It’s amazing how tidy the batting side of the 2010 roster has turned out to be, isn’t it? What was expected to be a three-way battle for 2B looks to be Blake DeWitt’s job to lose, and the job of lefty bat off the bench is a nice clean (if not sexy, or interesting, or correct) choice between Garret Anderson and Doug Mientkiewicz. Yet with a flurry of moves and interesting performances in the last few days, the fight for the last few pitching spots has really started to heat up.
As you can see from the NRI list at the right, we’ve lost a few hopefuls over the last few days, including NRI’s Eric Gagne, Scott Dohmann, & Francisco Felix – plus minor-league guys like Scott Elbert & Kenley Jansen and Rule 5er Armando Zerpa. Plus, Ronald Belisario almost certainly won’t be on the Opening Day roster at this point, opening up another hole.
So, let’s take advantage of today’s offday and put some odds to our contestants for the #5 starting gig. We’ll do the back of the bullpen separately. Also, just so I don’t have to repeat it 10 times – yes, I 100% totally agree that it’s insane to place too much importance on spring stats against varying competition when a guy has a much longer track record to review. Of course. Let’s just not forget that A) even though spring stats shouldn’t matter, we all know that they do when it comes time to make the decision, and B) meaningless or not, there’s a pretty big divide between a 20.25 ERA and a 0.00 ERA.
Eric Stults. As the only Dodger with a shutout in each of the last two years, he’s at least been able to show Joe Torre he has the skills. The question is whether he can use them consistently. Stults is out of options and would almost certainly get picked up by other teams if he was set free. On the other hand, while he hasn’t allowed a run in camp, he’s also pitched just 2 innings, which makes you wonder how interested the staff is in seeing him. Still, his past success plus option status has to make him the leader unless he implodes. Odds: 60%.
Carlos Monasterios. As a Rule 5 pickup who none of us had heard of when he was drafted, one might think that his odds would be pretty low. Yet for a guy with only 7 innings above A ball, he’s been impressive in his admittedly small sample size, tossing 5 scoreless innings. He’s young, but he’s not that young, as he turns 24 later this week. Obviously the Dodgers selected him for a reason, and if he doesn’t make the club he’d have to be offered back to the Phillies, so that alone gives him a little boost. I don’t think he’s got a great chance, but it’s still a chance. Odds: 15%.
James McDonald. Just like last year, I think we’d all come into camp hoping that McDonald would come away with the job. Who wouldn’t want to see the two-time team Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the rotation rather than the usual crew of retreads and has-beens? Despite McDonald’s failure in the role last year, he did turn his season around with an impressive run out of the pen, leading many (okay, me) to hope that he’d found his groove. Yet he’s been awful so far this spring (6 runs and 8 hits in 4 innings, with just 1 K and 3 walks), and with the extra room in the bullpen thanks to Belisario’s disappearance, he may be needed there. Odds: 10%
Charlie Haeger. Everyone’s favorite knuckleballer probably needed a nice camp showing to grab the job, and so far it hasn’t gone all that well. First, he was dropped from the Taiwan trip thanks to a leg injury, costing him valuable mound time in front of Joe Torre. When he has been able to pitch, he hasn’t been overly impressive, putting 8 men on in 4 innings. That said, even if he doesn’t get the starting gig, he could still be a part of the team, according to Torre:
Torre on C.Haeger: “He will have the opportunity to be a reliever because he can pitch everyday.” Also said he’s an option for 5th starter.
Like Stults, Haeger is out of options and would likely get picked up by another club. So while I don’t think he’s winning the #5 job, I do think he makes the team. Odds: 10%.
Ramon Ortiz. Ramon’s been the darling of camp for the last few days thanks to his 9 scoreless innings and 11/2 K/BB ratio. DodgerThoughts and Memories of Kevin Malone wisely caution against falling in love with a guy with such a lousy track record who hasn’t even pitched in the bigs since 2007, and they’re right to do so. Still, Ortiz is saying all the right things about how the tight Japanese strike zone taught him how to be more of a pitcher than a thrower, and at some point all those spring zeroes start to add up. I don’t believe it’s going to be enough to win him the job, but it might get him a shot as the last arm out of the bullpen. Odds: 5%.
Russ Ortiz. I know that he’s not allowed a walk or a run in 5 innings, and I do not care. I refuse to live in a world where Russ Ortiz – Russ Ortiz! – can win a rotation spot on a team with playoff dreams. Since his last decent season in 2004, his MLB line is 10-28 with a 6.56 ERA. He is, quite possibly, the worst pitcher in baseball, and he’s about to be 36. No amount of spring training niceties should be able to undo that. Odds: 0.0000001%
If you’re wondering why I’m giving slightly more hope to one busted R.Ortiz over another, it’s because Ramon has thrown nearly twice the innings Russ has in camp – and because I’ll be the first to admit I have an irrational hatred of Russ Ortiz. The Giants and D-Backs connections, the huge contract, the total flameout, the age – I don’t want any part of it.