Dodgers Spring Training quick hits

Dodgers Spring Training quick hits

2006 record
88-74, tied for first in NL West, Wild Card

Projected batting order
1. CF Juan Pierre:
  .292 BA, 3 HR, 40 RBI
2. C Russell Martin:
  .282 BA, 10 HR, 65 RBI
3. SS Rafael Furcal:
  .300 BA, 15 HR, 63 RBI
4. 2B Jeff Kent:
  .292 BA, 14 HR, 68 RBI
5. 1B Nomar Garciaparra:
  .303 BA, 20 HR, 93 RBI
6. LF Luis Gonzalez:
  .271 BA, 15 HR, 73 RBI
7. 3B Wilson Betemit:
  .263 BA, 18 HR, 53 RBI
8. RF Andre Ethier:
  .308 BA, 11 HR, 55 RBI

Projected rotation
1. RHP Jason Schmidt, 11-9, 3.59 ERA
2. RHP Derek Lowe, 16-8, 3.63 ERA
3. RHP Brad Penny, 16-9, 4.33 ERA
4. LHP Randy Wolf, 4-0, 5.56 ERA
5. RHP Chad Billingsley, 7-4, 3.80 ERA

Projected bullpen
Closer: RHP Takashi Saito, 24 saves, 2.07 ERA
RH setup man: Jonathan Broxton, 2.59 ERA
LH setup man: Joe Beimel, 2.96 ERA

The new guys
Schmidt: He and the general manager have a history, so it was no surprise that he was the centerpiece of the offseason upgrading. He's a power-pitching ace who gives the Dodgers the deepest rotation in the league.

Pierre: Considering they already had a top leadoff hitter in Furcal, Pierre's signing was curious and expensive. That said, he works hard and plays every day. His on-base percentage and throwing arm are a little weak, but he has a World Series ring.

Gonzalez: He's not exactly Manny Ramirez or Vernon Wells, but he'll take over left field and the Dodgers hope there's still some baseball left in him. Last year, he was a doubles machine and he'll be a welcome addition to the clubhouse.

Wolf: When he was healthy he was a top lefty, but that was a Tommy John elbow reconstruction operation ago, and there's still something to prove based on an ERA above 5.00.

C Mike Lieberthal: Like Wolf, he was a key player for the Phillies when he was healthy. As a backup, he'll be asked to mentor Martin and won't be wearing out his brittle body.

Prospects to watch
3B Andy LaRoche: He was good enough at Triple-A last year to be considered for a third-base platoon with Betemit. He's coming off surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and he's not known for his defense.

LHP Greg Miller: He was once neck-and-neck with Edwin Jackson for top Dodgers pitching prospect, but that was before multiple shoulder surgeries. He's now a sidearming reliever who struggled with his control last year, but some feel he's a darkhorse shot to break with the club.

LHP Scott Elbert: He won't be making the club out of Spring Training, but his invitation will allow him a taste of the big-league life while giving the Major League staff its first look at a lefty who's now considered the best starting pitching prospect in the organization.

RHP Jonathan Meloan: Since being moved to the bullpen, he's become another Broxton. He was dominant at three levels last year and with three years of college under his belt, he could arrive quickly.

Returning from injury
RHP Yhency Brazoban: He's coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction and isn't expected to be pitching until May or June. Even then, he'll have a lot to prove because he hasn't pitched effectively since early in 2005.

On the rebound
Kent: He was on the disabled list twice last year and now he's 39, so Kent has some proving to do. He also is probably the most critical unknown on the roster, because so much is expected from a likely Hall of Famer. If his power doesn't return, the Dodgers will be scrambling for runs as they did last year.

Ethier: A little bit of a cheap shot, considering four solid months as a rookie. But his disappearance when the games mattered most leaves many to wonder whether Ethier can hold up for an entire season. There have been indications his problems involved a sore shoulder, but he had no offseason surgery.

Who should get the Opening Day start?
Jason Schmidt
Derek Lowe
Brad Penny

Beimel: Another shot considering his fine regular season, although nobody had a worse postseason, as he undermined his club's chances with a self-inflicted injury suffered in a New York bar before the playoffs. He's said to be healed from a severe gash. Whether the wounds he created in the clubhouse are healed is another matter.

Long gone
RHP Eric Gagne: It was an amazing run for the converted starter turned NL Cy Young closer, but two years of injuries led to a parting of the ways.

RF J.D. Drew: He was a puzzle during his two-year stay, from the questionable signing to the surprising escape. Those were a pretty quiet 100 RBIs last year, but 100 RBIs nonetheless. Injuries and a perceived lack of intensity have diminished his reputation.

CF Kenny Lofton: He did everything the Dodgers wanted of him and a lot of people wonder why the Dodgers would pay Pierre $44 million when they could have rented Lofton for another year for a fraction of that.

RHP Greg Maddux: It was fun to watch while it lasted, but the Dodgers took the money that would have gone to Maddux and paid Schmidt.

C Toby Hall: He wanted to play, so he wasn't exactly the ideal backup to Martin.

SS Julio Lugo: So ends one of the strangest trades in recent Dodgers history.

RHP Giovanni Carrara: One of the most popular Dodgers in recent years, he always took the ball and competed.

RHP Aaron Sele: He was a real pro, working his way back from an undeserving Minor League stint to deliver some clutch starts.

3B Bill Mueller: He never played after May and officially retired because of a degenerative knee that might need to be replaced.

RHP Franquelis Osoria: The sinkerballer was claimed by Pittsburgh.

OF Jayson Werth: Two years of injuries and, like Gagne, he gets a fresh start, in his case with the Phillies.

INF Oscar Robles: He was a pleasant surprise in 2005, but he never had a chance with the new management team.

2006 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Ethier, .308
OBP: Ethier, .393
SLG: Garciaparra, .505
Runs: Furcal, 113
RBIs: Drew, 100
Hits: Furcal, 196
2B: Drew, 34
3B: Lofton, 12
HR: Drew and Garciaparra, 20
SB: Furcal, 37
2005 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Lowe, 218
W: Lowe and Penny, 16
L: Penny, 9
Win %: Broxton, 4-1, .800
S: Saito, 24
ERA: Saito, 2.07
K: Penny, 148
K/9: Saito, 12.29
WHIP: Saito, 0.91

Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Where's the power?
Drew and Garciaparra tied for the club lead with 20 home runs last year and Kent, the injury-plagued cleanup hitter, had only 14. The club spent more than $100 million on free agents without addressing the shortage. The hope is that Kent, despite pushing age 40, will regain his power, while youngsters Betemit, Martin and Ethier will improve with experience. At least that's the hope.

2. Who's leading off?
Needing outfielders after Drew disappeared, general manager Ned Colletti paid dearly for Pierre, even though he had just received a nice payoff for signing Furcal last year to top off the batting order. They can't both lead off and the thinking, entering Spring Training, is that Furcal is the more versatile, so he might drop down to No. 3 with Pierre on top, moving Garciaparra down to fifth as protection for Kent. Otherwise, Pierre would bat second.

3. I don't know's on third?
They had Aramis Ramirez in their sights but never had a chance to grab him, so they're left with a possible platoon of Betemit and LaRoche. The switch-hitting Betemit slugged 18 home runs last year, but left observers wanting more because he struggled so badly batting right-handed. LaRoche is young and rough around the edges, as well as coming off shoulder surgery. He didn't make much of an impression last spring, but gets another chance.

The bottom line
The club isn't much different than it was a year ago, when it tied for first. The addition of Schmidt and Pierre with the loss of Drew is a slight net gain, so the Dodgers figure to be as good, if not better, than last year.

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