Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Dodgers reveal opening day roster
By Tony Jackson
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' opening day roster will include a second-generation player making his major league debut, a catcher whose entire major league history consists of two pinch-hitting appearances five years ago and an outfielder who now admits he played the entire spring on emotional pins and needles knowing he was out of minor league options and probably facing his last chance with the organization that drafted him eight years ago.
Yes, Ivan DeJesus Jr. is on the team, where he will share time with Jamey Carroll at second base at least until third baseman Casey Blake returns from the disabled list, which is expected to happen late next week. Yes, Hector Gimenez, who last played in the majors with the Houston Astros in 2006, also made it as a third catcher. And yes, Xavier Paul finally got to take a deep breath when he was told by manager Don Mattingly during Wednesday night's Cactus League finale, an 8-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners before 16,732 at Dodger Stadium, that he had made the club.
Also making it were non-roster veterans Lance Cormier and Mike MacDougal in the bullpen and Aaron Miles as a utility infielder. Not making it were veterans Gabe Kapler and Juan Castro, both of whom will take a day or two to decide whether they are willing to accept minor league assignments, will try to hook on somewhere else or will simply retire.
Castro, who lives in the Phoenix area, had been told before the Dodgers broke camp Sunday night that he wouldn't make the team, so he stayed behind. Kapler wasn't told of his fate until sometime Wednesday.
"We just ran out of 40-man roster spots," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said, indicating Kapler was a player the club wanted to keep.
Mattingly echoed that sentiment.
"It was tough with Kap," Mattingly said. "He is such a guy you would love to have on a club. We looked at some different scenarios with Gabe as a part of this club and talked about some different things happening. The only thing that made it any easier was that we have been up front with Gabe from the very beginning. As we said we wanted to do, we tried to keep him informed of things that were happening.
"Juan Castro was a part of that, too. I feel like veteran guys who have been around a little bit and play the game right and do everything we asked of them, out of respect for them, I wanted to let them know what was happening."
DeJesus Jr.'s initial stay in the majors probably will be a short one. Club officials want him to get regular at-bats, and that will become much harder when Blake returns. The son of longtime Chicago Cubs shortstop Ivan DeJesus, who is the Cubs' third base coach, DeJesus Jr. probably would have been in the majors much sooner if he hadn't broken a bone in his leg in a nasty collision at the plate in a spring-training "B" game two years ago.
He hit .317 for the spring.
Gimenez, 28, was signed out of Venezuela last winter at the urging of Dodgers assistant general manager DeJon Watson and based on a strong recommendation by Dodgers Double-A manager Carlos Subero, who managed Gimenez in the Venezuelan Winter League. After that September callup by the Astros in '06, he suffered a shoulder injury the following spring, missed that entire season and didn't really fully recover until about a year ago.
Gimenez also was out of minor league options and likely wouldn't have made the team if not for an injury to backup Dioner Navarro, who will start the season on the DL. But A.J. Ellis, who also probably wouldn't have made it if Navarro were healthy, will be the primary backup behind Rod Barajas, with Gimenez a pinch hitter who can hit from both sides and who also can fill in at first base.
"A.J. has been with this [pitching] staff," Mattingly said. "We're trying to build up our pitching and defense as much as we possibly can. A.J. knows the staff and knows our guys. Hector has done a good job, but he just doesn't know our guys as well, even though he has caught pens and stuff like that. This just allows us some flexibility late in the game."
Paul's spot on the team could be long-term, or it could last only until Jay Gibbons returns from the DL. But with Tony Gwynn Jr. the primary left fielder and Marcus Thames slated to get most of the starts against lefties, Paul, a left-handed batter, might be mostly limited to pinch-hitting duty.
"I didn't find out I was on this team until tonight, and it was a huge weight off my shoulders," said Paul, who hit .232 with 22 strikeouts in 56 at-bats for the spring. "I was talking to Marcus Thames about it. He went through the same thing as far as being out of options with the Yankees. He just said you have to try to forget about it and relax, but it was hard not knowing.
"Now, it's time to get in there and get to work. No more 'Am I in or am I out?' I just want to get out there and help this team win."
MacDougal, an All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals in 2003, didn't give up an earned run all spring, allowing just four hits in 10 innings. Cormier, whom the Dodgers didn't even sign until the day pitchers and catchers reported to camp, was part of an outstanding Tampa Bay Rays bullpen last season. He allowed just two runs in nine innings this spring.
Cormier edged out longtime Dodgers prospect and former first-round draft pick Scott Elbert for the final spot. Elbert was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque, leaving setup man Hong-Chih Kuo as the only left-hander in the Dodgers' season-opening bullpen.
Although players can't officially be put on the disabled list until Thursday, Blake, Navarro, Gibbons and pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland all are expected to be there, with those moves backdated to March 22 so those players will become eligible for activation on April 6. Barring a setback, Blake (inflammation, lower-thoracic region) should be the first of those players to return, but Mattingly said Blake won't come back before April 8 because the Dodgers play in Colorado -- where they could encounter cold weather -- on April 6 and are off on April 7.
To clear 40-man roster spots for Cormier, MacDougal and Miles, the Dodgers designated pitcher Jon Link and first baseman John Lindsey for assignment. One roster spot already had been cleared earlier this month when pitcher Ronald Belisario was moved to the restricted list.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.