The Los Angeles Dodgers begin their 2011 spring training today, as pitchers and catchers will be streaming into Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. Pitching is expected to be the strength of this year's Dodgers, who look to rebound from an 80-82 campaign last season. The Dodgers began their offseason with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley as the only two established starting pitchers on the staff, but general manager Ned Colletti signed returning free agents Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, and added Jon Garland, who was a Dodger for a month in 2009.
In addition, Colletti also re-signed Vicente Padilla to an incentive-laden deal, although Padilla is expected to begin the season out of the bullpen. Padilla has a $2 million base salary, plus up to $6.8 million in performance bonuses as a reliever or up to $9 million in bonuses as a starter. Whatever his role, Padilla gives the Dodgers remarkable depth.
With the rotation pretty much set heading into spring, a rarity this time of year, the fight for jobs in spring training really comes down to the final few bullpen spots. Here is the likely pitching depth chart for the Dodgers:
Both Belisario and Hawksworth are out of options, so they figure to be given every shot to earn a roster spot. Belisario has reported late in each of his two spring trainings with the Dodgers with visa issues, but is expected to arrive on time from Venezuela this year. Kenley Jansen was converted from catcher to pitcher in July 2009, and in less than a year he made his way to the majors. In 27 innings with the Dodgers, Jansen gave up a scant two runs, walking 15 and striking out 41, but he has options and is a candidate to begin the year in the minors should the Dodgers decide to carry a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen behind Kuo.
Scott Elbert, who is on the 40-man roster, and Ron Mahay, who was signed to a minor-league deal, will likely battle it out for one spot in the bullpen. Others on the short list of bullpen candidates for the Dodgers include Ramon Troncoso, Travis Schlichting, and Jon Link, although Link is being converted to a starter.
The Dodgers have 30 pitchers in big league camp, including nine non-roster invitees. Here are the other pitchers in camp not mentioned above:
The first workout for Dodgers pitchers and catchers will be held Thursday at Camelback Ranch.
For more Dodgers spring training news and information, be sure to read True Blue LA.