02/25/2013 8:25 PM ET
Guerrier's good health may shape up bullpen
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the Dodgers are looking to keep a veteran reliever from the group of non-roster invitees in camp, the competition likely comes down to Kevin Gregg, Peter Moylan and Mark Lowe.
Each appeared in one of the first three games, with Gregg checking in for a perfect inning on Monday, Moylan allowing a two-run homer on Sunday and Lowe pitching a scoreless inning on Saturday.
If they were brought into camp because of concerns over the health of Matt Guerrier, who missed four months last year with a partially torn elbow tendon, there may be no need as Guerrier was impressive in his first outing on Monday with two strikeouts in a perfect inning.
Guerrier's curveball was especially sharp, a sure sign that, like Chad Billingsley, Guerrier has recovered from his injury because of platelet-rich plasma injections to avoid surgery.
"Curveballs hurt me last year when I threw them," Guerrier said. "Today, it feels completely normal."
Guerrier said the nine appearances he made at the end of last season provided him with confidence for the offseason that he would be healthy.
"I was fairly optimistic after that," he said. "Then once I started to throw in the offseason it felt completely different."
Spots in the crowded Dodgers bullpen figure to go to Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell and Guerrier. Up to two spots remain and the 40-man roster candidates include Javy Guerra, Shawn Tolleson, Paco Rodriguez and Josh Wall. Matt Palmer is another non-roster invitee with an outside shot, and there also could be as many as three starters left over from the current group of eight that could land in the bullpen.
Billingsley passes first test with spring in step
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Billingsley made it through the first game test for his right elbow on Monday and his arm didn't fall off.
In fact, Billingsley said he didn't even think about the partially torn ligament that has healed with platelet-rich plasma injections, avoiding Tommy John surgery so he's now being treated like any other pitcher and not a rehab case.
"I had such an adrenaline rush going warming up, so as far as worry about the elbow, no," Billingsley said. "After the first couple of throws, yeah, this is fun."
Billingsley said he wasn't worried about the results, a good thing, as the first three Cubs had extra-base hits, including a home run by Nate Schierholtz.
"Today I just wanted to stay on the plate, throw strikes and get ahead in the count," Billingsley said. "As the spring progresses, I'll get to pitching. This is just getting back out there. My fastball felt good. I threw some good curves and changes. It was good for the first time."
Manager Don Mattingly said the fact that Billingsley issued zero walks was a sign that his arm is sound.
"That's one of the main things you look at when a guy has got something going on, if his command is there," Mattingly said.
If Billingsley is healthy, he slots in as the No. 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett, while leaving Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly as potential trade pieces.
Capuano followed Billingsley and allowed four runs, including back-to-back home runs by Darnell McDonald and Welington Castillo.
"It's never fun to give up gopher balls," Capuano said. "I was feeling for it a little the first inning."
Billingsley and Capuano missed their scheduled session to throw batting practice last week when it rained, so this was their first time against hitters. Billingsley will make the rotation if he's healthy, but there might not be a spot for Capuano.
"The first couple of outings are time to work on stuff," Capuano said. "I give myself a little of a free pass now."
Billingsley said he's working on a tweak of his setup in the stretch position, at the suggestion of Sandy Koufax, to improve the quality of the pitches and delivery quickness to slow down the running game.
Baez impresses Koufax during bullpen session
GLENDALE, ARIZ. -- Pedro Baez, whose pitching resume consisted of one inning in an instructional league game, is already being talked about for an appearance in a Spring Training contest after an eye-opening bullpen session with guru Sandy Koufax on Monday.
Baez, who turns 25 next month, was signed for $200,000 out of the Dominican Republic, and was considered the organization's best third-base prospect. But with a .247 average in six Minor League seasons, he was given the Kenley Jansen treatment and sent to the mound, as Jansen was after failing to hit as a catcher.
Baez showed Koufax a natural delivery, a fastball in the mid-90s and a curveball more advanced than many of his fellow Minor Leaguers who have been at this pitching thing for years. Koufax told other staff members he'd like to see Baez in a game this spring.
Baez is expected to open the season at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Jansen was switched to reliever in the middle of his fifth professional season at Class A. Jansen opened the next season at Class A -- was promoted after 11 games to Double-A -- and after 22 games there, he showed up in the Dodgers' bullpen, where he posted a 0.67 ERA in 25 games.
Crawford, Kemp could serve as designated hitters
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, on the mend from surgeries and taking it slow early on in camp, could see game action as designated hitters later this week, manager Don Mattingly indicated on Monday.
"We've been talking around the first [of March on Friday] for those guys," said Mattingly, who threw batting practice to Crawford's hitting group prior to the Cactus League game against the Cubs.
Kemp, coming off October shoulder labrum surgery, has been hitting for several weeks longer than Crawford, who is coming off Tommy John elbow surgery last August.
Mattingly said he will continue giving Juan Uribe playing time at first base, where he started on Monday for the first time in his career. Mattingly hinted that Uribe's defensive versatility makes him valuable enough to keep on the Opening Day roster, even though Uribe lost the starting third-base job because his offensive production collapsed.
"We're on fact-finding with extra time in camp," Mattingly said. "I expect him to be pretty good. His hands work. He always has a good feel for the game and timing. I expect he'll be able to do this."
Mattingly said Uribe needs to work on balls hit to his right, knowing when to go after the grounders and when to cover first and let the second baseman field the ball. Uribe said he's fine with the assignment.
"When you play shortstop, you can play wherever," Uribe said. "I don't think I'll have too many problems. I believe in myself. I know I can do it. What happened last year, I forgot. This is a new year and I hope I can do better to help the team win games. I'm happy to be here. A lot of people want to be here."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.