CHICAGO -- The Dodgers activated reliever Ronald Belisario off the suspended list and designated reliever Mike MacDougal for assignment on Thursday.
Belisario, 29, completed a 25-game suspension for testing positive for cocaine after missing the entire 2011 season on the restricted list with reported drug issues that prevented the Venezuela native from obtaining a work visa.
He has been on a Minor League rehab assignment in preparation for his activation. Because he was out of options, Belisario had to be activated or put through waivers -- with the risk that he could be claimed by another club -- before being sent to the Minor Leagues.
The Dodgers are obviously taking a chance with Belisario, whose career has been plagued by off-the-field problems. Now that he has returned, they need to learn which Belisario shows up -- the one that was the most pleasant surprise of the 2009 season, or the one that was an unreliable distraction in '10 and '11 while battling rumored addiction problems.
After wearing out his welcome as a Minor Leaguer with Florida and Pittsburgh -- he missed the 2005 season with Tommy John surgery and 2006 with an unspecified suspension -- Belisario was signed out of the Venezuela Winter League in '09 as a free agent by then-Dodgers scout Ron Rizzi.
Belisario reported that spring three weeks late with visa problems, was sent to Minor League camp after one Cactus League appearance, only to pitch lights-out in Minor League camp to get a second look with the Major League team at the end of March and make the Opening Day roster.
Belisario became a workhorse that year, making 69 appearances with a 2.03 ERA. He threw a fastball in the mid-90s with a diving sinker.
But he was five weeks late to Spring Training with more visa problems in 2010, his status complicated by a driving under the influence charge in Pasadena in '09. A disastrous sophomore year followed, which included a month-long drug rehab and a whopping three-run increase in his ERA. The domino effect resulted in the overuse of Ramon Troncoso, effectively costing the club two effective relievers.
General manager Ned Colletti decided not to rely on Belisario in 2011, but it came at a high cost -- the signing of setup man Matt Guerrier to a three-year, $12 million contract. Guerrier had a somewhat disappointing first season with the Dodgers, as he went 4-3 with a 4.07 ERA in 70 appearances. Belisario never got out of Venezuela -- again with visa problems and rumors of more drug issues -- and spent the entire season on the restricted list.
MacDougal, 35, was signed to a one-year, $1 million deal, with a 2013 option after being one of the most pleasant $500,000 surprises last year.
After battling through injuries and a Minor League demotion by the Cardinals in 2010, the former closer with Kansas City and Washington filled a key middle relief role for the Dodgers with 69 appearances and a 2.05 ERA (1.78 against division opponents). He had two 11-game scoreless streaks and limited hitters to a .157 average with runners in scoring position.
In eight Cactus League outings this spring, MacDougal was 0-1 with a 7.88 and eight walks. In seven relief appearances this year, the right-hander issued six walks and had a 7.94 ERA over 5 2/3 innings. After being stricken with the flu in April and losing weight, he temporarily lost velocity, although it appeared to return when he pitched in Denver this week.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.