Yesterday, I shared several pitching news and notes, both good (Monasterios) and bad (Kuo, McDonald). The constant flux in the pitching staff seems to be the news du jour right now, since not only did we see Chad Billingsley toss three scoreless innings yesterday while working on adding a changeup, we get to read about Eric Gagne’s struggles and we may have gained some insight into who’s really in competition for the last few spots on the staff. Ramona Shelburne tweets:
Torre said he’s very interested in how Josh Towers, Josh Lindblom and Jon Link throw today. All are candidates to make the team this year.
Towers was signed as a non-roster invite in December, Lindblom nearly made the team last year, and Link was part of the return for Juan Pierre from the White Sox. All three pitched well in yesterday’s finale in Tawain (Towers: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, Lindblom: 3 IP, 3 K, 0 ER, Link: 1 IP, 2 H, 2K, 0 ER), though if you can’t do well against that level of competition you shouldn’t even be in camp.
With the uncertainty at the back of the staff, one should expect that the leaders of the competition will still change about 20 times in the next 3 weeks, but don’t sleep on Jon Link in this race. He’s the only one of the three on the 40-man roster (though of course this is hardly limited to just these three), so he’s got that in his favor, and even though he’s a newcomer to the organization who most people know nothing about, he’s not without his merits. Here’s the quick scouting report we linked to from SoxProspects.com when he was acquired:
- 2009 White Sox Best Slider (Baseball America)
Link has struck out a lot of batters in the minors because he has a very good slider, but his fastball and change are solid offerings as well. His fastball usually sits 93-94 m.p.h. and has some sink on it. His changeup has gotten better, helping him get lefties out, but he walked almost a batter an inning against lefties in 2009 for Charlotte. He has the stuff to pitch in the bigs, but he needs to make strides with his control. Link should contend for a spot in the 2010 bullpen if he proves he can throw more strikes.
Major League Outlook: Average middle reliever
As I noted at the time, he’s struck out 10.5/9 in each of his last two minor league seasons, so clearly the ‘stuff’ is there. It’s obviously early, but he’s yet to walk a batter in camp – and he’s just turned 26, so he’s not a young kid who needs protecting. If someone unexpected is going to sneak onto the roster, why not someone like Link rather than the 33-year-old Towers, who has 5.1 MLB innings in the last two years and hasn’t even been league-average since 2005?
Elsewhere: Garret Anderson’s going to make his Dodgers debut today, but only at DH, so the chances that he blows out a hamstring today probably drop to just 75% or so. Baseball Prospectus has a nice interview with farm director DeJon Watson, mostly focusing on Ivan DeJesus Jr. and Dee Gordon. UniWatch has a story full of pictures from the very first Dodger spring training in Vero Beach from 1948, including the one below. They also note that despite all of the hand-wringing over the club leaving Vero last year, they’d trained in more than their share of locales prior to 1948:
For the first half of the 20th Century, the Brooklyn Dodgers were a somewhat nomadic bunch when it came to their spring training home. In fact, prior to 1947, they trained in the following locations: Charlotte, N.C. (1901); Columbia, S.C. (1902-1906); Jacksonville (1907-1909); Hot Springs, Ark. (1910-1912); Augusta, Ga. (1913-1914); Daytona Beach (1915-1916); Hot Springs, Ark. (1917-1918); Jacksonville (1919-1920); New Orleans (1921); Jacksonville (1922); Clearwater (1923-1932); Miami (1933); Orlando (1934-1935); Clearwater (1936-1940); Havana (1941-1942); Bear Mountain, N.Y. (1943-1945); Daytona Beach (1946); and while they remained in Florida in 1947, they would also hold spring training in Havana (1947); and Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic (1948), due to the racist atmosphere pervasive in the American South at the time, since 1947 would be the year Jack Roosevelt Robinson would break baseball’s color barrier.