In a surprising move, the Dodgers did not tender reliever Ronald Belisario a contract before the deadline on Monday evening came to a close, making the right-hander a free agent. The Dodgers had been connected to rumors surrounding Jim Johnson, but a deal with Oakland was worked out with the Orioles instead. With Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell still unsigned, it is beginning to seem like the Dodger bullpen will have a new look for 2014.
Today, the #Dodgers non-tendered RHP Ronald Belisario, making him a free agent.
— Dodgers PR (@DodgersPR) December 3, 2013
While Belisario wasn’t the most popular Dodger over the years, his departure from the team is still a bit sad. The 30-year old Venezuelan pitcher was originally drafted by the Miami Marlins back in 1999, and subsequently missed the 2005 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He also missed the 2006 season due to an unknown suspension. The sometimes troubled pitcher later signed with the Dodgers as a free agent before the 2009 season. He has only played in the Majors as a Dodger after debuting on April 7, 2009.
After shining in his rookie season after finishing 2009 with a 2.04 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 69 games with the Dodgers, Beli then began to have personal problems which led to him not showing up for Spring Training 2010. His absence in Spring Training stemmed from VISA problems and a DUI charge from a Pasadena, California incident. Beli rejoined the Dodgers toward the end of April, but his 2010 was no remake of his first season with the Dodgers. He finished the season with a disappointing 5.04 ERA in 55 1/3 innings pitched while only striking out 38 batters.
Belisario wasn’t able to pitch at all in his lost 2011 season after he did not report on time for Spring Training for the third season in a row after having VISA problems once again. He was placed on the restricted list again, and later we finally concluded that he was not going to pitch at all that season.
Before the 2012 season, Belisario had to serve a 25-game suspension at the beginning of the season for a violation of the MLB drug policy. That winter, Belisario admitted that he had tested positive for cocaine. Belisario claimed that he was clean, and he was working hard to rejoin his team. He finally did rejoin the Dodgers after being activated from the restricted list on May 3, 2012. Belisario had a comeback year in 2012 and finished with a 8-1 record with a good 2.54 ERA in 68 games. He struck out a career-high 69 batters over 71 innings pitched. We were all excited to see the “Old Beli” back.
In 2013, Belisario somewhat regressed and struggled. He went 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA over a career-high 77 games. Don Mattingly was even questioned when going to Belisario in such a large number of games during the season. He pitched in 68 innings, but he only struck out 49. September saw major struggles for Beli, and he had an ERA of nearly 8.00 while walking more batters and striking out much less in that last regular season stretch.
Belisario pitched in four postseason series for the Dodgers (the 2009 NLDS and NLCS and the 2013 NLDS and NLCS), most of which he struggled in.
The Dodgers obviously did not want to spend the money in arbitration for Belisario or for the uncertainty Belisario brings. Although he still has some nasty sinking pitches, his unreliability along with his sketchy past makes the risk too expensive in the eyes of the Dodgers. It looks like the Dodgers will either be stocking their bullpen with in-house and younger options like Jose Dominguez or perhaps they will make a trade or free agent signing n order to replace Beli.
While some couldn’t get over Beli’s looks (a face only a mother could love), I could care less about his goggled visage. I only cared about his pitching talents. Belisario has been only a Dodger, and it’s always bittersweet to see these types of players move on in their careers. His drug problems and his seemingly earnest fight to make it back to the Dodgers was a story which made me root for his success. I hope that the Dodgers decision to move on was nothing more than a baseball decision and not because Beli relapsed or has any new substance abuse problems.
By non-tendering Belisario, the Dodgers also open up another free spot on the 40-man roster. The remaining arbitration eligible players which are due to receive contracts are Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw. We will update you on their status as soon as we know, but those three are most certainly a part of the core for the Dodgers for 2014 and beyond.