LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Dodgers have a new front office. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, outfielder Matt Kemp, second-baseman Dee Gordon and pitcher Dan Haren are gone from a roster that won the NL West title last season.
Change was everywhere at the Dodgers’ spring camp and all of it was designed to enhance their chances of achieving a goal that has never changed: Winning the World Series.
It eluded them last October in the NL Division series against the St. Louis Cardinals. It eluded them after the club was sold for $2.15 billion three years ago. It’s eluded them since 1988.
”Everything we’re doing is in the vein of trying to put ourselves in the best position to make it into October and then play as long as we can,” said Andrew Friedman, the team’s new president of baseball operations, who along with new general manager Farhan Zaidi employed an analytic approach to a winter makeover of a roster that had won back-to-back NL West titles.
Make no mistake, though, the changes were built around those who are back. At the top of the pitching order is Clayton Kershaw, the 2014 NL MVP and three-time Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw is armed with motivation to make amends for last fall’s struggles. In right field, there’s the young Yasiel Puig, an All-Star who was benched for some of the postseason.
A key to the makeover is in the heart of the infield, where Friedman and Zaidi acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins from Philadelphia and second baseman Howie Kendrick from the Angels.
”Instant credibility,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the two veterans who some think will plug holes in what was an inconsistent defense. ”I think they bring a ton to the table for us. They create stability up the middle.”
There are questions whether the Dodgers sacrificed some offense in losing Ramirez’ big bat and Gordon’s speed. Ramirez signed with Boston. Gordon, a 2014 All Star, was traded to Miami. Meanwhile, Kemp’s proven power is also gone. He was traded to San Diego for catcher Yasmani Grandal.
The Dodgers were willing to move Kemp because of what they’ve seen in 22-year-old Joc Pederson, who through 17 spring games was batting .417. Pederson appears to have the edge over veteran Andre Ethier as the starter in center field. With Carl Crawford in left and Puig in right, there’s no room for Ethier, who said early in camp that he wants to be an everyday player.
Then there’s the pitching staff. Kershaw and Zack Greinke are locks for the top of the rotation. After them, there are questions. No. 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu is likely to start the season on the disabled list because of an ailing left shoulder. Friedman signed projected starters Brandon McCarthy (four years at $48 million) and Brett Anderson (one year at $10 million), but each has a long history of injury.
With the uncertainty surrounding Ryu, it’s not clear who will be the fifth starter. Joe Wieland, also acquired from San Diego in the deal for Kemp, was considered a leading possibility.
In the bullpen, the biggest question is about closer Kenley Jansen, who underwent surgery on Feb. 17 to have a growth removed from the fifth metatarsal on his left foot. He was expected to be out for 8-to-12 weeks. Until he’s back, Mattingly said he might use a committee of pitchers to fill the role.
QUIET PUIG: Except for an occasional flip of the bat, it was a quiet camp for Puig, who is beginning his third season. Through 12 games, he was batting a modest .226 with 3 homers. ”I don’t think his spring was that great last year either,” Mattingly said. ”I’m not really concerned about his average or anything. I think he looks fine. He’s hit some balls decent. He’s a lot like other guys who know they’re going to be around. They take their bats different than guys who are trying to show us what they can do.”
IMPATIENT KERSHAW: Kershaw never has much patience for questions about the World Series in the spring. ”Every team thinks they’re going to win the World Series at this time of year,” he said. ”That’s everybody’s goal and it should be. If you don’t win the World Series, it’s a failure.”
POWER ADJUSTMENT: First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has his own take on the Dodgers’ altered offense. ”People are saying say that we lost power, but I think we just put the power in different spots of the lineup,” he said.