VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have two things that any Major League club would want: 1. A surplus of pitching. 2. What appears to be an ideal blend of talented young players and solid veterans.
If you add these two components together you get a third commodity, which everybody also wants. That would be relative tranquility. After a tumultuous 2005 which resulted in the dismissal of both a manager and a general manager, the new GM, Ned Colletti, accomplished a rapid roster transformation that made the Dodgers good enough to win 88 games and gain the National League's Wild Card spot. That was remarkable. What is every bit as striking now is how the Dodgers, in a matter of 16 months, have gone from being completely unsettled to being in very solid shape. They have pitching, they have the blend, and they have made what appear to be very helpful offseason acquisitions. So the reasonable outlook is for more improvement in 2007. The Dodgers suffered a spate of injuries last year, but were not derailed because of the contributions of a wave of players from their farm system. Those players return, with more seasoning than they would have otherwise had. The Dodgers added starting pitchers Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf. If both are healthy, the Dodgers are, given the presence of Derek Lowe and Brad Penny, truly imposing with four-fifths of their rotation. The Dodgers will settle on a No. 5 starter this spring, but the good news there is that they have a surplus of plausible candidates. "We like the quality of pitchers that we've got here," manager Grady Little said Friday. "We've got a unique situation in that we've got about eight pitchers here in camp with us who are fully capable of starting for a lot of teams. We're going to pick five of them and go. "But we feel good about the ones who aren't in the rotation at the outset, [that] more than likely we'll use them before the season's over in the rotation at some point or another. But we do know that they can give us a lot of good innings out of the 'pen, too. "They're all good choices [for the No. 5 rotation spot]. We're in kind of a win-win situation there." "We used 12 [starting pitchers] last year, so maybe we're a little bit behind," Colletti says with a smile. "It may look like a surplus on the outside, but I love the competition. Those who are in the mix, that make it, they're still going to be pushed by those who don't make it on Opening Day. Any time you have competition, it beats saying, 'All we've got is three starters, and so-and-so might be the fourth and I don't know where we're going to go for the fifth.'"
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.