All is not well in Los Angeles Dodgers land, but if a team was going to be able to weather its top two pitchers sidelined with injuries, it is the Dodgers. Still there has to be some concern among Manager Dave Roberts and the front office.
Oddsmakers certainly aren’t panicking. The team was installed as a 7/1 pick to win the World Series in October, and though others have had some movement, the Dodgers are still at 7/1. The New York Yankees are the favorites at 5/1, followed by the Houston Astros at 6/1. The Boston Red Sox are with the Dodgers at 7/1.
Los Angeles came into Spring Training loaded to make its third consecutive appearance in the Fall Classic, but instead of falling short, think they had the pieces to win its first title since 1988.
“We have created something here where the number one goal is to win baseball games,” Roberts said. “It takes a lot of good players. It takes consistent work and focus, but it also takes sacrifice. So that comes with a lot of good players and, fortunately, for us to a man, these guys have bought into that, which makes my job considerably easier.”
Rotation Takes Early Blows
With ace Clayton Kershaw and No. 2 pitcher Walker Buehler leading a strong rotation, it looked like the team would have the arms to win its ninth consecutive National League West Championship.
Soon after Spring Training began, though, Kershaw complained of soreness in his left shoulder, and the team announced Tuesday that he would not be on the mound for Opening Day.
Buehler’s injury was a bit more mysterious. Neither the 24-year-old, or the Dodgers declined to specify what was bothering the right hander. He had been held out of any Spring Training games until Tuesday.
“Honestly, I didn’t realize they haven’t pitched in a game all spring,’’ Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly told USA Today Sports. “I see them every day, look at the boxscores, and hadn’t even noticed because everyone else is so good and talented. You lose a No. 1 like that, a Hall of Fame starter, and lose a No. 2 starter, normally the trainers would be panicking. The coaches would be panicking. The front office would be saying, ‘We need more guys.’ But I don’t think anyone has even blinked. I’ve never seen anything like it.’’
Despite being ruled out as an Opening Day starter, Buehler did make his 2019 debut Tuesday. Roberts put him on a 45-pitch limit, and said he was satisfied with what he saw.
“Walker was where we hoped he would be tonight,” Roberts said. “I thought he was amped up, rightfully so, and missing up. But as far as the way the ball was coming out, very pleased. To get that pitch count up, it was a positive night for him and for us.”
Even without Kershaw and Buehler, the team has four strong arms they can lean on. Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Ross Stripling can all provide innings for one of the deepest staffs in baseball.