Dejected Dodgers eye 2014 with confidence
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It was a case of so near and yet so far for the Los Angeles Dodgers after they fell just one step shy of the World Series this season, though they will certainly approach their 2014 campaign brimful of confidence.
Most of their big names will be back, and Dodgers fans can only hope that injuries will not be such a limiting factor next year when their team aims to win a first National League (NL) pennant and World Series crown since 1988.
Over the coming months, general manager Ned Colletti and the Dodgers owners will have to beef up the bullpen and bench while also addressing contract negotiations for manager Don Mattingly, his coaching staff and 12 free agents.
Mattingly is widely expected to return after compiling a 260-225 record over three seasons and the Dodgers will certainly be one of the NL's top teams with a strong roster highlighted by brilliant pitching and reliable batting depth.
Against the odds, the Dodgers rebounded from an injury-plagued start to the 2013 season, having languished 9-1/2 games out of first place in the NL West on June 22 after starting their campaign amid high expectations.
The men in blue halted that slide in stunning fashion and reversed direction by winning 42 of their next 50 games, sparked by the arrival of talented young Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig, and went on to win their division with ease.
The biggest trump card was their pitching with opposing teams having to contend with the potent one-two of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, whose earned run averages ranked among the tops in the majors during the regular season.
Though painfully dejected after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Cardinals in Game Six of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis on Friday, the Dodgers have much to reflect upon with pride. Continued...