The unforgettable D.J. Houlton era comes to a close

The Dodgers sold the right-hander to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League, bringing down the curtain on a Dodgers career in which Houlton went 6-11 with a 4.99 ERA in 53 appearances, including 19 starts. All of those came in two seasons, but those two seasons were spread over three years because he never received a callup from Triple-A Las Vegas in 2006. Houlton came to the Dodgers as a Rule 5 selection from Houston and thus spent all of 2005 in the majors, going 6-9 with a 5.16 ERA at a point when he clearly wasn’t ready for prime time. He actually pitched pretty well at times that year, but he always seemed to get roughed up in the first inning. I remember one game at Florida on Aug. 19, 2005 (OK, I don’t really remember that much about it, I looked it up in my old scorebook) where he actually pitched six shutout innings, allowing only one hit, before giving up three runs in the seventh in what became a 3-0 Dodgers loss. After that game, D.J. told us he had tried to visualize his pregame warmup in the bullpen as the first inning, so that when he actually took the mound in the first inning, it would be more like the second inning in his mind. It might sound strange and simplistic, but it worked. He retired the first 13 batters he faced. He was also a really good guy who got thrust into a situation he wasn’t ready for, and that might have permanently affected his career. But this will be a good move for him. Of course, the other question that all of this raises is, will U.S. major-league teams ever take on corporate sponsors like the Hawks have done? Will it be the Los Angeles Bank of America Dodgers, the San Diego SeaWorld Padres, the Arizona Diamondbacks presented by Gila River Casinos? Oh wait, that last one already does exist.

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