Spring training is underway with the first weekend just finishing off. Players are getting used to being back with their respective teams. Also, newly acquired players are staring to get fully acquainted with their new teams. Whether you are playing in Arizona or Florida, this is the time to get ready for the upcoming season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers bring an All-Star roster to Arizona that has high expectations for the season. When the Dodgers owners decided to spend a lot of money on these players, then they are hoping for a winnable product on the field. Here are five story lines to watch out for in the upcoming month at Camelback Ranch.
Spring training will be a time for fans to see if starting pitcher Zack Greinke is worth the pretty penny that the Dodgers are paying him. He certainly showed in 2009 that he is capable of putting up All-Star numbers, but can he bring that this year. The team needs him to be the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation and want to make sure they are getting bang for their buck.
Spring training will be a time for fans to see if he can be the pitcher they are hoping he is supposed to be. In his Dodgers debut against the Chicago White Sox, Greinke pitched two scoreless innings and struck out two batters. You usually can't see much of pitchers’ full body of work in two innings, but he is off to a good start. Watch out for Greinke’s pitching in the upcoming weeks because it could be an indicator for his ability to have success this year.
A lot has been asked of Ryu Hyun-jin and a lot will be expected come April. Ryu agreed to a six-year, $36 million deal in December. The good news is that Ryu seems to be making improvements to get ready for this season. According to an ESPN article, Ryu has lost about 15 pounds since making his way to Arizona, which should help his pitching consistency.
Ryu decided to skip the World Baseball Classic because he wants to show his commitment to the team. Spring training will be a time for Ryu to show his skills and prove that he can be a good starting pitcher in the rotation. In his Dodger debut, he pitched a scoreless inning and gave up a triple to Dewayne Wise. It might take some time for Ryu to get adjusted, but hopefully he improves game by game through spring training.
Dodgers are hoping that Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford can have a safe and speedy recovery. These are two players that the Dodgers need in their lineup, if they are going to win the title. Kemp seems to be further along his rehab program than Crawford because he has participated in batting practice. The Dodgers need Kemp to continue to be that offensive threat for the team this season.
Crawford has been throwing the ball mildly to get back into the swing of things after Tommy John surgery. According to a NBC Sports article, both players will be back by March, but Crawford will start to play towards the middle of the month. Hopefully, both players are fully healthy by Opening Day and make major contributions to the team.
It seems that the first four starting pitchers of the rotation includes, Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Josh Beckett and Ryu. But the fifth spot is a dilemma at the moment. Spring training will be a time to figure out who earns that last spot.
Chad Billingsley should be the pitcher for that final spot, but injury could hurt his chances of playing consistently. Billingsley chose platelet-rich plasma therapy instead of surgery. The Dodgers need to make sure they aren't overworking Billingsley, so that he can be a viable option when the season starts.
The other options would be Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly. If Billingsley starts to have troubles throwing the ball in spring training, then you could see these three pitchers duel it out for that final spot. Manager Don Mattingly needs to get this issue sorted out before Opening Day.
Former Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax has returned to the field to coach the pitching staff. From all of the years of experience on the mound, Koufax has many tips that can help these pitchers make their game better. His knowledge of pitching and making players better is invaluable for this team.
Watch out for Koufax's ability to tweak small things in each pitchers game, which could be a minor difference to certain pitchers. Koufax could even be crucial to Ryu, who needs to get adjusted quickly for the season and can't afford to make major mistakes early on. Koufax is not a huge storyline, but his impact on the pitchers down the road will be important.