Depth, health have LA ready to defend title

As Cactus League play nears its completion, few questions remain

March 27th, 2021

The Dodgers have just a few days left in Arizona and the team is getting ready to head back to Los Angeles to finish its prep for the regular season with three games against the Angels in the Freeway Series, Sunday through Tuesday. As of now, the club's camp has gone very smoothly.

Right-handers Joe Kelly and Brusdar Graterol will start the season on the injured list, but otherwise, the Dodgers have been able to avoid any big injuries this spring. That alone is a big win for any team, especially one that has played into late October in three of the last four years.

Star outfielder Cody Bellinger underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason, but has looked healthy during Cactus League play. There’s no doubt he’ll be ready to start the season as the team’s center fielder.

The Dodgers’ overall talent has also been on display this spring. The team is still deciding who will round out the bench and who will start the year in the bullpen. But its depth is evident in the starting rotation, as two very capable Major League starters will have to start the season in the bullpen because of the team’s superb starting pitching depth.

“I don’t think this is necessarily a dilemma,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, when asked about the surplus of talent in the rotation. “It’s a good situation that we have.”

Let’s take a look at how the Dodgers have fared so far this spring.

Best development
The Dodgers were patient with right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing back surgery during Summer Camp, and it has paid off so far this spring. Nelson has been one of the pleasant surprises this spring and looks to be fully healthy for the first time since his solid ‘17 with the Brewers. With a few games left in Spring Training, Nelson has made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster as a multi-inning reliever.

Unfortunate events
Graterol dealt with some non-injury issues over the offseason and came into camp behind schedule. He has thrown a handful of bullpen sessions, but is still not ready to face hitters. Kelly has thrown a couple of bullpens, but has not looked quite right and has not faced live hitters. The positive is that both should only be sidelined on a short-term basis.

Player Who Opened Eyes
The Dodgers had high hopes for Nelson in 2020, and now they’re starting to benefit from the signing. Nelson said he feels 100 percent and the 31-year old has been one of the standouts of camp for the Dodgers as a non-roster invitee. He will serve as a multi-inning option out of the bullpen and even more insurance for the starting pitching staff.

Wow Moment
When Trevor Bauer struggles this season, he'll set himself up as the source of jokes -- as was the case in his last start against the Mariners. But in his Cactus League start against the Padres, Bauer decided to close one of his eyes in order to help improve his command. It seemed to work just fine, as he tossed three scoreless innings.

In Case You Missed It
After struggling in the postseason and watching Julio Urías record the final out of the World Series from the bullpen, Kenley Jansen is motivated to return to form in 2021.