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Dodgers aiming for better start in '14

The SportsXchange

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Big things were expected of the Los Angeles Dodgers last year and they had to overcome a 30-42 start to meet at least a measure of those expectations with a trip to the National League Championship Series.

"I don't think you can count on winning 42 out of 50," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the historic mid-season run that pulled his team out of last place and to an NL West title. "Obviously, that doesn't happen too often in history. You don't want to get yourself in a position where you're saying, 'Hey, we've got to win 42 out of 50.' You just want to be consistent, keep chugging down the road -- win a series, win a series, win a series."

In order to meet the high expectations that once again greeted the Dodgers when pitchers and catchers reported for spring training Saturday, the Dodgers will have to find their stride quickly after a very short winter. The Dodgers and one of their chief division rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks, will open the season with a history-making trip to Australia for two regular-season games March 22-23.

The quick turnaround after a deep playoff run could stress a pitching staff that is the foundation of the Dodgers' hopes in 2014. But offseason moves give the Dodgers as deep a pitching staff as any team in baseball.

Depth in the outfield, on the other hand, could provide a dilemma for Mattingly as he tries to find enough playing time to keep four every-day outfielders healthy and productive. Returning from ankle and shoulder surgeries last fall, outfielder Matt Kemp is looking to rebound from a disturbing string of injuries. He is not likely to be recovered from the ankle surgery in time to play the games in Australia, but said he is certain that he can return to the form that made him runner-up in the NL MVP voting in 2012.

"Of course I do," Kemp said when asked if he thought he could once again be one of the best players in baseball. "I never thought I wasn't one of the best players in the game. I always thought that. ... You've got to consider yourself one of the best to be the best."

The Dodgers will also be looking to solve another mystery this spring -- who will be their second baseman? Alex Guerrero was signed to a four-year, $28 million contract after defecting from Cuba last year with the hopes that he would be the answer at that position. A shortstop in Cuba, Guerrero's readiness to make the transition to the majors -- and the other side of the second-base bag -- will have to be evaluated this spring.
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