Belisario rises from obscurity for LA
Dodgers right-hander never has pitched above Double-A
SAN DIEGO -- You know Blake DeWitt as last year's Opening Day third baseman by default. You know Doug Mientkiewicz as the Joe Torre favorite, a former Gold Glove first baseman who'll play anywhere. You know Will Ohman, a journeyman situational left-hander signed just a week ago.
But Ronald Belisario? Who's he?
He also made the Dodgers' roster Monday. The 26-year-old right-hander was signed as a Minor League free agent over the winter, discovered by scout Ron Rizzi while baffling hitters in the Venezuelan winter league. Originally signed 10 years ago by Florida, he's never pitched at a level higher than Double-A.
Belasario pitched in the Pittsburgh organization the past two seasons after missing 2005 and 2006 recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction. Last year, he was 4-4 with nine saves and a 4.74 ERA in 38 games with Double-A Altoona, but once he mastered a new pitch, his ERA over the final 31 games was 2.89.
He said his best chance to reach the Major Leagues previously was spring 2005, when he was on the Marlins' 40-man roster, but his elbow started acting up toward the end of Spring Training.
One of 16 non-roster pitchers the Dodgers brought into training camp this spring, he was sent back to Minor League camp in the first cutdown, nobody having seen him throw a competitive pitch because he had been delayed for two weeks because of visa problems.
"I understood being sent down before I pitched. I came a little late," Belisario said. "I was disappointed, but it wasn't their fault, it was my fault."
Belisario pitched in a "B" game the day he was sent down, then didn't reappear in a Major League game until pitching one mopup inning of a split-squad game March 16. Then he disappeared from the Major League side but was lights-out on the Minor League side with a late-action mid-90s fastball.
That's why assistant general manager DeJon Watson kept lobbying for Belisario to get another look. Desperate for bullpen help, the club called back Belisario and Giancarlo Alvarado.
Over the final week of Spring Training, Belisario appeared in three games, throwing five scoreless innings. Originally a starter, he's been a reliever since the elbow surgery, but said he has no problem throwing multiple innings.
Belisario said he knows it seems like he's come from nowhere, but he understands his improvement.
"The big difference is using the two-seamer to come inside on left-handed hitters," he said.
Told Sunday night he had made the team, he immediately called home to Venezuela to tell his wife. The couple has a 3-year-old daughter.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.