The Dodgers on Saturday night nearly finalized their opening day roster, sending eight players to the minors. But the main news is that relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez made the team, as did shortstop Justin Sellers.
The Dodgers reassigned infielder/outfielder Alfredo Amezaga, catcher Matt Wallach, and pitchers Kevin Gregg and Peter Moylan to minor league camp. In addition, the team optioned pitchers Stephen Fife and Josh Wall, infielder/outfielder Elian Herrera and outfielder Alex Castellanos to minor league camp.
The moves bring the roster down to 28 players in big league camp, with a few more moves to come on Sunday morning. Rosters are due by noon PST.
The Dodgers will need to recall Sellers, who was optioned to minor league on Mar. 19. In addition, they will likely place four players on the disabled list: Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly (both retroactive to Mar. 22), Hanley Ramirez, and Scott Elbert.
Barring a stunner, the final three bullpen spots went to Rodriguez, and starters Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. The Dodgers will have three left-handed pitchers in the pen, with J.P. Howell, Rodriguez, and Capuano.
Rodriguez had 13 strikeouts and three walks in 11⅔ innings in the spring, and impressed manager Don Mattingly.
"The one thing we found out about Paco is he throws strikes with a lot of different pitches, and he doesn't seem to be afraid of anything," Mattingly said. "Paco has been really impressive. We can use him in different ways. We feel like he's got weapons for the righties and the lefties, and he's had a good camp. There's nothing really negative about Paco."
Rodriguez beat out Kevin Gregg, about whom Mattingly was gushing earlier Saturday.
"From top to bottom, we like Kevin Gregg. We're trying to make that situation work out," Mattingly said.
Instead, Gregg will report to Triple-A Albuquerque.
After the thumb injury to Ramirez the club began to have second thoughts about their options at shortstop and third base. Sellers started the last four games at shortstop and was 3-for-8 with two walks. He hit .214/.290/.214 in 31 spring plate appearances.
"I'm looking for the best defensive club I can put out there. That's the main thing," Mattingly said Thursday. "We have a pretty good pitching staff, and I want us to catch the ball for these guys."
Sellers beat out Herrera, Amezaga, and Alex Castellanos for the final position player spot on the roster. Mattingly wouldn't commit Saturday night to Sellers as his starting shortstop, but it appears that Sellers will get the bulk of the starts.
Elian Herrera and Alfredo Amezaga are essentially the same player, both switch hitters who play just about anywhere on the field. Herrera may have an edge with the bat, but the veteran Amezaga is considered a better defender. Herrera hit .394/.333/.353 this spring, compared to .278/.304/.296 for Amezaga.
Castellanos was viewed as a potential right-handed complement in the outfield, but that role will likely fall to Jerry Hairston Jr. now. Castellanos hit just .220 (11-for-50) but did tie for the team lead in the spring with four home runs and 11 RBI.
"I like Alex, he brings a lot of energy to the table. He's a guy who could pop the ball for you, so he kind of gives you some thump off the bench," Mattingly said Wednesday. "Obviously right handed, he plays the spots that we talked about giving guys days sometimes."
Wallach began the spring on the minor league side but after Eliezer Alfonzo failed to report to camp Wallach was called up to fill the need for catchers in camp, with so many pitchers throwing. Wallach outlasted all four catchers signed to minor league deals, and even beat Clayton Kershaw in ping pong. Wallach appeared in 17 Cactus League games and hit .130 (3-for-23) with three walks.
Fife, who got his first taste of big league action in 2012, pitched quite well this spring. In 20 spring innings, Fife struck out 17, walked three, and put up a 3.60 ERA. In an ordinary year, Fife's spring might have won a rotation spot. But he entered camp behind the eight starting pitchers under contract (for a total of $95.25 million in 2013), a fact Fife knew all too well.
"You can't ignore the fact that the guys who have guaranteed salaries have earned those salaries," Fife said. "But it's not going to discourage me from going out there and putting forth my best foot, and proving that I can pitch every fifth day and be consistent. That's the goal."
Wall arguably pitched better than any relief pitcher in camp, and put up a 3.55 ERA with 12 strikeouts and two walks in 12⅔ innings. Both of his walks and three of his five spring runs came on Mar. 22 against the Reds.
I'm defeinitely happy with the way I've thrown, with the exception of the one outing. But other than that I have felt great every time out," Wall said Thursday. "Obviously the number one goal is to make the team. It's not going to change the way I play or pitch. If I have to start off in Triple-A, hopefully I can be the first one they call up."
After dealing with back and shoulder issues that limited him to just 13⅓ innings over the last two years, Peter Moylan was happy just to be healthy this spring. But he put up a 6.75 ERA in nine games, with five walks and nine strikeouts in 9⅓ innings. Moylan doesn't have an out clause until June.
"He's getting better as camp has gone on, but not as sharp as I've seen him in the past. I like him, and what he brings, and he's not a guy who gets shaken. In his last couple outings he has seemed closer to himself," Mattingly said. "He's coming off arm stuff, and the Braves really used him a lot. He's a guy who's coming and he's a guy that we have for a little bit too, so those always make it nice."
Here is the likely opening day roster, which must be finalized by Sunday:
- Catchers (2): A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz
- Infielders (7): Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Justin Sellers*, Luis Cruz, Skip Schumaker, Juan Uribe, Nick Punto
- Outfielders (4): Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jerry Hairston Jr.
- Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke
- Relief pitchers (8): Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang
- Disabled list (4): Scott Elbert*, Hanley Ramirez*, Chad Billingsley*, Ted Lilly*
*Transaction coming Sunday