LOS ANGELES -- Comebacks by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy from two years of injuries proved to be the biggest (and some might say only) surprises of Spring Training for the Dodgers.Club management sure wasn't expecting it, and had plenty of starting arms lined up for depth. Ryu had signaled
LOS ANGELES -- Comebacks by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy from two years of injuries proved to be the biggest (and some might say only) surprises of Spring Training for the Dodgers.
Club management sure wasn't expecting it, and had plenty of starting arms lined up for depth. Ryu had signaled serious intentions by leaving his native Korea and training in the warmer climate of Okinawa, intent on winning back his spot in the starting rotation. McCarthy insisted he had turned the page on Tommy John surgery and the yips, then went out and proved it.
Like Ryu and McCarthy, Scott Kazmir's 2016 season ended on the disabled list with thoracic spine inflammation. He opens 2017 back on the disabled list with a non-specific hip problem and a fastball MIA.
In the outfield, the one unpredictable issue is the herniated disc suffered by Andre Ethier, after he missed most of last season with a broken leg. But the outfield was already crowded, and Ethier's injury opened a spot for Alvin Toles, who was already in contention for a platoon role in left field.
The bullpen was a key element in the club's success last year, and in Arizona it looked like it was the area of greatest concern. Pedro Baez begins on the disabled list with a bruised right thumb, although it is expected to be a short-term issue. Adam Liberatore and Josh Fields were sent to Triple-A because Luis Avilan and Chris Hatcher are out of options, and management, which treasures depth, didn't want to risk losing either of them.
Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Grant Dayton, Hatcher and Avilan are joined by former starters Alex Wood and Thomas Stripling for a balance of short and long, righty and lefty.
Otherwise, the expected nucleus will show up on Opening Day. Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill precede McCarthy and Ryu in the starting rotation, while 20-year-old experiment Julio Urias is throttled back in extended Spring Training.
The infield of Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, newcomer John Forsythe and super-soph Corey Seager will start around the horn as expected, with Seager having duplicated last year's unconventional camp by having to battle back from a nagging injury (twisted knee last year, oblique this year). Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez are on the bench.
Joc Pederson returns in center field, Yasiel Puig is in right field despite a spotty camp, and left field will be some combination of Toles, Franklin Gutierrez and Scott Van Slyke with the extended absence of Ethier.
Yasmani Grandal is back behind the plate after a breakout 27-homer season, and Austin Barnes gets first shot at backing him up, with veteran Bobby Wilson at Triple-A for insurance after a solid camp.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.