With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Dodgers squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?LOS ANGELES -- Scott Kazmir and Andre Ethier proved doubters wrong before, and they are positioned to be potential surprises for the Dodgers
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Dodgers squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?
LOS ANGELES -- Scott Kazmir and Andre Ethier proved doubters wrong before, and they are positioned to be potential surprises for the Dodgers heading into the 2017 season.
Kazmir, signed a year ago to a three-year, $48 million contract, went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA but made only one start after Aug. 22 because of thoracic inflammation. Ethier, about to enter the final year of a five-year contract, had his 2016 season destroyed in Spring Training when he fouled a pitch that fractured his right leg.
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The Dodgers appear to be loaded with starting pitchers, but Kazmir -- who led the American League in starts and strikeouts in 2007 with the Rays -- said he's completely healthy and wants his job back.
"It feels like [my body] is back to Tampa Bay-live," Kazmir, 33, said at the recent FanFest. "I'm three weeks ahead of schedule. I want to be at the top of that rotation. The way things went last year, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I want to prove to the fans and the front office that brought me here that they made the right decision."
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Kazmir joins veterans Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood on the rebound from injuries and lined up to compete for the fifth starter job behind Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias. Additionally, young starters Brock Stewart and Thomas Stripling are in the mix.
Management is considering holding back Urias in extended spring workouts to limit his innings, opening up more early starts for Kazmir and company.
Kazmir was an All-Star in 2006 and '08, tumbled all the way down to independent ball in '12 and was an All-Star again in '14, so he's proven at bouncing back. His name has cropped up in trade rumors, but Kazmir said he wasn't fazed, having been traded three times.
"I knew no matter what it would come up," he said. "Bottom line, this is the place I want to be."
Ethier's career hasn't been that volatile, but he lost his job in 2014 (hitting .249) only to win it back in 2015 (.294).
Then came the freakish right leg fracture last spring, but Ethier, 34, has assured the club that he's fully healed and ready for action, after being limited to pinch-hitting late last season. The Dodgers have the depth to platoon any of the outfield positions, with Ethier, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Alvin Toles, Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke, Darin Ruf, Enrique Hernandez and Brett Eibner coming to camp.
"It feels great," Ethier said on AM 570 Dodger Talk. "I've been doing my regular training in Phoenix, haven't had any holdbacks. Fully running, jumping, cutting, in cleats, running bases and hitting drills. Not thinking about it, there's no limitations from the injury. It was just a fluke accident, hit me in the perfect spot. Once it's healed, it's healed. Last year was frustrating, but spring brings new excitement."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.