Dodgers open camp with 3 burning questions

February 19th, 2016

PHOENIX -- Dave Roberts' first Spring Training as a manager began Friday, when Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch-Glendale, with the first workout scheduled for Saturday.

Despite losing Zack Greinke to division-rival Arizona, misfiring on other big-name acquisitions and having five players recovering from surgery, management is confident the club is positioned for a strong run at an unprecedented fourth consecutive division title and beyond.

Key additions include starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda and reborn reliever Joe Blanton. Along with Greinke, contributors from last year that won't be back include Jimmy Rollins, Juan Nicasio and Joel Peralta.

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Rookie of the year candidate Corey Seager, 21, will be unopposed as the starting shortstop coming into camp, while lefty sensation Julio Urias, 19, will have the opportunity to show how close he is to the big leagues.

The club will be looking for bouncebacks from outfielders Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, and will have fingers crossed that starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder), third baseman Justin Turner (knee), catcher Yasmani Grandal (shoulder) and utility man Kiké Hernandez (shoulder) are recovered from last year's operations. Brandon McCarthy is still four months away after Tommy John surgery.

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Here are three key questions facing the Dodgers this spring.

1. Can they pull off a youth movement and keep winning?

Whether it's an 11-year younger manager in Roberts or a 16-year younger shortstop in Seager, this team is rebooting while running off some of the payroll's most bloated contracts. To do both while maintaining excellence on the field is one of the most daring balancing acts in sports. Roberts isn't only younger than Don Mattingly, he's managing for the first time anywhere, so there's added uncertainty there. He'll focus on chemistry, work ethic and fundamentals, as he did when he played.

2. How do you replace Greinke?

The Dodgers will try with quantity. They signed Kazmir and Maeda, the former a legit mid-rotation veteran, the latter a perennial Japanese star who took a team-friendly deal because of health concerns that arose during a physical exam. Fingers are crossed that Ryu, who didn't pitch last season after shoulder surgery, will contribute, even if regaining his previous form immediately is asking a lot. And they have Alex Wood from Opening Day, after scrambling for a fifth starter throughout 2015.

3. Are outfielders Puig and Pederson the real deal, or what?

Both have been All-Stars. Both have been automatic outs. Each has been both in the same season. It's great to make late-night highlights and the Home Run Derby, but consistency is required to get to the next level. Management turned over the coaching staff with the hope that new hitting coaches will unlock the keys to this talented pair. A lineup with Puig and Pederson firing together will make an already productive offense pretty scary.