Dodger Thoughts: Ronald Belisario

Belisario beckons?

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
7:18
AM PT
Ronald Belisario is facing a 25-game suspension if he returns to the major leagues, a possibility that became more likely after Dylan Hernandez of the Times reported that Belisario had been granted his long-awaited visa to return to the United States after missing all of the 2011 season.

According to ESPN.com news services, the suspension is for "a player testing positive for a stimulant, a player convicted of or pleading guilty of posession a prohibited substance, or a player involved or suspected of being involved with a drug of abuse who failed to comply with an order to take part in a treatment program."

Chad Moriyama isn't confident that Belisario, who turns 29 New Year's Eve, will be worth the trouble after what he deems a somewhat lucky 2009 – a year in which Belisario really shone with a 2.04 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings – followed by a troubled 2010 season with a 5.04 ERA, declining strikeout rate and absences due to injury and substance abuse treatment. But relief pitchers with potential and low salary are the best gambles Ned Colletti makes. No pressure – we'll just see what happens.

Ron Santo Day news and notes

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
1:05
PM PT
Congratulations, all too late, to Ron Santo on his Hall of Fame election today.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted that "representatives for Clayton Kershaw have had early contact with the Dodgers about a long-term deal, but no serious talks have taken place."
  • The Dodgers 2012 Spring Training schedule is official, starting with a March 5 opener against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. The final game will be April 1 against Arizona.
  • Dodger outfielder Jamie Hoffmann has been claimed on waivers by the Rockies, an indication that the team might be close to singing another major-leaguer. Aaron Harang is a name being bandied about. (Remembering 2011: Jamie Hoffmann)
  • Ken Gurnick of MLB.com recaps some recent Dodger minor-league contract signings: Jose Ascanio, Jeff Baisley, Wil Ledezma, Shane Lindsay and (almost official) Alberto Castillo.
  • Gurnick also writes that "Ronald Belisario, not seen by the Dodgers since 2010, is again working on obtaining a work visa that would allow him to return to the United States and compete for a Dodgers bullpen role next season."
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball released his Dodger prospect top 20.
  • Bill Buckner is another name being discussed for a Red Sox coaching position under Bobby Valentine, according to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.
    New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine wants to add Bill Buckner to his coaching staff and the former Boston first baseman wants the job, but the team's front office is resistant to the idea, a source close to Buckner said.

    Valentine and Buckner have been friends since 1968, the year they were both drafted by the Dodgers -- Valentine in the first round, Buckner in the second.

    "I've watched his kids grow up and I respect his every opinion, in baseball and in worldly matters," Valentine said at his introductory press conference last week in Boston.

    "Whether or not Bill Buckner would be on the staff is a decision that Ben (Cherington, the Boston general manager) will talk about or if anybody else is going to be on the staff, Ben and I will talk about it.

    "It's not about friendship, it's not about who was here in the past, it's about who can do the specific jobs that need to be done.'' ...
  • Walter Alston would have turned 100 last week, and Howard Cole of Dodgers Blog at the Register commemorated the occasion.
As expected, the Dodgers have paid $1.25 million to buy out Casey Blake's $6 million contract option for 2012, while also declining Jon Garland's $8 million option for next season (at a cost of $500,000). Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.

Both players become free agents and are eligible to sign with any team after the World Series ends, and with the Dodgers at any time. In fact, each has past experience of returning to the Dodgers as a free agent: Blake three years ago, Garland last year.

We've gotten mixed signals on Blake, from possible retirement to a potential willingness to come back as a reserve to the Dodgers on a cheaper contract. However, I'd be surprised if the Dodgers bid very enthusiastically on either Blake or Garland, both of whom spent much of 2011 injured, unless their salary quotes came way, way down.

Some might consider this the top story: The Dodgers also removed Eugenio Velez from their 40-man roster by outrighting him to Albuquerque. That takes him out of the team's 2012 plans, but it doesn't mean we won't see him at Camelback Ranch for Spring Training next year.

* * *
  • Federal bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross has appointed a mediator to try to bridge the chasm between the Dodgers and Major League Baseball out of court. Good luck on that one.
  • Suspended list star Ronald Belisario is looking to rebuild his career, even if it's not with the Dodgers or even in the U.S., according to this story on the Bravos de Margarita website (Google translation here) passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also has links to radio interviews with Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti and Charley Steiner.
Justin Sellers has officially become the 46th member of the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers, replacing the disabled Dee Gordon. Sellers is making his major-league debut tonight.

Sellers, 25, has a .400 on-base percentage and .537 slugging percentage for Triple-A Albuquerque this season, after going ..371/.497 in 2010. His road OPS this season, however, is .668.

Elsewhere:
  • Chris Reed's deal with the Dodgers was made official today, and he'll be introduced to fans at the ballpark tonight. Here's the newbie.
  • Former Dodger Mike Marshall (the second) and former Angel Tony Phillips brawled, and Steve Dilbeck of the Times has posted video.
  • Just when you least expect it, a Ronald Belisario update, from Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman's Performance.
  • Good news on the health front from fellow baseball writer Dave Cameron, accompanied by the best Win Probability chart ever.
  • For any of you with kids or interested in a fun animated show, I'll be moderating a panel on the Disney Channel series "Fish Hooks" on Saturday at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills. That panel's preceded by one on "Phineas and Ferb," moderated by my former Variety colleague Michael Schneider.
Royals 11, Dodgers 5

Highlights:
  • Tim Redding pitched three shutout innings, giving him five for the spring with three strikeouts.
  • James Loney went 2 for 2.
  • Relievers Ramon Troncoso and Carlos Monasterios pitched shutout ball.
  • Jamie Hoffmann (1 for 2) is now, like Loney, 4 for 8 this spring.
  • Juan Castro hit a three-run home run.
Lowlights:
  • Scott Elbert had a nightmare outing, walking four of the five batters he faced. From Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.:
    ... With assistant GM of player development DeJon Watson in the broadcast booth with Charley Steiner, Elbert was missing the strike zone every which way. Elbert came in the game in relief of Jon Link in the fifth inning, then pitched into the sixth. Watson spoke of how Elbert got more consistent in his delivery over the winter, and was able to show two dominant pitches in the Arizona Fall League, but as those words were being spoken Elbert was missing the strike zone quite often. Elbert faced five batters, and walked four of them. He threw 21 pitches, only five of them for strikes.

    On the broadcast, one could hear Watson rooting for Elbert, the Dodgers' 2009 minor league pitcher of the year, even as he was struggling. Watson said Elbert has great stuff that is "electric through the strike zone," and Watson seemed to take Elbert's outing in stride. "He’s having a tough outing today, but I think you’ll see better outings from Mr. Elbert in the future," Watson said. Elbert better hope so; he has faced 10 batters this spring, and walked six of them. He did strike out two, and the other two batters didn't hit the ball out of the infield, but Elbert needs to show some control before he even sniffs the 25-man roster. ...
  • Jon Link was charged with three runs while getting two outs; Luis Vasquez was charged with four runs while getting three outs.
  • Aaron Miles had a double but made his second error of the spring.
  • Xavier Paul struck out twice, dropping to 1 for 8 this exhibition season.
  • Juan Castro hit a three-run home run.
Sidelights:
  • Clayton Kershaw, not yet eligible for arbitration, signed his one-year 2011 contract for the expected figure of $500,000. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details. In fact, every man on the 40-man roster has now been signed for 2011, with Ronald Belisario having his contract renewed and then getting placed on the restricted list.
  • The adventures of Dee Gordon, again courtesy of Mr. Stephen:
    There was a funny moment in the fifth inning, when Mike Moustakas lofted a foul pop near the photography well adjacent to the back of the Dodger dugout. Aaron Miles was in pursuit of the ball, but Dee Gordon, who was not in the game and sitting on the steps of the dugout, tried to evade Miles by moving out of the dugout. Instead, Gordon got the way of Miles, who was unable to make the catch. Watson, who was in the booth with Charley Steiner, could be heard saying something like, "Jesus criminey" or something to that effect.
  • Remarkable: Larry Granillo researched "Peanuts" comic strips for Baseball Prospectus and found Duke Snider was mentioned twice (once with Willie Mays, once with a host of players), compared to three mentions for Mickey Mantle and Mays combined, once for Mantle alone and four times for Mays alone (including the famous spelling bee episode).
  • James Loney fares a bit below average in David Pinto's defensive statistical rankings of first basemen from 2006-10 at Baseball Musings.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted photos of the new grass being installed at Dodger Stadium.
  • Charlie Sheen meets Ron Swanson x John Wooden: The Sheen Pyramid of Greatness.
  • Juan Castro hit a three-run home run. From Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
    When he left the game after five innings and returned to the clubhouse, this note was posted on the bulletin board:

    "Juan Castro: Please report to [Dodgers trainer] Stan Conte after the game for a mandatory steroid test."
Update: Jackson writes about Castro and Elbert.
Kim Klement/US PresswireIn the past three seasons, Lance Cormier has allowed a sub-.700 OPS against left-handed batters, including 26 extra-base hits in 486 plate appearances.
Outside of the left-field conundrum, the Dodgers' biggest question mark for Spring Training might be how they will address the task of getting left-handed batters out with their almost completely right-handed bullpen. No one wants to see Hong-Chih Kuo relegated to facing only lefties, and the only other left-handed thrower on the 40-man roster is the uncertain Scott Elbert.

Three non-roster invitees to major-league camp are left-handed: 39-year-old Ron Mahay, achy-hamstringed Dana Eveland (whose career 5.74 ERA will apparently be sidelined for weeks after Thursday's injury) and Wilkin De La Rosa, who has never pitched about Double-A. After that, you start dipping down into the minors for developing players like James Adkins.

With Ronald Belisario's absence seemingly opening up a roster spot, Mahay would seem to be the default candidate. He had a .520 OPS allowed against lefties last season. But the previous two seasons, his OPS allowed against lefties was above .700 — which isn't terrible, but isn't exactly the kind of authoritative performance you're looking for when you really want someone to come in and get that guy out.

I got to wondering if there were any righties among the Dodger relievers who were reliable against lefties. Here's a chart of the bullpen candidates' OPS allowed against lefties over the past three seasons in the majors:

2010 PA/2010 OPS 2009 PA/2009 OPS 2008 PA/2008 OPS
Belisario86.793 122.720   
Broxton123.626 148.414 126.800
Colon5.650 94.713   
Cormier162.718 180.671 144.667
Elbert42.000 40.699 141.000
Eveland59.802 60.999 170.646
Guerrier102.649 120.525 126.801
Hawksworth185.886 76.724   
Jansen51.586      
Kuo69.271 40.524 98.557
Link16.962      
MacDougal391.353 124.760 24.858
Mahay68.520 111.743 110.721
Monasterios188.709      
Padilla166.590 352.837 385.944
Redding   282.860 402.808
Schlichting39.465 9.905   
Troncoso99.823 157.751 84.707
Villarreal      68.862

Some observations:
  • The Dodgers have a few righties who seem consistently effective against their opposite numbers: Jonathan Broxton, Matt Guerrier and, based on a small sample size, Kenley Jansen.
  • Oh, and another guy who probably isn't on your radar ... late signee Lance Cormier.
  • Based on only his one season, Carlos Monasterios offers an intriguing first impression — though looking at the chart, you can see how much these numbers can fluctuate. Look at what happened to Ramon Troncoso, for example, or moving in the other direction, Vicente Padilla.
  • For extreme small-sample candidates, there's Roman Colon and Travis Schlichting. Consider at your own risk.

If the Dodgers decide that Kuo, Broxton, Guerrier, Jansen and Padilla are all effective against lefties, they could decide to go without a second left-handed pitcher — especially if they also think Cormier is worth a roster slot. It might still be Mahay's spot to lose or Scott Elbert's spot to win, but Cormier might be this year's guy you least expected.
Kyle Terada/US PresswireChad Billingsley is digging fielding practice today at Camelback Ranch.
Friend this ...
The weird thing with Ronald Belsiario, whom Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles says is in jeopardy of missing the 2011 season, was that he ever became an important pitcher for the Dodgers in the first place.

His credentials at Spring Training 2009 were less than zero, making his late arrival there irrelevant, and less than a week before Opening Day that year, he remained practically a non-entity. Then he came, was seen and conquered. On July 1, he had a 1.89 ERA with 46 strikeouts against 55 baserunners in 47 2/3 innings.

He soon was forced to miss a month of the season with some personal and physical problems, but still finished the year strong. Only a run he allowed on the final day of the season pushed his ERA over 2.00.

But then came the chaos of 2010 — an even later arrival, followed by almost none of the consistent excellence the previous year had offered. His rate of baserunners allowed went up; his strikeout rate went down. The lowest his ERA sat at any point last year was 3.79 on July 5, after a three-inning shutout performance that was immediately followed by another sabbatical of more than a month. On August 12, he was a conspirator in one of the Dodgers' devastating losses, allowing four of the eight runs the team gave up in the final two innings of a 10-9 defeat at Philadelphia.

As divided as fans can be on pitchers like Jonathan Broxton, they were united this offseason on Belisario. I doubt there was anyone who didn't cast a dubious eye on his presence on the 2011 roster, wondering if he could be relied upon in any sense.

There are certain players who, no matter how talented they were at one point, will always be remembered for the air of mystery or confusion that so often surrounded them. Belisario may well make it back to the big leagues someday, with the Dodgers or some other team, but something tells me his name will always evoke a sigh.

I hope Belisario finds his way through his problems. Boy, never a dull moment with this Dodger team ...

* * *

Using my Spring Training Primer for reference, Belisario's absence strengthens the hold that Kenley Jansen and Blake Hawksworth have on bullpen spots (behind Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier and Vincente Padilla), and takes a hurdle away from Ron Mahay, Scott Elbert and Ramon Troncoso, who figure to be the leaders (in that order) in the battle for a theoretical seventh relief spot.

Ned Colletti's menagerie

February, 8, 2011
2/08/11
2:13
PM PT
With my third Sweet Spot post, I finally bring things back to the Dodgers ...
My recent interview with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti prompted me to reflect on a little-discussed aspect of his tenure ...
Looks like the world is getting back to work ...
  • The Dodgers signed Tim Redding to a minor-league contract. Redding, who will be 33 in February, had a 2.89 ERA in 109 Triple-A innings last year, following a 2009 major-league campaign in which his ERA was 5.10 with 76 strikeouts in 120 innings.
  • Albert Lyu of Fangraphs has a precision look at Matt Kemp's struggles against fastballs in 2010 compared with the year before. "Kemp’s whiffs against lower-90s fastballs dramatically increased in the past year, nearly doubling that of the average hitter," Lyu writes.
  • Ronald Belisario won a Venezeulan winter league closer of the year award, notes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also passes along word of the arrival of Clayton and Ellen Kershaw in Africa.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness wonders if there is still room to add a second lefty reliever to the 2011 Dodger bullpen, especially because Hong-Chih Kuo can't be wasted as someone who only faces lefty batters.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter shares a sweaty, tongue-tied New York moment, co-starring Tina Fey.
  • Farewell, Anne Francis and Pete Postlewaite.
The Dodgers announced today that they have sent Ramon Troncoso back to Albuquerque:
Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso was optioned to Albuquerque today, creating an opening for fellow reliever Ronald Belisario to return to the active roster from the restricted list Tuesday.

Troncoso pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings over two games since being recalled from Triple A on Aug. 3, when Jeff Weaver was placed on the disabled list. Troncoso -- like Belisario, a mainstay of the Dodgers' bullpen in 2009 -- has a 4.85 ERA in 39 innings this season.

The Dodgers, who were off Monday, did not immediately confirm that Belisario would be activated before Tuesday's game in Philadelphia. However, Dodger manager Joe Torre said over the weekend that Belisario, who made rehabilitation appearances for Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday and Sunday, was close to a return.

Belisario has not pitched for the Dodgers since July 5. He was placed on MLB's restricted list effective two days later, for reasons still not publicly disclosed. Belisario, who resumed workouts two weeks ago, has a 3.79 ERA in 35 2/3 innings for the Dodgers.

Belisario's 2010 season also began on the restricted list, after visa problems delayed his spring training arrival. Belisario had a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings last season.

What's interesting to me is that the Dodger bullpen suddenly seems so deep that it could part with Troncoso even though he had not been scored upon since his return — and that's with Weaver still sidelined. The offense, certainly, remains a different story.

* * *

After Brandon Morrow threw a 17-strikeout one-hitter Sunday, Stat of the Day made a list of all the pitchers under age 26 since 1920 who had thrown one-hitters while striking out at least 10, within their first 160 career games.

Two Dodgers are on this quirky list. Sandy Koufax is one. If you can guess the other without looking, I'll be really impressed. Name the non-Koufax Dodger under the age of 26 who struck out at least 10 batters in a one-hitter. It came in the pitcher's 22nd career game.
News on the beleaguered reliever:
Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario, who has been on Major League Baseball's restricted list since July 7, has resumed workouts at Dodger Stadium, according to the team, though no timetable has been set for his return to the active roster.

The Dodgers offered no further comment. Belisario hasn't pitched for the team since July 5, when he threw shutout ball over a career-high three innings against Florida. Players can be kept on the restricted list for a maximum of 30 days, meaning that Belisario has until approximately Aug. 6 before the Dodgers (need to) make a decision on him.

After a 2009 rookie season in which he posted a 2.04 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings, Belisario opened the 2010 season on the restricted list following visa problems that detained his arrival in the States from his native Venezuela. He made his season debut April 21, and after performing inconsistently through the end of May, had a 1.45 ERA from June 1 on. For the year, Belisario has a 3.79 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.

Belisario was arrested for driving under the influence in June 2009 and subsequently pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.


If Belisario makes it back, he would potentially rejoin a Dodger bullpen fronted by Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen and Jeff Weaver just in time for the final weeks of the season.
Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has quotes from Ronald Belisario's agent, Paul Kinzer:
"It's just some personal problems, and he's got some things he's got to work through," Kinzer said. "It's just a lot of anxiety, and that is about all I want to say right now."

Pressed on what he meant by the word "anxiety," Kinzer declined to offer details. ...

Players placed on the restricted list are removed from a team's 40-man roster, but they can be kept there for a maximum of 30 days. Kinzer said it was too early to tell whether Belisario's absence would be short term or long term.

"We aren't sure at this point," he said. "We'll just have to see how things go."

Kinzer also said that Belisario was still in Los Angeles, but indicated the pitcher might be heading home to Venezuela at some point.

"Right now, he is [still in town], but we will have to see how things work out later," Kinzer said. "Obviously, his family is in Venezuela. But we haven't set up [any travel]."

July 7 game chat

July, 7, 2010
7/07/10
6:26
PM PT
As of 6 p.m., here's all we know about the Ronald Belisario situation. From The Associated Press:
"Let's put it this way, I'm surprised by this," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, adding that he had no indication of how long Belisario will be away from the club. "Ned [general manager Ned Colletti] told me last night after the game and gave me a heads-up that there would be something going on with him. That was the extent of it. That's all I know.

"He's one of my players, and I'd like to feel that I'm close with all my players. But I had no hint of this and had no conversation about this with him," Torre said. "Obviously, it takes a big chunk out of the bullpen and who we rely on -- especially because of the fact that he's a seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guy."

Belisario, who had a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings as a rookie last season, was arrested in Pasadena, Calif., last June 27 on suspicion of DUI and pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving a month later without appearing in court. The case was resolved in March when he was fined $1,000 on a reduced charge of reckless driving.

But it reportedly created visa problems in his native Venezuela, and Belisario didn't report to spring training until late March -- prompting the Dodgers to put him on the restricted list without pay instead of suspending him. He was activated April 21 and has appeared in 35 games this season with a 1-1 record and 3.79 ERA.

"He hasn't been an issue. There's no disciplinary stuff that's gone on. He's been here for us every day," Torre said. "I haven't had a problem with him -- aside from a high slider here and there." ...
The Dodgers placed Ronald Belisario on the restricted list due to "personal reasons," according to a press note from the Dodgers. Carlos Monasterios has been activated from the 15-day disabled list to take Belisario's roster spot. Awaiting more details ...

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