01/24/11 12:01 PM EST
Dodgers' pitchers heading off to minicamp
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The voluntary camp opens Monday, with 10 pitchers from the Major League roster expected. They are Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Kenley Jansen, Blake Hawksworth, Scott Elbert, Travis Schlichting, John Ely, Jon Link, Javy Guerra and Luis Vasquez. Of those, Kershaw, Billingsley, Elbert, Link and Ely participated last year.
The group will be joined by most of the top pitching prospects on the Minor League side -- among them Rubby De La Rosa, Chris Withrow, Ethan Martin and Josh Lindblom.
The Dodgers held the camp last Spring with only Major League roster pitchers because they had so many young pitchers vying for big league staff jobs. Major League pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said the difference this year is that most of the pitchers pitched for the Dodgers last season.
"Last year we were able to see where they were arm-wise before Spring Training started, as well as their conditioning," said Honeycutt. "We also did a lot of video work, addressing areas where improvement was needed. It was a combination of physical and mental.
"What I like about the way we've set it up this time is that the veteran guys will work alongside the young guys, who can watch the veterans and see how they go about things. If we're going to push guys through the system, we think they'll benefit by incorporating what they see.
"They'll see Billingsley and Kershaw, who reached the Majors after only a couple years in the Minors. Jansen will tell them his experiences, switching positions and getting to the big leagues fast. It will be a sharing opportunity and you hope the young guys pick up from the older guys."
Honeycutt said each pitcher will be scheduled for two or three bullpen sessions. Honeycutt will be joined by Dodgers bullpen coach Ken Howell, as well as Minor League pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves and staffers Jim Slaton, Chuck Crim and Matt Herges.
Honeycutt said the concept is a spinoff from his playing days, when the January workouts at Chavez Ravine took advantage of the mild weather to give players a jump-start on baseball conditioning before Spring Training started.
"I remember what it was like, how it helped us be ready for Spring Training," he said. "We're basing this off that. It's nothing drastic we're doing, just more preparation. And it gives us a chance to get to know people we don't know."
Primarily, they would be Hawksworth and Vasquez. Hawksworth, a right-handed veteran obtained from the Cardinals in the trade for Ryan Theriot, is out of options and almost assured of making the staff as a long reliever. Vasquez, a right-handed starter, racked up 20 saves for Great Lakes last season, although it was his fifth year at Class A.
The Dodgers also will watch carefully Elbert and Link. Elbert, who missed the last three months of 2010 attending to personal issues, bounced back in the Arizona Fall League for manager Don Mattingly, who is hopeful Elbert can emerge as the second left-hander in the bullpen behind Hong-Chih Kuo. Mattingly has said Elbert is now viewed exclusively as a reliever.
Link, a reliever the last five seasons, began a conversion to starter for Mattingly in the AFL and that will continue this Spring.
"He'll come in as a starter and can always go back," said Honeycutt. "He seems to have adapted to it well."
Although Vicente Padilla is not at the camp, Honeycutt believes the veteran could be the key to the bullpen.
"He has the capability of being a multi-role guy," said Honeycutt. "I talked to him and he wanted to stay in L.A. and said he was willing to do whatever we need. My goal is to work him into multi-innings early in camp. If everybody is healthy, we'll see how he adapts to relieving and might get him to go back-to-back days. How he bounces back will determine how we use him."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.