Jeff Weaver looks like a lock for opening-day roster

He’s pitching in a minor-league game today so they can stretch him out to three innings in anticipation of using him as a long man out of the bullpen or possibly giving him a spot start now and then. But he clearly has this team made as a reliever, even though no one has come out and actually said it yet.
“He has been pretty consistent for me, without telling you he is on the club,” Joe Torre said this morning. “I think doing what we’re doing today (is telling). Normally, you want to see somebody pitch against big-league clubs, but this is more of a physical thing. I would like to see him stretch it out.”
Weaver’s minor-league deal, which surprisingly didn’t include an out clause if he didn’t make the team, does include a clause stating that he will receive a base salary of $500,000 if he makes the club, with no additional incentives.
Meanwhile, Torre reiterated this morning that Jason Schmidt and Delwyn Young likely will begin the season on the disabled list. But it looks like Claudio Vargas will be ready to go. He shut himself down with elbow pain three days ago, but Stan Conte said an MRI showed nothing more serious than inflammation and that Vargas feels much better today. He was expected to play catch on the back fields during today’s workout.

Back in the saddle, one week to go

After a few days off, I’m returning to the beat today. Thanks for Ramona Shelburne for so capably filling in while I was away. This is the fun week of spring training for those of us who follow it on a daily basis — although it isn’t that much fun for the handful of players who inevitably will be cut later this week, as the opening-day roster is expected to be finalized by late Saturday night. Three more days in AZ, then back to Los Angeles for a handful of exhibitions starting Thurs. night. The opener is one week from today. Hard to believe.


As impressive as Josh Lindblom has been this spring, it sounded an awful lot like he’d start the season in the minors, then be looked at as a midseason call-up.

“I still put him in the category of Kershaw,” Joe Torre said, referencing the Dodgers’ handling of Clayton Kershaw last season.

Coincidentally or not, Clayton and Josh have become best buds in camp this year. They just met in January, but seem to have hit it off. Obviously, there are quite a few similarities…

Lasorda backs Piazza

It’s going to take more than accusations from former players to make
Tommy Lasorda doubt Mike Piazza.

The former Dodgers catcher was one of a handful of players singled
out as a steroid-user in a new book by Sports Illustrated columnist
Jeff Pearlman. But when told of the accusations Sunday, Tommy Lasorda
rushed to his defense.

“I don’t believe that at all,” Lasorda said. “He worked so hard. I
saw him in the weight room working out all the time. Whatever (is in
the book) is hearsay. I just don’t believe it. He comes from a family
that’s full of good people.

“I wouldn’t comment on it if I didn’t feel strongly about it. He has
too much to lose. And he’s such a nice young man. He goes to church,
he’s got a nice family. I know him. I know what kind of man he is and
I just don’t believe it.”

Piazza, a 12-time All Star generally regarded as a certain
Hall-of-Famer who holds the record for most home runs as a catcher
(396), was drafted by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft
partly as a favor to Lasorda, who is godfather to one of Piazza’s

Pearlman quotes former major-league first baseman Reggie Jefferson
and another anonymous player in his book, “The Rocket that fell to

In the book, Jefferson says, “He’s a guy who did it, and everybody
knows it. It’s amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are
brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched.”

Another anonymous player is quoted as saying, “There was nothing
more obvious than Mike on steroids. Everyone talked about it, everyone
knew it.”

There is no scientific proof, nor did Piazza comment or confirm
anything. Lasorda said he was saddened to hear of the accusations.

“This is a guy that should be in the Hall of Fame. He’s out-homered
every catcher that’s in there,” Lasorda said. “I just don’t believe
it. Mike Piazza? No way. He worked too hard. I saw him.”

Chew on this stat

Though spring training stats are notoriously hard to evaluate, the Dodgers team ERA (6.24) this spring is 27th among the 30 major league teams. Of course two of the teams below them in the rankings — Arizona (6.44, 28th) and San Diego (7.00, 30th) are in the NL West. Colorado (6.14 ERA) is 26th.

Schmidt hit 90 mph

I was told that Jason Schmidt hit 90 mph on three occasions in the first inning. Most of his pitches were between 87-90 mph in the first inning. After that they weren’t 90 but they weren’t that far off either.

Here’s what Schmidt had to say afterwards:

Q: Physically how did you feel today?

A: I felt good, but wildness has been a factor for a while. It’s not always pretty but I figure out a little bit more each time out. You’ve just got to go through it.

Q: How concerned are you about your velocity?
A: Velocity is the last thing on my mind. I’m just trying to let the ball go and harness what I have. But throwing strikes is the most important thing.

Q: Can you be effective without being a power pitcher?
A: I’ve done both over the years. I don’t think it’s a problem. You just have to throw strikes. You can’t be a power pitcher in the big leagues if you don’t throw strikes. I’d much rather blow it by ‘em, that’d be much easier. But I’ve been down both roads. I had shoulder surgery back in 2000 and I threw 86-90 the whole year and went 13-7 and had a really good year. In ’05 I came into camp and I’d lost all my velocity. It took me half the season to figure out what to do with it, but I won 12 or 13 games that year.

Q: You seem upbeat?
A: My arm feels good. I just need to throw strikes. I need more strength, and more command. I’m doing everything different so it’s going to take a while to get the muscle memory.

Billingsley feels good after simulated game

Sorry, forgot to blog this earlier.

Chad Billingsley threw about 65 pitches in a simulated game this morning, mostly against Casey Blake and Danny Ardoin, and said he felt “great” afterwards.

That’s great news for the Dodgers, who were worried his groin injury could affect his availability to start the season.

“He threw all his pitches and had absolutely no hesitation,” Joe Torre said. “It’s not a game yet, but I feel a lot better watching him today he didn’t look like he was favoring anything he said he felt great and he worked hard.”

Schmidt done after 3 1/3rd

Jason Schmidt’s day with one out in the third inning. It was a real mixed bag. He’d struck out four batters (GOOD) but walked three (BAD) and gave up three runs (NOT SO GOOD). He also gave up a couple of extra base hits, an indication that the pitch didn’t do what he intended it to do. On the strikeouts though, he looked really sharp.

Welcome to the world, George William Blake

Casey Blake is back with the team today after his wife gave birth to the couple’s fourth child around 10 p.m. Wednesday night.

It’s a boy!

Casey said he just kind of liked the name because not many kids have that name today. And, he’s a big fan of George Strait.

Here’s the good part for all you women readers out there. Like a good husband, Casey said he spent the night in the hospital with his wife after his son was born.