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Dustin McGowan facing uphill Dodgers bullpen battle

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Rob Tringali/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dustin McGowan on Sunday was the latest Dodgers relief pitcher to throw on back-to-back days, the usual late spring ritual and one of the final tests i getting ready for the regular season. But with a week left to go before opening day rosters are due, McGowan faces an uphill battle for a spot in the bullpen.

"I don't think he's comfortable yet. We've seen some good sliders coming out, some good off speed. I don't think like he feels he's consistent yet. The ball's not coming out the way he wants. He said he felt great today," manager Don Mattingly said on Sunday. "He threw some good sliders today."

Sunday was a relatively good day for McGowan, who pitched an inning in a minor league intrasquad game on the back fields at Camelback Ranch. This was one day after pitching an inning against the Angels in Tempe, allowing a home run to Mike Trout.

On the spring, McGowan has allowed six runs on 12 hits in eight innings, with five strikeouts, a walk and a team-high three wild pitches.

"It's spring training. There's a guy coming into a new organization," Mattingly said. "There are some factors in there with him that make his situation a little more difficult."

One factor in McGowan's favor is that he already owns a 40-man roster spot, signed to a major league contract on Feb. 22. He is out of options, and can't be sent to the minors. But that hold on a 40-man spot is tenuous at best. McGowan is signed for the minimum salary of $507,500, and it's not guaranteed at that. If the Dodgers were to release him, they would owe McGowan 45 days of termination pay, or $124,795.

McGowan also has a bonus of $1 million if he makes the active roster, so in many ways he is like a typical non-roster invitee; he just happens to be on the roster already.

But will he still be on the roster one week from now?

The Dodgers have some roster flexibility in that they can place Brandon League on the 60-day disabled list and gain an extra 40-man spot. But if the Dodgers need more than one spot, like for adding non-roster invitees Sergio Santos and David Huff, as an example, McGowan's spot just might be up for grabs.

Especially if there are seven relief pitchers who are outperforming him. But there is a week left for McGowan to change things, and get comfortable.