That Other Pitching Battle

While trying to ignore the mounting evidence that a Delywn Young-sized mistake is about to be made/files/includes/,.css let’s not forget to focus on another roster battle that’s coming down to the wire/files/includes/,.css and for once I don’t mean #5 starter – #2 lefty reliever. You thought the fight for that last starter role featured some awesome names? At least you’d heard of Eric Milton/files/includes/,.css Shawn Estes/files/includes/,.css and Claudio Vargas/files/includes/,.css even if you shuddered at the mention of their names. These are guys even I’d barely ever heard of before this spring. With “notable” lefty contenders Carmen Cali/files/includes/,.css Stephen Randolph/files/includes/,.css Brent Leach/files/includes/,.css and Victor Garate already shipped off to minor league camp/files/includes/,.css here’s what we’re looking at…

brianmazonespring.jpgBrian Mazone:
a 32-year-old who’s yet to make his Major League debut? Oh yeah/files/includes/,.css off to a great start here. He went undrafted in 1998 and made it into 20 games for Atlanta’s A-ball team that year/files/includes/,.css before spending five of the next six seasons in independent ball/files/includes/,.css with the 6th lost to arm surgery. He finally made it back to organized ball in 2003 and has been bouncing around the minors (mostly as a starter) ever since/files/includes/,.css going 9-12 with a 4.10 ERA for Philadelphia’s AAA team last year. That was actually his worst season of the last few years/files/includes/,.css but I’m not exactly sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Mazone’s actually been very good so far this spring/files/includes/,.css allowing no runs and just 2 hits in 6.1 innings. You’d think that in a competition which is so lousy that/files/includes/,.css well/files/includes/,.css Brian Mazone can still be a top contender for the crown/files/includes/,.css a line like that would get you a good chance. Except that Tony Jackson disagrees:

Mazone pitched the eighth inning and stranded a runner on third. He now has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings/files/includes/,.css spread over eight appearances/files/includes/,.css this spring. He also is a left-hander. And the Dodgers NEED a left-handed reliever. But this guy probably will begin the season at abq.

I’m sure there’s a good reason for that/files/includes/,.css but damned if I know what it is. Moving on…

Erick Threets: Threets comes over from the dark side/files/includes/,.css having been in the Giants system since entering pro ball in 2001. He does actually have some MLB experience/files/includes/,.css though it was pretty monumentally bad: 16 hits and 12 walks allowed in 12.1 innings over the last two years. His minor league stats aren’t all that much better – he seems to be Greg Miller light in terms of Ks and BBs/files/includes/,.css because in 398.2 career IP he’s whiffed 370 (that’s good!) and walked 286 (that’s bad!). And yes/files/includes/,.css the frogurt is also cursed.

Threets hasn’t been as good as Mazone this spring/files/includes/,.css allowing 3 earned runs in 4.2 innings/files/includes/,.css though striking out 8 in that time is pretty nice. To be honest/files/includes/,.css while I like a guy with the stuff to miss bats/files/includes/,.css do we really want to be seeing this guy come in and walk half the league? Not what you want out of a guy who’s supposedly going to be your lefty specialist.

Shawn Estes: ugh/files/includes/,.css him again? That’s right/files/includes/,.css just a day after being told he had lost his shot at the 5th starter role and could choose between the minors or being released/files/includes/,.css he’s gone with door #3: reinvention as a lefty reliever.

Veteran starting pitcher Shawn Estes agreed to report to the Dodgers’ Minor League camp on Monday to attempt a transition to left-handed-relief specialist.

Estes/files/includes/,.css cut on Sunday with a choice of reporting to the Minor Leagues or receiving his release/files/includes/,.css said the compromise was raised in a meeting he had on Sunday with general manager Ned Colletti. The Dodgers have been unsuccessful in finding a second left-handed reliever to complement Hong-Chih Kuo.

Really? I mean/files/includes/,.css I don’t mind giving the guy a shot in minor league camp/files/includes/,.css but how many times have we been over this? He’s almost never been very good in the bigs/files/includes/,.css and he’s been downright awful this spring. He’s done. Cooked. Over. Finito. You don’t have to go home/files/includes/,.css but you can’t stay here. No matter whether or not the biggest competition are guys like Brian Mazone and Erick Threets. 

So the solution is…

willohmanbraves.jpgJust sign Will Ohman already! I was calling for this as far back as last October/files/includes/,.css when I included him as part of my 2009 plan:

Ohman’s a 31-year old lefty reliever and Pepperdine alum who’s made it into at least 56 games in each of the last four seasons with the Cubs and Braves/files/includes/,.css with ERA+ marks of 151/files/includes/,.css 112/files/includes/,.css 94/files/includes/,.css and 112. Plus/files/includes/,.css he’s absolutely murder on lefties (.571 OPS against in 2008)/files/includes/,.css which makes him unlike Beimel (who’s actually harder on righties) and Kuo (who kills everyone/files/includes/,.css but isn’t really a situational kind of guy).

Joe Torre spent most of last year trying to turn Beimel into a situational lefty/files/includes/,.css which he never was/files/includes/,.css so why not just sign a guy who’s clearly good at it? Makes sense to me. Plus/files/includes/,.css the price is right/files/includes/,.css because according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark:

Last I heard/files/includes/,.css the last of the free-agent left-handers/files/includes/,.css Will Ohman/files/includes/,.css was looking for a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $1.75 million/files/includes/,.css with easily reachable incentives that could add close to another $1 million on top of that. Also hearing Ohman wants to stay on the West Coast. So with the Dodgers not interested in approaching that price/files/includes/,.css the Padres and Giants would seem to be the teams at the front of this line.

You know what? I’m usually not in favor of giving much money to relievers/files/includes/,.css but in this case it’s worth it. Not only is this a big need for the Dodgers (and not just because Mazone and Threets are the alternatives – what happens when/files/includes/,.css not if/files/includes/,.css when Kuo goes on the DL? You’ll still need those guys later.) After an off-season in which Ned Colletti clearly established he’s trying to win now/files/includes/,.css are we really going to let a measly $1 million or so stop us from getting the quality lefty reliever we so desperately need?

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