Park keeps pace in fifth-starter race
Healthy veteran efficient in three perfect innings Monday
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Don't count out Chan Ho Park as the Dodgers' fifth starter.
One day after incumbent Esteban Loaiza and teenager Clayton Kershaw seemed to set up a duel for the job, Park reached back to his glory days with a perfect three innings against the Orioles on Monday.
"He couldn't be much better," said manager Joe Torre. "He had command of both sides of the plate. He only made 39 pitches and had to finish off his work in the bullpen. He certainly hasn't done anything to hurt his chances."
Meaning, Park was efficient, particularly pitching inside to right-handed hitters. Torre said he hadn't seen enough of the 34-year-old Park in his Dodgers prime to compare the current version, but said this one looks much healthier than the one he saw when Park pitched for the Rangers.
Although he spent virtually all last year pitching in the Minor Leagues, Park said that is a big reason why he is pitching well enough this spring to allow two hits in seven scoreless innings.
"I was hurt in Texas and I couldn't throw the two-seamer they wanted me to throw in that ballpark," said Park. "It was hard to handle that. My back got better and pitching in the Minor Leagues, I could work on things without pressure. During the winter, I looked at a lot of pictures and worked on my mechanics, and now I can keep my pitches down a lot better."
Park said Monday's outing was his best of the spring because a groin strain that has been nagging him is much improved.
Park's outing was more impressive than that of Eric Stults, another fifth-starter candidate, who walked four in 1 2/3 innings. Jason Johnson also is in the mix for the final starting spot.
Back at Dodgertown, likely Opening Day starter Brad Penny threw 57 pitches in four-plus innings of a Minor League game, allowing one run on one hit. He is scheduled to start Saturday in Viera against the Nationals.
Reliever Rudy Seanez, healing from a groin strain, also pitched in that game, but allowed two hits, a walk and a hit batsman in two-thirds of an inning. Seanez's spot in the bullpen could go to any number of contenders, such as Yhency Brazoban, Greg Jones or Brian Falkenborg.
Gary Bennett caught Penny and Seanez in his first action after missing three days with lower back stiffness.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.