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Exactly what answers did the Dodgers discover in camp?

BaseballSportsMajor League BaseballLos Angeles DodgersJosh BeckettDee GordonBrandon League

While wondering if the Dodgers have almost talked themselves into jet lag, a quick look at questions and answers provided during this spring’s camp:

Who’s the fifth starter?

Uh, they’ll have to get back to you on that one. Josh Beckett looked strong his first time out, then slammed his thumb in a clubhouse door and suffered a setback. And Paul Maholm didn't exactly impress.

Beckett remained back in camp with the minor-leaguers when the team headed to Australia. Maholm is on the trip and will act as a reliever, unless something unexpected befalls starters Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Fortunately the Dodgers won’t really need a fifth starter until the middle of April, so they can give Beckett more time to see if he can pitch his way into the rotation. Meanwhile, Chad Billingsley is expected back in May.

Who’s the second baseman?

Dee Gordon, for now. Appears he’s made the adjustment from shortstop better than Cuban Alex Guerrero. Gordon bulked up some in the off-season and this time he really, really is trying to bunt. His speed remains incredibly tempting; he went nine-for-nine in steals.

Guerrero actually hit .300 in Arizona, but after not playing last year, there seems a consensus he could benefit from playing every day before making the jump to the majors. Gordon, of course, was once the starting shortstop and couldn’t hold it, so he’ll have plenty to prove.

Can they find a bench?

Well, sure, but that doesn’t mean it will be any good. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal said the consensus of evaluators in Arizona is the Dodgers have the weakest bench in the National League West. And they might have been simply geographically kind.

The bench appears to be utilityman Chone Figgins, out of baseball last season after three lousy years; infielder Justin Turner, released by the oh-so-ordinary Mets; catcher Tim Federowicz, who hit .231 last year; outfielder Scott Van Slyke, who has shown nice power but hit .219; and for the moment, outfielder Mike Baxter, another Mets' castoff.

The bench will get a huge boost when Matt Kemp is ready and one of those four outfielders is sitting, but in the meantime all those fragile starters best stay healthy.

Who will make up the bullpen?

This is the product of having a very deep bullpen, and qualifies as a good problem. Still, it not only wasn’t cleared up this spring, it emerged more complicated.

The bullpen penciled out to be Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, Brandon League, J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright and Maholm. This group assumes Beckett is in the rotation and League proves remotely worthy of the $17 million he’s still owed over the next two years.

That scenario already would leave out Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow, two young, hard-throwing relievers who excelled last year. Then the Dodgers picked up Seth Rosin in the Rule 5 draft, who was impressive this spring and they would like to keep. Plus, hard-throwing Jose Dominguez looks fully recovered from that quad injury that ended his 2013 season.

Once back to the United States and with Beckett presumably going on the disabled list, they can carry at least one extra reliever. Meanwhile, League and Wright better start performing.

Will Matt Kemp be ready to start the season?

Nope. At least not in the first two games.

Kemp remained in Phoenix to continue his comeback from significant foot surgery. He is apparently making good progress, however, though they aren’t ready to make a decision on when he’ll return.

 

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