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Playing Dodgers GM for a day

February 11, 2010 | 10:30 pm
Ned So you’re Ned Colletti and need a fifth starter -- what do you do?

Go with a kid, take a flier on one of the non-roster retreads or buck up and sign one of the sketchy remaining free agents? So many fun choices.

In truth, the Dodgers don’t just need a fifth starter, they need a sixth too. And maybe a seventh.

There is no way the Dodgers can count on their Big Four -- Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla -- remaining healthy all year. An extra starter or two is required depth.

Colletti can cross his fingers and light a candle, but he’s rolling the dice on Russ Ortiz, Jeff Weaver and Ramon Ortiz, hoping just one of them this spring can tap into old magic.

There are plenty of young arms to consider, just no one that screams he’s the next Kershaw.

Charlie Haeger is intriguing with his knuckleball. Scott Elbert was their 2009 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. James McDonald actually came out of last spring as the No. 5 but lost his spot. Josh Lindblom got people excited last spring and may have the best stuff. Eric Stults has had some nice moments.

If Colletti was to venture outside the organization and sign a free agent, the pickings are getting slim. Also old.

Starting pitchers still unsigned include Livan Hernandez, Mike Hampton, Braden Looper, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Jarrod Washburn and Chien-Ming Wang. Yeah, there could be a reason they’re still free agents.

The Dodgers have apparently decided against the rehabbing Wang. Smoltz actually began to pick it up after he was released by the Red Sox and signed by the Cards (4.26 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 36 IP), but he is 42.

Hampton is coming off consecutive poor years, as is Hernandez. They both look ready for a personalized walker. Washburn reportedly wants back with Seattle.

Martinez would be, er, interesting. Maybe for old times’ sake he could get Fred Claire to act as his agent. Martinez did go 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA late with the Phillies and shut the Dodgers out for seven innings on two hits in the National League Championship Series.

Then there’s Looper, who threw almost 200 innings in each of the past two seasons. And also gave up a staggering 39 home runs last season.

The Dodgers have to tab somebody. Best case scenario is one of the kids makes such a spring splash he makes the decision for them.

That’s impossible to count on, and the Dodgers would no doubt like to know the direction they're heading before reporting to camp Feb. 20.

What would you do?

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Ned Colletti. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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