As Spring Training comes down the final stretch, there are some interesting situations developing that will make the last days potentially difficult for skipper Don Mattingly and his coaching staff. It has been decided that young pitching phenom, Rubby De La Rosa will get two more starts to show the Dodger brass what he’s got. This is not insignificant with injuries to Vincente Padilla and starter Jon Garland. De La Rosa, who no-hit the defending champs for four innings in his last start, has been a rising star with nasty stuff. If he continues his progression in his next two starts, he might just get a start before Garland comes back.
The rotation is more or less set otherwise, barring another injury. But questions continue to abound in the bullpen. There is no question that the next ten days will be crucial to the future of more than a few pitchers. First, it would be a colossal shock if Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Matt Guerrier failed to make the cut. Broxton will be the closer unless he has a complete and total meltdown. Not going to happen. Blake Hawksworth looks pretty safe as well. So there are two or three spots remaining, one of which will go to Padilla once he returns from his injury.
So who makes the cut? Let me offer a few humble suggestions for Donnie Baseball and the boys. First, Mike MacDougal deserves one of those spots. He has been an All Star closer before so we know he can get Major League hitters out in pressure situations. He has been lights out all Spring. In seven outings, 6.1 innings pitched, he has yet to allow an earned run. He is perfect in save opportunities, going two for two. He can come in the game in the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings and get a guy out. He and Kuo could really shorten the games and eliminate the need to bring in Broxton before the ninth.
Second, you have to keep young stud Kenley Jansen. Jansen has had a good Spring. He had a good year last year and he is poised to have another one. This guy could be a future closer. He can overpower hitters late in the game. He is better than any other option. As to who fills in the last spot, hard to say. They may choose to leave it open and carry another bat until Padilla comes back. Mahay could have had a shot, providing another lefty, but he has been horrific. Maybe De La Rosa fills this spot for awhile. Perhaps Juan Rincon makes the cut. Lefty Scott Elbert is also in the mix but has been wild.
Thankfully, as of late, the Dodgers offense is showing continued signs of life. Mattingly has been steadfast in his confidence that this offense would return to it’s 2009 form. While many people have chuckled politely or rolled their eyes in disbelief, Mattingly might just know what he is talking about. Matt Kemp homered again as the Dodgers topped the White Sox, as he continues to demonstrate his desire to show that last year was a fluke.
Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Juan Uribe need to start getting their timing down as they, along with Kemp, will be the heart of the order. There may be more pressure on Uribe to live up to the big payday the Dodgers shelled out to lure him from the Bay. The question marks come in left field and the bench.
Tony Gwynn Jr. and Marcus Thames are going to make the cut barring something bizarre happening. Will Jay Gibbons make the cut? We know Ned Colletti brought him in to platoon with Thames and would like to see that plan work. Can Gibbons prove that vision was the real problem and not declining skills? We know that Gibbons will be given every opportunity to prove that is that case.
Personally, I would rather see that spot go to Xavier Paul. Also a left-handed hitter, Paul is a younger player whose better days are before him, not behind him. Paul has had a good Spring, hitting .325 and popping two home runs. He must demonstrate that this was not the result of facing minor league pitching but a sign of progression in his development. I think he is worth the gamble.
Aaron Miles continues to take advantage of his opportunities, especially with Jamey Carroll recovering from an injured finger. Both players figure to make the cut with Casey Blake on the shelf. But can young Ivan DeJesus convince the coaching staff to keep him around? He has had a good camp but the team would rather see him get at-bats in the minors and continue to develop rather than sitting on the bench. DeJesus would rather make the club for obvious reasons.
Finally, how can the team ignore the numbers Hector Gimenez continues to put up? He can play first base as well as catch. He is a switch-hitter so he provides even more versatility off the bench. Has Dioner Navarro given any reason to think that he would be the better choice? Me thinks the answer is no.
Today the boys in blue will get another chance to get ready for the season and/or to make their case to continue to wear the legendary “LA” on their caps. Kershaw will get the start against the A’s while veteran hopeful Tim Redding will toe the rubber against the Diamondbacks. Redding may just sneak into the rotation to start the year if he continues to pitch well. It looks like the last several days of camp will be interesting and full of discussion and debate. Who do you think should fill out the bullpen Dodger fans? Should MacDougal make it? What about the outfield? Should Paul finally get his shot or should the team go with the veteran Gibbons? Let the debate begin!