Before the first game of last season's World Series, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts walked alone to center field at Dodger Stadium and carefully pulled a small vial out of his pocket.

Across the deep green grass, he scattered some of his father's ashes.

Seven months after Waymon Roberts died at 68, his son began the biggest moment of his career praying to him while ensuring they would share part of Chavez Ravine forever.

"Words were spoken, I was thinking about him, drawing strength from him," Roberts recalled.

Turns out, he needed that strength more than he could imagine. The Dodgers lost that series to the Houston Astros in seven games with a conclusion that lasted about seven minutes.

When it ended, a Dodgers starting pitcher had spectacularly failed and the Dodgers offense had meekly disappeared, yet it was Roberts who took much of the heat for the 5-1 defeat.

Why did he start Yu Darvish instead of Clayton Kershaw or Alex Wood? Then, once Darvish struggled, why did he wait so long to take him out?

Many tortured Dodger fans have spent the winter poring over their accounting of World Series villains. For some, Roberts is near the top of their list, and he knows it.

"It's tough; you play the game over and over in your head," he said. "I did that for weeks."

But as spring training begins this week at Camelback Ranch, the bounce is again in his step, the excitement has returned to his voice, the same pennant-winning group is inhabiting his clubhouse, and he's ready to fight back.

"I felt we were the best team last year," Roberts said. "I feel we are the best team this year."

He still has that swagger that inspired last year's team to the most wins in Los Angeles franchise history. He's still that guy who would sit in the dugout before a game challenging the baseball world to beat them.

"We won 104 games last year, we fell short. We're going to make sure that doesn't happen again this year, we expect to have a championship," Roberts said.