Dodgers trying to inflict pain, not feel it in 2017

Corey Seager didn't look fresh by the end of the playoffs, but the team denies he was injured. David J. Phillip/AP Photo

LOS ANGELES -- For a team that had a new coaching staff, no true leadoff man and no set reliever other than its closer, there was still no bigger obstacle for the Los Angeles Dodgers to overcome in 2016 than the injuries that racked the club.

It started early in spring training with some of the bigger names on the squad. Howie Kendrick, Adrian Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, even Corey Seager all missed time in the spring because of various maladies. When the team broke camp in Arizona, a whopping 10 players were put on the disabled list.

It didn't get any better. The Dodgers finished the season with 28 players put on the DL at some point in 2016.

The 10 players to start the season on the DL and the 28 to find their way there during the year are both believed to be major league records. They are at least the most for a major league team in the past 30 years, which is as long as DL records have been kept. The club lost a total of 1,640 player games to injuries.

It was not the kind of history the Dodgers were intent on making.

For a medical staff, as well as the strength and conditioning personnel, it was a nightmare scenario. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called it the perfect storm of events; injuries were not limited to one category but spread around from muscle to tissue issues, bone breaks and overall bad luck.

Friedman's assessment was that 2016 was just one of those unfortunate seasons when it came to injuries, but he did reveal that multiple meetings were held during the season with the medical and strength and conditioning staff to make sure all was being done properly in recovery and preparation to play.

"It's probably that [just one of those years], but it is incumbent on us to always ask the question and to review things, which we did periodically throughout the year," Friedman said when asked about the injury issues during last month's winter meetings. "We have done some [review] this offseason and we will continue to do it in spring training."

Despite it all, the Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series, at one point holding a 2-1 series lead over the Chicago Cubs, which left them two victories from their first World Series appearance since 1988. Those victories never came.

By then, it seemed as if the Dodgers were healthy. A deeper look shows that was not exactly the case.

Clayton Kershaw, who missed 75 days during the regular season because of a lower back issue, returned to make only five starts before the postseason, none of which went longer than 91 pitches. He then made two starts in the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals, both going over 100 pitches -- including a 110-pitch outing in Game 4, two days before throwing seven pitches in a Game 5 save.

Kershaw made no excuses for his rough outing in Game 6 of the NLCS, when the Cubs moved on to the World Series, but poor command could have been related to the fatigue of throwing 395 pitches in a span of 16 days. He threw 391 pitches in those five regular-season starts over 23 days after coming back from his injury.

On offense, the Dodgers were without Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke in the postseason, two right-handed hitters who could have helped the team's issue with left-handed pitching. Andre Ethier had returned from his broken leg suffered in spring training, but he was reduced to a bit role in the NLCS.

On the pitching side, there was no help in the rotation from Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson or Hyun-Jin Ryu, and no help in the bullpen from Adam Liberatore or Yimi Garcia.

And by the time the last out of the Dodgers' season had been recorded, Seager appeared far from fresh but everyone involved denied he had any serious issue, whether it be with his legs or lower back.

"It could have been just fatigue," Friedman said. "I never heard anything about Seager. I'm sure there was an element of [fatigue from his first full major league season]. There was no issue."

Seager will no doubt learn from the physical toll his 157-game regular season and 11-game postseason took. Kershaw said last month that he is strong and will tweak his offseason workout program, but more as a concession for heading into his 10th major league season and not necessarily a reaction to his back injury.

"Everything has been going good so far and I have been working out for a while," Kershaw said on Dec. 5, the day he started his offseason throwing program. "So far so good."

Simple odds say the Dodgers do not figure to go through the injury issues they had from a year ago, even if everybody on the roster is one year older. Manager Dave Roberts says he feels that better health will help lead to a fifth consecutive NL West title and better momentum heading into the postseason, if that division title does happen to be earned.

"Good health is vital," Roberts said. "I think that there was a lot of talk about our depth last year. It certainly helped us and allowed us to survive.

"You don't want to say it can get worse than it was this year, but I'd find that hard to foresee. But you know, again, we're trying to get as many good players as we can on our roster."

If there was one plus to all the injuries, it was that players like Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Andrew Toles and Grant Dayton were able to show they can perform at the game's highest level. Assuming none are traded, all four could be leaned on heavily in 2017.

"Those guys came up and impacted our club," Roberts said. "They have arrived, and for me, I don't look at them as prospects. ... Speaking for the coaches, the organization, the guys who are going to give us the best chance to win baseball games, they are going to [play]. And so for me, it's not about service. It's not about contracts. It's about the best players. So, yeah, I expect them to help us this season."