Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Los Angeles Dodgers

news

Dodgers News

Young Ruiz ranked No. 3 catching prospect

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- He is the highest-ranked Dodgers prospect at his position as determined by MLB Pipeline, and his name isn't Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo.

If you aren't familiar with catcher Keibert Ruiz, the Dodgers believe you will be fairly soon. Ruiz is the No. 3 ranked catching prospect, and with veteran Yasmani Grandal eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, Ruiz could be a Dodger sooner rather than later to join Austin Barnes -- although 2019 is probably the best-case scenario for the backstop's big league arrival.

LOS ANGELES -- He is the highest-ranked Dodgers prospect at his position as determined by MLB Pipeline, and his name isn't Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo.

If you aren't familiar with catcher Keibert Ruiz, the Dodgers believe you will be fairly soon. Ruiz is the No. 3 ranked catching prospect, and with veteran Yasmani Grandal eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, Ruiz could be a Dodger sooner rather than later to join Austin Barnes -- although 2019 is probably the best-case scenario for the backstop's big league arrival.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Ruiz is 6 feet, 200 pounds and only 19, signed out of Venezuela at age 16 for $140,000. The switch-hitter split time at both Class A levels in 2017, batting a composite .316 with an .813 OPS while displaying catching skills beyond his years. He is the sixth-ranked prospect in the organization, per MLB Pipeline.

Ruiz might have the highest upside in a deep group of young Dodgers catchers, as four of their top 25 prospects are behind the plate (22-year-old Will Smith, 27-year-old Kyle Farmer and 21-year-old Connor Wong are the others). Being the youngest of the four, Ruiz might return to Class A to start the 2018 season.

MLB Pipeline's scouting report of Ruiz reads: "A switch-hitter, Ruiz shows more pop from the left side and a more contact-oriented approach from the right side. He has precocious feel to hit and makes consistent contact rather than trying to do too much. As he gets stronger, he could develop double-digit home run power.

"Ruiz is even more advanced as a defender, displaying soft hands and impressive receiving ability for a teenager. His arm strength is just fringy, but should become average as he continues to mature physically, and it plays up because he has quick feet and makes accurate throws."

Ranking ahead of Ruiz on the MLB Pipeline catchers list are Francisco Mejia of Cleveland and Carson Kelly of St. Louis.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

New job with Dodgers has Prior excited for '18

MLB.com @basebollie

New Dodgers bullpen coach Mark Prior joined MLB Network on Wednesday to discuss the transition to his role with the World Series runners-up.

Prior, who pitched for the Cubs for five seasons from 2002-06 and served as the Padres' pitching coordinator for three years before joining Los Angeles, expressed enthusiasm about building relationships with the Dodgers' players and coaches. He is also thrilled to be reuniting with Dave Roberts, who he worked alongside for two years in San Diego.

New Dodgers bullpen coach Mark Prior joined MLB Network on Wednesday to discuss the transition to his role with the World Series runners-up.

Prior, who pitched for the Cubs for five seasons from 2002-06 and served as the Padres' pitching coordinator for three years before joining Los Angeles, expressed enthusiasm about building relationships with the Dodgers' players and coaches. He is also thrilled to be reuniting with Dave Roberts, who he worked alongside for two years in San Diego.

Prior said the pairing between him and the Dodgers came together rather quickly, and as he spoke more to the club about overseeing the team's bullpen in 2018, he needed less than a week to decide it was the right fit.

"It happened pretty [quickly] over a couple days, and next thing you know, they offered me the job and I took it," Prior said. "I'm excited about the role. I'm excited to work with Dave Roberts and his staff, work under [Rick] Honeycutt and see how the Dodgers go out and prepare to try and win ballgames every day."

A former All-Star, Prior emphasized the importance on getting players to trust his guidance. He believes that will be the easiest part of the move for him, because it was a large part of his job in San Diego.

"I don't think anything changes as far as building relationships," Prior said. "I think that's universal no matter what your role is in baseball. I think for me it's being who I am, being authentic and just establishing the relationship so the players know I have their back and they have trust in what I'm saying.

"For me it's about being honest, being honest in what I see and what I think and they know I'm coming from a place where I'm only trying to help them. I felt this was my job as a coordinator and I feel this will definitely be my job as a bullpen coach, that I'm there to serve them and trying to make them the best that they can be."

Prior's Major League pitching career was cut short at age 25 as injuries wore down his shoulder. He said he did not envision becoming a coach after his playing career, but he did not hesitate to enter the running when Los Angeles showed interest in him for the position.

"It's just been about learning, wanting to learn and wanting to help players and helping pass whatever my unique experiences were to other players and what can help them in their careers," Prior said. "That's really been my primary goal. … I just really look at every opportunity as they come and examine them and figure out what's best for me and my family."

The Dodgers gave the World Series champion Astros a run for their money in the Fall Classic that lasted seven games, largely thanks to their bullpen strategy and emphasis on analytics. Prior admitted he has a lot to learn when it comes to implementing statistical data and information on the field.

"I think more than anything, I'm going into it very open-minded," Prior said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how it works and how the data plays out. It's something that is going to be new to me, a quick learning curve that I need to get caught up to speed on with just how much information there is. Then, how to pair that in a very simple form that pitchers are able to grasp and be able to just go out there and compete."

Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Bellinger bulks up for sophomore season

NL Rookie of the Year gains 15 pounds as he hopes to avoid letdown
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Opponents will see even more of Cody Bellinger in 2018.

The unanimous National League Rookie of the Year Award winner last season, Bellinger has added 15 pounds during the offseason with a stepped-up conditioning and nutrition program.

LOS ANGELES -- Opponents will see even more of Cody Bellinger in 2018.

The unanimous National League Rookie of the Year Award winner last season, Bellinger has added 15 pounds during the offseason with a stepped-up conditioning and nutrition program.

But not to worry, he hasn't given up his go-to food group.

"Ice cream? Oh, yeah," said the Dodgers first baseman and frozen-treat connoisseur.

The 22-year-old Bellinger's upper body shows the impressive results of his winter work.

"I know what a full season is like in the big leagues," he said. "It's not going to be a surprise anymore. I know what I need to do to keep my body in shape to last 162 games."

Video: Bellinger takes home NL ROY in historic season

Recalled from Triple-A in late April, Bellinger played a combined 150 games in 2017, with 39 of his 44 home runs coming as a Dodger, enough to set an NL rookie record. He seems determined to improve on that in 2018.

"I'm 100 percent taking it seriously," Bellinger said. "I think when you have some success, you're living the dream, and you want to have more success. For me, obviously the sophomore slump is going to be there, people will say it, and I just want to put my body and mind in the best position to succeed."

Bellinger said he's been able to look back on the 2017 season, both his accomplishments and those of the team.

"The World Series was a tough one to swallow," he said. "Two good teams get to the World Series. For us to go to Game 7, it is an accomplishment. Obviously, you want to win. But I've had an opportunity to go back and reflect on the kind of year it was.

"During the season you can enjoy it a little bit, but the next day you've got to go out and try to do the same thing. The year was full of ups and downs. I had a great time and look forward to this year."

A year ago, Adrian Gonzalez went into Spring Training as the Dodgers' starting first baseman. He's now a Met, his departure hastened by Bellinger's meteoric arrival. Despite missing most of April, Bellinger was an All-Star and finished sixth in the league with a .581 slugging percentage. He was ninth in NL MVP Award voting.

And as he mentioned, he's aware of those pesky sophomore slumps.

"If I were to start struggling, we have the right guys in the clubhouse to give me the right advice to get out of it," Bellinger said. "I'm not too worried about it. I'm going to go out and have fun like I did last year."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger

Fresh off callup, Buehler a top 5 righty prospect

Dodgers hurler made rise from Class A to Majors in 2017
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler opened the 2017 season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, but by September he was a Major Leaguer, a meteoric rise that has resulted in Buehler being ranked as the No. 5 right-handed pitching prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.

But in 2017, Buehler's progression was astounding. He had a 1.10 ERA in five starts at Class A, made 11 starts at Double-A, then three starts and nine relief appearances at Triple-A in preparation for a September callup to the big club, where he got his feet wet with eight bullpen appearances.

LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler opened the 2017 season at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, but by September he was a Major Leaguer, a meteoric rise that has resulted in Buehler being ranked as the No. 5 right-handed pitching prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.

But in 2017, Buehler's progression was astounding. He had a 1.10 ERA in five starts at Class A, made 11 starts at Double-A, then three starts and nine relief appearances at Triple-A in preparation for a September callup to the big club, where he got his feet wet with eight bullpen appearances.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

While with the Dodgers, Buehler showed glimpses of future greatness with his electric arm, but also the wildness that often plagues young, hard throwers (eight walks in 9 1/3 innings). Still, he struck out 12, finishing the year with 137 strikeouts in 98 innings.

For 2018, the 23-year-old Buehler will go back to starting, according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

"I can certainly expect to see him as a starter," said Roberts. "How things shake out in Spring Training will kind of determine where he starts, but [our goal is] for him to continue to develop as a starting pitcher. Got his feet wet last year, and I think that it was encouraging in a lot of ways for Walker -- the quality of hitters faced, the speed of the game, the preparation, being in big league ballparks, I think, all very good for him. But just continuing to develop. Again, we'll see how it all shakes out, but he's definitely a part of the solution."

Video: Roberts discusses Buehler's role on Dodgers staff

The former Vanderbilt star has been working out in Nashville, Tenn., eager to resume his career as a starter.

"Getting back into starting, I'll get settled in better maybe, have a full routine and hopefully it brings more success," Buehler said.

Video: Gurnick discusses Buehler's status with Dodgers

On the MLB Pipeline list of the game's top right-handed pitching prospects, Buehler ranks behind Angels Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, Houston's Forrest Whitley, Michael Kopech of the White Sox and Tampa Bay's Brent Honeywell.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Walker Buehler

LADF's grants exceeded $1.5M in 2017

Donations went to 66 nonprofit organizations helping community
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation granted donations of more than $1.5 million to 66 local nonprofit organizations in 2017, impacting one million underserved youth, the club announced on Tuesday.

The Foundation supports organizations that are based on education and literacy, health and wellness or sports and recreation.

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation granted donations of more than $1.5 million to 66 local nonprofit organizations in 2017, impacting one million underserved youth, the club announced on Tuesday.

The Foundation supports organizations that are based on education and literacy, health and wellness or sports and recreation.

"Since 1995, LADF has contributed $21 million to local communities, including $13 million in grants," said Nichol Whiteman, executive director of the Foundation. "We are so grateful to our donors and fans who support us by purchasing a 50/50 raffle ticket, bidding on silent auction items, sponsoring events and providing general donations. Together we are impacting organizations that produce incredible results on fields, in classrooms and at community centers throughout Los Angeles."

The breakdown in funding: 45 percent to education and literacy; 29 percent to health and wellness; 26 percent to sports and recreation, which included $170,000 in support of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).

The Foundation also granted $160,000 to The Jackie Robinson Foundation to support 11 students with four-year scholarships, mentorship and leadership development, and $25,000 to California State University, Northridge to provide scholarships in honor of Roy Campanella within the Physical Therapy doctoral program.

LADF will continue its grantmaking program in 2018, with deadlines on Feb. 1, May 1 and Aug. 1.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers agree with Grandal, Wood, 5 others

All arbitration-eligible players reach deals for 2018
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers reportedly reached agreement on Friday with five players eligible for salary arbitration, a list headed by All-Star pitcher Alex Wood.

Wood, an All-Star in 2017, will receive $6 million. Outfielder Joc Pederson agreed to $2.6 million, left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani agreed to a $2.3 million deal, right-handed reliever Josh Fields accepted $2.2 million and outfielder Enrique Hernandez will make $1.6 million.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers reportedly reached agreement on Friday with five players eligible for salary arbitration, a list headed by All-Star pitcher Alex Wood.

Wood, an All-Star in 2017, will receive $6 million. Outfielder Joc Pederson agreed to $2.6 million, left-handed reliever Tony Cingrani agreed to a $2.3 million deal, right-handed reliever Josh Fields accepted $2.2 million and outfielder Enrique Hernandez will make $1.6 million.

On Thursday, catcher Yasmani Grandal settled at $7.9 million and reliever Pedro Baez at $1.5 million. Grandal earned $5.5 million last year, and Baez made $550,000.

Video: SD@LAD: Grandal crushes a three-run homer to right

Friday at 10 a.m. PT was the deadline for unsigned arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures with the club. The team and player can continue negotiating until a February hearing is held and a decision announced.

Under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers have warned players they will go to a hearing on any case not settled by the exchange of figures. No Dodger has gone to a hearing during Friedman's tenure, which began in October 2014.

Since the inception of salary arbitration 43 years ago, the Dodgers are 14-6 in cases decided by a hearing and 6-1 in their last seven cases, dating to 1991. That includes the most recent wins over Joe Beimel in 2007 and Eric Gagne in 2004.

The last player to win a hearing with the Dodgers was Terry Adams in 2001. The club's first arbitration case was in 1975, when Ron Cey was awarded a salary of $56,000 instead of the club's submission of $47,000.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Pedro Baez, Yasmani Grandal

Smith latest catcher climbing Dodgers' ladder

No. 8 prospect takes another step at MLB Rookie Career Development Program
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- For decades the Dodgers have been known for developing pitchers, but they need catchers to throw to, and the organization is now deep there as well, with four listed by MLB Pipeline among the system's top 25 prospects.

Kyle Farmer already has made a Major League cameo. Keibert Ruiz is rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 5 catching prospect in the game. Connor Wong was taken in the third round last year.

LOS ANGELES -- For decades the Dodgers have been known for developing pitchers, but they need catchers to throw to, and the organization is now deep there as well, with four listed by MLB Pipeline among the system's top 25 prospects.

Kyle Farmer already has made a Major League cameo. Keibert Ruiz is rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 5 catching prospect in the game. Connor Wong was taken in the third round last year.

And the Dodgers tipped their hand at the recent MLB Rookie Career Development Program by sending Will Smith.

No, not that Will Smith.

"I get that a lot," the 22-year-old catcher said of the teasing that results when you have the same name as a multi-talented Hollywood entertainer.

The Dodgers' Smith -- their No. 8 prospect -- does his entertaining with his bat, glove and arm. Don't be misled by the .232 batting average he posted last year at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. That season was interrupted by a broken hand. Fully healed, Smith was sent to the Arizona Fall League for some catch-up at-bats, and all he did was hit .371 with a 1.017 OPS in 73 plate appearances.

Smith, taken with the 32nd overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Louisville, looks back on 2017 as a breakthrough.

"I learned how long a season is," he said. "You get a taste of it the summer after you're drafted, but the first full season, from going through Spring Training, it's long. But it's better prepared me for next year, knowing the length of the season, just learning not to get too high or too low, when you're doing well and when you're not doing well, just staying even keel the whole year."

Smith was joined at the four-day orientation by Dodgers prospects Mitchell White, Dennis Santana and (since-traded) Trevor Oaks. The program is a joint venture between MLB and the MLB Players Association.

"I honestly had never heard of it, not even locker-room talk," Smith said of the program, which was held just outside Washington D.C. last week. "It's a really cool experience, last night going to the Capitol. Today, listening to speakers, gaining knowledge of the transition of going from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues. It's incredible how valuable it is."

The Kentuckian grew up a Red Sox fan.

Video: Prospects on their favorite baseball memories

"I can remember in 2004 talking to my grandpa and they were down, 3-0, in the [American League Championship Series] and they came back," said Smith. "He said there was a zero percent chance they could win, and I was like, 'You just wait and see.' That really taught me to keep playing the game every day. Kind of translates to now, where just win that day, just win that game."

Smith knows that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had more than a little to do with Red Sox history that October.

"Haven't had that conversation yet," said Smith. "Looking forward to it."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Toddler Cole Bellinger pitches to Cody

Baseball has always been in Cody Bellinger's blood. His father, Clay, was a Major Leaguer for four seasons when Cody was a kid, so it didn't take long for him and his younger brother, Cole, to fall in love with the game.

Need proof? Bellinger's mother, Jennifer, recently shared an old home video of little Cole (a recently drafted Minor Leaguer with the Padres) pitching to Cody, hoping that one day history could repeat itself in the Majors.

Workout regimen keeps Hill at top of his game

Veteran lefty working hard to prep for spring camp with Dodgers
MLB.com @lindsayberra

Rich Hill's mantra stayed the same as his Dodgers moved through the 2017 MLB postseason. It has actually stayed the same since the beginning of his up-and-down 13-year career, and it is simple: Stay in the moment. Make the pitch. Make the pitch after that. And don't ever quit working.

As Hill, 37, looks ahead to his 14th big league season after coming oh-so-close to his first World Series title last fall, he is applying that same philosophy to his offseason training.

Rich Hill's mantra stayed the same as his Dodgers moved through the 2017 MLB postseason. It has actually stayed the same since the beginning of his up-and-down 13-year career, and it is simple: Stay in the moment. Make the pitch. Make the pitch after that. And don't ever quit working.

As Hill, 37, looks ahead to his 14th big league season after coming oh-so-close to his first World Series title last fall, he is applying that same philosophy to his offseason training.

"The biggest thing I can point to is being able to understand how to execute in the moment and stay in the moment, and it's the same thing in the weight room for me as it is on the mound," Hill said.

"Trying to focus on one set at a time, one rep at a time and not think too far ahead or about what you did before. Trying to gradually increase strength and to not do too much too fast. When you're young, you want to get bigger, stronger, faster yesterday. But eventually you will get bigger, stronger, faster if you continue to take that one step at a time."

Hill has been working out with Mike Boyle at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Woburn, Mass. -- 20 miles up Route 93 from his hometown of Milton, Mass. -- for nine years.

Video: Lindsay Berra joins Rich Hill's offseason workout

On this chilly December morning, the workout begins at 7 a.m., and I have the opportunity to join in. The group is extra large today, and it includes Hill's nephew, several college pitchers, Major League pitcher Craig Breslow and free-agent pitcher Jeremy Bleich.

Boyle said each offseason he simply aims to get Hill back to where the lefty was.

"The goal is to get back to that baseline," Boyle said. "To get strength back, to get power back. As guys age, there is a natural physiological decline you want to avoid. We're not talking about a 20-year-old kid and thinking, 'We've got to get him stronger, we've got to get him faster.' If I can get Rich back to the point where he was a year ago, and he can go back and repeat what he did a year ago, the Dodgers are happy, Rich is happy, everybody is happy."

During the offseason, Hill works out four days per week with Boyle, and it is a schedule that Hill is easily able to adapt to his every-fifth-day pitching schedule during the regular season. The workouts focus on maintaining Hill's athleticism and balancing out the one-sidedness that results from being a big league pitcher.

Video: Berra discusses workouts with Rich Hill

"I think pitchers as they age become less and less athletic," Boyle said. "Most pitchers were the best athletes at their school, in three sports, but by the time they're in their 30s, they don't do anything except pitch. We are trying to reinstall some of that athleticism and get them away from being the one-dimensional, one-sided pitching machines they become in Major League Baseball."

To that end, Hill's programming includes power exercises like jumping, sprinting and throwing medicine balls rotationally and from both sides. In the weight room, unilateral, single-arm and diagonal exercises are used to keep the system balanced.

The workout begins on Boyle's long stretch of turf with static stretching, including pigeon pose and legs-up-the-wall pose -- two yoga staples -- and some barefoot walking on fake rocks, which Boyle says opens the fascia on the bottom of the feet and can reduce back pain. Next come some core and muscle activation exercises to, as Boyle says, "get things turned back on." Then, a dynamic warmup -- including walking and jogging sets of high knees, hamstring kicks and lunges -- brings the body through its ranges of motion at a slower pace in preparation for the jumping and sprinting to follow.

Hill's first tri-set -- a group of three exercises, done back-to-back, several times through -- begins with throwing medicine balls against a cinder-block wall, both overhead like a soccer throw-in and from each side, both from a stationary position and with a crow-hop. Then, he hops, single-legged, over a row of hurdles and finishes with a short sprint.

From there, the group moves into the weight room, where three more tri-sets await.

"We start with explosive exercises, because with pitchers, we don't do the Olympic lifts," Boyle said. "We like to sprinkle in core and mobility so we get an active rest and don't have a let down where we do a set and stand around. I like packing a lot of density into a 45-minute period."

The weight room tri-sets include jump squats, planks with a body saw, several one-armed rowing exercises and single-leg exercises with both dumbbells and kettlebells and rotational exercises with cables. While Hill acknowledges he may not lift the kind of weight he lifted when he was 25, he said he feels stronger than ever.

Video: LAD@PIT: Hill tosses nine-plus no-hit innings

"It's all about gauging the amount of weight you are using and the amount of output you will exert," he says. "The weight I may have been lifting at the end of the first year here isn't necessarily the same as it is now, the numbers may have been higher, but technique has gotten a lot better and being able to maintain the technique has made me overall much stronger."

That strength served Hill well as he powered through left shoulder surgery in 2009 and Tommy John surgery in '11.

"To be functionally strong is the biggest thing," Hill said. "It has kept my career in line through multiple surgeries and any kind of adversity I may have faced. Coming here every offseason helps me to get my body back in a position to play a full season."

The training continues back on the turf, with five 25-yard sled pushes.

"The sled march falls somewhere in the middle of conditioning and speed development," Boyle said. "We are getting ready for sled sprinting, which will be more of a lower body power exercise."

The session finishes with eight 100-meter tempo runs, done shuttle-run style on a 25-meter course, with a 25-meter recovery walk in between each run. They let Breslow, who majored in molecular biophysics at Yale and is a known brainiac, do the counting.

"We're not timing and we're not racing," Boyle said. "It's just to get a 15- to 18-minute period of elevated heart rate."

Video: LAD@SD: Hill strikes out 11 in seven scoreless frames

Hill will follow this big lower-body workout with an upper-body workout that focuses on shoulder rehab and pre-hab in addition to strength and stability the next day.

"I've found this program works for me," Hill said. "You have to find out what works for you and what will make you successful."

Now, though, after tasting November baseball, Hill has a whole new understanding of the meaning of success, and that newfound drive is fueling his offseason workouts.

"You heard guys like Derek Jeter say the season was a failure because they didn't win the World Series, and when you get to that point where you are in the World Series, you get it," Hill said. "You know the end goal: win the World Series. That's it."

Lindsay Berra has covered a variety of sports, from baseball and hockey to tennis and the Olympics, since 1999. She joined MLB.com in 2013.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Rich Hill

Roberts crashes Springer's wedding with Hinch

A few months ago, the Astros and Dodgers squared off in a World Series for the ages, with Houston coming out on top in Game 7 thanks in large part to the dinger heroics of George Springer. Lest you thought the white-knuckle finish engendered some hard feelings, though, don't worry: When A.J. Hinch travels to San Diego next week for Springer's wedding, he'll be staying with none other than Dave Roberts.

Kenley sits atop dominant bullpen

MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Any bullpen that closes out games with back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen is rock solid, but the Dodgers return most of the supporting pieces that made it arguably the top unit last year.

They have young, live arms. Some already have World Series experience. They just need to find a setup man, but that's turned into an annual event and management's track record is pretty good.

LOS ANGELES -- Any bullpen that closes out games with back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen is rock solid, but the Dodgers return most of the supporting pieces that made it arguably the top unit last year.

They have young, live arms. Some already have World Series experience. They just need to find a setup man, but that's turned into an annual event and management's track record is pretty good.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Dodgers might stack up:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Kenley Jansen, RHP
Pedro Baez, RHP
Scott Alexander, LHP
Tony Cingrani, LHP
Josh Fields, RHP
Ross Stripling, RHP
Tom Koehler, RHP
Yimi Garcia, RHP

STRENGTH
Jansen for sure, but there's more. Management hopes the addition of ground-ball specialist Alexander will help defray the loss of Brandon Morrow, who went from non-roster invitee with a history of health issues to a World Series workhorse who got closer money from the Cubs. Baez, who was the setup man until he lost the job to Morrow, is looking for redemption. Cingrani will back up Alexander since Luis Avilan was dealt in the Alexander trade and Tony Watson left via free agency. Fields, Stripling and Koehler fill out the bullpen with Garcia reportedly ready to go after missing a year because of Tommy John surgery. Journeyman lefty Edward Paredes was a very effective strike-thrower as a second-half callup after a decade in the Minor Leagues.

Video: Alexander on finding out he was traded to Dodgers

QUESTION MARK
Setup is the mystery, as it was until Morrow emerged last season, as it was when Joe Blanton emerged the year before, and so on. Baez, Alexander and Cingrani are candidates, but just as likely is a committee based on matchups and whomever has the hot hand. Koehler is one of those under-the-radar acquisitions who showed better in relief late last year and could take the Morrow/Blanton route of a former starter thriving as a reliever. Not much has been said lately about Adam Liberatore, whose 2017 season was wasted with a forearm injury. When sound, he's very effective.

Video: TOR@NYY: Koehler fans Ellsbury

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman often says that the bullpen is always a focus of his attention, because of its inherent volatility. That's why his staff is always on the lookout for former starters like Blanton and Morrow. The Dodgers will probably add another one or two as non-roster invitees, like Morrow was a year ago. As the season unfolds, there might be a temptation to ask Kenta Maeda to pitch relief after his postseason success in that role, but his contract was structured with incentives for starts and innings, so that hurdle would need to be cleared. For now, he's a starter. Julio Urias is coming off left shoulder surgery and shorter relief outings might allow him to ease back into action, with a return target around June. Like Urias, rookie Walker Buehler is considered a starter, but management was willing to have him pitch out of the bullpen in September.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. Listen to his podcast.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenley Jansen

Kershaw headlines experienced Dodgers staff

LA returns five starters who made at least 24 starts for club in 2017
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starters led the Majors last season with a 3.39 ERA, and most of the rotation returns in 2018, led by three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. The anticipated rotation heading into Spring Training is filled out by Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Walker Buehler, the club's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is waiting in the wings, left-hander Julio Urias could return from shoulder surgery by midseason and a return of free agent Yu Darvish hasn't been ruled out.

STARTING ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starters led the Majors last season with a 3.39 ERA, and most of the rotation returns in 2018, led by three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. The anticipated rotation heading into Spring Training is filled out by Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Walker Buehler, the club's No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is waiting in the wings, left-hander Julio Urias could return from shoulder surgery by midseason and a return of free agent Yu Darvish hasn't been ruled out.

STARTING ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Clayton Kershaw, LHP
Rich Hill, LHP
Alex Wood, LHP
Kenta Maeda, RHP
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP

STRENGTH

Los Angeles boasts quality depth that most other clubs don't have. Each of the Dodgers' top five made at least 24 starts for them in 2017. Kershaw and Wood were All-Stars. Ryu was coming off two years on the sidelines after shoulder and elbow operations and had a solid 3.77 ERA. Maeda, despite a stellar postseason relief role, is set to return to his preferred starting role. Buehler, who came out of the bullpen during a stint as a shaky September callup, also goes back to starting, likely in Triple-A to start the season.

Video: Roberts discusses Buehler's role on Dodgers staff

Brock Stewart made four spot starts, while Ross Stripling made two. Dennis Santana was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, but he's only 21 with half of a season at Double-A.

The Dodgers like to manipulate the 10-day disabled list to give starters a breather, essentially going in and out of a six-man rotation when the mood strikes. Their impressive starting depth gives them the luxury to do so.

QUESTION MARK

As with any rotation, health is the unknown. Each of the top five had at least one stint on the disabled list in 2017. Kershaw sustained his second back injury in as many seasons, a trend the Dodgers hope to end. Wood was out twice with a rare inflammation of his sternum. Hill finally overcame first-half blister issues, but he'll be 38 in March and is rarely allowed past the fifth inning unless he's throwing a perfect game.

Urias blew out despite a quirky throwing program intended to prevent that from happening, and Buehler will require careful management, as he had already undergone Tommy John surgery and never thrown more than 97 innings in a professional season.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

As long as Darvish is still on the board, the Dodgers will be seen as a logical landing spot. They gave up three prospects to get him at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and he helped get the club to the World Series, so there's no question he's a front-office favorite, even if fans will remember him for his World Series struggles. Darvish can probably find a club willing to pay him more for longer, but he said he enjoyed his time in L.A. with a pitching coach, Rick Honeycutt, who has experience working with Japanese starters like Maeda and Hiroki Kuroda.

Video: Dodgers re-signing Darvish remains a possibility

Maybe Darvish is waiting for the Dodgers to trade away another contract to clear payroll so they can make a run at him. There have been no indications that the Dodgers are in play for Jake Arrieta, the other free-agent frontline starter. If Darvish jilts them, they just might stand pat until the Trade Deadline.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood

Dodgers likely standing pat with loaded lineup

MLB.com @JALaymance

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers haven't been compelled to change a lineup that came within one win of a World Series championship last fall. Instead, management has focused on making minor improvements around the fringes of the roster. The Dodgers' championship window is still open -- and the current nucleus will return for the 2018 season as the club seeks a sixth consecutive National League West title.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineups of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Dodgers might stack up:

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers haven't been compelled to change a lineup that came within one win of a World Series championship last fall. Instead, management has focused on making minor improvements around the fringes of the roster. The Dodgers' championship window is still open -- and the current nucleus will return for the 2018 season as the club seeks a sixth consecutive National League West title.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineups of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Dodgers might stack up:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Chris Taylor, CF
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Cody Bellinger, 1B
Yasiel Puig, RF
Joc Pederson, LF
Logan Forsythe, 2B
Austin Barnes, C

STRENGTH
The Dodgers were good enough to reach Game 7 of the Fall Classic, and all the key pieces in the batting order are still there. It's already a championship-caliber lineup. Seager and Turner were banged up in the World Series, and Bellinger was a rookie, so it's entirely possible for this lineup to improve without any changes.

Video: SF@LAD: Bellinger's 39th jack breaks NL rookie record

QUESTION MARK
What will the Dodgers get from Pederson in 2018? That's the biggest question facing this lineup right now. Pederson was the Dodgers' Opening Day center fielder in '17, but he could not hold down the job and was sent to the Minor Leagues in the middle of August. Pederson returned to the club three weeks later and eventually returned to form in the postseason, after being left off the NL Division Series roster. Pederson made an impact in the Fall Classic, but his inconsistent performance last season leaves questions for '18.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
This lineup could see a change in the outfield between now and Opening Day, should the Dodgers decide to pursue Lorenzo Cain in free agency or trade for Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen. Both of those players are center fielders. Taylor is coming off of a breakout season, and his defensive versatility allows the Dodgers to move him around as they see fit. While Matt Kemp is temporarily back on the roster, the Dodgers are expected to flip him to another club or release him. Still, management might decide to stand pat and stay below the luxury-tax threshold. Internally, Andrew Toles is expected to be ready for Spring Training and compete for a starting job in the outfield as he returns from a torn right ACL.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers