to spring training and the Dodgers after he said in an ESPN article that he would forgo the World Baseball Classic.  

    Ryu will show glimpses of what he's capable of in spring training. 

Improved Bullpen

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen is looking much improved compared to last year because of offseason signings. 

    First, the Dodgers re-signed Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million deal.

    Also, J.P. Howell was signed to a one-year, $2.85 million contract. 

    Adding these two arms has bolstered the Dodgers bullpen. 

    The Dodgers are hoping that Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra will continue their success from last season. 

    It will interesting to see who gets the majority of the minutes during spring training.