Dodgers sorting out collection of arms
Candidates for fifth starter could land roles in bullpen
PHOENIX -- One thing the Dodgers haven't been very good at this spring is whittling down the pitching staff.
Two weeks from Opening Day, they still have 20 pitchers technically in camp, although that includes Cory Wade, who will be on the disabled list, and Ronald Belisario, who hasn't been seen.
Doug Mientkiewicz said the Dodgers should hire Dog the Bounty Hunter to find their setup man, but management is satisfied it has enough arms to fill the bullpen without him.
One of them, Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios, had a tryout for the fifth starter spot on Monday and got his pitches up. The Angels knocked him around for three runs and four extra-base hits in four innings. It was his first start and the first time he appeared to be overthrowing.
Manager Joe Torre put a positive spin on the outing, saying Monasterios had "quality stuff" and was "pretty impressive," while reminding reporters that runners-up for fifth starter still might make the club.
"It's not only the fifth, it's spots on the staff," said Torre. "That's what we're looking at right now. We're not as concerned about who the fifth starter is. Whether it's 11 or 12 [pitchers], it's who the guys are."
So it seems Monasterios is more likely on the staff than not, and the prevailing opinion is that the same is true for knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who was allowed to stretch out to 68 pitches in a Minor League game. Because of their status, Monasterios and Haeger could be lost to another club if they don't make this one.
"I have a high regard for him," Torre said of Haeger, who is out of options.
Russ Ortiz, another starter candidate, followed Clayton Kershaw against the Brewers by allowing one run over four innings and was credited with a save. His ERA is 2.08, so he hasn't pitched himself out of contention. Ramon Ortiz, with a 1.38 ERA, seems to have garnered plenty of support. Torre seems fond of Josh Towers, who has been given two starts already. Eric Stults is still in the running, even after getting hit around Sunday. Like Haeger, he's out of options.
Then there are a handful of relievers still alive. Jeff Weaver pitched two scoreless innings Monday, although there were some loud outs and that only brought his ERA down to 6.00. Justin Miller and Luis Ayala are also veterans trying to make the club.
Then there's Josh Lindblom, who is pitching as well as anybody, but he's only 22 years old and not yet on the Major League roster. If he's added, he bumps somebody off the 40-man roster and his option clock gets started sooner than necessary. On the other hand, he's done nothing wrong all spring and has repeatedly drawn Torre's praise.
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With Tuesday a day off -- except for Chad Billingsley, who pitches in a Minor League game -- and Wednesday a night game and late arrival, Torre said there will be a staff meeting Thursday because a "whittling down" is necessary. Six candidates still remain for fifth starter.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said that to get everybody work, he will use a six-day rotation the rest of the way, allowing fifth starters to fill up two turns.
Torre has been waffling on whether to carry 11 or 12 pitchers to start the season, mainly because he has so many extra infielders. In addition to starters Kershaw, Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, relievers with spots locked up are Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo (brittle elbow willing). Ramon Troncoso started out in that category and probably still belongs there, even though his spring ERA is 7.20. He had a 6.70 ERA last spring, then a 2.72 in the regular season.
Broxton pitched a perfect inning Monday, but Sherrill continued his imperfect spring, walking two of the four batters he faced. He's allowed seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings, but was so good last year before the postseason that Torre can only trust he'll answer the bell.
"I can't be concerned," he said. "He's our guy."
"Listening to George, and to [Triple-A pitching coach] Jim Slaton, who had him in Seattle, he has notoriously bad springs," Honeycutt said of Sherrill. "It seems to get in his head and no matter how he throws, it's not good. I'd like for him to get sharper."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.