- Jon Weisman, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Designed to be the strength of the team, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff should be one of the league's best. It's vulnerable to injuries, but then again, what staff isn't?
The undisputed ace of the staff at age 23, Kershaw could parlay a 2010 second half in which he improved to 6.6 innings and three walks per start into a Cy Young campaign.
He entered 2010 with a target on his back. After a bounce-back season, he enters 2011 with the wind at his back. Still only 26, Billingsley has some things to prove, but a growing confidence and maturity have bred renewed optimism.
If the Dodgers hadn't fallen out of the pennant race, a 3.52 ERA might have made Lilly a midseason hero a la Steve Finley. Lilly can make an even bigger impact now, but his rate of home runs allowed is a concern.
He put together his finest season as a Dodger at age 35. Is it too much to ask one of the most beloved members of this year's team to defy the injury gods and Father Time for a second straight year?
Take 2 for Garland as a Dodger begins with a rare trip to the disabled list. The 31-year-old local product has been above-average for most of his career, but must adjust to leaving pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
Broxton's 2011 begins under a microscope that even Chad Billingsley would find remarkable, his 9.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio through June 26 last year a distant memory. He used to fly low on the radar until October, but fan patience this year: zero.
Coming off an extraordinary year, expectations for Kuo are at their highest -- and that includes his ability to stay healthy as well as his performance. The Dodgers might still do well to beware of overworking him.
His new three-year, $12 million contract drew concern from the sabermetric crowd worried that a 32-year-old middle reliever can't make that work over the long haul. It could be paranoia, or it could be the second coming of George Sherrill.
The 2010 wunderkind allowed two runs and 28 runners in 27 innings while striking out 41, setting an unmatchable standard for 2011. Nevertheless, most seem to believe the 23-year-old is the real deal, a top reliever in the making.
The Dodgers hope that Hawksworth's return to full-time bullpen duty marks a return to his 2009 form, when he allowed only 45 baserunners in 40 innings. In 2010, opponents slugged nearly .500 against him.
The biggest worry with MacDougal is control: He hasn't walked fewer than 5.8 batters every nine innings since 2006. The 34-year-old could be the reliever to go once Vicente Padilla returns to full strength.
Two outs. That's the sum total of Elbert's lost 2010. But a kernel of excitement emerged over the way the 2004 first-round pick looked during parts of spring training that hasn't been felt in some time.
Jon Weisman is author of the Dodger Thoughts blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
By design, Dodgers will rely heavily on a strong pitching staff.