02/16/11 5:28 PM EST
Dodgers prepared to work without Belisario
Reliever may be stuck in Venezuela indefinitely due to visa issues
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
This spring, they don't know if he will report at all, and they seem OK with it.
With Belisario nowhere in sight on Wednesday, the day that pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch-Glendale, and rumors that the right-hander might be stuck in his native Venezuela indefinitely, new manager Don Mattingly said life goes on.
"Everybody is supposed to report today, and I haven't seen him down there [in the clubhouse]," said Mattingly. "Ned [Colletti, general manager] didn't sound too confident he'd be here. He started the [visa] process early. We did everything we can do to give him the opportunity to be here.
"I do know this: If he's not here, we'll play with the guys we've got. I'm not concerned about the guys not here. Ned did a great job over the winter. We've got competition with the pitching staff. If he's not here, he can't compete. It's tough counting on a guy when he's not here."
When Belisario was late with visa problems in 2009 nobody missed him, because nobody knew him. Coming off an unexpectedly effective rookie season, he was five weeks late with visa problems in 2010, and a disastrous sophomore year followed that included a month-long drug rehab and a whopping three run increase in his ERA. The domino effect resulted in the overuse of Ramon Troncoso, effectively costing the club two effective relievers.
With that in mind, Colletti made a pre-emptive strike by signing durable setup man Matt Guerrier to a three-year, $12 million free-agent contract, trading for Blake Hawksworth and re-signing Vicente Padilla for a bullpen role. He's got converted catcher Kenley Jansen, who made a meteoric arrival last year, to share the late-season closer role with Hong-Chih Kuo. And there are eight non-roster pitchers in camp with Major League experience.
Colletti said the club did its part with the paperwork and he believes Belisario's problems are visa related, but that Belisario has been unreachable the past two weeks after being in contact with team scout Ron Rizzi while dominating the Venezuela Winter League.
"It's a replay of last year, and he's having a tough time fulfilling his end of it," said Colletti. "Knowing what he went through a year ago, including in season, you can't say we built the bullpen with him in it. If he gets back and he's in shape and he can help us, we'll re-examine it. Right now, we plan to go forward as we are.
"I'm disappointed. He's a member of this team, but really it's his livelihood, from what I can determine. You'd think he'd want to pitch in the big leagues."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.