Dodgers coaches meeting tomorrow to discuss plans for pitching staff.

Chris Capuano

Don Mattingly said that the Dodgers’ coaching staff will meet tomorrow to discuss plans for their pitching staff. There appear to be two spots in the bullpen up for grabs, and the picture gained clarity when Mark Lowe was released this morning.

One topic that’s sure to be on the agenda: Which of the starting pitchers will become relievers?

The question has probably been answered within the organization. Now, with eight days left until Opening Day, the time has come to formally inform the Dodgers’ newest relief pitcher that he is the Dodgers’ newest relief pitcher.

“We’ll talk to those guys, make sure they can mentally start wrapping their arms around it, talk about ‘how would you like to work?’ … It’s nice to talk to the guys and get their arms wrapped around it so they can make the adjustment,” Mattingly said.

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Ten Dodgers become free agents.

The Dodgers declined to exercise the 2013 club options on Todd Coffey, Juan Rivera and Matt Treanor.

They join another seven players who became free agents today: Brandon League, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, Jamey Wright, Joe Blanton, Adam Kennedy and Bobby Abreu.

In other words, no big names or surprises for the Dodgers on the first day of free agency. Players can only sign with new teams beginning at 9 p.m. Friday. Between now and then, the Dodgers can re-sign any of their in-house free agents, and they’ve already opened discussions with League’s representatives.

General manager Ned Colletti said that he would like to bring back Choate and Wright, as well, to keep intact a bullpen that finished the 2012 season strong.

Coffey, Rivera and Treanor now fall into the category of Victorino, Kennedy and Abreu: highly unlikely to be on the roster next season.

Blanton is an interesting case. The Dodgers gave him what amounted to a 10-start audition in August and September. In five starts at home, the 31-year-old right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA. Not bad. In five road starts he was 1-3, 6.51. Bad.

I guess that makes Blanton a “known quantity” for a team that is looking to add a starting pitcher. But looking at a free-agent market that now includes Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Kyle Lohse  and Hiroki Kuroda (another “known quantity”), the Dodgers probably figure they can do better.

The hot stove is just warming up.

Bullpen about to get a boost.

Not that it needs much help, but the Dodgers’ bullpen is about to get bigger.

Left-hander Scott Elbert, on the disabled list since Aug. 29 with inflammation in his left elbow, is scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow. It could be the final tuneup he needs before returning to action.

“If he’s good,” manager Don Mattingly said, “we’ll probably roll with him.”

Randy Choate and Paco Rodriguez are currently the only healthy left-handers in the Dodger bullpen. Choate has appeared in 26 of the Dodgers’ 44 games since he arrived in a trade with Miami, which projects to a 96-game pace over a full season. That’s not grounds for overuse when you’re only facing one or two batters a game, but having another veteran left-hander to complement the rookie Rodriguez will only benefit Choate.

Kenley Jansen, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet with a doctor tomorrow to get “final clearance” to resume practicing with the team. Because he’s been taking prescription blood thinners, Jansen has been unable to take the field –anywhere he could be struck by a batted ball. He could pitch as early as Tuesday in Washington.

The news was bad (again) for left-hander Ted Lilly, whose simulated game Thursday was cancelled. He’s expected to meet with a doctor tonight. It’s unclear what the medical reason was but Mattingly said that it’s “not necessarily a setback.” Lilly hasn’t pitched since May 23.

In their last eight innings dating to Saturday, Dodger relievers have not allowed a run.

‘Paco’ Rodriguez is here to help right away.

Two things you should know about new Dodgers pitcher Steven Rodriguez:

1. Only his mother calls him Steven. Everyone else calls him “Paco.”
2. He is not here to learn.

According to manager Don Mattingly, the 21-year-old could serve a valuable role out of the bullpen immediately. Because of injuries to Scott Elbert and Ted Lilly, Rodriguez joins Randy Choate as the Dodgers’ only healthy lefty reliever.

No 2012 draft pick has pitched in a major-league game yet, so Rodriguez was understandably surprised.

“Yesterday I was eating with our bullpen catcher back in Chattanooga and De Jon (Watson, the Dodgers’ farm director) calls me and says, ‘hey I’ve got some bad news for you.’

“I said, ‘what’s going on?’ And he’s like, ‘you’re going to have to drop your food, go pack your (belongings) and come in to L.A.’ My heart just started beating fast. A great feeling. Then I just called my parents, let them know I was coming up.”
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Dodgers acquire Hanley Ramirez from Marlins.

The Dodgers have acquired infielder Hanley Ramirez and left-handed reliever Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor-league pitcher Scott McGough.

Ramirez, 28, was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006, when he hit .292/.353/.480 (BA/OBP/SLG) with 17 homers and 59 RBIs. He hit a career-high 33 home runs in 2008 and won a batting title the next season, hitting a career-high .342.

Between injuries and poor play, however, Ramirez wore out his welcome in Miami. In 2011 Ramirez missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury; he also missed two weeks in June with a lower back strain. His stats suffered too: a .243 average, .333 on-base percentage, .379 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and 45 RBIs were all career lows. Ramirez’s stolen bases have also plummeted from 51 in 2006, to 20 in 2011, and 14 this year.

But he gives an immediate boost of power to a Dodgers team that ranks last in the majors in home runs (60). Ramirez’s 14 home runs and 47 RBIs both ranked second on the Marlins; only Matt Kemp has hit as many home runs and only Andre Ethier has more RBIs among the Dodgers. Ramirez is batting .246 this season, mostly out of the second or third spot in the order.

A shortstop in his first six major-league seasons, Ramirez switched to third base this season after the Marlins signed veteran shortstop Jose Reyes last winter. Ramirez’s eight errors are the ninth-fewest among everyday major-league third basemen.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, quoting Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, wrote on his Twitter account: “It’s no secret I love the kid. He needs to have a fresh beginning, a new beginning. This is a very painful moment for me. But we had to do something.”

Earlier Tuesday, USA Today reported that both the owner and Miami manager Ozzie Guillen wanted Ramirez traded.

Choate, 36, joins his fifth team in a 12-year major league career. He is tied for 19th in the National League in appearances (44) and has held left-handed hitters to a .150 batting average this season while not allowing a home run.
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