It has been 136 days since the Dodgers have collectively worn baseball uniforms in an organized fashion, but the time has come for them to do so again. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training today and while the first workout isn't here yet -- that will come tomorrow -- today marks the day we have been waiting for all winter. Baseball is here, again.
In the few hours that the Dodgers camp has been open, there has already been big news. Clayton Kershaw has been named the opening day starter, per Don Mattingly today. At 23 years, 12 days old on March 31, likely against Tim Lincecum and the Giants, Kershaw would be the fifth-youngest opening day starter in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
It's funny, last spring Kershaw was in the running for opening day starter, but the nod somehow went to Padilla, and it wasn't announced until March 25, 11 days before opening day. Here we are, 43 days before the opener this season, and we already know Kershaw will open the season on March 31. That's a comforting thought.
For those of you going to spring training this year, it will be a fun experience. Two years ago, I wrote about my first experience at Camelback Ranch, and JJ24 had a great fan post last month detailing the ins and outs of attending spring training. Here are a few general dates to remember:
- Today: pitchers and catchers report
- Thursday: pitchers and catchers first workout
- Monday: position players report
- Tuesday: first full-squad workout
- February 23: minor league early camp begins
- February 26: first spring training games: Dodgers have split squad games in Tempe against Angels, and in Scottsdale against Giants
February 27: first game at Camelback Ranch, against the Angels (on Prime Ticket)
- March 3: pitchers and catchers to report to minor league camp
- March 5: minor league pitchers and catchers first workout
- March 9: minor league position players report
March 11: first full-squad minor league workout
The Dodgers have 33 Cactus League games in 30 days, including one in Las Vegas on March 13 against the Cubs. The Dodgers play 17 games at Camelback Ranch; 15 home games and two "away" games against the co-tenant White Sox.
With pitchers and catchers reporting today, that means 35 players are set to check in to Dodgers camp today. The Dodgers open camp with five bona fide starters (Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, and Jon Garland), and I'm sure Vicente Padilla would say there are six starters. Whatever Padilla's role shall be, that makes six locks for the opening day roster. Add in Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, and free agent acquisition Matt Guerrier, and that brings us to nine pitching roster locks.
As for the other three bullpen spots:
- Ronald Belisario: he is not expected to report today (making him a late arrival for the third year in a row), but it doesn't necessarily mean Belisario is out of favor. Getting a work visa can have several complications (certainly not helped by Belisario's 2009 DUI arrest), but as long as Belisario is complying on his end by making the necessary appointments on time (unlike last year), his late arrival won't be a big issue...yet. He is out of options. UPDATE: Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times is reporting that there are concerns whether or not Belisario will ever get into the U.S. this year. Hernandez writes,
[Belisario's agent Paul] Kinzer said he didn’t think Belisario would be able to enter the United States at any time this year. “Unless some things change drastically, I’m not very optimistic at this point,” Kinzer said.
- Kenley Jansen: if I'm constructing the bullpen, Jansen is a lock; but he does have options, and it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have Jansen get regular work as a closer in the minors rather than being the sixth-inning option in Los Angeles
- Blake Hawksworth: every pen needs a swing man and/or long reliever, and Hawksworth fits that role. Since he's out of options, he will be given every opportunity to earn a roster spot
Scott Elbert: a strong Arizona Fall League performance has propelled Elbert back into the mix as a second lefty reliever behind Kuo
- Ron Mahay: the soon-to-be 40-year old (on June 28) is here on a minor-league deal, looking to pitch for his ninth major league team. He figures to battle Elbert for one spot
Ramon Troncoso and Travis Schlichting will be in the mix for bullpen spots as well, but both have options and are likely further down the depth chart. Similarly, John Ely and Carlos Monasterios are down the depth chart as starters, but will likely start in Triple A, barring injuries. Jon Link is in the mix as well, and while he is being stretched out like a starter, he could be a bullpen option if a need arises at the major league level.
Rod Barajas: the hometown boy will be the primary starting catcher, though it wouldn't surprise me to see something like a 108/54 split with the backup catcher
- Dioner Navarro: the 2008 All-Star hasn't done anything in the majors in the last two years (.212/.263/.306), but unless he falls flat on his face during the spring, Navarro is a lock for the opening day roster. The Dodgers didn't give Navarro a $1 million contract just so they can cut him during the spring
- A.J. Ellis: he ended 2010 on a high note, but seems headed for Triple A to start the season. The life of a man with options
- Hector Gimenez: he is out of options, but is really just insurance in case another catcher gets hurt
JD Closser and Damaso Espino are the other two catchers in big league camp, and are both on minor league contracts.
Welcome back baseball!
Dioner Navarro photo: Andy Lyons | Getty Images