Dodgers still facing questions in desert

Dodgers still facing questions in desert

Dodgers still facing questions in desert
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Yankees moved on after Joe Torre, and now the Dodgers do.

Halfway through his first Spring Training as manager, the questions for Don Mattingly have shifted from his readiness to his team's. He's been running an efficient first camp with an upbeat but serious tone for a team trying to rebound from a fourth-place finish.

There are no signs of miracles here: As it shaped up coming into camp, the roster is pitching deep and hitting weak. Kenley Jansen tipped his hand last year, but otherwise there is no sensational rookie likely to take the team to the next level.

The bullpen appears to be deeper with the addition of Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth and the competition has started for the last few bench roles, with familiar names like Juan Castro and Aaron Miles joining youngsters Xavier Paul and Russ Mitchell in the battle.

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What we've learned so far: You never have enough starting pitching. The Dodgers came to camp with six established starters and now they are down to four with the injuries to Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland. The first four -- Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda -- should give the club a competitive chance every start.

They still can't hit, if these Spring averages entering Thursday's action are an indication: Rafael Furcal, .158; Casey Blake, .077; Jamey Carroll, .231; Andre Ethier, .190; Jay Gibbons, .071; Dioner Navarro, .133; Juan Uribe, .143.

"I'm OK with our offense," Mattingly said. "I'm only concerned that we're getting our work in, getting in shape, staying healthy and doing everything right, playing hard and playing the game the right way."

The club probably won't miss Russell Martin. Rod Barajas is hitting .353 with power and he already figured to see more playing time than Navarro.

What to watch for: The Dodgers must hope the recoveries of Padilla and Garland are without setbacks, or they could have the same fifth-starter mess they had last year. They continue to hold their breath every time Hong-Chih Kuo throws a pitch. And there should be continued signs of the Davey Lopes Factor on the bases, which could mean the improved overall play of Matt Kemp.

And as always, another thing to look for is Ronald Belisario. If you see him, give Ned Colletti a call.

"I feel OK with where we are right now," Mattingly said. "I'll feel better when we get through the split-squad games this weekend and we can thin [the roster] down a little bit."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.