GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers face the White Sox on Friday to kick off the 2018 Cactus League season with a roster that is pretty much set.Wilmer Font, coming off a Triple-A strikeout title in 2017, gets the opening start for the Dodgers in the 12:05 p.m. PT game at
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers face the White Sox on Friday to kick off the 2018 Cactus League season with a roster that is pretty much set.
Wilmer Font, coming off a Triple-A strikeout title in 2017, gets the opening start for the Dodgers in the 12:05 p.m. PT game at Camelback Ranch against the White Sox, who share the 10-year-old complex with the Dodgers.
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However, even the most set rosters at the start of Spring Training have surprise names when Opening Day rolls around. Here's a look at three Dodgers that have a dark-horse chance to make the team.
Heading into the 2016 season, it was a coin flip whether Pedro Baez or Garcia was the better of the two Dominican right-handed relievers. Baez became a workhorse, while Garcia blew out and needed Tommy John and knee surgeries that also cost him the entire '17 season.
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Garcia is back now, "with a vengeance," according to club officials. He's been a fastball/slider pitcher with a deceptive delivery. He lacks Baez's 99-mph velocity, but in his last healthy season (2015), he had a lower WHIP and more strikeouts per nine innings. With Brandon Morrow leaving for the Cubs in free agency, there are innings available if Garcia is ready.
Athleticism made Thompson a key to the three-team, seven-player trade that brought him to L.A. prior to the 2016 season. He had slugged 10 home runs by June 2016, when he broke two vertebrae in his lower back and tried to play through it. A bounce-back attempt in '17 didn't work out, but before giving up on Thompson, the club will give him an extended look this spring, because he's out of options.
Thompson has an uphill climb, not only because of last year's funk, but he's trying to break into a very crowded outfield with competition that includes Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo, among others. But if Thompson's early 2016 form returns, the Dodgers will either make room for him or deal him.
The Dodgers have acquired left-handed relievers Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson and Scott Alexander since Liberatore last pitched for them. Elbow tendinitis ruined Libertore's 2017 season, but he's healthy now, and when he's healthy, he's tough to hit with an awkward release that hitters struggle to visually recognize.
Watson and Luis Avilan are gone, but Alexander and Cingrani are clearly the club's top two lefty relievers. If the club doesn't keep eight relievers and Liberatore doesn't make the Opening Day roster, he could be one of the first callups.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.