The Dodgers came to camp believing the depth of their pitching staff would compensate for the lack of star power. They started camp with six proven major league starters and will begin the regular season with four. Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland went down early in camp. Both are expected back within the first month of the season, though. Garland could miss only 1-2 starts because of days off, and Padilla will be brought back from forearm surgery quicker as a relief pitcher. Combine those two injuries with the absence of reliever Ronald Belisario, whose agent doesn't expect him to enter this country all season, and the Dodgers suddenly had three holes to fill in what was supposed to be their strength.
1. LHP Clayton Kershaw
2. RHP Chad Billingsley
3. LHP Ted Lilly
4. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
5. RHP Tim Redding
Kershaw is poised to join the upper echelon of starting pitchers in the majors. Billingsley rebounded his image last year and is looking for his first season with six months of consistency. Lilly gives up a lot of home runs but keeps his team in most games. This could be Kuroda's final season in the United States.
The Dodgers won't use the fifth starter until April 10. Either Redding or John Ely who will make the start. Redding had the better spring, but Ely is on the 40-man roster. It might depend on who has the better first start at Triple-A Albuquerque.
RHP Jonathan Broxton
LHP Hong-Chih Kuo
RHP Matt Guerrier
LHP Kenley Jansen
RHP Blake Hawksworth
RHP Lance Cormier
RHP Mike MacDougal
Two bullpen spots were open when Ronald Belisario once again never showed up for training camp and Vicente Padilla went down with an injury. Ramon Troncoso appeared set to take Belisario's place, but a poor spring sent him back to the minors. MacDougal likely pitched himself onto the roster with a solid spring. The Dodgers initially wanted to send Cormier to the minors and have Scott Elbert make the final spot, but Cormier refused a minor league assignment (as his contract allowed) and he's said that he was told he's on the team.
Broxton begins the season as the closer, but after losing his job last year and losing the confidence of the fan base, each bad outing will be heavily scrutinized. New manager Don Mattingly vows to use Broxton exclusively for three-out saves, and that will help. Mattingly also vows to not use the often injured Kuo on back-to-back days. That means that if Broxton falters, Kuo is the first choice to fill-in, but Jansen or somebody else will be needed in the ninth at certain times.
1. SS Rafael Furcal
2. LF Tony Gwynn Jr.
3. RF Andre Ethier
4. CF Matt Kemp
5. 1B James Loney
6. 2B Juan Uribe
7. C Rod Barajas
8. 2B Jamey Carroll
Casey Blake starts the season on the disabled list, so Uribe moves to third base and Jamey Carroll starts at second base. Rookie Ivan De Jesus Jr. might end up getting more starts at second base, but Carroll's performance last year earns him the Opening Day honors. Gwynn gets the start in left field against righties because Jay Gibbons continues to have contact-lens problems that affect his vision and put him on the DL. Marcus Thames starts in left against lefties.
When a lefty starts, Uribe will hit fifth and Loney sixth. When a righty starts, it's the other way. For all the question marks about third base and left field, however, the key to this lineup is Ethier, Kemp and Loney. They "young core" is now the "core" of the lineup -- and needs to produce.
C Hector Jimenez
INF Ivan De Jesus Jr.
INF Aaron Miles
OF Xavier Paul
OF Gabe Kapler or C A.J. Ellis
Dioner Navarro's strained oblique late in camp put him on the disabled list, and Jimenez came out of nowhere to likely earn the backup catching job. Jimenez was spotted in the Venezuelan Winter League and impressed the team with his hitting this spring and ability to play first base and left field. He's on the 40-man roster and out of options, so the Navarro injury allowed the Dodgers to keep him. The final decision is six outfielders (Kapler makes it) or three catchers (Ellis makes it).
When Blake comes off the DL, either Miles or DeJesus is the odd man out. The Dodgers prefer their good prospects to keep developing in the minors rather than sit on the bench in the majors, so it could be De Jesus, but a strong start could force the Dodgers to keep him in the lineup.
--C Dioner Navarro (torn right oblique muscle) will open the season on the disabled list. He might be able to return in late April.
--3B Casey Blake (back tightness) will begin the season on the disabled list.
--RHP Jon Garland (strained left oblique) will begin the season on the disabled list.
--RHP Vicente Padilla (nerve problem in right forearm) underwent surgery Feb. 24. The team expects him to be able to return in late April.
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