Dodgers Now

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Category: James McDonald

Dodgers happy to be entering world of zeroes

And now for the most intriguing number of spring … 0.00.

The Dodgers aren’t halfway through their spring schedule, but the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation is already getting interesting.

Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Carlos Monasterios and Eric Stults have yet to allow an earned run this preseason. All sport 0.00 ERAs.

Yes, it’s early. It’s spring training and not the stretch drive. A pitching performance in March doesn’t always translate to one in July, or even April.

But aside from the early struggles of James McDonald (six earned runs in the four innings of his two appearances), things are going better than the Dodgers had a right to expect.

There is only one job in the rotation open now, but that’s always subject to change during the course of a season. With Hiroki Kuroda nursing a neck injury and the Dodgers uncertain what to expect over the course of a full season from Vicente Padilla, it would benefit the team to discover more than one potential starter.

They took what-do-we-have-to-lose fliers on the Ortiz boys, and picked up Monasterios in the Rule 5 draft. At the moment, they’re all paying off.

Then there’s Stults and Charlie Haeger, both of whom are out of options. If they’re not on the 25-man roster, they can become free agents. If Monasterios doesn’t make it, he has to be offered back to Philadelphia.

Neither Ortiz seems to know if their agents negotiated an opt-out clause that would enable them to become free agents if they don’t make the 25-man roster. Last year, Jeff Weaver did not have one and, despite a strong spring, started the season in the minors. This year Weaver does have the option.

Ramon Ortiz, 36, has probably been the biggest surprise thus far. The ex-Angel hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2007, and his four seasons prior to that were completely unimpressive.

Yet his four shutout innings against the Angels on Monday left him with these spring numbers: nine innings, zero runs, 11 strikeouts, five hits and two walks.

"He was pretty good, especially against his old team," said Joe Torre. "He kept the ball down and mixed his pitches. Russ Ortiz is also making a statement for himself."

Russ Ortiz won 21 games for the Braves in 2003, but has bounced around four different teams the last four years, going a combined 10-28 with a 6.56 ERA.

But for the moment, his ball appears to be moving again. In five spring innings, he’s yet to allow a run or give up a walk.

Monasterios also hasn’t given up a run in his five innings, allowing only two hits. Stults, considered a slight favorite before the spring began, did not allow a hit in his two innings before leaving to join the Dodgers contingent in Taiwan.

Someone is going to blink. Stults may yet win out, but either or both Ortizes would be welcomed depth in the minors if willing to go down.

For the moment, though, General Manager Ned Colletti doesn’t have to be too worried about trading for, or signing, a fifth starter.

-- Steve Dilbeck

It's time for Stults to seize his opportunity [Updated]

Ericstults Eric Stults, it is time to step up.

Not time to come close. Not time to be a possibility. Time to close the deal. To win the final spot in the Dodgers' rotation.

Or head out of town.

Stults is 30 years old and beginning his ninth season in the organization. That’s a long time to still be something of a prospect.

Stults is one of at least a half-dozen candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation. But he has one thing going for him none of the others do -- he is out of options.

Either Stults makes the final 25-man roster, or he can become a free agent.

"It's a year where something has to give for me,’’ Stults said. "I've been fortunate with opportunities in the past to gain some big league experience, but it's one of those things where this year they have to make a decision out of spring. I look at it as a win-win situation.’’

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Weaver is back yet again, and could easily be staying

Weaver Jeff Weaver is not only back in the Dodgers’ spring training camp, there is an excellent chance he will be back with the team when it returns to Los Angeles.

Professionally, it’s been a tumultuous past few years for Weaver. If not for his entire nine-year career.

But now he sits at his locker at Camelback Ranch as a non-roster invitee, without guarantee of a major league job, and seemingly at peace.

Weaver said he is done with the Triple-A uniform, which is the only one he wore in 2008. At age 33, and as of Wednesday a new father, he appears ready to seize his current opportunity or live with the results if he does not.

"That’s why I came back," Weaver said. "It was more of a situation where I really don’t want to do the Triple-A thing again. I’ll be content with whatever happens with me now."

He came to the Dodgers' spring training camp last year too, but when camp broke was headed to Triple-A Albuquerque. Called up on April 30, he stuck for the rest of the season.
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Dodgers' web doings: That legion of fifth starting pitching candidates might not be enough

Charlie Here’s a rundown on some Dodgers’ Web doings, leading off with Buster Olney's interview at ESPN.com with general manager Ned Colletti.
 
 -- It’s a body count.
 
Olney said Colletti listed at least eight candidates for the fifth spot in the Dodgers rotation -- Scott Elbert, Charlie Haeger, James McDonald, Carlos Monasterios, Eric Stults, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz and Josh Towers -- but concedes he might have missed a few.

There’s always Josh Lindblom and Jeff Weaver.

More interesting, Colletti was saying if someone didn’t emerge from the pack, he would look outside the organization to fill the fifth spot. "We'd love to have a bona fide No. 5 starter,’’ Colletti said.

Warning: You have to be a member of ESPN’s Insider to read the full column.
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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.

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Dodgers' pursuit of Wang apparently is not too serious

Wang It appears Joe Torre’s affection for his former Yankees ace, Chien-Ming Wang, isn’t enough to push the Dodgers toward seriously pursuing the free agent.

Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com has reported that Wang has received offers from two unidentified clubs, and neither is the Dodgers or the Mets. Rosenthal said Wang is expected to sign in the next seven to 10 days.

Wang twice won 19 games for Torre while he was managing the Yankees, but last season he fell to 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA before undergoing shoulder surgery.

The Dodgers are in dire need of a fifth starter and Torre expressed interest in Wang during last week’s community caravan.

"He was my leading pitcher two years in a row," Torre said. "You can't ignore the fact he's a special young man. With what he's coming back from, he has to be evaluated."
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Dodgers' rotation of questions

Billingsley_300 OK, let’s talk about your deepest Dodgers fear, that open secret still too close to home for the faithful to willingly address:

Starting pitching.

Don’t shudder now, this has to be done. Crossed fingers and heavenly gazes will not get it done.

Truth is, the Dodgers' rotation could just as easily be the best in the N.L. West as it could be the fourth-best.

Each of the first four starters arrive this spring with serious questions, and there is precious little depth behind them. And as it always is, depth will be needed.

Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Vicente Padilla will head into spring with the first four spots secured. Eric Stults and James McDonald lead a long list of potential fifth starters.

Kuroda, 35, is coming off a reasonable season, considering he twice lost time to injury. Yet 8-7 with a 3.76 ERA was hardly an improvement from his previous season, and at his age, further injury is always a risk.

Kershaw remains an absolutely exciting prospect. He enjoyed an excellent sophomore year (8-8, 2.79, 185 strikeouts). He also threw a career-high 171 innings and will probably throw more this season. As much as he looks like a coming ace, the Dodgers will have to closely monitor the effect of the extra work.

Billingsley is in danger of becoming an enigma. There are times when he looks brilliant, and others when he appears fragile. He got off to a strong start last year and seemed to have built his confidence, only to fade in the second half. This is his fifth year, and he needs to pull it together.

Padilla essentially replaces innings-eating Randy Wolf in the rotation. After coming to the Dodgers Aug. 20, the mercurial Padilla, counting the postseason, went 5-1 with a 3.20 ERA. He did not throw at hitters, cause a riff in the clubhouse or say his daddy was bigger than your daddy. Now, can he keep it together a full season?

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Dan Evans looks good in retrospect

There's an unsung hero to the Dodgers' success the last few years, a nearly forgotten figure.

Evans2 A man who built the core of this current team, but who was discarded before his work bore fruit.

Time to give Dan Evans his due.

Evans was hired as the Dodgers' general manager in 2001 at a time the team seemed mired in mediocrity and the farm system had lost its way.

Most publications ranked the team's minor league system near the absolute bottom in baseball, but in three short years it was ranked in the top 10.

Evans rebuilt the front office and brought in good people like Kim Ng, vice president and assistant general manager, and Logan White, assistant general manager of scouting. And then they went to work.

They drafted Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, players the team is now built around, as well as Jason Repko and James McDonald.

"I’m really proud of the fact that these guys panned out," Evans said. "I was really lucky. I had a terrific staff. I feel good about what we did there."

Evans, however, became the break with the Dodgers' past when the team was purchased by the McCourts. Shortly afterward, Frank McCourt said Evans was a candidate ... for his own job. You didn't have to be  psychic to see how that was going to end.

Evans was bid adieu. McCourt then hired Paul DePodesta, who lasted 20 months.

"You can’t go back and change history,'' he said. "I had a good time. I loved going to work every day. It’s part of life. I’m really glad for the time I spent there."

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