A day after saying he would announce his opening day starting pitcher today, manager Joe Torre said after today's day game in Surprise, a 5-4 win over the Rangers, that the news won't come until after the off day Tuesday. Clayton Kershaw appears to be the favorite, but Torre says the decision has not been finalized just yet. "I'm not concerned about who starts the opener," Torre said, "I feel pretty comfortable any of the four guys can do it." Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have an idea of whom will start April 5 in Pittsburgh, but they will use the next few days to plan the final two weeks, to line up their starting rotation for the regular season.
At the other end of the starting rotation, one of the pitchers who came into the spring as a candidate for fifth starter has been struggling. James McDonald gave up six runs last night against the Padres, and has a 20.25 ERA this spring. "He just wasn't able to locate the way you need to locate," manager Joe Torre said, "I don't think there's any secret his stuff is big league. It's about being more consistent."
Should he make the big league roster, McDonald will likely be in the bullpen, where he put up a 2.72 ERA and had 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings last season. However, his hold on a big league roster spot seems tenuous at best right now. Torre said if McDonald ends up in Albuquerque, he will likely start, both to get him innings and to give him a chance to work on more pitches in games.
UPDATE: McDonald was optioned to minor league camp before tonight's game, bringing the number of players in major league camp to 43.
Regarding the fifth starter competition for the Dodgers, Torre said he will wait until the last minute to make his decision. Eric Stults and Charlie Haeger are both out of options, and are in the mix with Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios, Josh Towers, and the Ortiz boys, Ramon and Russ. Towers and Ramon Ortiz both pitched four innings in today's day game against the Rangers, giving up two runs. Ortiz, even though his scoreless streak ended at nine innings with a home run to the first batter he faced (Matt Brown), struck out six today, and has 17 strikeouts against four walks in 13 spring innings. Torre praised both Towers and Ortiz for their command in today's game. In addition to the fifth starter job, Torre mentioned both Charlie Haeger and Ramon Ortiz were suited to either start or relieve.
Ronnie Belliard started at first base last night in Peoria, and will do the same tonight at Camelback Ranch, again versus the Padres. Torre praised Belliard's soft hands in the field, saying, "If you can play in the middle of the field, you can play first base."
After the game, catcher Lucas May and pitcher Jon Link were optioned to minor league camp, bringing the total number of players in big league camp down to 44 (which includes both Ronald Belisario and Cory Wade). Torre praised Link's aggressiveness, calling him a throwback and "a no nonsense guy" on the mound, adding that he saw enough polish in Link that he could be in the Dodger bullpen at some point this season. May was taken out of the game after doubling in the seventh inning, and Joe Torre went into the clubhouse during the game to wait for May and deliver the news that he had been optioned. However, May didn't realize what was about to happen and, being a baseball player, he remained in the dugout for the remainder of the game.
Xavier Paul, Jason Repko, and Chin-Lung Hu, who all started the day game in Surprise, will be available for tonight's game against the Padres. Justin Knoedler is the only other Dodger pulling double duty, as the backup catcher in both games. Repko homered in the fifth inning today against Colby Lewis, and narrowly missed a second dinger, hitting one just foul well beyond the left field foul pole.
Wade LeBlanc is starting for the Padres. Other pitchers for San Diego that made the trip are Ryan Webb, Radhames Liz, Cory Luebke, Chris Fetter, and Alexis Lara. The Padres are also using a split squad, as the rest of the team played the White Sox this afternoon, also at Camelback Ranch.
Minor leaguers suiting up for the Dodgers tonight are pitchers Scott Dohmann and Jesus Castillo, infielders John Lindsey, Justin Sellers, Pedro Baez, and Cesar Suarez, and outfielders Brandon Watson, Andrew Lambo, Angelo Songco, and Scott Van Slyke.
Eric Stults, Ramon Troncoso, and 2009 top draft pick Aaron Miller are scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers tomorrow against Cleveland.