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Thoughts and notes from 6 weeks of Dodgers spring training

Goodbye Camelback Ranch. It was fun, but also ridiculously great to say goodbye after six long weeks.
Photo credit: Eric Stephen | True Blue LA

LOS ANGELES — After a whopping 43 days of camp at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers are now back home in California, ready to close out the exhibition season with the Freeway Series. Here are some leftover thoughts and notes from six weeks of spring training.

The baseball offseason is terrible, because there is no baseball, and we spend most of our time counting the days until spring training arrives. But the final week of spring training is always a bit hellish, with just about everyone wanting to get back home or wait for games that count. This season, with the World Baseball Classic, spring was a little bit longer than normal, which made leaving Arizona this week a labor of pure, unadulterated love.

The Dodgers’ depth is real, and should be a true strength this season. There is a decent chance Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson could join Rob Segedin on the outside looking in. There will be quality major leaguers in Oklahoma City who would make for a strong major league bench, even more if Bobby Wilson beats out Austin Barnes for the backup catcher spot.

Keeping both Alex Wood and Ross Stripling in the major league bullpen is an interesting decision. Both should fit just fine in those roles, but it does make for a relatively thin starting rotation in Triple-A. With starters Scott Kazmir and Brock Stewart starting on the disabled list, and Julio Urias in the nebulous innings limit land, plus Chase De Jong traded to Seattle, Oklahoma City has Trevor Oaks atop the rotation, likely followed by Fabio Castillo, Wilmer Font and the like, depending on when new additions Justin Masterson or Jair Jurrjens might be ready.

It didn’t get a lot of use this spring, but the Manny Mota tricycle is a fixture of Dodgers spring training.
Photo credit: Eric Stephen | True Blue LA

It took 35 whole games, but finally in the final inning on getaway day, the Dodgers allowed a single run to the Mariners, and the 3-3 finish gave the Dodgers their first tie of spring training. The last year the Dodgers had a spring without a tie was 2009.

Only three Dodgers played more than 22 spring games this season, led by O`Koyea Dickson (29 games), Cody Bellinger (28) and Tyler Holt (25). With three of the split-squad days involving games at the same time, plus two off days, the maximum a player could have realistically played was 31 games.

Bellinger led the club with 67 plate appearances.

Of all the players to suit up from the minor league side, Shea Spitzbarth was the most active. The non-drafted free agent acquisition in 2015, the right-hander appeared in nine big league games, posting a 4.91 ERA with six strikeouts and four walks in 7⅓ innings.

Spitzbarth was one of seven Dodgers to record a save this spring, none of whom were named Kenley Jansen. Colt Hynes led the way with two saves, followed by Spitzbarth, Michael Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Edward Paredes, Patrick Schuster and Layne Somsen, with only Morrow and Schuster in big league camp.

The lineup in Oklahoma City should be stacked. Not only will they have several major league-ready players, but the prospect trio of Bellinger, Willie Calhoun and Alex Verdugo should mean a lot of runs scored in OKC this season.

Joc Pederson will get more opportunities against left-handed pitching this season — last year he started just nine of 46 games against southpaws, and three of those starts came in the season’s final four games — and given his ability to make adjustments I am expecting a very good season from the Dodgers center fielder. After hitting 26 and 25 home runs in his first two seasons, I think Pederson clears 30 this season.

The struggles of Rich Hill in spring training are fascinating to me. I expect none of this to carry over into the regular season, but here are his numbers from his five Cactus League starts in Arizona — 12⅓ innings, 14 walks, 13 strikeouts, 12 runs, 11 earned runs, an 8.03 ERA. He similarly faltered last spring with Oakland, putting his two-year spring numbers at 27 runs, 29 walks and 22 strikeouts in 24⅓ innings, a whopping 9.62 ERA.

Congratulations to Hyun-jin Ryu, for fighting hard after two lost seasons to regain a spot in the Dodgers rotation, and on opening day, much faster than anyone could have reasonably expected. His reward for that hard work is a start at Coors Field and a start at Wrigley Field against the defending champion Cubs for his first two outings of the season. Tough luck.

I think the sixth Dodgers pitcher to start a game this season will be Wood.

May 21 against the Marlins looks like as good a day as any for Julio Urias to make his first major league start of the season.

I am fascinated to see how the shorter, 10-day disabled list is used as a strategy this season.

Miss you already, QuikTrip. Pellet ice is the best.

The players to be named later for the trades of Micah Johnson (to the Braves) and Carlos Frias (to the Indians) have not yet been named.

My favorite moment of spring was one that nearly everyone else hated. On March 12, the Dodgers led the White Sox 3-1 in the top of the ninth inning. It was the end of the only day-night doubleheader of the spring, with a super rare 7 p.m. Sunday night start for the second game. One thing led to another in the inning, and the Dodgers were not able to close out the win. Far from it. Nearly everyone involved made some sort of misplay, whether it was called an error or not, with Yusniel Diaz having an especially tough time in left field. The Sox scored 14 runs in the ninth inning, something the Camelback Ranch scoreboard is not built for (single-digit numbers only for each inning, or maybe 11).

Ten different players scored, including pinch-runner Brett Austin, who was busy catching someone in the bullpen and ran the bases with a warmup jacket on like a pitcher. The inning was so absurd that I was just cackling in a mostly deserted press box as each new mishap took place. The normally super-positive Dave Roberts after such a ridiculously long day was, let’s say, less than enthused about that ninth inning.

Bring on the Freeway Series.