Orioles Preview - Page 57 - The Dodgers

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The Dodgers

Associated Press

 

The Dodgers are once again loaded in their chase for an elusive World Series title.

 

A rock-solid starting rotation. Hitters who can produce offensively and defend multiple positions. Overall depth that allows for aggressive platooning.

 

Manager Dave Roberts received a contract extension through 2022 during the winter. Hehas guided the team to 287 victories in his first three years at the helm, tied for fourth most among mangers during that span.

 

The team has averaged 94 wins a season during its run of six straight NL West championships.

 

All that success, however, hasn’t led to a World Series title. The franchise’s last one came in 1988.

 

Two straight appearances in the Fall Classic have ended with the Astros and then the Red Sox celebrating on the Dodgers’ field.

 

History suggests a World Series hangover is inevitable. The Dodgers won an MLB-best 104 games in 2017, and they fell short in repeating that total last year with 92 victories.

 

The franchise has never made three straight World Series appearances.

 

New faces: Center fielder A.J. Pollock signed a four-year, $55 million deal to leave the division rival Diamondbacks. He gives the Dodgers a right-handed bat to complement their deep lineup.

 

He missed nearly two months with a broken left thumb last season, the latest in a long line of injuries that have limited Pollock to 113 games since his breakout All-Star season in 2015.

 

Right-handed reliever Joe Kelly came over from the Red Sox after they beat the Dodgers in the World Series. He’ll be Kenley Jansen’s setup man.

 

Prove it: Shortstop Corey Seager returns as the starter after missing most of last season when he underwent hip and Tommy John surgeries. The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year will have to prove himself all over again. The Dodgers compensated for his loss last year by trading for Manny Machado, who moved on to the division rival Padres.

 

Rookies to watch: Outfielder Alex Verdugo could find a spot on the opening-day roster after a glut of outfielders kept him in the minors in recent years. He could platoon with Cody Bellinger in right field. Right-hander Dustin May is expected to start the season in the minors but could contribute to the big-league club at some point.

 

Top-notch rotation: The Dodgers boast quality and depth in their pitching ranks, which will allow them to withstand any injuries that occur.

 

Left-hander Clayton Kershaw won’t start opening day for the first time in nine years because of left shoulder inflammation that bothered him during camp. Kershaw’s velocity dipped to an average of 90.9 mph last season, and his strikeout rate of 8.7 per nine innings was his lowest since his rookie year. Despite back problems in recent years, he remains one of the best in the game.

 

Right-hander Walker Buehler, coming off a stellar rookie year, has had a sore shoulder that limited him in camp. Right-hander Kenta Maeda started 20 games last year but finished the season as a reliever. However, the Dodgers see him as a starter and plan to use him in that role to begin the season. Lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill make up a solid back end of the rotation.

 

Photo: Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager are two of the young stars who’ll propel the Dodgers.

 

HARRY HOW/GETTY