Daily Distractions: The Dodgers love Australia! (Sure they do.)

Dan Haren

Clayton Kershaw (left) and Dan Haren (right) figure to be on the plane to Sydney, Australia to begin the 2014 regular season. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A scrum of reporters was gathered in one corner of the clubhouse Monday, surrounding a player with questions that had nothing do with Sydney, site of the Dodgers’ regular-season opener March 22. Once the questions and answers stopped, the player tacked on three words with a poo-eating grin: “I love Australia!”

Earlier, pitcher Dan Haren was asked about being on a short list of pitchers who might start one of the Dodgers’ season-opening games against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Which answer do you want, the politically correct answer?” Haren said. “I think Stan (Kasten, the Dodgers’ president) would probably like me to give the politically correct one.”

The fallout from Zack Greinke‘s candid comments about beginning the season in Australia was ringing loud and clear in the clubhouse Monday. Greinke told ESPN.com Saturday that “I would say there is absolutely zero excitement for (the trip). There just isn’t any excitement to it. I can’t think of one reason to be excited for it.”

Haren wouldn’t go that far. He has orders not to. But he articulated a few more practical concerns about the trip Monday.

“Going over there, it’s going to be tough but we have to think of the games as real regular-season games. We have to turn the switch on,” he said. “In regards to the actual trip, it’s going to be a lot to handle, especially for the starting pitchers making the trip. But are we really complaining about flying a charter plane, staying at a hotel, all-expenses paid? I really don’t want to be complaining about it.

“That’s a lot to ask for the players, but I think everyone understands why we’re doing it. We’re trying to build the brand, I guess. We just have to welcome it I guess.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has not said who will start the two games. He’s said that five starters might be too many to bring for two games, so the top four — Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Haren — figure to be on the plane.

“We don’t really know who’s pitching or anything yet,” Haren said. “It would really stink to fly 30 hours and not pitch, I guess. I really don’t know what my role is going to be there.”

Kasten said Sunday afternoon that he had not been approached by organizers of the Australia games. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that this might change.

Haren doesn’t want to give the Australians anything more to complain about, and not because he fears a public booting.

“I’m new on the team,” Haren said. “I only have a one-year contract.”

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Report: Chicago White Sox sign former Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario for one year, $3 million.

Ronald BelisarioAccording to the Chicago Tribune, Ronald Belisario is leaving Los Angeles to sign a one-year, $3 million contract with the White Sox.

Belisario, who is eligible for arbitration, was not tendered before the 9 p.m. Monday deadline. The right-hander led the Dodgers in appearances in 2013, posting a 3.97 earned-run average in 77 games.

Earlier Thursday, the Dodgers agreed to terms on a one-year contract with right-hander Brian Wilson.

The Tribune reported that Belisario’s contract will become official once he passes a physical.

Daily Distractions: As bullpen market settles, Brian Wilson reportedly ‘close’ to settling with Dodgers.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson posted a 0.66 earned-run average in 13 games as a Dodger. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff photographer)

In the midst of all that pesky logic that preached pessimism, there was always this shred of hope for the Dodgers: Brian Wilson never insisted on closing in 2014.

Not publicly, at least.

Here’s what I wrote on Oct. 31:

It’s reasonable to expect the Dodgers will enter the bidding for Wilson. Just don’t be surprised if a team desperate for a closer (Detroit? Cleveland? Arizona?) guarantees more money and more years to a pitcher who’s saved one game the past two seasons.

Well, Detroit appears to have entered and exited the picture. The Tigers are reportedly close to signing Joe Nathan to be their closer, in part because their Plan A didn’t work out:

And, according to multiple reports Tuesday morning, Wilson is close to rejoining the Dodgers.

After the Dodgers declined to tender an offer to Ronald Belisario before last night’s 9 p.m. deadline, the need for a set-up man to Kenley Jansen became clear. And if Brian Wilson was keen on staying close to his Southern California home, why not Brian Wilson? He had a 0.66 earned-run average in 18 games after joining the Dodgers midway through the 2013 season, with his velocity increasing as the season progressed. He also threw six shutout innings in the playoffs.

Those stats would be nearly impossible to maintain in 2014, but he doesn’t appear to be regressing after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2012.

The closer market is settling quickly this off-season. If Wilson and Nathan leave the board, only Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney would remain among free agents who closed full-time in 2013. Heath Bell and Jim Johnson have been traded in the last 24 hours.

I mentioned John Axford as a possible replacement for Belisario. Re-signing Wilson wouldn’t necessarily rule that out, and with this sense of humor you hope it doesn’t:

 

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