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Give Me Kuo Or Give Me Death

Chad Billingsley will start the season in the bullpen. That leaves the Dodgers with two options for the fifth starter slot: Hong-Chih Kuo, who has the potential to be good, or some guy, be his name Tomko, Hendrickson, Mays, Stults or whoever, that we know will be somewhere between below average and terrible. It's pretty clear who I'm rooting for.

I'm writing a season preview for the Dodgers where I make this exact same point, but this seems like the appropriate time to make it. Right now the Dodgers look like the 2006 Twins: a team that has the potential to be very good once they stop futzing around guys that stink just because someone has heard of them. This isn't a terrible place to be, the Twins did win the AL Central last year, but it could also end in tragedy if we're still waiting for Luis Gonzalez to turn it around in July.

Now, this Billingsley has an easy solution: Grady Little is just humoring Tomko and Hendrickson, and all will end up well. Yay. But right now it looks like Andy La Roche, James Loney and Matt Kemp need to win the positional battles that they find themselves mired in for the Dodgers to have a real shot at the NL West title.

On the bright side, the bullpen is a nice place for Billingsley to be until his control settles down. This article by Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver from September suggests that a high walk rate as a starter actually helps a pitcher when they are converting to relief, and actually names Billingsley as good candidate to convert to the bullpen. So long as Billingsley is the first guy to start when someone gets hurt, or is reinserted into the rotation when he finds his control, this could actually end well for the Dodgers.

Or, Brett Tomko does exactly what we signed him to do and throws 190 innings of 4.75 ERA ball while Kuo and Billingsley are limited to spot starting. Until I actually see Tomko towing the rubber in April, I'm going to stay positive about this.