Hello everyone . It’s been a while since I’ve been around theses parts. First off, my condolenses to the Dodger family and to the Podres family as well for the loss of Johnny Podres. Johnny was the Opening Day pitcher for the Dodgers when Dodger Stadium opened for the first time in 1962 and was the winning pitcher for the Blue in game 7 of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees, the only World Title ever won in the franchises history in Brooklyn. RIP Johnny Podres.
As for the 2008 season, many of you all know by now that this upcoming season is the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dodger baseball in L.A. And of course, the Blue Crew started things off by being the 1st ever MLB team to have a float in the Rose Parade. This year will be a year of many reflections from past glory, and also many new faces.
One of the new faces we are looking forward to here is the presence of new skipper Joe Torre. After 12 seasons as the skipper for the Yanks, amassing 4 World Titles and guiding the Yanks to post-season play during each season under his reign, hope is high that Torre will restore glory back to the Ravine. One of the things fans will be looking to is how Torre will be able to bridge the gap between the vets and the young ones, an obvious rift that many felt contributed to the Dodgers late season collapse in ’07. Torre also brings with him on his coaching staff Larry Bowa and former Yankee legend Don Mattingly, both of whom were under his belt in New York.
As for off-season player acquisitions, the addition of Andruw Jones from the Braves adds a legitamit power hitter to the lineup that lacked the punch in ’07. With the addition of Jones and his presence in Center Field, Juan Pierre is expected to move to Left Field, leaving Right Field up for grabs between Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.
Also looming in the air is whether Nomar Garciaparra can regain his power stroke and will he be the full-time starter at third, or keeping the position warm for Andy LaRoche. The starting pitching staff from 1-3 looks good, with Penny and Lowe anchoring the top 2 spots and Chad Billingsley occupying the 3rd . I am a little concerned about the 4 and 5 spots with Esteban Loaiza coming off the DL and being knocked around during the stretch run, and Hiroki Kuroda unproven. If Loaiza can come back to his earlier form and Kuroda can prove he is worthy of Major League pitching, this could be one of the best pitching staffs in the NL West. The bullpen is could be the deepest part of the roster, with Beimel, Broxton, Proctor, and Kuo expected to return , and led by of course by Takashi Saito. So, even though it’s early, here is my projected Opening Day lineup
1. SS Rafael Furcal
Early season ankle injury slowed him down last season, taking some of his ’06 power away, but should be back to form.
2. C Russel Martin
One of the saviest catchers in the game today
3. CF Andruw Jones
In spite of an off 2007 season, is expected to hit 30 plus home runs to an power-challenged lineup
4. 2B Jeff Kent
Looking to finish his career on a high-note. Could still bat clean up and hit over 20 home runs
5. 1B James Loney
Break-out season power wise ?
6. 3B Nomar Garciaparra
One of the best clutch hitters in the game saw his power numbers drop drastically in ’07.
7. RF Andre Ethier/ Matt Kemp
This will be interesting who wins this spot
8. LF Juan Pierre
Still one of the best base-stealers in the game with a great work ethic, on-base percentage and lack of power, especially with Kemp and Ethier potentially battling for playing time, could be an issue
And the Opening Day starter
P Brad Penny
Can this be the year Brad Penny brings home the Cy Young ?