Mailbag: What are Bigbie's options?
Plus questions about Betemit, Loney, Billingsley, even Parker
What happens to Larry Bigbie if he does not make the Opening Day roster?
-- Frank A., Long Beach, Calif.
Bigbie has had an outstanding spring, demonstrating the type of offensive production he gave Baltimore when he was a starter there. After a series of injuries, he's finally healthy. Marlon Anderson's sore elbow gave Bigbie an opportunity early in camp and he delivered. Now Anderson, the primary left-handed pinch-hitter, appears healthy. It will be hard enough for the Dodgers to keep James Loney as a second left-handed bat, but if Anderson is healthy and Bigbie does not make the club, he is likely to be asked to accept a Triple-A assignment. Signed to a Minor League contract, Bigbie has a clause that allows him to be a free agent March 28 if he will not be on the Major League team for Opening Day. He said over the weekend he doesn't know what he'll do if he doesn't make the final cut. The other possibility is that the club would keep Bigbie over Loney, who still has options.
It seems as though the organization sees James Loney as a "sure thing now" and Wilson Betemit a "sure thing sometime." Why wouldn't they just shift Nomar Garciaparra to third, let Loney play first base because he is ready, and have Betemit get some more seasoning because they can?
-- Brian B., Pomona, Calif.
Because there are no sure things. There is no guarantee that Garciaparra's body can withstand the demands of third base, no guarantee that Loney is ready to outperform Betemit offensively, no guarantee that Betemit can't improve on his 18-homer production. Your scenario is better served as a last-gasp move if and when the current alignment fails. At least, that's the position of club management.
Could you put something in your mailbag column to get out the vote for Wes Parker for the 50th Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Wes is the only Dodger on the ballot, and he is well deserving, winning the Gold Glove Award his last six seasons. Voting can be done daily at www.rawlingsgoldglove.com.
-- Ed G., Cleveland
With pleasure. Parker, a first baseman with Los Angeles from 1964 to 1972, is the best defensive player I've ever seen in a Dodgers uniform. When he was working with prospects a few years ago, he still looked like the best defensive player in a Dodgers uniform.
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Why would Chad Billingsley not make the starting rotation?
-- Tim C., Long Beach, Calif.
Management still feels Billingsley will be a front-line starting pitcher, but at this stage in his development and with the surplus of starting candidates, management has decided this will be best for the club and will probably help Billingsley. Billingsley is more adaptable to relief than Hong-Chih Kuo. As demonstrated last year with starting pitchers that rarely went deep into games, this bullpen needs someone who can pitch multiple innings, which Billingsley can. Having him there makes it more likely the Dodgers will carry 11 pitchers, leaving an extra roster spot available for a position player. Billingsley also was more efficient with his pitch counts the few times he came out of the bullpen compared to when he started. Billingsley also will be available to be an emergency starter.
We all know Wilson Betemit hasn't had the best offensive spring thus far. Since he's proven himself better batting lefty than righty, why doesn't he try being a pure left-handed batter?
-- Pat W., Studio City, Calif.
While it didn't look like it last year, Betemit has hit effectively right-handed earlier in his career. Switch-hitting power hitters are rare and the ability to hit from either side of the plate means you play regardless of which hand the pitcher is using, which keeps the player in the lineup and makes things easier on a manager. There are a lot of reasons to switch-hit. On the flip side, and something that management tends to ignore, is that it's hard enough to learn and practice hitting from one side of the plate, so it must be doubly hard for switch-hitters. Switch-hitters must do twice the work, otherwise they are doing half as much as everybody else from each side.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.