The Dodgers shed a third catcher from their camp roster in as many days Tuesday by re-assigning Jesus Flores to the minors. That effectively hands the backup backstop’s job to Tim Federowicz.
Federowicz was the front-runner to be the number-two behind A.J. Ellis, but not a shoo-in when the Dodgers invited four more experienced catchers — Flores, Ramon Castro, Wilkin Castillo and Eliezer Alfonzo — as non-roster invitees. Alfonzo never reported to camp. Castro and Flores never hit. Castillo did (.333/.333/.389) but it wasn’t enough to unseat Federowicz, a 24-year-old who has never been on an Opening Day roster.
The bullpen picture became more clear when Shawn Tolleson was optioned to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp. The 25-year-old right-hander only allowed one run in seven appearances, but the team appears intent on giving a bullpen job to a more experienced righty such as Peter Moylan, Mark Lowe or Kevin Gregg, or rookie Josh Wall. The 34-year-old Gregg, who’s allowed two hits and no runs in six appearances, looks like the front-runner among that group. Left-hander Paco Rodriguez also remains in camp.
Justin Sellers was the third camp casualty Tuesday. The infielder was optioned to the minor-league camp after batting .150/.150/.190, with 3 hits and no walks in 21 plate appearances.
The major-league camp roster is down to 40 players.
Monday’s game, the third of spring training for the Dodgers, began at 1:06 p.m. The Dodgers’ second batter stepped into the batter’s box 18 minutes later.
That’s because the Dodgers’ first batter, Dee Gordon, led off the bottom of the first inning with a 17-pitch at-bat against Chicago Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva. (Gordon struck out looking.) In the top of the first, Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley allowed hits to the first four batters he faced and surrendered two runs. It had the makings of a long game from the outset and it was: Three hours, 25 minutes total.
The afternoon was probably more memorable if Vin Scully was narrating it — which he was, if you had a radio Monday.
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.
Scott Elbert underwent a left elbow arthroscopy today in Los Angeles, leaving the Dodgers without one of their top left-handed relievers to start spring training. He is not expected to be ready by opening day, according to a source.
The 40-minute procedure was performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache after a new area of cartilage damage was discovered and debrided. Elbert, who had a different elbow procedure Sept. 19 that ended his 2012 season, will start his physical therapy in three days and a throwing program in six weeks.
Elbert, 27, went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 43 relief appearances last season. Right-handers hit .170 against him and lefties hit .271 – a strange split for a southpaw. He and J.P. Howell were expected to be the team’s top left-handed relievers.
In a crowded Dodgers bullpen, at least two players’ chances of making the opening day roster just improved.
Left-hander Paco Rodriguez allowed one run in 11 appearances over 6 2/3 innings as a rookie last year, though his control wavered against right-handers in a small sample size (two unintentional walks in 2 2/3 innings). Right-hander Shawn Tolleson had more success against right-handers out of the bullpen as a rookie (.152 batting average) but was atrocious against left-handers (.316). Non-roster invitee Peter Moylan, aiming to re-establish himself after a series of injuries cut short his time in Atlanta, could also grab a spot.