Winning a world championship is one of the toughest things to accomplish in sports, but there’s one thing that’s even tougher.
Defending that title.
As the Los Angeles Dodgers return to their annual spring home in Glendale, their quest to repeat as World Series champions is taking shape.
“I’m just excited to be back out on a baseball field and in this locker room with these guys,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner during a Zoom call from the team’s Spring Training facility.
“Ready to get started on another mission to win another championship.”
The Dodgers had a big offseason, bringing in 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer on a three-year, $102 million contract. Two other notable “acquisitions” for the team were resigning Turner after allowing him to explore free agency, and getting starting pitcher David Price back after he opted out of the 2020 season.
Price hasn’t pitched since Sept. 1, 2019, giving the 35-year-old about 19 months of rest by the time he makes his first appearance as a Dodger.
“I think at this point in my career it can be a good thing, just to kind of let my body reset, let my arm reset, being able to use that time to let my body heal,” Price said. “Doing what we do, especially as a starting pitcher, having all the innings and all the pitches thrown, that can definitely take a toll.”
Manager Dave Roberts echoes that sentiment.
“I think if anything, it’ll affect him (positively), as far as on the physical (side),” Roberts said. “I think on the emotional side, I think that there’s going to be some adrenaline, some nerves, which is to be expected, but … I know he’s willing to help us in any way, and just to kind of get him back working with our guys is just a benefit to everybody.”
Even with all that rest, Price admitted the only way to truly prepare is to get back on the mound.
“To me, that’s what you use Spring Training for. I feel like you really can’t simulate that game action until you get out there,” Price said. “Even whenever I’m playing year to year, those first couple of spring outings, they always feel brand new. You’re out there feeling for things that make you tick. That’s what I’ll be doing, and everything feels really good right now.”
Turner’s return to the Dodgers wasn’t a sure thing, but after testing the open market, nothing was enticing enough to lure him away from Los Angeles.
“Obviously LA and the Dodgers hold a pretty big spot in my heart. I’ve spent the last seven years here making a ton of memories,” Turner said. “It’s a place that’s always been special to me, and going into the offseason and through this free agency process, it’s something that never, never left my mind.”
Turner coming back was also the Dodgers’ preferred outcome, according to President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman.
“For us, all of our kind of ace scenarios, in terms of how things played out, had JT returning,” Friedman said.
“Obviously we had to do our work to kind of line up some alternatives in the event it didn’t work out, but that ideally, we would let their process fully play out and that we would be there.”
This should be an interesting spring for the Dodgers, especially in the pitching department. With so many talented arms, the team has already moved a few of them to clubs where they’ll get more opportunities.
Reliever Adam Kolarek was traded to the Oakland Athletics in a deal that brought back infield prospect Sheldon Neuse, who could see time in the majors in 2021.
“Neuse is a guy that is a really good defender on the infield, and we think there’s some offensive upside that we can tap into,” Friedman said.
“I think him pairing with our hitting guys, we have a chance for something really special to click. We’ll take the chance to get to know him better over the next few weeks and figure out the timing of when and how to do those things.”
Figuring things out is what Spring Training is for, but for a team that just won the World Series, there may not be too much left to figure out.
“The amount of talent that we have on this team and in this organization, that was apparent in Spring Training (last year), and it really played true to that the entire season,” Price said.
The Dodgers opened their spring schedule Feb. 28 against the Athletics.