As things were unraveling late for the Dodgers last season, they talked more and more about the need to establish team chemistry during spring training. There was a sense that next spring could be a crucial time to blend a lot of veteran, star-caliber players into a cohesive unit.
Is that now in jeopardy?
The Dodgers could lose the core of their team for a good chunk of spring training as players commit to play in the World Baseball Classic. Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz have already been announced as members of Team Mexico and manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday he wouldn't mind if Hanley Ramirez wanted to play for the Dominican Republic.
Kenley Jansen is from Curacao, so he would be eligible to participate for Holland and Ronald Belisario could be asked to pitch for Venezuela. Matt Kemp's shoulder injury will keep him off the USA roster and it's likely that concerns about Clayton Kershaw's hip would lead to a similar result.
Still, that's a good chunk of the Dodgers' talent and payroll. Like most managers, Mattingly has his concerns, but he also supports the players' right to play for their countries and thinks there could be a benefit to it. For example, Ramirez could use the time to hone his defense, often shaky last season at shortstop.
The WBC starts March 2.
Mattingly discussed it with Gonzalez last season, knowing he would play in the WBC.
"He really felt like it helped him get a jump on the season, getting into game at-bats right away," Mattingly said. "You concentrate different when you’re playing those games than you would a spring training game. It kind of forces him to get in game mode right away.
"We’ll have some time in spring training to get it together. Those guys playing isn’t going to hurt us too much."