Estes switching to lefty-relief role
Long-time starter will attempt transition at Minors camp
PHOENIX -- Veteran starting pitcher Shawn Estes agreed to report to the Dodgers' Minor League camp on Monday to attempt a transition to left-handed-relief specialist.
Estes, cut on Sunday with a choice of reporting to the Minor Leagues or receiving his release, said the compromise was raised in a meeting he had on Sunday with general manager Ned Colletti. The Dodgers have been unsuccessful in finding a second left-handed reliever to complement Hong-Chih Kuo.
"I'm going over there to pitch out of the bullpen," said Estes. "I'll pitch [on Tuesday], probably pitch on back-to-back days, then come back to the Major League club for the last week. I kind of like it; I'm kind of excited. It could be a new phase of my career."
It definitely will be a different phase. In 283 Major League appearances since Estes' 1995 debut, only two were in relief, one this past season when he was called up from the Minor Leagues by the Padres after successfully coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. His only other relief appearance was in 2003 with the Cubs.
But reinventing himself became Estes' best chance to stick with the Dodgers after he lost out in the competition to be the fifth starter. Estes has an 8.44 ERA and a .380 opponents' batting average in 10 2/3 Cactus League innings.
Manager Joe Torre said Estes would relieve in a Minor League game on Tuesday started by Jason Schmidt."He'll continue to dress at our place and go over and do his work," Torre said of the unique arrangement. "We're looking at him more now as a reliever. We'll see if that works. He has to get his breaking ball back. That was one of his weapons at one time. We saw a hint of that. The breaking ball is necessary, otherwise you're not giving left-handers a reason to back up." The Dodgers have already sent back to the Minor Leagues six left-handers who they looked at for the second lefty role. The only candidates for that job remaining in camp are Brian Mazone and Erick Threets.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.