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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 28, 2003
Home: Dodgers Stadium
This looks like one of the most promising Dodgers teams in quite a long while. Provided their pitching can stay healthy they will have a legitimate shot at winning either the division or the wild card. Improvements in the off-season have really been minor and focused on offense, because the one thing GM Dan Evans could not do this season was increase his payroll. Instead he made a few deals, which gave him enough flexibility to improve the team.
The Dodgers’ pitching, if healthy, should be the most balanced in the West. They can’t match Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling man-to-man, but they could out pitch the D’backs overall.
Health and bounce-backs will be the key for this staff. Ace Kevin Brown has missed most of the last two seasons with arm and back problems but seems healed and very gung ho going into 2003. If he can last the season, the Dodgers should pick up a handful of extra wins. He seems a good bet for 2003.
The other two pitchers coming off injuries are more questionable. Kazuhisa Iishi needs to rebound after being slammed by a batted ball in the heat of last year’s pennant race. It broke bones in the skull and may have psychological if not physical effects that could easily destroy his career. I’d be very interested in seeing how he handles pitching this spring.
Darren Dreifort is coming back off Tommy John surgery, and past experience with other pitchers coming off this surgery suggests he won’t be overly effective in 2003. If he surprises everyone and comes back strong it could give the Dodgers a staff of Brown, Nomo, Iishi, Ashby, Odalis Perez and a sixth in Dreifort. Even with only five of the six that should give almost any team in baseball a bit of pause.
The big moves for the Dodgers’ offense were the additions of Fred McGriff and Daryle Ward. McGriff gives the Dodgers a second legitimate left handed power hitter besides Shawn Green, while Ward offers a lesser third left handed bat along with some fair defense.
Trading Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek to the Cubs brought back Todd Hundley, who’ll take a back up and pinch-hitting role, and opened up second base for rookie Joe Thurston.
Their attack should be powerful with a lineup something like this:
Lo Duca C
Shawn Green RF
Anyone who doesn’t think the Dodgers have a shot at the division hasn’t looked very hard. Still the Dodgers’ staff is very fragile and if Brown and Iishi don’t come back to full form the dream could easily implode. If the pitching staff fails the offense will have to carry the team. Shawn Green managed that on his own for a good portion of the second half last season - and he has a much better supporting cast this year.