February 2010

Belliard No Lock at Second

Ronnie Belliard was re-signed late after displacing Orlando Hudson at second base last season, but that apparently doesn’t mean he’ll be the every-day starter there this year as management has concerns about his age (35 in April) and his conditioning.

“He knocked in some big runs for us, enough so that you basically played him instead of your regular second baseman,” said manager Joe Torre. “When we made the trade for him, we made no promises he was going to play and, all of a sudden, he caught fire and we really had no choice.

“He was fine with the backup role last season. We know he can play for a short period of time. We have to figure out how many days a week it makes sense.”

As for the conditioning, Belliard’s $850,000 contract will not be guaranteed until he weighs less than 210 pounds. He said he would weigh-in Friday.

Jamey Carroll and Blake DeWitt are also in the mix in what could be a platoon at second base. — Ken Gurnick   


Furcal Still Shaken from Haiti Earthquake

Shortstop Rafael Furcal reported one day before the first mandatory workout still shaken from the January 12 earthquake in neighboring Haiti.

“I live on the 12th floor and the building was swinging for hours,” said Furcal, who lives in the northern part of the Dominican Republic, about 150 miles from the epicenter of Port-au-Prince. “It made me dizzy for a couple days. And what is happening in Haiti, man, it’s ugly. It’s really ugly. It makes you feel so bad for those people.” — Ken Gurnick


Padilla to Start Spring Opener

Manager Joe Torre named Vicente Padilla to start the March 5 Spring Training opener against the White Sox, then gave a clue as to the regular-season Opening Day starter.

Torre said that Padilla would be followed by Eric Stults, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda.

The regular season opens April 5 in Pittsburgh and a fifth starter will be needed April 11. If the rotation goes Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda and Padilla, Kershaw could open in Pittsburgh and Billingsley would get the home opener April 12 against Arizona.

Padilla has recovered from an accidental gunshot wound and has thrown bullpen sessions performed fielding drills without limitation. — Ken Gurnick

Gagne Works with Howell

Erir Gagne, trying to find the magic after 2 1/2 years of injuries, has been working with bullpen coach Ken Howell, who has been studying and comparing game video of Gagne dating back to his glory days with the Dodgers.

“We’re finding that I got into a lot of bad habits and it’s my release point, I’ve been cutting across my body and not getting full extension,” said Gagne. “It’s been a while since I’ve been healthy. I can feel it when I fly open, but it helps when he gives me keys to watch for. A lot of it is thought process — stay back, stay tall, stay on the rubber. That’s what he’s helping me with.” — Ken Gurnick

Why the Annoyance with Belisario

Visa problems are commonplace in baseball and nobody seemed to mind when reliever Ronald Belisario was late to camp last Spring. The difference this Spring is that Belisario is on the Major League roster, he’s out of options and the rest of baseball knows how good he is.

Belisario is one of a handful of Dodgers out of options — so are Eric Stults, Hong-Chih Kuo and Charlie Haeger. But if Belisario is missing long enough and he’s not ready to start the season on time, the Dodgers have a big problem. He can’t be sent to the Minor Leagues without clearing waivers, and there’s no chance he would clear after the way he pitched last year. That’s why management is so annoyed that he’s not in camp, although manager Joe Torre said he’s expected within a few days.

Not having any options remaining is also the reason the Dodgers will look long and hard at Stults and Haeger for either the fifth starter job or, in Haeger’s case, long relief.

Carlos Monasterios and Armando Zerpa, as Rule 5 picks, are in similar situations in that they are likely to be lost if they don’t make the Opening Day roster. Maybe that’s why Torre was paying special attention to Monasterios during his bullpen session Wednesday. — Ken Gurnick

Early Turnout for Dodgers

Shortstop Rafael Furcal and second baseman Ronnie Belliard remain the only members of the Dodgers 40-man Major League roster yet to check in to Camelback Ranch-Glendale, but are expected to participate in the first full-squad workout on Friday. Matt Kemp appeared earlier, but did not work out with the club Monday or Tuesday.

Non-roster invitee Brian Giles has yet to arrive, even though he needs to prove to the staff he can rebound from chronic arthritis in his knee to prolong his career after missing the second half of 2009 with San Diego.

Of the 11 non-roster infielders and outfielders invited to camp, six took part in practice Tuesday.

Reliever Ronald Belisario was still missing because of visa problems, but manager Joe Torre said he expected to see him in camp later this week. — Ken Gurnick

Fatherhood Awaits Weaver

Veteran pitcher Jeff Weaver threw a bullpen session Tuesday, then went to join wife Jillian for the induced birth of the couple’s first child.

“Life will change,” said the 33-year-old, in camp on a Minor League contract for the second consecutive season with the swingman job his to lose. — Ken Gurnick

Third Game Added for Taiwan Trip

A third game has been added to the Dodgers’ goodwill series in Taiwan after tickets for the two games originally scheduled quickly sold out.

A Dodgers split-squad will leave Arizona March 10. Instead of the originally scheduled March 12 workout, a game will be played that day in Taipei against the Chinese Professional Baseball League All-Star team.

A second game will be played March 13 in Taipei with the final game March 14 in Kaohsiung. The amount of days the Dodgers will be on the road won’t change from the original schedule.

Among the Dodgers expected to make the trip are native Taiwanesepitcher Hong-Chih Kuo and infielder Chin-lung Hu, as well as first baseman James Loney and infielder Jamey Carroll. — Ken Gurnick

Looper-Dodgers a Longshot

The Dodgers remain in contact with the agent for unsigned pitcher Braden Looper, but chances of a deal are slim because they can’t offer the Major League roster spot or the kind of salary the right-hander wants.

Looper, Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland were in the group of innings-eating veterans the Dodgers considered for fourth starter before they signed Vicente Padilla to a $5.025 million contract. 

There also was talk about signing Looper a year ago, but the Dodgers went with Randy Wolf and Looper signed for $4.75 million in Milwaukee, where he went 14-7 with a 5.22 ERA and threw 194 2/3 innings.

The Dodgers currently plan to get their fifth starter from a group of Scott Elbert, Charlie Haeger, Josh Lindblom, James McDonald, Carlos Monasterios, Russ Ortiz and Eric Stults,  — Ken Gurnick

Elbert Throws Painfree

Dodgers left-hander Scott Elbert, shut down earlier this month with shoulder tendinitis, had a second bullpen session Monday and reported no problems.

“It went fantastic,” said Elbert, who had shoulder surgery in 2007. “We even sat around in the rain figuring out where we’d throw and I got loose in a hurry. I feel really good about it now.”

The former first-round pick is considered a candidate for the fifth starter job. — Ken Gurnick