Dodgers sign reliever Ohman
One-year deal for left-hander includes an April 14 opt-out clause
PHOENIX -- The Dodgers signed free-agent left-handed reliever Will Ohman to a one-year Minor League contract plus a one-year option, the club announced Monday.
The deal calls for Ohman to receive $1.35 million plus appearance incentives in 2009 with a $2.2 million option for 2010 or a $200,000 buyout. But it also comes with an April 14 player opt-out clause if he's not in the Major Leagues, because he agreed he won't start the season there.
Ohman has missed all but the last week of Spring Training and the Dodgers feel he needs game action before he's promoted. So, he is scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers on Tuesday in Tucson against the D-backs, go with the club to Los Angeles for exhibition games the rest of this week, then return to Minor League camp and join the Triple-A Albuquerque team for a few more appearances leading up to the April 14 deadline.
General manager Ned Colletti said he's confident Ohman will be called up by that date, but it provides protection for both sides if he's not. If he's not promoted and he opts out, the contract is nullified. The deal is technically a Minor League deal until Ohman is promoted, when the Dodgers would need to free up a 40-man roster spot.
The deal apparently resolves winter miscalculations by both sides.
The 31-year-old Ohman found himself jobless when the free-agent market, especially for relievers, collapsed. He will fill the hole created by the free-agent departure of Joe Beimel, who recently signed with Washington for $2 million after seeking a salary double that. Ohman, who worked out for Dodgers officials Sunday, had similar desires.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers thought they could find an inexpensive replacement for Beimel and brought into Spring Training camp 11 contenders, seven of them non-roster journeymen.
The losses of Beimel, Takashi Saito, Chan Ho Park and Scott Proctor left the Dodgers with more than 200 bullpen innings to replace from last year. Jeff Weaver is likely to take the spot of Park.
"I feel a little better about [the bullpen]," Colletti said. "We feel he answers our need for another lefty in the 'pen. He was very good with Atlanta, especially against left-handed hitters. He adds a veteran into a relatively young pitching staff."
The shape of the Dodgers' bullpen remains in flux. Jonathan Broxton is Saito's replacement as closer, with Kuo and Cory Wade the setup men, Guillermo Mota (who is having a strong spring) the workhorse middleman and Weaver the swingman. Ohman would make six relievers and the Dodgers want to carry seven.
Among the names vying for that last spot are Ramon Troncoso (who allowed two runs in an inning Monday), Tanyon Sturtze, 21-year-old sensation Josh Lindblom and possibly Eric Milton. Left-handers Erick Threets, Brian Mazone and Scott Elbert or any of the previously mentioned also-rans could make the club as placeholders until Ohman is ready.
The newest name to enter the fray is Ronald Belisario, who was on the original non-roster invitee list but arrived two weeks late because of visa problems and was quickly shipped to Minor League camp, although he previously pitched one scoreless inning on March 16.
But assistant general manager DeJon Watson has been saying for the past two weeks that Belisario could be the surprise promotion of the summer and, given two cleanup innings in Monday's exhibition against the A's, he earned a trip west with the club at least through the weekend.
Belisario pitched two hitless innings with six ground balls and a fly ball, the only blemish an error by Orlando Hudson.
"He was terrific," manager Joe Torre said. "We're going to see more of him."
Belisario, 26, was once a promising Marlins starting prospect who missed the 2005 and 2006 seasons with Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and resurfaced as a reliever in the Pittsburgh organization. He jumped onto the Dodgers radar with a strong winter ball season in his native Venezuela and signed as a Minor League free agent.
Ohman is another veteran of Tommy John surgery. After spending five years with the Cubs, Ohman went 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA for Atlanta last year, appearing in a career-high 83 games and pitching 58 2/3 innings with 53 strikeouts and 22 walks. Ohman missed the 2002 and 2003 seasons after blowing out his elbow, but has been a workhorse since. He has limited left-handed hitters to a .189 average since 2005.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.