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A week until opener and Dodgers still facing unanswered questions

March 25, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford hits a solo home run against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training game.
Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford hits a solo home run against the Oakland… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)

One week from today, it all gets very real. These re-invented Dodgers will take the field for the first time -- remodeled stadium permitting -- to open the season against the evil Orange & Black, who just happen to be the defending World Series champions. Again.

By now, of course, most of our questions about this edition of the Dodgers were supposed to have been answered. They came to camp with few, yet seven days from the season opener, they now almost seem to have more of them.

Here’s a quick look at where the boys in blue are:

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

-- Matt Kemp looks healthy. He’s not hitting well (.184) but didn’t hit much last spring (.262) and opened the season on a tear. A little confidence could go a long way here.

-- Hyun-Jin Ryu is about what was expected. He is not going to blow people away, but is around the plate, has an effective change, and looks ensconced in the rotation.

-- Clayton Kershaw is apparently past his hip problem from last September (and his plantar fasciitis). He’s thrown a team-high 25 innings.

-- The back of the bullpen (Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario) is set.

WHAT WE STILL NEED TO LEARN

-- Will Carl Crawford and his surgically repaired elbow be ready by opening day? The swing looks fine, but his arm looks ready for a rehab assignment.

-- Is it the same old Chad Billingsley? Having elected not to have elbow surgery, he has been -- and will continue to be -- watched carefully. He’s been slowed by a sore finger, but has thrown only 7 2/3 innings in actual spring games.

-- Who’s the starting shortstop? This wasn’t supposed to be an issue, the Dodgers insisting on using Hanley Ramirez, but since he tore up his thumb in the World Baseball Classic, he’s out for eight weeks. Luis Cruz, Dee Gordon, Maury Wills?

-- Since Cruz becomes the No. 1 candidate to start at short, that leaves third base open. Juan Uribe gets a lifeline.

-- There are still eight starting pitchers. One or two have to be traded or placed on the disabled list.

-- What to do with Yasiel Puig? He’s been the best player in anyone’s camp, but needs to play every day. Appears headed to the minors, unless the Dodgers elect to start Crawford on the disabled list.

-- Who’s the extra outfielder? Candidates are few, and the main replacement -- Jerry Hairston Jr. -- figures to get plenty of playing time at third. Alex Castellanos has four homers and 11 runs batted in but is hitting .209.

-- Is Zack Greinke’s elbow OK? We will have a better idea after tonight’s game, when he starts for the first time in 24 days, going against the Royals. He’ll get the kid-gloves treatment.

Considering there’s only a week to go, that’s a troubling list of questions to still be dealing with. With the Ramirez and Greinke injuries, it’s actually longer now than when the spring began, back a couple of lifetimes ago.

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