LOS ANGELES — A lot of DodgerFest on Saturday was catching up with various Dodgers players, including a handful of folks who did not play in the majors in 2023. We already covered Walker Buehler, who will be on an innings limit in 2024 and will start the season on the injured list as he slowly ramps up.
Gavin Lux missed all of last season after tearing his ACL and spraining the MCL in his right knee in the third game of spring training. Surgery ended his 2023 season before it began. But he’s fully healed now, and the plan is for him to resume what was going to be his role heading into last season, as the Dodgers starting shortstop.
That includes being ready for opening day on March 20.
“As long as there are no setbacks leading up to it, the plan is day one. That’s the whole goal,” Lux said Saturday. “I’ve ran bases, gotten out of the box, checked off everything we need to play in a game. So now I’ve just got to go play naturally.”
Lux was drafted in the first round in 2016 as a shortstop, and that’s where he made 83 percent of his starts in the minors before debuting in the majors at the end of 2019. Blocked at shortstop first by Corey Seager, then by Trea Turner, Lux found a new home at second base, and even played some outfield to get playing time in 2021-22.
The Dodgers remain high on Lux at his original position, just as they were before last season.
“We feel great about Gavin. He’s already working out here, and has had a really dedicated offseason,” general manager Brandon Gomes said. “We feel just as confident now as we did coming into last season, that he’s ready to take over at shortstop.”
Taking over at shortstop likely won’t mean playing every single game. The Dodgers will be mindful of Lux, especially after missing an entire season with a major knee injury.
“I expect him to be our starting shortstop, but certainly coming off of an ACL reconstruction, I don’t know how many games he’s going to play. We’re going to certainly have to give him some rest,” manager Dave Roberts said Saturday. “Having a guy like Miguel Rojas to play as well makes me feel comfortable at shortstop.”
Rojas was acquired in January 2023 for a utility infielder role, but ended up leading the team in starts and innings at shortstop after Lux was injured. Rojas was fantastic defensively, in the 91st percentile in MLB in range at the position and plus-five in Outs Above Average. Rojas tied Dansby Swanson for the major league lead at shortstop with a plus-14 Total Zone Rating despite starting only 91 games and playing two-thirds of the defensive innings at the position. Rojas was also fifth with plus-12 Defensive Runs Saved.
He just didn’t hit much, slashing .236/.290/.322 with a 69 wRC+. Rojas has hit much better against left-handed pitching in his career, to the tune of a 96 wRC+, including a 102 wRC+ in 2023. As an occasional starter against southpaws, combined with excellent defense, the skills of Rojas could be maximized in that role.
Lux had a breakout year for the Dodgers in 2022 playing mostly second base, as well has some left field and even 31 innings in reserve at shortstop. He hit .276/.346/.399 with a 114 wRC+, and led the National League with seven triples.
He’s been working out at Dodger Stadium and taking fielding drills at shortstop for the last three months, in preparation for assuming the role he was slated for a year ago.
“I grew up playing shortstop, I feel way more athletic on that side of second base,” Lux said. “Second base was a little bit of an adjustment for me because basically I had to try to learn to play it at the big league level, which isn’t very easy. Flipping back to the side where I grew up playing and had a lot of game reps, it’s kind of like second nature.”
The Dodgers bullpen also has a pair of contributors who missed the entire 2023 season after shoulder surgery. Both are expected to be fully ready to start spring training.
Blake Treinen said that he never really felt right on the mound during 2023, when he made three minor league appearances in the Arizona Complex League and Triple-A Oklahoma City in an eight-day span at the end of August after surgery the previous November. After talking with coaches and the training staff, Treinen was shut down for 2023, with a focus on 2024, similar to Buehler.
“I feel amazing. It’s been a blessing to have a full healthy offseason, and it’s probably the best I’ve felt since ‘21,” Treinen said. “I’m just looking forward to spring training, getting the competitiveness going. Bullpen sessions have been going great, and I’m bouncing back amazing.”
When healthy, Treinen has been excellent for the Dodgers, with a 2.45 ERA and 3.00 FIP in 103 innings, with 113 strikeouts and 34 walks since the start of 2020.
But he’s only pitched six major league innings over the last two seasons, none of them coming in 2023. The Dodgers exercised Treinen’s 2024 club option on November 5, which will pay him a $1 million salary, after making $8 million in each of the last three seasons.
Treinen turns 36 this season, and hasn’t really been healthy since 2021, and his salary isn’t prohibitive should the Dodgers decide to cut bait if things don’t work out. But they are taking a flyer that he still has something left in the tank, and he’s expected to be fully ready once spring training starts.
“Blake is trending really well right now,” Gomes said.
It’s the same for J.P. Feyereisen, who had shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff and labrum in December 2022, shortly before the Dodgers acquired him from the Rays.
Feyereisen said he threw a bullpen session Saturday morning only a few feet from the very same mound at Dodger Stadium in which interviews took place that afternoon. It was his seventh bullpen session this offseason for the right-hander. He did not pitch in any minor league games during 2023, but was rehabbing the entire season.
“It was nice last year to have a reset, get the whole entire body, arm, and mind ready,” Feyereisen said Saturday.
Feyereisen had a 1.48 ERA and 3.21 FIP in his 61 innings for the Rays in 2021-22, with 58 strikeouts and 27 walks. That included allowing only one unearned run in 22 games in 2022 before injuring his shoulder.
Feyereisen, who turns 31 on Wednesday, also has two option years remaining, and might ride the Los Angeles-to-Oklahoma City express at times this season. The Dodgers avoided salary arbitration by signing the right-hander to a one-year, $770,000 deal on January 11.
“I don’t really have a year [of stats] before the arbitration to show what I can do, but I think that’s why the Dodgers traded for me when I was hurt,” Feyereisen said in an interview with True Blue LA in November. “They know that when I’m healthy I can be an effective person for them to use in the future.”