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Playing Dodgers GM for a day

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

 
Comments () | Archives (33)

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While I derided our starting four less than one week ago, after giving it some more thought, my pendulum has swung back the other way, something I suspect I will be doing much of this season.

If Kershaw can limit the number of walks he gives up, a big "if", and "if" the Dodger organization clearly understands that they have a potential historic pitcher on their hands, Clayton can absolutely thrive at the top of the rotation. On the other hand, if he is leaned on too much at such a tender young age, it may set him back. He has the most upside of anyone within the entire organization, and hopefully the Dodger brass fully realizes this and Torre does as well, although that has never been his MO.

Billingsley is in a make or break season, I believe. Five years in, with strong numbers actually comparable to the $80 Million dollar man in Detroit, Justin Verlander. Bills has been the most disappointing of all of their Super Two guys. (Is he technically a Super Two?). No matter what the numbers say, and they speak more than competently, or what some other bloggers may suggest regarding his injury plagued decline, he has reverted significantly, or simply not lived up to expectations. I have always believed his issues are psychological, not physical. I have never buckled on that opinion. He may have a solid early season, but like all of them before, he will dismantle in the clutch of a pennant race.

Hiroki Kuroda, I belive, will be fine. He threw limited innings last year and should be fully recovered, if anyone actually can, from his shot to the head. He will move up to be our number 2, behind Kershaw. Vicente Padilla, any way you look at it an improvement over Randy Wolf, who was pitching way over his head last year, is one of the better pickups of the off-season. He is an absolute gamer, dog of war, whatever you want to call him. I expect a very solid season from him.

As far as a fifth starter...this is the least of the Dodger concerns. Between the group you have listed above, minus Russ Ortiz (not to be confused with Ramon Ortiz, who we also have for the moment), the fifth spot will be a veritable platoon for the foreseeable future. The Dodgers have more than enough troops to cover this spot. Their bullpen is a non-issue, as it is the best in the game and will continue to be.

Your main question is, can these starters remain healthy. I don't see any reason why not. Kershaw is a thoroughbread, Billingsley is among the major innings eaters in the league, Kuroda threw limited innings last season, Padilla shot himself in the leg and survived, making 180 to 200 innings seem like a walk in the park, and the five headed fifth starter should act as a buffer for them all, plus don't forget the inimitable Jeff Weaver and friends in middle relief, all ready to pitch a record number of innings if need be.

No, Mr. Dilbeck, the pitching is of rather limited concern to me, even in the pitching rich NL West. That leaves the one, unquestionable question mark for us all.....

Mannywood.

What's wrong with Washburn? Put him in the NL, maybe he picks up a spring in his step. Not saying he's Randy Wolf, but could help out at a reasonable price.

Billingsley is still the key. And I think he comes through this season.

I agree with Dodger Tony. We don't even need a regular fifth starter. It will be all of the folks mentioned all year. We have other issues. 38 years old in the four hole...no replacement. We live or die with Manny.

The Dodgers will need seven or eight starting pitchers. Kuroda had two disabling injuries last year plus the beaning. Kershaw needs to be handled with kid gloves. (Memo to Torre: Don't ride him like a rented mule, as you tend to do.) Billingsley had a couple of hamstring issues, not to mention the off season broken leg. Wolf, our most reliable and consistent starter from last season is gone, as is Garland. Padilla may be our most reliable starter in 2010.
If the top four hold up, we should be able to scrap together a number five and someone to fill in for one of the inevitable injuries/ineffectiveness issues for the top four. In order, I like Stults, McDonald, Haeger, Elbert, and Weaver. Lindblom would have to show a lot in spring training to make the jump, but he has good stuff.

None of the free agent pitchers really stands out as a difference maker. So go to spring training with what we have, see how McDonald, Stults and Elbert do. Remember, they're fifth starters we're looking for. Give them every chance to make the team and keep the rotation young and cheap.

Then, depending on injuries to Kuroda and/or Padilla, you might need another body. Pedro had a solid half season with Philly last year and Smoltz has hinted that's what he's leaning towards this year. So if the internal options are not working out, then focus on Smoltz or Pedro, or lean towards a mid-season trade for a better pitcher from a losing team.

There's no reason to panic, with a solid starting four pitchers. Nobody would have ranked our starters very high on paper before last season either, but they turned out very well.

Koufax.........

I say bring Looper in. They need the innings. As you mentioned above, you just can't count on the main 4 being healthy and effective all year. If they are filling the 5 spot with a young player/journeyman, that should be alright. However, if they have to fill 2 spots with those options, the Dodgers are in big trouble.

I kind of like the idea of Pedro or Smoltz, in large part for what they'd bring to the bench in terms of experience and mentorship to the young pitchers. I think Kershaw would benefit greatly from hanging out with Smoltz, and Billz could definitely learn a thing or two about pitching tough from Pedro.
I think I'd give Pedro the edge for nostalgia's sake, but I also worry about the number of beanball wars we'd get in with both him and Padilla in the rotation...

I like Pedro as the designated fifth starter, but I think he'll perform well and probably and move up in the rotation by mid-season.

Haeger is interesting as a potential innings eater.

My view is to line-up a number of guys that can make spot starts and do double duty in middle relief. Pull the top four early in contests where they have given up 4 or more runs.

Pitching-by-committee seemed to do the trick last season, so the 5th starter concept as one person may not be important, as others have said.

I would go with Washburn. There is a good chance one of our big 4 misses some extended time and so we need another horse. If he's not available, I would go to Looper and the Kids.

Airedale is right. They will need much more than just 5 starters. Every team does. No more free agent signings, please. Let Stults, McDonald, Haeger, etc. battle it out in Spring Training. Hold down the fort until the trade deadline and pray that the Mariners tank so that they are forced to trade Cliff Lee. NedCo can work his trade magic (?) and make Lee a Dodger for the stretch run.

What would I do?
.
Shoot myself.

If you bring back Pedro Martinez as a fifth starter...
.
while the Dodgers are a question mark at second base, too...
.
then it would make sense to also bring back Delino Deshields to play second.

Go with what you have for now and see what we need come August 1. I frankly like the Carlos guy we picked up in the Rule 5 draft as the fifth starter.

I think Pedro might be a good choice, just to help the development of the younger pitchers. As long as the price is right.

Pedro please. If I'm gonna watch this horrible coming season, I might as well be entertained. The playoff rotation is a joke. Vicente Padilla is gonna be our ace in the playoffs. I wish I were wrong and will eat my words come October.

I know another commenter pretty much said the same thing, but out of our guys competing for the fifth spot, I think it would be great to work in Haeger to keep the other teams uncomfortable with the knuckleball. Of the free agents, I would like to see Pedro come in, maybe you start out platooning him with the others just to help save him for later in the season...

One of the problems I seem to remember with Haeger last year was that he seemed to do pretty well the first time through the batting order, but it only took one time through for the opposing team to kind of figure him out, and he wouldn't make it past the 4th or 5th inning. I don't know if he can necessarily be an "innings eater".

Pedro, definitely. The going-full-circle back to LA would be a great story and might even put a few extra butts in the stands. Pedro and Manny in the house. He certainly showed he can still pitch in the 09 playoffs and you'd have to think he won't be THAT expensive.

Put Pedro in the rotation and have one of McDonald/Elbert stay in the bullpen and have the other starting in AAA to be called when an injury occurs. Forget about the Ortiz twins. I think Pedro would be a great LA story and help the team as well.

If the 5th spot is our biggest concern then I think we are in a very good situation.

Bills, Padilla, and Kuroda will be consistent. I think Kershaw will still show his age. But with patience and perserverance he will learn to trust his stuff and not try to blow everyone away when he's in trouble.

As long as the 5 starter isn't Russ Ortiz we'll be fine.

Does anyone remember the return of Don Sutton or Orel Hersheiser to the Dodger pitching staff?

Go with the young power arms till the break and see how things are shaping up at that time.

in the last 2 yrs cc sabathia and cliff lee have changed teams 2x, and aj burnett, javier vasquez, roy halladay, lackey, and peavy have all changed teams. any two of these guys added to kershaw, some approximation of billingsley and say, kuroda and they go from nl west contenders to a legit world series threat even w/ manny on no drugs. the schmidt and a. jones deals either undermined the gm's own confidence and aptitude or mccourt invokes those failures to curtail the gm, but either way this team is going nowhere until it is sold.

Given very few teams have the 5th spot in the rotation answered right now (and given the 5th starter gets skipped at times during the season) the Dodgers issue here is not an unusual one, or a huge deal. But I agree it is a key question, still. They have a lot of options and by attrition should whittle it down to the best few by the end of ST. And I think those top 3 guys will all be talented candidates. I'd rank, just as a hunch, the top candidates in this order:

McDonald
Elbert (though I think he'll be better as a reliever at least for now)
Stults
Haeger
Lindblom
Weaver
Ramon Ortiz
Outside candidate TBD
---
Abe Vigoda
My cat
Etc.
Russ Ortiz.

Well, the thought of having Pedro Martinez as the No. 5--or possibly the the No. 4 starter--is most interesting. I don't know how much it will take to sign him, but if it isn't outrageous, I could see him going at least five or six effective innings an outing. And he could also serve as a tutor of sorts to the young guys (Kershaw, Billingsley, McDonald, Elbert, Stults). That being said, I think the No. 5 guy will be one of the following: McDonald, Elbert, Stults...or Weaver, who can give you innings, although Torre prefers to use him out of the bullpen.

At this point I think the Dodgers would probably do best by giving Charlie Haeger a real chance to make it as the #5 starter. He can throw the knuckleball consistently for a strike and proved this is not as fluke at AAA last season where he gave the league fits trying to catch up with his dancer and was a consistent winner who could go deep into games, even toss complete games which is almost unheard of this day and age, all season long.

I don't think Torre is likely to give him a real look because Haeger was ready last year, and despite dazzling the opposition in the few chances he had, it only took one or two bad innings in his last start for Torre to banish him to the bench.

We have four pitchers slated for the rotation who can bring it! They throw hard. Haeger's 58 mph knuckleball is quite a contrast. The bullpen for the most part is loaded with hard throwing fastball pitchers. Haeger could baffle opponents for 6 or 7 innings and then give way to the set up men and Broxton (who's hard stuff will look 15 mph faster after trying to wait for the 58 mph dancer to stop dancing long enough to actually make contact with it.) The fact he'd be pitching behind Kershaw, Bills and Padilla in our rotation will make his knuckleball look even slower and have guys coming out of their shoes swinging so hard at it. Charlie Hough once said that Haeger's dancer is the best one he's ever seen. Most players will tell you that it's the most difficult pitch in the game to hit--or catch for a catcher for that matter.

But I don't think Torre will even give him a real chance. He sure didn't last year.

Tis true, tis pity. And pity tis, tis true.

I'd start with Stults and McDonald, alternate them for spell , then drop the worst one and replace him with Haeger, if no one looks like he's the guy, then continue until the end of spring training, something has to happen by then.
I see no reason to go after any of those free agents.

>> One of the problems I seem to remember with Haeger last year was that he seemed to do pretty well the first time through the batting order, but it only took one time through for the opposing team to kind of figure him out, and he wouldn't make it past the 4th or 5th inning.
That's not an accurate description of any of his three starts last season (two of which were "quality starts").
On August 17, against St. Louis, he allowed three earned runs in 7 innings, and was tagged with the loss, 3-2. He gave up a fourth-inning HR by Pujols and a seventh-inning HR by Ankiel.
On August 22, against the Cubs, he pitched 7 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits and 4 walks, and was credited with the 2-0 victory.
On August 29, at Cincinnati, he was yanked in the third inning after allowing a HR by Tatum on his first at bat, and another HR by Janish on his second at bat. The Dodgers went on to win 11-4 but Haeger did not receive the decision.

It will come down to Stults (because he's out of options and adds another lefty to the rotation) or McDonald (best major-league-ready stuff right now). It will depend who has the stronger spring and if management decides to give up on Stults and sell him to Japan.

Elbert I like, but he'll be starting for AAA. Same goes for Lindblom. Haeger is better fit for a long relief/mop-up duty role. Let the knuckler dance for 3 or 4 innings out of the 'pen before the opposing line-up catches up to it and we see more MAMMOTH home-runs (see Pujols and Ankiel). Weaver adds veteran depth.

The wild-card is rule 5 draft pick Carlos Monasterios. The same scout that dug up Belisario found this guy. Apparently he is a starter, so if he has an awesome spring look for him to jump up the depth chart. I see him making the roster either in the bullpen or somehow winding up on the DL with a broken finger nail (so we don't lose him).

Please, forget about Pedro. And Looper. Go big (cliff lee) or go home. Let one of our own guys seize the opportunity. There is plenty of talent competing for the 5th spot.

I'd get new ownership.

# 5 Combo?
Staring Haeger (innings 1-3,5),
followed by Elbert (innings 4,6-8) could be very effective in the #5 spot.

>>Please, forget about Pedro.<<
I agree.

I don't know how man CG's you need these days to prove your self as a big league picther but I believe Stults' 2 leads the Dodger's staff in as many years. Having shown that in well below 30 starts when is this guy going to get a chance? He fields his position as well as anyone in the organization and is better than alot of no.9 hitters in junior circuit lineups. Don't understand the debate here, it should be his job to lose this spring with dominant springs needed from Jimmy Mac or Haeger to unseat him. April and May should be the first time he's been given more than a few weeks in the rotation. He will get lit up a couple of times when he lets his too straight fast ball stray up in the zone during the occasional long innning. But he throws that fastball accurately inside to right handed batters a hell of alot better than Kershaw and will get alot more outs than burns. Keep Weaver on the roster, he was an outstanding role player last year and get Jimmy Mac down to AAA to learn the art of strike throwing and we'll have most of the Summer to decide whether Pedro or Smoltz are worth the money or even needed.


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