Mark Lowe is trying to keep alive a recent Dodgers tradition.
The Dodgers seemingly always have a non-roster pitcher make their opening day roster. It has happened every year since at least 2002 (in two of the 11 years a pitcher has been added to the roster by the fourth game of the season). This year there are three main non-roster candidates vying for a spot in the bullpen, a battle made tougher by the Dodgers having eight starters, with tentative plans to keep six, including one in the bullpen.
There might only be one spot open for Lowe, Kevin Gregg, and Peter Moylan, and they have to compete with other talented relievers already on the 40-man roster in Javy Guerra, Shawn Tolleson, Paco Rodriguez, and Josh Wall.
It's going to be tough for Lowe to become the latest NRI to make it, but if healthy he has a shot. I noted in February that Lowe has been a big fastball pitcher most of his career but in 2012 was hampered by a rib injury:
He missed 36 games, including all of July, with a right intercostal strain (ribs), and after returning from the disabled list had just three strikeouts and five walks among his 41 batters faced. Lowe struck out just one of the final 26 batters he faced on the season, with three walks. Lowe's fastball has consistently been among the fastest in baseball on average, 95.4 mph for his career. But after years of 96.3, 95.5, and 96.8 mph, Lowe's fastball dipped to 93.9 mph in 2012.
Lowe also has leverage, in that he has an opt-out date of Mar. 31, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, meaning he could become a free agent if he isn't added to the roster by then. Moylan's opt-out date is June 1, and Gregg's is unknown.
Leverage has not been something associated with Lowe recently, as his average leverage index (1.0 is average, with higher numbers indicating higher leverage situations when entering the game) has decreased in four straight seasons: 1.64, 1.41, 0.94, 0.25.
"He's got a great arm, and has had success," manager Don Mattingly said of Lowe early in camp. "He's a guy that gets an opportunity to show what he can do. He brings experience and options."
Those options aren't the same that Guerra, Tolleson, Rodriguez, and Wall have, and are usually the mechanism to keep non-roster pitchers like Lowe around. The logic is to try to keep as many arms as possible, and if certain pitchers can be stashed in the minors for a while, they usually will be.
Will Lowe add to the NRI legacy?
In case you were wondering, here are the non-roster pitchers to make the opening day roster (or close enough to it) for the Dodgers in the last 11 years:
- 2002: Jesse Orosco
- 2003: Tom Martin
- 2004: Jose Lima
- 2005: Buddy Carlyle, Scott Erickson, Kelly Wunsch
- 2006: Takashi Saito (Apr. 7, third game)
- 2007: Rudy Seanez
- 2008: Chan Ho Park (Apr. 3; fourth game)
- 2009: Ronald Belisario
- 2010: Ramon Ortiz, Jeff Weaver (also Russ Ortiz by Apr. 6, second game)
- 2011: Lance Cormier, Mike MacDougal
- 2012: Jamey Wright
Lowe has pitched in four World Series games in 2010 and 2011 with Texas, and he allowed at least one run in all four games. His 37.80 ERA (seven runs in 1⅔ innings) is the second worst in World Series history.
Lowe signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on Feb. 8. He has an opt-out clause on Mar. 31 if he isn't added to the major league roster by that date.
|2013 Projections - Age 30 Season|
I already hitched my NRI wagon to Peter Moylan, so I don't think Lowe will make the Dodgers. But Lowe's opt-out date gives him a chance. If Lowe does happen to make the team, I'll guess a 4.36 ERA in 33 innings, with 31 strikeouts.
Be sure to guess how you think Lowe will perform for the Dodgers in 2013. Include ERA and whatever else you wish to guess.