Monday, March 15, 2010
Belisario could be longshot for roster
By Tony Jackson ESPNLosAngeles.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre and general manager Ned Colletti both said Tuesday that whenever reliever Ronald Belisario finally does report to spring training, the odds will be stacked against him earning a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Ronald Belisario's personal problems have caused his future with the Dodgers to remain in doubt.
Belisario, who had a superb rookie season last year, continues to deal with visa problems in his native Venezuela. More specifically, he still hasn't received permission from the U.S. Embassy to enter the country, a sticking point that is believed to be related to an unresolved case in which Belisario was charged with DUI last summer in Pasadena.
"I don't know what the heck he has been doing, and that's the trouble,'' Torre said. "Belisario was late last year, but not this late. I think it'll be a long shot, but I hate to say something is impossible.''
Colletti echoed those sentiments.
"Until he gets here, there is no way to tell,'' Colletti said. "But I would think that it's easier to make the team in Glendale than in Caracas. It could be a long shot.''
There still is no indication of when Belisario might arrive or when the matter might be resolved. Colletti said the club itself has taken the lead on trying to get the matter resolved, but that team officials also were in frequent contact with Paul Kinzer, Belisario's Atlanta-based agent. A Venezuelan newspaper has reported that Belisario missed repeated appointments with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.
"We are dealing with the U.S. Embassy and the Venezuelan government,'' Colletti said. "We're keeping Paul in the loop, especially if there are some things Ronald needs to do like show up for appointments and things like that.''
Had he shown up on time, or anywhere close to on time, Belisario would have been a lock for a spot in the bullpen.
Strong outing for Ortiz
Right-hander Ramon Ortiz continued to make his bid for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, limiting the Los Angeles Angels to two hits in four shutout innings as the Dodgers cruised to a 4-0 Cactus League victory before a sellout crowd of 8,854 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Ortiz has now pitched nine scoreless innings in three spring appearances, giving up just five hits, striking out 11 and walking only two.
Ortiz, 36, is in camp on a minor league contract and hoping to revive a career in which he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007. He spent 2008 with the Orix Buffaloes, where he says a teammate taught him to throw a curveball to go with his slider, and last season with San Francisco's Triple-A Fresno affiliate.
"It was hard,'' Ortiz said of the past two seasons. "But I always put it in my head that I knew I could pitch. I threw hard, I had a good slider, a good changeup. When you keep working hard, good things happen.''
Ortiz said the biggest lesson he learned during those two years was how to pitch, as opposed to just trying to throw the ball by everybody. He was a one-time starter who won 44 games for the Angels over a three-year stretch from 2001 to 2003, but Ortiz was all about bringing the heat in those days. Today, he is a much more polished pitcher, even if he is older now and doesn't have nearly the velocity he once had.
"The key is throwing strikes,'' he said. "When I played Triple-A for the Giants last year, and then went to the Dominican [for winter ball], I threw a good breaking ball and a good changeup. Before, I tried to overthrow, tried to hit 96-97 [mph]. But if you throw 97 right over the middle of the plate, you're still going to get hit.''
The Dodgers made three more cuts after the game to go with the five they made in the morning. This time, they reassigned non-roster infielder Argenis Reyes to minor league camp and optioned pitchers Brent Leach and Travis Schlichting and infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. to the minors. The club now has 50 players in big league camp, not counting still-absent reliever Ronald Belisario, who has yet to report because of visa problems in his native Venezuela.
Haeger back in action
Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, another fifth-starter candidate, returned to action for the first time since being scratched from the Taiwan trip because of back pain. He pitched a scoreless sixth inning, giving up a one-out double to Howie Kendrick.
Meanwhile, Torre hinted that club officials might be looking at Haeger, who is out of minor league options, more as a candidate for the bullpen now.
"He also has an opportunity to be a reliever for a couple of reasons,'' Torre said. "One, he could probably pitch every day, and two, he throws enough strikes. He is certainly a candidate for fifth starter. But if that doesn't happen, being a starter certainly isn't the only area where he could help you or be useful to you.''
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.