When the Dodgers signed veteran righty Brandon Morrow to a minor league deal back in January, it didn’t create much buzz among the fan base, much less signify any type of major upgrade in the bullpen. However, if the 32-year-old Santa Rosa native can conceivably put his injuries behind him and earn a spot on the club’s 25-man roster, the relief corps just might end up being a bit stronger.
With all the speculation surrounding which roles certain players will fill in the bullpen for the upcoming campaign, it’s a bit tough to forecast the level of success for the relief crew of the Dodgers moving into the 2017 season.
At first glance, there no question that the prospective 25-man Opening Day squad of the Dodgers could easily considered among the best in baseball. Yet after breaking down all the areas of the roster, the bullpen may be one of those areas which could use a slight upgrade, and veteran reliever Joe Blanton just may be the guy who fits the bill.
While the status of the 40-man roster finally became locked down yesterday with the official addition of Franklin Gutierrez, the Dodgers now can begin honing in on the general makeup of the 25-man roster as Cactus League play begins this weekend. After reflecting on our projections in detail for perhaps the hundredth time, there may be two or three spots that are completely up for grabs, with some of the stiffest competition taking place among the bullpen crew.
Baseball is officially back. Although a skeleton crew of assorted players from the Dodgers has already been at Camelback Ranch for some time, most of the pitchers and catchers began to filter into the clubhouse on Wednesday morning, while the remainder of the squad will report no later than Monday. The initial workout for the battery mates will take place on Thursday morning, and the first Cactus League game will commence at 1:05 p.m. on February 25 against the White Sox.
The Dodgers have done an excellent job this offseason getting the gang back together. Over the weekend, Chase Utley reportedly agreed to a one-year deal to return to the team. Even though he could find more playing time elsewhere, perhaps even a starting position, he chose to come back to LA. Sure, he’s a SoCal native at the end of his career, and maybe he just didn’t feel like starting over again. But most likely he recognized that this team has an excellent chance to win it all this year.
As there are still a few whispers regarding possible relief additions in the forms of Joe Blanton and Greg Holland, there’s no question the Dodgers have enough bullpen firepower to find success with its existing corp. And while the most critical role could certainly be the eighth-inning bridge to closer Kenley Jansen, 32-year-old righty Chris Hatcher definitely has the tools to fit the bill, however, the question still lingers as to whether he can bring all his skills together consistently for one full season.
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As far as roster improvement goes for the Dodgers this winter, much of the emphasis has been put on rumors surrounding Brian Dozier and the options at second base, however, according to recent rumblings, Los Angeles may be looking for some outside help for the bullpen to bridge the gap to All-Star closer Kenley Jansen.
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With six weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers start filing into the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, there’s certainly enough time to make a few roster upgrades heading into Cactus League play if the front office crew of the Dodgers decides to do so. But if the team brings an almost identical look from last year to the beginning of the 2017 regular season, will the club have enough firepower to win a fifth consecutive division title, and more importantly, have the strength to make a deep run into the playoffs in October?