The roster had to be submitted Saturday night, so here's a look at who'll be in the Dodger dugout tomorrow night when they open against the Braves.
Starters: Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko, Jae Seo
There are no stars amongst the starters. The rotation consists of five guys, none of whom would be the #1 (or even #2, probably) on almost any team expected to contend. OTOH, the quality doesn't drop off much top to bottom, either. The least mediocre of the group is probably DLowe, and the guy with the biggest potential upside is probably Seo, who unfortunately will be in the pen for the first couple of weeks while the team only needs four starters. Tomko seems remarkably similar, in ability if not in laid backitude, to the man he replaces, Jeff Weaver. Perez is still a headcase, but he lost a lot of weight in the offseason, and he has a history of doing well in even-numbered years. Penny was terribly inconsistent in his exhibition starts, and Grady Little has been making pointed suggestions that perhaps it's time that Brad dust off his A game (if he has one). Now that Choi is gone, Penny is all that the Dodgers have left from the infamous Lo Duca trade. No pressure, big guy. He's still dating Alyssa Milano, though, so there's still that hope for the rest of us big ugly guys.
If any of the starters falter, Aaron Sele (gulp) and wunderkind Chad Billingsley await the call in Las Vegas.
Relievers: Eric Gagne, Danys Baez, Yhency Brazoban, Lance Carter, Franquelis Osoria, Hong-Chih Kuo, Tim Hamulack
The bullpen looks to be in good shape, although I think they're carrying too many guys (twelve pitchers total), especially since Seo will be out there early on, as well. Gagne has recovered from surgery, but he's still not "Game Over" yet, which is one of the reasons they picked up Baez. Kuo is a potential star, a lefty who gets both lefties and righties out, but has a history of injuries (two TJ surgeries already). Ned Colletti originally sent Hamulack, another lefty, down, but recalled him three days later. Grittle said today that he wanted a second lefty so as not to overwork Kuo. I suspect he would've preferred to send Brazoban down instead, because Yhency has had a sore shoulder and continues to be inconsistent, but Neddy apparently still believes in "Ghame Over."
Catchers: Dioner Navarro, Sandy Alomar, Jr.
You been around, you're smart, you're a professional... We want you to mature the kid.
-- Joe Riggins, Bull Durham
The 40 year-old Alomar is on the team to be teach the youngster, Navarro, the ropes. Meanwhile, Russell Martin, who had a far better spring than Navarro did, waits patiently in AAA. If Dioner doesn't hit, Alomar may wind up maturing Martin instead.
Infielders: Nomar Garciaparra (1B), Jeff Kent (2B), Rafael Furcal (SS), Bill Mueller(3B), Olmedo Saenz, Ramon Martinez.
If they stay healthy, this can be a pretty good offensive unit. That's a big if. Of the starters, 38 year-old Jeff Kent is the least likely to go on the DL. Ramon Martinez is the worst player to make the team, and I can only attribute his presence on the roster as proof that he must have photographs of Neddy doing something unspeakable with a melon. He did have a better spring than Oscar Robles, but he's three years older and has been declining for several years. Robles has a better upside, and would give the team an additional left-handed bat off the bench.
Outfielders: J.D. Drew, Jose Cruz, Jr., Ricky Ledee, Jason Repko, Cody Ross
Injuries have already hit the outfield, with starting center fielder Kenny Lofton going on the DL today. Drew is an accident waiting to happen, and both Ledee and Cruz have histories, as well. Repko had another terrific spring, is young and has some tools, but is much maligned amongst the statheads. Lofton's misfortune is Ross's opportunity. He also had a terrific spring, but is out of options, so he was looking at being waived or traded
Management: Grady Little, Ned Colletti
I thought Grittle got a raw deal in Boston, and I think he'll be fine. For one thing, he's got a much better bullpen than he had in Boston, so maybe he pulls the starter a little earlier. I haven't had as many problems with Colletti's moves as some of the statheads have, but he does seem to be prejudiced in favor veterans, especially those he knows from his days with the Giants, like Martinez. Someone at DT pointed out that even with the short contracts he gave guys like Mueller and Nomar, he may have miscalculated somewhat the effect that the crackdown on steroids and greenies could have, especially on the older guys. Nobody knows who was doing what, but if some of them have given up the juice, they may not be able to sustain the kind of performance we've become used to seeing from older players, not to mention that they could start breaking down. Fortunately, the AAA team is loaded with talent, so if players do break down, at least this year there's some potential talent to replace them with.
Worries: Gagne, the rotation
Gagne seems to have lost a lot about 5 mph off his fastball. The injury, or no more juice, who knows? OTOH, he's still probably better than a lot of guys who'll be closing this year. Baez should help there. The rotation needs a top of the line guy, the guy Brad Penny was supposed to be. If Penny can't step up, then Ned will need to get on the phone. One thing I do like about Neddy is that he doesn't seem like one to be as easily fleeced as DePo seemed to be.
It's a weak division. Both the Giants and the Padres seem to have potentially worse aging problems than the Dodgers. It could be the last team standing that takes it.
One of the weirder things that's happening in baseball nowadays is that when the catcher goes out to talk to the pitcher, the players raise their gloves to cover their mouths, so that opposing teams can't read their lips while they're in conference. Charley Steiner mentioned this in one of the weekend games, because on one occasion the two participants were Dioner Navarro, who speaks Spanish, and Takashi Saito, who speaks Japanese, and he was wondering a) what language they were speaking, b) could anyone lip read it anyway, and c) isn't hard enough to try to communicate without having to listen to multiple languages muffled by a big leather glove? It got even more ridiculous when pitching coach Rick Honeycutt went out to talk to them, because, being a coach, Honeycutt didn't wear a mitt, and, being a coach, he was doing all the talking.