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February 25, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Tony Jackson

Tony Jackson
  (3:02 PM)

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to this week's chat, which I am moderating from high above the empty field at Camelback Ranch. It's a beautiful day in the desert. Dodgers have concluded their workout, all position players have reported and Ronnie Belliard has undergone his first physical. No word on what he weighed in at. I see there are already several questions, so I'll get right to it.

Chris@Dodgerfan.net (Santa Monica, CA)

Tony, who do you think has the best shot at being the club's 5th starter on Opening Day? Is it Stults' job to lose or is it still wide open?

Tony Jackson
  (3:04 PM)

Chris it's still very wide open among about five candidates. I think James McDonald is the slight favorite going in and probably the guy the front office and coaching staff are rooting for. Stults is a candidate, as are Charlie Haeger, Carlos Monasterios and a couple of other guys.

Matt DFYI (LA)

Why does the team continue to try and make Lindblom a starter? He has proven that he is much more valuable in relief and looks like our closer of the future. Also, how did his BP session go?

Tony Jackson
  (3:06 PM)

Matt it's because he has three good pitches. Also, it's tough to project a guy based on his role in college. What's great about trying to convert a guy into a starter is that if it doesn't work out, he can ALWAYS go back to relief. If you groom him as a reliever, then it's tougher to make him a starter because you have to gradually build up his innings. ... He didn't actually throw BP today, but he has thrown on the side a couple of times. This morning, several of the pitching coaches were working with him on his delivery mechanics.

Lance (Valencia)

Tony, do you think Rihanna could hit an 0-2 breaking ball?

Tony Jackson
  (3:07 PM)

Lance, that's a good question. It would be interesting to find out, wouldn't it?

Emma (Van Nuys)

I read Adrian Gonzalez is happy in San Diego. But, really, what would it take for the Dodgers to get him? (without giving up Kershaw, Kemp or Ethier?)

Tony Jackson
  (3:09 PM)

Hi Emma. (Is this THE Emma?) I don't see that happening. The Padres aren't going to be very good this year, and Adrian is one of their few drawing cards in a year when the product on the field isn't going to sell itself. He is a huge star in the Mexican community, the Mexican community is a huge demographic in the San Diego area (on both sides of the border), and the Padres aren't about to lose that ticket base by trading such a popular player.

silverwidow (Pasadena)

Tony, we haven't heard much about John Ely this spring. How is he doing on the minor league side and what are management's plans for him?

Tony Jackson
  (3:10 PM)

John Ely is actually in big-league camp, but I haven't watched him throw or discussed him with Torre or Honeycutt as of yet. He sounds like a guy who has a legitimate shot of making it down the road, but I think the plan this spring is just to get a good look at him for future reference.

Eric Stephen (High Desert, CA)

Tony, with mostly day games during spring training, do you enjoy the relatively "normal" schedule of covering the spring compared to the night games and constant travel of the regular season? Or is there much of a difference?

Tony Jackson
  (3:12 PM)

Hi Eric. Good to see you in the room. To answer your question, no, I'm not particularly fond of the spring-training schedule. I'm not a fan of getting up early in the morning, and we get here between 730 and 8 pretty much every day. I generally have to hit Starbucks TWICE a day, on the way in in the morning and again right after lunch, otherwise I'm a zombie. Bring on the season, is what I say.

erik (los angeles)

I know its early on, but is there a pitcher that has come in with a new pitch? Has any of the young guys asked Gagne about his bugs bunny change?

Tony Jackson
  (3:13 PM)

Erik, I must confess, I don't know the answer to that question. I'll try to check with Honeycutt in the next day or two and find out.

Eric Stephen (High Desert, CA)

Is Hiroki Kuroda the likely choice to start the regular season opener in Pittsburgh?

Tony Jackson
  (3:15 PM)

Eric, my guess is yes. These things generally don't change from one year to the next unless the guy who did it last year fell on his face or somebody else was so good that they earned the honor. Kuroda wasn't especially good last year, but he wasn't especially bad. Billingsley was good the first half, but his second-half slide probably ruined any chance of him stepping up and taking it. Vicente Padilla is going to start the Cactus League opener, but tough to envision him starting opening day. For now, I'm guessing it's Kuroda.

David Young (Los Angeles)

Tony, welcome back to the Dodger beat. What should we read into Eric Stults being the first of the 5th starter candidates named to start a ST game? Does that make him the front runner going to the starting gate?

Tony Jackson
  (3:16 PM)

David thanks for the nice sentiment. It's great to BE back. Beats being unemployed, that's for sure. ... I think the only thing you should read into that Stults situation is that he is going to be in the starting rotation for SOMEONE, either the Dodgers or the Isotopes. Any pitcher who is going to start during the season is on a starter's program during spring training so he can gradually build up his innings over the course of six weeks and be ready to throw 100 pitches in his first regular-season start. I certainly dont' think it makes Stults the favorite.

ray (burlington, nj)

Tony-I just found out you were doing chats here at ESPN. Also glad to see you back on the beat. The blog wasn;t the same without you over at the LADN. Anyway, does the LA front office-White especially, feel that Gordon will be ready to take the SS job in 2012?

Tony Jackson
  (3:19 PM)

Ray, that's possible. I think DeJesus Jr. is the more immediate SS prospect, but I also think Gordon is the one with the higher ceiling, and DeJ was set back a year after breaking his leg last spring. I also wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of re-signing Furcal for another year or two if he has a couple of strong years before his current contract runs out. That could buy them some time for Gordon to develop a little more.

Daniel Niku (Encino)

Which minor league position players does the organization think have a good shot at eventually earning starting jobs with the big club?

Tony Jackson
  (3:21 PM)

Daniel, there are several of them. Dee Gordon is a big one who probably will eventually take over at SS. Lucas May could be an everyday catcher at some point, but his development hasn't come along as quickly as they had hoped. Russell Mitchell can play either corner, but he is going to be more of a grinder-type player, could be a utility guy. Andrew Lambo is one of the guys you hear talked about the most, but there are some questions about his maturity. He's at least two years away, so he won't be taking over in LF next year after Manny is gone.

Matt @DodgersFYI (LA)

Have not heard a word about Loney since the season ended. Has he discussed his off season regiment at all? Would be nice to see him add a few pounds of muscle to that frame.

Tony Jackson
  (3:23 PM)

Matt, funny you should bring that up. I was talking to Logan White on one of the back fields this morning when Andre Ethier's dad walked up to say hi to Logan. James walked up a minute or two later to say hi to Mr. Ethier, and Mr. Ethier immediately told him how good he looked. James said he had lost several pounds of fat, and Mr. Ethier said he looked like he had added a few pounds of muscle as well. Torre has been saying for years he would like to see James hit for more power, so we'll see what happens this summer.

Matt @DodgersFYI (LA)

Has DeJesus made an appearance yet or is he still not fully recovered? With the way Dee Gordon has been tearing it up and the future of second in question, does he maybe come back playing second?

Tony Jackson
  (3:25 PM)

Matt, he's here. I spoke with him this morning. He said he tried to play winter ball back in Puerto Rico with some success, but he had to shut it down early because of soreness. Says he feels good now and doesn't think he'll have any restrictions on him this spring. There is still some soreness, which he thinks he'll have the rest of his life (common with a broken bone), but he looks good and feels good. ... As for Gordon, I'm not sure if that has been considered. But that move across the bag isn't as easy as it sounds because it's a whole different look and a whole different throw to first.

Daniel Niku (Encino)

With Manny most likely moving on, what do you think the Dodgers do about LF in 2011? Hopefully a guy like Trayvon Robinson can come up and play right while moving Ethier over to left.

Tony Jackson
  (3:27 PM)

That could happen, but I think it's more likely the Dodgers will have to go get somebody, either a major-league free agent or make a trade this winter. It's tough to replace a guy like Manny with a rookie. The bad part is that there won't be that much money coming off the books when Manny is gone because so much of his contract is deferred, so the Dodgers figure to still be under something close to the same fiscal restraints this coming winter that they were under this past winter.

Matt @DodgersFYI (LA)

The only reason I bring up DeJesus to second is that most scouts have said that his arm would play better at the position.

Tony Jackson
  (3:28 PM)

Yeah I have heard the same thing. But he says he played only SS in Puerto Rico this winter. He has plenty of minor-league experience at each spot, so I think you could go either way with him. My guess is it'll be based more on the big-league team's needs than anything else.

Matt @DodgersFYI (LA)

What is the word on Corey Wade? He was great 2 years ago and then just fell apart last year. Has Honeycutt mentioned him at all as an option in the bp?

Tony Jackson
  (3:34 PM)

Cory is definitely a candidate for one of those two open spots. I think he had trouble bouncing back from that injury he had early last year, but he is very definitely in their plans. If he doesn't make the team out of camp, he's an experienced middle reliever that they can call up at anytime. You definitely haven't heard the last of him.

David Young (Los Angeles)

Any word yet from Rafael Furcal on how his back feels? Do you think it's a lock that the Dodgers will keep a "bona fide" SS on the roster (Green, Berroa, Hu), rather than try to get by with some combo of Belliard, Carroll, DeWitt filling in there on occasion?

Tony Jackson
  (3:39 PM)

No word yet. Saw him briefly in the clubhouse today, but he was still in the middle of his physical and had no time to talk. He looked good, though. He was moving around great. I think barring an injury, Green, Berroa and Hu are probably all headed to Triple-A to start the season (assuming Green and Berroa are willing to go). The backup SS will be Jamey Carroll is the backup SS, with Casey Blake able to fill in there on occasion. Joe says if DeWitt is the regular 2B, he'll play ONLY 2B because Joe doesn't want him moving around. If somebody gets hurt, they can always bring one of those guys up from the minors when the need arises

alvin (puerto rico)

did you think manny ramirez can't not be traded to other team?

Tony Jackson
  (3:41 PM)

Alvin, there isn't any no-trade language in his contract that I'm aware of. But the only way I can see the Dodgers trading him at the deadline is if they are completely out of contention. Even then, they're going to get stuck for a lot of his salary because so much of that money is deferred. This is his last year in L.A., but it's going to be a full year.

RAY (Burlington, NJ)

Tony-I think the media has made too much of Manny's comments this week. What are the chances DeWitt wins the 2b job out of ST?

Tony Jackson
  (3:43 PM)

Ray, I actually agree with you to some extent. But that is what the media has become. I have witnessed that in the 20 years I have been in the business. The reason it was a story even though we already knew this was his last year with the Dodgers is that it was actually HIM saying it, and saying it on the first day he showed up in camp. ... I think DeWitt's chances of winning that job are at least 50/50. He is going to be given every benefit of the doubt because it makes the roster work better if he's the guy. If he ISN'T the guy, he goes to ABQ, and Carroll and Belliard split the job. It's better for the Dodgers to have BOTH of those guys on their bench.

erik (los angeles)

You did an article not too long ago where dodger officials were saying their farm system is being underrated. Every other publication has them on the bottom of the league. After talking with them what is your personal opinion?

Tony Jackson
  (3:44 PM)

Well, what those publications are saying is true if your judgement is based on major-league ready talent. The upper rungs of the Dodgers' system are mostly bare. The lower levels are LOADED with talent. Logan White says it might be deeper than it has been at any point since he came here in 2001. But none of those guys are going to be ready to contribute at the big-league level for at least two or three years, or longer. That's what is causing the low rankings.

Eric Stephen (High Desert, CA)

Tony, you mentioned Stults potentially starting for Albuquerque. Since he is out of options, do you think he would clear waivers if the Dodgers decide to send him down?

Tony Jackson
  (3:47 PM)

Yes, I forgot about him being out of options, and Charlie Haeger also is out of options. Probably 50/50 that either one of them clears. There are always small-market teams looking for bargains, and a guy with big-league experience who has pitched a couple of shutouts in the majors and isn't even arbitration-eligible yet could certainly pique the interest of a team like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, etc. If that doesn't happen and he clears, Stults would have basically no choice but to accept an assignment to ABQ because I believe it would be his first outright assignment. You have to accept your first one, but you can decline any subsequent outright and become a free agent.

Matt @DodgersFYI (LA)

What is the teams plan for Kyle Russell? With his age does he skip high A or is the team in no rush with him? He seems like he would be a great fit in the future with Ethier and Kemp.

Tony Jackson
  (3:48 PM)

I don't see them skipping a level with a prospect a highly touted as Russell. He is one of the Dodgers' stars of the future, so they're going to let him develop very slowly. However, the Dodgers do have a habit of putting guys at levels where they'll be challenged more, especially late in the season, so we'll see.

Rick (Pasadena, CA)

Tony, great to see that you latched on with ESPN.It's good to hear that some players bulked up and got into better shape this offseason. (Martin, Loney). On the flip side, has anyone seemed to have taken up the Andruw Jones Krispy Kreme donut regimen?

Tony Jackson
  (3:49 PM)

Ha!!!! No, but although I haven't been over to the White Sox side of the complex, I'm told Andruw Jones has given up the Krispy Kremes, and a whole lot of other bad stuff. He has allegedly lost about 30 pounds this winter. So at least he finally gets it. He's a good guy. I hope he gets back to his old form.

Nathan (California)

Have you had a look at rule 5 guys: Armando Zerpa or Carlos Monasterios? Any chance they begin the season on the Dodgers?

Tony Jackson
  (3:51 PM)

Nathan, I did watch Monasterios throw a pen yesterday -- and so did Joe Torre, who stood directly behind the kid as he threw. Both of these guys are candidates, Zerpa for the pen and Monasterios for the fifth spot in the rotation, but both are also long shots. Rule 5 picks rarely pan out, but they're also low-risk moves, so the Dodgers have nothing to lose with either of these guys.

David Young (Los Angeles)

Did Casey Blake shave off the beard to lessen the air resistance and improve his range if he has to back up at SS? No offense to The Erstwhile Beard, but I might watch games from between my fingers if he's at SS, but I'd be pleased if Carroll backed up there.

Tony Jackson
  (3:52 PM)

David he said he shaved it off out of frustration because he was having a bad hunting season. He really does look a lot younger though. My concern, which I DID point out to him, is that if he grew it in the middle of the 2007 season, which he says he did, that means he went to three consecutive LCS WITH the beard. He had never been to one in his career before that.

Eric Stephen (High Desert, CA)

I think the chat software ate some of the answer to David Young...did you mean to say someone (Bellaird, Mientkiewicz?) was the backup 1B, with Casey Blake able to fill in?

Tony Jackson
  (3:55 PM)

Well, I DID say in an emergency. CB has appeared in ONE game in his career at SS, that in 2008 with the Indians, and I'm guessing it was in an emergency then, too. If both Furcal and Carroll were hurt, you might stick him there for the rest of a game until you could call somebody up the next day. Belliard also has 10 games there in his career, so he could also play there if needed.

Matt @DodgersFYI (LA)

What kind of a look is Withrow getting this Spring?

Tony Jackson
  (3:55 PM)

Not much of one. He's in minor-league camp. But he is one of those stars of the future, a real legitimate prospects who you'll see in Los Angeles in a few years.

RAY (Burlington, NJ)

Russell is one the LA stars of the future? The prospect guys (BA, BP) say different, no?

Tony Jackson
  (3:57 PM)

Well, I have to admit I rarely read those (even though I used to contribute to BA). I mostly just listen to what the guys in the front office tell me, and granted, they tend to be a little biased.

Tony Jackson
  (4:00 PM)

thanks for all the great questions this week. See you all next Thursday.