Belisario insists he's ready to pitch
On restricted list, LA righty shrugs off spring preparation
PHOENIX -- One day after manager Joe Torre said Ronald Belisario would not be on the Dodgers' Opening Day roster with only one week of Spring Training remaining, the reliever said he's ready to start the season with no Spring Training.
"I'm ready to go," Belisario said Sunday, in his first day in the clubhouse, having cleared up visa problems and arrived in the country Saturday, 34 days after all of the other pitchers. "I've been pitching. I feel good."
The Dodgers -- knowing that Belisario was about to return -- placed him on the restricted list on Friday for not reporting to camp. That means he does not count against the 40-man roster, he has 30 days from the time he reports to get into shape and does not get paid for time spent on that list once the season starts.
Belisario is due to earn $412,500 this year, his second in the Major Leagues. He said his agent, Paul Kinzer, told him the club "was upset I didn't get here," but didn't tell him about the disciplinary action.
"I don't know about that," he said.
General manager Ned Colletti, doing most of the talking, held a five-minute conversation with Belisario on the field Sunday morning.
Torre said the club has designed a "very conservative schedule" for working Belisario back into shape and would be treated like Sunday "was the first day of Spring Training." Restricted list rules allow the player to be activated during the 30-day period when he's in condition to participate in championship games to the club's satisfaction.
A year ago, reliever Will Ohman was signed with one week left of Spring Training and was rushed back to be on the roster Opening Day, but he was injured and needed shoulder surgery.
"He's got talent," Torre said of Belisario. "I think -- I'm not saying he won't pitch for us -- but I think he missed an opportunity to build on what he started last year. He made it tougher on himself, that's all I'm saying. Does it mean we're not talking to him? No. We'll put him out there and see what we have.
"He's such a contradiction because he's easy to like. It's frustrating. He goes to the post, takes the ball, never has an excuse. But you don't ignore the fact he's late."
But Belisario said there was nothing he could have done to speed the process. He said the American embassy in Venezuela initially denied his visa, telling him it was because of the driving under the influence charge he received last summer. Earlier this month, through an attorney, Belisario pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.
Belisario also disputed club assertions, repeated by Colletti on Saturday, that the pitcher missed repeated appointments at the embassy.
"I didn't miss any appointments," Belisario said. "Maybe they think so, but no. That's not true. After they said they denied the visa, I keep going two times a week. They just say because of the DUI."
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Belisario was two weeks late to Spring Training last year. He said that to get his visa this time, he had to take psychological and drug tests that were not required last year.
"Last year, I go to the embassy for the visa, it takes a little longer, but I didn't do anything wrong," he said.
Belisario said he's been working out daily, plus throwing bullpen sessions with friends twice a week. He said the last time he faced live hitters was a month ago. He played winter ball throughout the season there, but that the "Dodgers stopped me" from continuing after the fourth game of the playoffs.
Belisario signed as a Minor League free agent two winters back off the recommendation of scout Ron Rizzi -- who saw Belisario's nasty sinker on display in the Venezuelan Winter League -- but the right-hander showed up for Spring Training two weeks late because of those visa issues.
He made a one-inning appearance in a spring game and was immediately re-assigned to Minor League camp, where he pitched so impressively that assistant general manager De Jon Watson suggested the Major League staff take another look.
He reappeared in a Major League game the final week of the exhibition season and proved Watson correct, making the Opening Day roster. He went on to be the Dodgers' best rookie, finishing fifth among league relievers with a 2.04 ERA and holding opponents to a .157 batting average. He was one reason why the Dodgers had the best bullpen in the league last year.
Previously, Belisario had struggled through almost a decade of Minor League frustration. Originally signed in 2001 by Florida, he missed the 2005 and 2006 seasons after Tommy John surgery and resurfaced in the Pittsburgh organization. Prior to signing with the Dodgers he had never pitched above Double-A.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.