GLENDALE — With Corey Seager’s expected return by opening day and the acquisition of right-handed hitting center fielder A.J. Pollock, the Los Angeles Dodgers are not expected to be platooning.
Seager was limited to 26 games last season and did not play after April 29. He had Tommy John surgery on May 4 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament and had arthroscopic surgery on his left hip on Aug. 7.
“There is a certain narrative on us platooning last year, and I think that was kind of for survival,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday during his first spring training availability.
The two-time NL champions traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds and allowed Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal to leave as free agents. The Dodgers’ major addition was to sign Pollock as a free agent.
“I think that we’re not as susceptible against left-handed pitching,” Roberts said. “Offensively, we’re much more balanced, one through eight. Whoever those eight might be on a particular night will conduct consistently better at-bats. And I think the bullpen depth is better than it was last year.”
The recovery of Seager, the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, is critical.
“He looks really good,” Roberts said.
Roberts hopes his shortstop, who is throwing at 90 feet, can get 50 to 60 at-bats during spring training.
Beginning his fourth season as manager, Roberts said left-hander Clayton Kershaw would like to regain some velocity. Kershaw’s average fastball velocity dropped from 93 mph in 2017 to 91 mph last season, when he dealt with a back injury.
“He feels strong,” Roberts said.
Closer Kenley Jansen is expected to have a more aggressive spring training routine following surgery Nov. 26 to correct an irregular heartbeat.
“I think with Kenley, it will be more towards ‘17 spring, and I say that where we were a little bit more active,” Roberts said. “Last year with the workload . we kind of slow-played him and he had a couple little hiccups with the body and it kind of put him back a little bit. He’s in great shape right now.”
Roberts also says he expects reacquired catcher Russell Martin and Austin Barnes will compete for time behind the plate.
“To get a guy like Russell Martin, whose been in the postseason 10, 11 years in his big year career, he’s a winning player,” Roberts said. “He’s been a Dodger, he couldn’t be happier to come back home, so to kind of pair with Austin I think is a very good duo. And I think that time will tell. So they are going to split time, and we’ll see who gets the lion’s share.”
The revamped roster, minus Puig and Matt Kemp who were traded to the Cincinnati Reds, and subtracting free agents Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal, is more balanced, said Roberts.