There May Be More Bullpen Intrigue Than We Thought

Remember the heady days of, oh, three weeks ago, when the top six spots in the bullpen were all spoken for and the only question was if Scott Elbert or Ron Mahay would be able to unseat Blake Hawksworth for the last spot?

Uh, yeah. About that, because beyond the obvious absences of Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario, a lot has happened in just the last 24 hours. Let’s do this in “it’s Friday night” bullet point format.

* Both Mahay and Matt Guerrier allowed homers tonight in the loss to the Giants, though it’s hard to completely kill Mahay for giving one up to Buster Posey, who’s, you know, sorta good. Otherwise, Mahay struck out two in his inning, without walking anyone. Travis Schlichting followed with a second rough outing, allowing two runs. He’d given up three hits and a walk, leading to three runs, his first time out. Great. Jonathan Broxton, at least, threw his second scoreless inning of the spring.

* Kenley Jansen made all our hearts skip a beat with his near-injury in fielding drills today:

Jansen, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, was doing a pitcher’s fielding practice drill requiring him to field a slow roller between the mound and first base. Jansen tried to glove the ball and flip it in one motion when his left leg went out from under him and he landed on his right jaw.

“I feel weak and dizzy,” Jansen said after returning to the clubhouse. “I don’t know what happened. My right hand was in the air and my glove was going toward the base and I hit my jaw and scraped my left knee.”

That’s only mildly terrifying, right? I’m less concerned about his jaw than his knee, since he was carted off the field, though he’s reportedly uninjured.

* Hong-Chih Kuo hasn’t even thrown live BP yet, but is scheduled to do so for the first time on Saturday. Meanwhile, Scott Elbert hasn’t seen game action since his last walktastrophe.

* Thanks to all the uncertainty, Tony Jackson thinks Mike MacDougal has a real chance to make the squad:

Instead, their hope is MacDougal will be a serious candidate to make the club and be a reliable middle reliever. Presently, he is one of a half-dozen or so pitchers who have a legitimate shot at what are probably three open spots in the bullpen, and at the risk of jumping to a hasty conclusion so early in spring training, he appears at the moment to be a clear favorite to land one of those spots.

* Unimportant lefty leaving: Dana Eveland, who was optioned to minor league camp today, having never appeared in a game after injuring himself on the first day.

* Unimportant lefty arriving: Randy Keisler, who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2007, was signed to a minor league deal out of an open tryout camp.

So what does this all mean? Barring injury, the top four of Broxton, Kuo, Guerrier, and Jansen seem solid. Hawksworth was likely to make the team anyway due to his out-of-options status; that now seems assured. With Elbert and Schlichting each unimpressive, that might open the door for both Mahay and MacDougal, with Ramon Troncoso probably still having a say. That probably doesn’t sound great in theory, but don’t forget how often the bottom of any bullpen churns. As soon as Padilla returns, whomever’s on the bottom likely starts to look for a new address anyway. Besides, completely selfishly, it’s good to have some action in camp, right?

******

Back to the battle for the last bench spot, Justin Sellers made a great defensive play while Russ Mitchell made an error and Juan Castro couldn’t hang on to a ball that may have ended the 6th inning. Sellers, however, also struck out twice. Castro struck out with the bases loaded, but he also had an RBI single, so his odds of making the team are now 98%. In addition, Charley Steiner very clearly said that the battle was between Castro, Sellers, and Ivan DeJesus, pointedly leaving out Aaron Miles. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s a step in the right direction, so I’ll take it.

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