Full disclosure: I picked the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish third, ahead of St. Louis and Chicago, in the National League Central this year. Can’t take it back. It happened.
One week later, I found myself using the quality of the Dodgers’ weekend opponent as some sort of asterisk in a game story after the Bucs were swept out of Dodger Stadium. That’s what happens when you can recite stats like these:
Six games into the season, NL pitchers are hitting .138/.180/.198. The Pirates are hitting .119/.188/.159.
When Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Dodgers last August, no one could have known what that would mean for reliever Javy Guerra.
Gonzalez asked Guerra if he would join Team Mexico on Saturday after reliever David Hernandez was ruled ineligible and switched teams, from Mexico to the United States. Guerra readily accepted after getting permission from Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
It’s something he might not have been able to do without Gonzalez, the team captain for Mexico.
Dodgers right-hander Javy Guerra told the team on Saturday that he plans on playing for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
Once he’s added to the roster Guerra would join Dodgers teammates Luis Cruz and Adrian Gonzalez on the Mexican team. Cruz and Gonzalez are set to leave the Dodgers to begin training for the WBC tomorrow.
A curious chain reaction left an opening for a pitcher on Team Mexico. After Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez left Team USA due to injury, Arizona Diamondbacks reliever David Hernandez switched from Team Mexico to the United States squad, having been ruled ineligible to pitch for Mexico.
Chad Billingsley gave an upbeat self-diagnosis on his right elbow when spring training began. One week later, he looks like the same pitcher, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Tuesday.
“Chad, the ball’s coming out fine,” Honeycutt said. “He hasn’t missed any time other than just having a little bit of soreness in the calf from our running program. Arm-wise, it’s been very impressive.”
Billingsley hasn’t been limited in his throwing since spring began. Only two Dodgers pitchers have: Javy Guerra and Ted Lilly. Guerra had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder November 2. Lilly had the same procedure on his left shoulder Sept. 21.
“Ted, even though we’ve taken a little more conservative approach with his times on the mound,” Honeycutt said, “giving him two days in between — him and Javy Guerra — each time he’s been on the mound he’s been very good. Very solid.”
Maybe the biggest injury news is this: Kenley Jansen has been bothered by an ingrown toenail. Other than Scott Elbert, who had elbow surgery on Jan. 23 and is expected to miss opening day, the entire pitching staff is healthy one week into spring training. Knock on wood.
Today begins our daily countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on Tuesday with a position-by-position breakdown of the Dodgers’ roster. We begin with the bullpen.
I didn’t include Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly on this list, even though one or more of them could wind up pitching out of the ‘pen. Even without them, this is a solid unit on paper with ample depth. The closer situation is fairly clear, but the Dodgers enter the season with more viable options for the ninth inning than they’ve had in recent seasons.
There are a few injury concerns facing this unit, but none are severe. With one exception, the Dodgers’ bullpen should start the season healthy, capable of becoming one of the best in the National League.
Reliever Javy Guerra underwent a 25-minute arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder today, according to a team spokesperson. Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the surgery.
The procedure involved a cleanup of bursitis and the A-C joint that is at the top of the shoulder. Guerra will start his throwing program in six weeks and is expected to be competitive by spring training.
Guerra went 2-3 with eight saves and a 2.60 earned-run average last season. He lost his closer’s job to Kenley Jansen early in the season. Though often effective, Guerra was beset by a knee injury and an oblique injury that ultimately ended his season.
The Dodgers signed Brandon League to a three-year contract yesterday worth $22.5 million. General manager Ned Colletti envisions League closing, though ultimately that decision will fall to manager Don Mattingly. The value of League’s contract makes that seem like a straightforward decision — why pay a guy $7 million-plus to pitch the eighth inning? — but the decision on paper is closer than you might think.
For one thing, League is one of three pitchers who closed games for the Dodgers last year (three-and-a-half, if you include Ronald Belisario’s brief time co-closing with league in September). He, Belisario and Kenley Jansen are all high-strikeout power pitchers with a repertoire worthy of the role. Of course, if Jansen weren’t waiting in the wings at the time, the Dodgers might have continued to let Javy Guerra pitch through his early-season struggles; Guerra finished the season with eight saves and a 2.60 ERA. Arguably, that makes four capable closers in the Dodger bullpen. And while Guerra pitched his way out of the job, Jansen only lost the job because of a health setback.
Among that quartet, League has the most career saves (60). Want to guess how many active major-league pitchers have more? Thirty-seven. Experience isn’t everything — I would rather have League pitching the ninth inning in 2013 than, say, Jason Isringhausen — but the point is that Jansen (34 career saves), Guerra (29) and Belisario (3) aren’t that much less proven in the ninth inning than League.
So for today’s poll question, we give you the manager’s jersey and a baseball to hand to your closer of choice.