The door is open, but can Scott Elbert step through?
Two appearances does not a spring training make. The season opener remains four weeks away.
Still, the concern for left-hander Scott Elbert is very real.
The setup is about as good as it could get for Elbert. The Dodgers have need for a situational lefty in the bullpen. And two more spots in the bullpen opened up when Vicente Padilla had surgery and Ronald Belisario stayed home in Venezuela.
As ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson noted, a bullpen spot was probably Elbert’s to lose. It probably still is, though in the early returns, he is losing it.
In his initial two outings Elbert has faced 10 batters, retiring four and walking the other six. Wednesday against the Royals, he threw 21 pitches, only six for strikes.
After shoulder surgery in 2007 and his still-unexplained disappearance last season, the Dodgers hoped the former first-round pick had gotten himself back together after reappearing in the Arizona Fall League and striking out 15 in 11 2/3 innings.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, who managed Elbert in the fall league, told Jackson:
"I'm sure he is frustrated. But it's like everything else in the spring, we're going to take the whole package and see what happens. I have seen a lot of good from him, a ton of good. But that was the fall league and not here. For me, this was just one day that wasn't great. We'll see how he bounces back from it.’’
In a curious bit of timing, Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson was a guest commentator in the broadcast booth Wednesday with Charlie Steiner during Elbert’s struggles.
Watson was singing Elbert’s praises, calling his stuff electric as the left-hander threw most everywhere but over the strike zone. Watson promised better days from Elbert, and you’d better hope.
Wrote TrueBlueLA’s Eric Stephen: "Elbert needs to show some control before he even sniffs the 25-man roster."
Control problems are nothing new for Elbert, and MikeSciosicasTragicIllness’ Mike Petriello argues that a slow start should not be a deciding factor in whether Elbert makes the club because unless he came to camp and dominated, he should have been ticketed for triple-A Albuquerque.
"He’s always had control issues, walking 5.0/9 in the minors, and last year that went up to an untenable 7.1/9. That’s of course before his well-publicized but little-understood leave of absence that meant he didn’t pitch after June."
The Dodgers could certainly use Elbert to step up, but right now they’re more wishing for it to happen than seeing it.
Elbert is still in a position of having to prove himself, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Ultimately it matters less that he was a No.1 pick or left-handed or has great stuff.
What matters is that he demonstrates the ability to get it done at the major-league level. The bulk of spring training remains and he’s only 25, but his promise is still to be fulfilled.
Also on the Web:
-- The Times Dylan Hernandez writes that outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. got a lift before camp opened when his father, Tony Gwynn Sr., completed his cancer treatment and started acting more like himself.
-- Baseball Savvy’s Howard Cole has his second piece on Dodgers bloggers, this time focusing on TrueBlueLA’s Stephens.
-- ESPN/LA’s Jon Weisman compares how Frank McCourt and Charlie Sheen try to live by their own rules.
-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick said Marcus Thames disputes his reputation as a poor defensive outfielder and says he has worked hard in the off-season to improve his fielding.
-- ESPN’s Mark Simon said concern with Matt Kemp’s fallen production last season should not be limited to his offense, but that his defense this spring deserves scrutiny.
-- Yahoo Sports’ Steve Henson takes a look at the loose pregame meetings of Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, who learned from the master, Tommy Lasorda.
-- Steve Dilbeck