Dodgers back to work, months after falling a game short
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers entered spring training with five consecutive NL West titles and a major league-high 473 victories in that span.
It is not enough for a team that was so close to winning it all in 2017.
“You can sense the hunger in this clubhouse,” said Enrique Hernandez, noting that the majority of the Dodgers’ position players arrived days ahead of the required reporting date.
The first full-squad workout was set for Monday.
“We have five straight division titles and pretty much nothing to show for it besides the National League championship. This core of position players has been together for a few years now,” he said Sunday.
“I think it is a cumulative thing that has been growing for years. Getting so close to it last year and seeing the other team celebrate at our home stadium, maybe that’s the last bit of fuel that we needed to make that fire burn. We’re ready,” he said.
The Dodgers added old friend Matt Kemp to basically the same position player group that took them to a major league-most 104 victories and Game 7 of a captivating World Series against Houston last year.
Trading deadline addition Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs, but the bulk of the rotation also returned.
The Dodgers had an NL-best 3.38 ERA in 2017 before falling one game short of their first World Series title since the Orel Hershiser/Kirk Gibson 1988 team.
Gibson has been invited to throw out the first pitch in the season opener this year, perhaps symbolic of the team’s expectations.
“Last year happened,” Hernandez said. “There is nothing we can do about it. What we can do is try to take care of business this year and not fall one game short.”
“We feel like we have the team. We feel we are the team to beat in the National League. Last year we felt like we were the team to beat in all of baseball, and we were until the end. This is the same team. A little more hunger,” he said.
Hernandez typified manager Dave Roberts’ commitment to versatility and team approach last year, when he played every position but catcher and started at six. Only two Dodgers played more than his 140 games.
Roberts said he likes what he has seen in the first few days of camp.
“Outside of the kind of normal pleasantries of seeing guys you haven’t seen, it’s sort of business of usual, and I like that mindset. It’s very workmanlike and methodical, and that’s what we like our ballclub to be,” he said.
The Dodgers swept Arizona in the NL Division Series and beat the defending world champion Chicago Cubs in five games in the NLCS before falling to the big-hitting Astros in the Series.
“You can look at it and say it was a down note, or you can look at it and say look what we gained in experience. I think that’s the way you have to take it,” said left-hander Rich Hill, who tied a career high with 12 victories and figures to slot into the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw.
“You can’t sit there and say, Poor us, we lost in the World Series.′ No, it’s like we gained so much more in experience playing than the 28 teams that did not get the opportunity.”
“So moving forward into this spring training, that’s where everybody’s mindset is. What do we have to do today? What do we have to do tomorrow? That’s where the process ensues. The process is just one little drop in the bucket every single day, understanding that it is about today,” he said.