On Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers will begin their quest to win another World Series.
This team and season are a bit reminiscent of the 2017 team, where the expectations were sky high – win the World Series or bust. The feeling around the league is that the Dodgers are the best team around, and anything less than making the World Series, and winning, would be a disappointment.
But as we saw last season, things happen along the way to derail the train on the way to the station. Fighting for the division right down until the last games, losing a key starting pitcher and your first baseman made it hard to repeat as world champs.
Here are some things for Dodger fans to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
As stated above, injuries, especially to key players is the fastest way to end a championship run. And injuries are a concern for every team, of course. But it will be particularly worth watching the Dodgers’ pitching and if the late start to the season and truncated spring training have any effect on the health of the pitching staff, especially on the starters. The Dodgers have a thin starting rotation as it is, and any injury could make them pivot to a piggy-back type scenario of two not quite stretched out pitchers or god forbid, the return of the bullpen game. We saw way too many of those last season.
The Trevor Bauer situation
Along with any injuries, a possible return to the pitching staff by Bauer could make an impact on the starting rotation, and no one knows in what way.
Bauer is currently on administrative leave while MLB investigates sexual assault allegations against him by at least two women. He has been on leave since the beginning of July 2021. MLB has said that they would like to have their investigation finished by the time his current extension is up, which is April 17th. They could decide to suspend him for another block of time, or conclude that the time he’s already spent not pitching is good enough.
If Bauer is eligible to return, it is uncertain when he would rejoin the rotation. He has been working out with the intention of being able to join the staff once the April 17th deadline has passed, thinking he will be cleared to play. But if past prescient is anything, MLB will suspend him for some time. If it were to be, say, 80 days, that means he would be back just halfway through the season.
It’s also unclear what his return to the dugout. Manager Dave Roberts had stated last week that this season, he doesn’t have to manage any egos. That would definitely change if Bauer rejoins the team. Many players have also stated that they don’t ever want Bauer to play for the Dodgers again. While the Dodgers may need Bauer’s arm, they definitely do not need the distraction that his return would bring.
There aren’t many players as streaky as Cody Bellinger. The center fielder won his 2019 NL MVP award on his first half alone – he faltered down the stretch but that first half was still good enough to garner him the award. Cody spent most of last season battling back from shoulder surgery, finally finding his swing at the end of the season.
So far in spring, he hasn’t looked great at the plate, although he consistently says that he feels really good. Still, Dave Roberts has said that he’s confident that Belli will find his groove again soon. If Bellinger can do so, the addition of his power bat will only make this lineup all the more potent.
On Thursday, the Dodgers announced their 2022 Opening Day roster. It includes 16 pitchers, two outfielders, and two utility players
The Dodgers begin their season in Colorado against the Rockies. Walker Buehler will be the Opening Day starter and as of yet, have not announced who will follow him in the starting rotation. As with all series in Denver, we just hope to escape with no injuries and not an excessive amount of pitchers used.
Here’s to a great season ahead Dodger fans! May the odds be ever in our favor.