After opening the 2014 season by spending 28 hours on airplanes traveling back and forth and around the globe, and throwing in a couple of quality wins along the way, the Dodgers returned to spring training and a schedule that includes more exhibition games. But as the team recovers from the exhausting trip and looks forward to more real games, there are key questions facing Stan Kasten, Ned Colletti, and the empty uniform non manager Don Mattingly:
1. Second Base: That question appears to have been answered for the first couple of months of the season at least, as the $30 M second base convert Alexander Guerrero will be spending his bounty in New Mexico, as Justin Turner and Dee Gordon will be sharing second base for now, with the resurrected Chone Figgins in the wings. Two of those three
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|will thus be on the bench providing the team with a couple of versatile utility players, not too dissimilar to what the team had last season in Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto.
2. The Yasiel Puig Experience: Puig and Mattingly returned from Australia with issues bubbling all around, and critical comment about Puig’s attitude and disdain for rules, and advice for management, coming from sources far and wide. The empty uniform itself even went public with a frustration-filled statement critical of his young star’s
performance. But, now the two have met and discussed the problems and, well, we’ll probably have to wait and see if anything has really been resolved. Mattingly did reveal that an MRI showed no damage to Puig’s back, despite him having left the last game in the ninth inning due to his feeling pain.
|3. The Matt Kemp Timetable: Placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 19, Kemp can be activated on April 3, so he definitely will miss the the three-game series in San Diego, but reports are that he is doing everything well and will be ready to go in center field when the Dodgers play their home opener on April 4 against the Giants. So, who will sit out that first Kemp game – Puig, Crawford, or Ethier? A lot can happen between now and then, but my guess is Puig is on tender hooks to sit out that first game against righty Matt Cain, despite likely outrage from opening night fans, but that it will be Ethier on the bench for the middle game against the Giant’s lefty ace Madison Bumgarner.||
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4. That fifth starter’s spot: Josh Beckett is also on the DL until April 3, but the Dodgers should not need a fifth starter until April 19, against Arizona. However, Hyun-Jin Ryu apparently injured a toe during his game in Australia, and he could miss his next start. But, with all the early-season off days, Mattingly may still not have to go deeper than Kershaw, Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren until late April. By then, Beckett should be available, and if not, Paul Maholm is still there, with the Chad Billingsley return date creeping closer.