GLENDALE, Ariz. – When teams announce spring-training competitions, they tend to say they will take the best players regardless of contract status. Then, when Opening Day arrives, they frequently take players with inferior numbers because of contract stipulations or for financial reasons.
It’s one of those hypocrisies that everyone seems to understand and tolerate.
Will the Dodgers stay true to their word and cobble together the best bullpen regardless of service-time constraints? There are a few cases that could test that assertion.
Three of the most impressive relievers this spring, Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore all have options and can be stockpiled at Triple-A Salt Lake as depth. Two of the veteran relievers who have performed the worst, Juan Nicasio and Chris Hatcher, are out of options and could be lost to waivers if they don’t make the Opening Day 25-man roster.
“I don’t think the options have anything to necessarily do with it. We’ll try and take the best guys and I don’t think we’re going to sacrifice not taking the best guys,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday, the team’s final day in Arizona. “There are a lot of guys who have thrown the ball well.”
None better than Garcia and the two young left-handers.
Garcia, 24, has struck out 15 batters, second on the team to Clayton Kershaw and opposing batters are hitting .139 off him. Rodriguez and Liberatore have yet to allow a run this spring. Opponents are batting .094 off Rodriguez and .138 off Liberatore.
Nicasio and Hatcher are both on guaranteed major-league contracts, with Nicasio making $2.3 million and Hatcher likely to make in the neighborhood of the major-league minimum, $507,000. Nicasio has a 6.57 ERA and opponents have hit .354 off him. Hatcher has a 7.36 ERA and opponents are hitting .303 off him.
The Dodgers’ Opening Day roster is due by noon PT Sunday.