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Dodgers determined to deliver on potential in '13

Dodgers determined to deliver on potential in '13

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Dodgers determined to deliver on potential in '13
LOS ANGELES -- The owners are all in, the roster is loaded, the bar is set sky high.

Now, can the Dodgers get it done between the lines?

With a stunning payroll and glittering roster, there's now "responsibility and accountability," in the words of chairman Mark Walter. It translates to pressure for a franchise intent on erasing a 24-year World Series drought.

Now that the Dodgers have adopted the Yankees' big spending ways, there's no clear precedent on whether you really can buy a title. The Yanks did have a dynasty in Joe Torre's early days, but even while spending freely, they went nearly a decade without a ring.

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The Dodgers have had a checkered history when they dive into the free-agent deep end. Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones didn't deliver anything historic. But Kirk Gibson did.

So, even with a stratospheric payroll, there are questions.

1. Will Matt Kemp rebound from shoulder surgery?

The Dodgers win when Kemp is sound and lose when he isn't, so his recovery from significant shoulder labrum surgery is the key from the dozen players nursing injuries. So far, so good. In a New Year's Day tweet, Kemp wrote: "2day was a big step! The docs finally let me do an upper body workout. Spring training right around the corner. Time 2 get this cardio!"

2. Is Clayton Kershaw's hip really OK?

Nothing wrong with the arm, but those hip impingements usually don't fix themselves. Kershaw thinks he's Superman, and maybe he really is. He sure eased fears with his late-season recovery.

3. Can Don Mattingly silence the skeptics?

Mattingly didn't have a full deck his first two seasons, but in this final season of his contract, he'll have no real excuse. He's already said it will be a failure if the Dodgers don't win. He'll have a Spring Training to develop chemistry and get everybody on the same page.

4. Is Carl Crawford still Carl Crawford?

He wasn't even close in Boston, where the honeymoon was brief. Even before the elbow blew out, the outfielder didn't show his Tampa Bay form, and maybe the wrist injury he suffered earlier is of an even greater concern than the elbow.

5. Will Hanley Ramirez be coachable?

The Marlins moved him because he wouldn't stop swinging for the fences. He insists on playing shortstop and the Dodgers have insisted he improve with the glove. Nobody seems to make an issue of a former batting champ hitting .252 over the past two seasons.

6. Will Andre Ethier hit left-handed pitching?

The Dodgers didn't give him an $85 million extension to be a platoon player. But they did give Ethier an $85 million extension despite knowing he has a .237 career average against left-handers. He's three seasons removed from his best offensive year, and really hasn't been the same since breaking his finger in 2010.

7. Will Chad Billingsley need Tommy John surgery?

He responded to the platelet-rich plasma injections well enough to hit 94 mph in a November simulated game, but partially torn elbow ligaments usually need to be surgically repaired at some point. Spring Training will be an acid test.

8. Is Luis Cruz for real?

It's a real nice feel-good story for the native Mexican who had been a career Minor Leaguer. Compared to the Juan Uribe bust, Cruz was an upgrade. But can he take those two months and turn them into a Casey Blake-like late-blooming Major League career?

9. Will Hyun-Jin Ryu translate into MLB?

He dominated in Korea, but nobody knows what that really means. Obviously Dodgers scouts were convinced, but a lot of clubs considered him marginal, and certainly not worth a $62 million commitment. The Dodgers can't even send him to the Minor Leagues without his consent.

10. What becomes of Dee Gordon?

Most other clubs consider Gordon a center fielder, even though he's never played the position and apparently doesn't want to. If Hanley Ramirez is the shortstop, does that mean Gordon spends a year at Triple-A, catching up on the seasoning he missed when he was rushed to the big leagues? Or do they trade him?

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

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