Some good off-season news for Dodgers: Ronald Belisario and Dee Gordon tear up winter leagues
And now for a little something to warm your Dodgers winter of discontent ...
Far from Los Angeles and the hot stove league and all of the second-guessing over moves made and not made, a couple of Dodgers are having themselves a lovely winter playing ball.
Reliever Ronald Belisario, whose earned-run average bloated to a stunning 5.04 last season, has been dominant in the Venezuelan Winter League, and shortstop Dee Gordon was leading the Puerto Rico Winter League in runs before returning home this month.
Through Dec. 26, Belisario was leading the Venezuelan Winter League in saves with 14. He was 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts and four walks in 18 innings.
That’s a lot more like the 2009 version of Belisario the Dodgers saw, when he went 4-3 with a 2.04 ERA in 69 games.
Gordon was the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year in 2009 after a sterling season at Class-A Great Lakes. He slipped slightly at double-A Chattanooga last season, but he was on a tear this winter.
He played 33 games for Carolina in the Puerto Rican league, appearing in his last game Dec. 14 before he returned to Florida to begin a weight-lifting program.
In Puerto Rico he was hitting .361 with 26 runs with six triples and eight steals (15 attempts). Gordon told The Times' Kevin Baxter that he worked with minor league hitting instructor Gene Clines on becoming more patient at the plate as well on hand placement before he headed to Puerto Rico.
"We learned an approach, a good approach for me being a leadoff hitter," Gordon told Baxter. "Just see more pitches, work the count more and be able to come back and tell my teammates what kind of pitches the pitcher is throwing on that day.
"Definitely I'm going to be able to use it. It wasn’t a big change that I had to [make]. It was easy, the transition. I kept it up for two months, so I think I’ll be OK."
Gordon’s defense, however, remains a work in progress. After committing 37 errors in 133 games at Chattanooga last season, he had 13 more in Puerto Rico.
"That was one of my biggest things that I went to Puerto Rico to learn -- to slow the game down," he said. "All the fields there are turf, so the ball comes at you quicker. In the minor leagues I was rushing through the baseball a little bit, making a few senseless errors.
"And some of those guys, they showed me hey, you don’t have to make a spectacular play every time. You don’t have to force it. I learned a ton down there."
Gordon is one of 16 minor leaguers the Dodgers have invited to a developmental mini-camp Jan. 7-15 at Dodger Stadium.
-- Steve Dilbeck