Dodgers Now

Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue

Category: Lance Cormier

No major surprises as Dodgers cut to 25-man roster, elect to go with three catchers

Mike3 There were no real surprises when the Dodgers announced their 25-man roster to open the season after Wednesday’s game.

Of course, as the five Dodgers who will start the season on the disabled list start to trickle back in early April, more bodies will get shuffled.

For now, three nonroster invitees ended up making the team -- relievers Mike MacDougal and Lance Cormier, and infielder Aaron Miles.

The bullpen, infield and outfield pretty much fell into to place as expected. The only mild surprise was the decision to go with three catchers.

A.J. Ellis and Hector Gimenez both made the opening-day roster, meaning veteran outfielder Gabe Kapler was released. Manager Don Mattingly said General Manager Ned Colletti still planned to meet with Kapler, 35, to see if there is a mutual interest in his playing at triple-A Albuquerque.

Gimenez mostly made the team because the Dodgers liked his bat, but he can also play first and dabbled some this spring in the outfield.

"We’ve been trying to build with pitching and defense," Mattingly said. "Ellis knows our staff, knows our guys. Hector did a good job too, he just doesn’t know the staff as well."

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Scott Elbert cannot say he didn't get an opportunity

It’s getting down to it now, the final decisions coming more sharply into focus.

The bullpen, at first almost without vacancy and then practically hosting open tryouts after the injury to Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario’s Venezuelan vanishing act, is now locked up.

And outside again is Scott Elbert.

Not the way the Dodgers wanted it to happen, but seemingly the unavoidable call now. He had his opportunity this spring, but could not seize it. It was more struggle, more wildness, more of the same issues that had plagued him during his three brief stints with the Dodgers.

As much as the Dodgers would like to have a second left-hander in the bullpen, Elbert’s spring numbers (9.00 ERA, 10 walks in eight innings) can’t justify keeping him. Even if that was their plan only a few days ago.

At that point, it was Lance Cormier who was apparently the odd man out. The Dodgers asked him to accept a minor-league assignment. But Cormier, a veteran of seven major-league seasons, had an out in his contract and wasn’t interested. He had a card to play and did. The Dodgers knew that, of course.

"I signed here to pitch in the major leagues," Cormier told Dodger.com’s Ken  Gurnick on Sunday.

Cormier appeared in 60 games for the Tampa Rays last season, finishing with a 3.92 ERA but a serious WHIP of 1.645.

Still, this spring he has been very effective (2.00 ERA, 10 hits, two walks in nine innings), while Elbert has not.

Cormier almost did the Dodgers a favor by refusing to accept his minor-league assignment. Now they can use that as an excuse for keeping him and sending Elbert -- who has options remaining -- back down.

Elbert did not seem to accept a demotion well last season after struggling in his only appearance in May. Soon after he left triple-A Albuquerque for the rest of the season for what was described as a personal issue.

Elbert, 25, is a 2004 first-round pick, he’s left-handed and can be very impressive. The Dodgers are not about to give up on him. And at this point, it would seem he could benefit from returning to Albuquerque and demonstrating he is serious about reclaiming his career.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers Web musings: Trying to see clearly on Chad Billingsley's contract extension

Interesting comments being generated by Chad Billingsley's agreeing to a three-year extension for $35 million to $36 million.

I’m thinking some people are so upset with the Dodgers that no matter what the team does they automatically lash out. Even the jaded have to allow for an occasional nod of the cap.

What’s wrong with locking up a young, effective right-hander for another three years at the going rate? This is not a bad thing. This is actually a pretty good thing.

The Dodgers eliminated his last year of salary arbitration and locked up his first two years of free agency at an average of $12 million per season. And he’s only 26.

But if many of those leaving comments have been harsh on the Dodgers and Billingsley, a more measured response has emerged out in the blogosphere.

Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness’ Mike Petriello, ESPN/Los Angeles’ Jon Weisman, True Blue L.A.’s Eric Stephen and Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron all gave the deal a favorable review. Cameron even wrote that Billingsley left a lot of money on the table.

Also on the Web:

--The Times’ T.J. Simers checks in with the one bright spot that most every Dodger fan can agree on: Vin Scully.

--The Times’ Leon Furgatch makes a case for the notion that, when the Dodgers moved west, they should have changed their name to the … Yang-nas.

--Dodgers.com’s Quinn Roberts
writes that reliever Lance Cormier said the Dodgers have told him he’s made the team. That would lock up the last bullpen spot.

--For the second consecutive year, the Dodgers have been earned the Bobby Mercer Award for the highest amount of money donated by its players to the Baseball Assistance League. The Yankees also repeated in the American League.

--For those battered by all the predictions of the Dodgers finishing third in the National League West, have found someone who thinks they take the division, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan.

--SB Nation’s Rob Neyer thinks the Dodgers’ 2011 fortunes could rest largely on the success of their bullpen.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers Web musings: Somehow there are still things unknown about the rise of Fernando Valenzuela

Out there on the Web, three days from the season opener:

-- The Times’ Jerry Crowe shows there are yet elements to the legend of Fernando Valenzuela that are little known.

-- The Times’ Dylan Hernandez looks at infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., who may at least open the season as the Dodgers’ starting second baseman.

Here’s hoping he makes the best of it, it would solve several problems.

-- Hernandez also profiled newbie manager Don Mattingly and told how the Dodgers were responding to his relative youth (relative to Joe Torre, anyway) and his enthusiasm.

-- Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that reliever Lance Cormier, who did not want to accept a minor-league assignment, has made the club.

That likely puts an end to Scott Elbert’s immediate chances of starting the season on the roster, leaving Hong-Chih Kuo as the bullpen’s lonely lefty.

-- 2011 predictions are rolling in, and Rosenthal also has the Dodgers pegged at third, their popular preseason designation.

-- LA Dodger Talk’s Mark Timmons
thinks Jonathan Broxton would benefit by being a tad bolder about his pitching inside.

-- Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness’ Mike Petriello
offers his updated prediction on the Dodgers’ opening 25-man roster.

-- Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verdicci (via Sons of Steve Garvey) notices that only two of the top-20-selling baseball jersey’s are from players on the West Coast (both Giants) and wonders if that’s not because there are no premier sluggers out here.

-- Vin Scully Is My Homeboy’s Roberto Baly offers up  a sampling of his favorite team TV commercials.

-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick
said Vicente Padilla could be a month ahead of schedule in returning from his February arm surgery after throwing off the mound Sunday. Since he’s returning as a reliever, he could be back within weeks.

-- ESPN/LA's Tony Jackson said the Dodgers at least broke camp Sunday with a sense of harmony and purpose.

-- And because you know how we worry about your waistline: NBC Los Angeles' Jonathan Lloyd said a "Doyer Dog'' will debut at Monday's game at Dodger Stadium against the Angels. It boasts chili, nacho cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños. You bring the Rolaids.

And, sadly, say goodbye to Canter's Deli. It has been replaced by Dodgertown Deli, which is apparently airlifting its pastrami in from Vero Beach, Fla.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Ramon Troncoso's comeback bid for Dodgers will have to continue in the minors

Once he was this great find, this surprising sensation who had unexpectedly made himself a valuable part of one of baseball’s best bullpens.

Then … what?

Ramon Troncoso still looked the part of a great, young, right-handed reliever early in 2010. Then it began to slip away, and he has struggled ever since to find himself.

Even after a strong start this spring, he could not keep it going. And on Sunday, he was optioned back to the minors.

This hardly means the end for the 28-year-old Dominican, but he will once again have to try to right himself at triple-A Albuquerque, something he could never truly do there last season (5.73 ERA, 1.55 WHIP).

There had been concern that Joe Torre had gone to him too often last April (15 appearances in a 21-game stretch, though only 13 innings) and worn him out.

Then Troncoso had started so well this spring (no earned runs in his first 4 1/3 innings), it appeared he was back on track. Some already gushed he had made the team.

But in his last five appearances, he gave up six earned runs (10.80 ERA) and was once again headed back to the minors.

Since the Dodgers released Ron Mahay and optioned Travis Schlichting back to the minors Saturday, the final bullpen spot will apparently come down to left-hander Scott Elbert or right-hander Lance Cormier.

The Dodgers would prefer to have Elbert as a second lefty in the bullpen, but after an encouraging stretch he gave up three runs in one-third of an inning Saturday and now has a 7.50 ERA this spring.

In eight innings this spring, Cormier has a 2.25 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Dodgers' bullpen yet to come into clear focus

It looked like a closed shop. All polished and refitted, the Dodgers bullpen seemed without vacancy.

After a disappointing 2010 (4.07 ERA, 1.35 WHIP), the relief corps entered the spring with every position seemingly spoken for.

Then down went Vicente Padilla. And off to the Venezuelan never-never land remained Ronald Belisario.

Suddenly there were two open spots. Still, there seemed a reasonable wealth of capable arms in the wings. Anyway, it kinda seemed that way.

Now the Dodgers are five days from breaking camp, and easy answers to fill the bullpen void are still hard to come by.

When camp opened, the bullpen seemed set with Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Padilla and Belisario. The only mini-suspense was supposed to be if Hawksworth could hold off left-handers Scott Elbert or Ron Mahay for the final spot.

Hawksworth, who is out of options, seems secure. But those other two spots? Check in daily.

Early on Ramon Troncoso looked like he might be returning to his 2009 form. He did not allow a run in his first four appearances, causing newbie Dodger Talk co-host Joe Block to declare he had made the team.

Yet more evidence against putting much stock into early spring results. In the four innings of Troncoso’s next four games, he gave up six runs (13.50 ERA). His overall spring ERA is now 6.23 and he’s far from a lock to be in Dodger Stadium on opening day.

The one reliever who has stepped up is veteran Mike MacDougal, unscored upon in eight appearances (7 1/3 innings). His ability was never questioned, but his control was an on-going issue. He has allowed only three hits and four walks.

If he continues anywhere near this pace, it’s hard to see MacDougal failing to make the final 25-man. Final, meaning until three days into the season when someone gets hurt.

The Dodgers would still prefer -- or anyway, should prefer -- the final spot go to a second left-hander to complement Kuo. Mahay, however, has struggled (10.70 ERA). Which once again, takes the Dodgers back to Elbert.

For several reasons, the Dodgers would very much like the former first-round pick to make the team, but they aren’t about to give it to him after his disappointing act last season. And Elbert has continued to have control problems.

But he might be forging a modest comeback. Tuesday with runners on the corners and the Dodgers leading the Cubs 1-0 in the seventh, they brought in Elbert with two outs. After falling behind 2-0 to Tyler Clovin, he came back to strike him out.

The only other candidate keeping himself in serious contention is Lance Cormier, who after giving up solo runs in his first two spring outings, hasn’t allowed a run in his last four appearances.

Elbert, Cormier, Troncoso? Opening day is March 31, and relievers are running out of time to make their case. And again close the shop.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Are the Dodgers ready for Elymania II?

Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? No, but he’s at least building a case and causing the Dodgers to seriously think about him again.

John Ely was a brief sensation last year, answering the team’s ongoing call for a fifth starter and responding better than anyone had dared dream. Better than Ned Colletti, Joe Torre, Ely and Ely’s mommy dreamed.

During six consecutive starts from May 6 to June 1, he was 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA. He went 89 consecutive batters without allowing a walk. You kept blinking wondering if it were true.

And then it all came undone, as if Salvador Dali had suddenly taken control of Ely's pitching landscape. In his last 11 starts he went 1-8 with a stunning 8.00 ERA, including 32 walks in 54 innings.

He clearly was not the same pitcher, which is why he was ticketed for a return to triple-A Albuquerque this season.

Yet in his first three appearances this spring, he has yet to allow a run. And he is throwing strikes -- the key to his early success last season. He has yet to walk a batter and has seven strikeouts in six innings.

OK, so six spring innings amounts to precious little, but if he continues anywhere near this pace, he will pitch himself back onto the 25-man roster.

There’s no room in the rotation, but with Vicente Padilla injured and Ronald Belisario doing his annual visa dance, there are two unexpected openings in the bullpen. And Padilla was supposed to start the season as the long man.

Ely could certainly fill that role if he’s truly back on his game.

There’s reason to think he could be too. Last year he appeared to wear down and then completely lost his way. Remember, this was a 24-year-old who, aside from a couple early appearances at Albuquerque, had never pitched above double-A until last season. He had only been in the minors three years and had never thrown as many as 160 innings in any season.

Now he has a fresh start, a fresh arm and the unexpected experience from last season. The opportunity is there for him to pitch himself back onto the team.

Don Mattingly keeps saying he is not interested in keeping another left-hander in the bullpen just for the sake of a second lefty, which would only help Ely’s cause. The competition is still thick -- Ramon Troncoso, Mike MacDougal, Lance Cormier, Scott Elbert, Ron Mahay, Carlos Monasterios and now Tim Redding are all in the mix.

Ely is never going to light up the speed gun, but he proved last season that when he pitches with control, he can be highly effective. When he doesn’t, he looks overmatched.

In three early appearances this spring, he has had that control.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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