Top five issues Dodgers face during spring training
1. Will Clayton Kershaw pitch any differently in 2019?
By most standards, Kershaw enjoyed a standout season in 2018. But Kershaw isn’t most pitchers and his velocity dip raised questions even as he posted a 2.73 earned-run average in 26 starts. Will he recoup velocity this season? Will he adjust to his new reality and adjust accordingly? Kershaw said he did a few things differently this offseason before throwing his first bullpen session of the spring on Tuesday, but he didn’t provide specifics. His performance this spring — and into the season — will tell.
2. When will Corey Seager be ready?
Seager’s availability is unclear after he underwent elbow-ligament replacement surgery last May and hip surgery in August. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team is “tracking” for Seager to be ready for opening day. However, Seager was more cautious with his optimism at FanFest a couple weeks ago and still hasn’t thrown across the diamond from shortstop.
Like Kershaw, Jansen experienced a down season most peers would consider a success. He compiled a 3.01 ERA and made the All-Star team before dealing with another heart scare. But he also gave up 13 home runs — more than he surrendered the previous two seasons combined — and had his velocity drop. Jansen said he lost 25 pounds over the offseason for his well-being, not job, after needing a second heart procedure to repair an irregular heartbeat. He plans on undertaking a more rigorous spring-training workload after taking a relaxed approach last year.
4. How do they handle the outfield glut?
The Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, but still have an outfield surplus. They signed A.J. Pollock to play center field and employ four left-handed-hitting outfielders — Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Andrew Toles and Joc Pederson — who will compete for playing time in the corner outfield spots. Roberts said the plan is for Bellinger to play every day; he’ll take the bulk of his reps in right field while also bouncing to first base and center field. The other three will likely compete for the remaining at-bats and time in left field.
5. How will the Dodgers proceed at catcher?
The Dodgers didn’t make the splashy addition at catcher that might have been expected — J.T. Realmuto was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, not the Dodgers, last week — after losing Yasmani Grandal to free agency. Instead, they reacquired Russell Martin to pair with Austin Barnes. How the partnership unfolds is unclear. Both are right-handed batters coming off subpar offensive seasons and neither has an edge in the competition for playing time entering the spring.
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