Wednesday, February 13, 2008 preview: Bench

The final installment of the team preview series focuses on the bench. This year for the Dodgers, there will be many new faces. Like the article pointed out, the youth movement has greatly impacted the late-inning subs.

Gone are Olmedo Saenz (Mets), Mike Lieberthal (retired), Shea Hillenbrand (nobody), and Wilson Valdez (Korea). In steps Tony Abreu, Chin-Lung Hu, Mark Sweeney, Ramon Martinez, Gary Bennett, Delwyn Young, and Jason Repko. That's not to say that all of these names will make the final roster, but they could. Then on any given night, you could pick 2 of the following 4: Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche, Juan Pierre, and Andre Ethier. There's plenty of options.

From what I can tell, there's pretty good depth here. Sweeney is 2nd of the all-time pinch hit list. Young is out of options, so rather than risk losing his bat to another team, he'll be there. Hu and Abreu are being groomed for the future, and knowing how the Dodgers are usually so injury-prone, could step in this year. Bennett should get more spot starts than Lieberthal did last year. And any of the 4 names I mentioned from 3rd base or left field could be starters on lesser teams.

The combination of youth and experience should help the Dodgers in late-game situations. Last year, there were too many letdowns when big hits were needed. Seanz and Martinez flopped for the most part. So, they can only go up, and they've got a good group to do just that.

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