Kershaw has peace of mind; Cody working out kinks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The last three weeks have been eventful for the Dodgers.
Los Angeles signed five-time All-Star Freddie Freeman to a six-year deal, adding more power to an already relentless lineup. On Friday, the Dodgers made another splash, acquiring closer Craig Kimbrel from the White Sox in exchange for outfielder AJ Pollock.
On paper, the Dodgers have the most talented roster in the Majors. But as they head back to Southern California following a 10-2 loss to the Giants on Saturday, they know the real grind is still ahead of them.
Here are three thoughts from Dodgers camp. The team will start the Freeway Series against the Angels on Sunday at Angel Stadium. They’ll open the regular season on April 8 at Coors Field against the Rockies.
Clayton Kershaw’s health
The biggest question mark for the Dodgers heading into camp was Kershaw’s health. After the future Hall of Famer missed the postseason with a forearm injury, the Dodgers weren’t sure just how much Kershaw was going to be able to give them to start the season.
Kershaw answered all of those questions immediately. The left-hander took the mound in the team’s first Cactus League game of the spring and led the team with four starts, including a strong outing on Saturday against the Giants where he struck out six over four-plus innings of work. Proving to himself that he is fully healthy was a big key for Kershaw. He accomplished that.
“No matter how you feel in the offseason, no matter how much you do to prepare and to get healthy, you've got to get out there and get to Spring Training and face teams,” Kershaw said. “I think, for me, there’s a little peace of mind that I can do it. … I’ve kind of proven mentally, in my head, that I’m OK.”
Starting pitching depth isn’t there … for now?
With Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and a healthy Kershaw, the Dodgers have one of the best starting trios in the National League. The depth behind them, however, could be concerning.
“I think probably starting pitching depth,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked which area of the roster he’s most concerned about. “I think that’s probably the thing that occupies my mind.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney and right-hander Tony Gonsolin will get the first crack in the rotation for the Dodgers. Heaney struggled last season, posting a 5.83 ERA in 30 appearances (23 starts) with the Angels and Yankees. The Dodgers, however, believe that a new grip on his breaking ball will help him reach a new level. His Spring Training results haven’t matched that optimism, as the left-hander has allowed 10 earned runs this spring.
As for Gonsolin, the right-hander has stated that he’s fully healthy after battling right shoulder issues all of last season. Command issues have plagued Gonsolin in the past and it’s been a roller coaster this spring. Behind Heaney and Gonsolin, the Dodgers have Tyler Anderson and David Price as potential options to start.
Though the Dodgers have some early concerns with their starting rotation, they do believe they’ll have more depth coming up as the season goes on. Dustin May, one of the bright spots last season, is expected to make his return to the mound at some point this season. He underwent Tommy John surgery last May. Los Angeles also expects prospects Bobby Miller, Landon Knack and Ryan Pepiot to make impacts this season.
If Heaney and Gonsolin can produce while the Dodgers wait for reinforcements, the Dodgers will be in good shape. If they don’t, they’ll have to look for other options.
Which Cody Bellinger will show up?
Following an encouraging showing in October and a full winter of workouts, Bellinger came into camp optimistic that he would be closer to the player he was during his MVP season in 2019, as opposed to the one that was shockingly among the worst hitters in the Majors.
After Cactus League play, it’s still unclear which Bellinger will show up at the plate this season. Bellinger went 4-for-27 with 17 strikeouts in Arizona. He tried a few different stances throughout the spring. Hitting coaches Brant Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc said it’s all a process of Bellinger getting used to a healthy body again.
Bellinger is an elite defensive center fielder, which makes him a valuable player. But with Pollock now with the White Sox, the Dodgers will rely more on Bellinger having a bounce-back season at the plate.
“I think he’s working through where he was at in his peak season and where he’s at now and learning what he can and can’t do,” Van Scoyoc said. “He’s gotta find some things out. He’ll land on something he can compete with when the season starts. He’ll be in a good spot.”