Questions Mount as Opening Day Nears for Dodgers


The Dodgers got one monkey off their back yesterday as they defeated their division rivals to the North, for the first time in Cactus League play. In doing so 3 young players trying to earn a spot on the final 25 man roster shined. Ivan De Jesus Jr had 3 hits, and Xavier Paul and Hector Gimenez homered in their only at bats, off of former Dodger reliever Guillermo Mota. But the star of the day was undoubtedly the Dodgers reigning minor league pitcher of the year, Rubby De La Rosa.The 22 year old Dominican held the team from the North hitless over his 4 innings of work but he did issue his first 3 walks of the Spring. Perhaps the most impressive stat from his outing was the 7 to 1 ratio of ground ball outs to fly outs. Young Rubby will surely start the season in the minors, but he has shown Dodger brass that his arrival at Chavez Ravine will be sooner than later. If the inury bug continues to bite the starting rotation during the season, then Rubby could be called upon to fill in, if given the chance he may very well pitch his way in to a permanent starting gig.

Tomorrow Lasorda’s Lair will take an in-depth look at the players remaining in Major League camp and make our assumptions on who will make up the final 25 man roster. Today however, I will begin my 12 day campaign to lobby for Xavier Paul and Hector Gimenez to be a part of the opening day squad that faces the team from the North on March 31st. Ivan De Jesus Jr has options so unfortunately, even though his offensive numbers are superior to Aaron Miles and Juan Castro, and defensively he can play multiple positions, the Dodgers want IDJ to get at bats so I fell that no matter how well he continues to play he will begin the season in AAA.

So part 1 today will focus on Gibbons vs Paul. The Dodgers in all likelihood will only keep 1 of the 2 left handed hitting outfielders. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has already gone on the record earlier this Spring stating that he intentionally signed the potential LF platoon of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames to 1 year deals, in order not to block future prospects Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson. However, Xavier Paul could very well end up being let go because he is out of options, even though he has significantly out performed Gibbons thus far this spring.

Somehow Gibbons showed up to camp with the wrong prescription and wrong size contact lenses, which saw him go 2 for 22 at the plate before he finally got the correct contacts. Really? We are talking about a professional baseball player who is also an admitted former steroid user, who magically was given a second chance by the Dodgers last year, and he thanks them by showing up to camp with the wrong contacts.  Gibbons finally saw a specialist and just like that the problem was magically solved. (He did actually get a hit in his first at bat after getting the new contacts but went 1 for 4 against Rangers A ball pitchers yesterday) But I fear that the whole contact lens ordeal will give Gibbons a clean slate and lead everyone to overlook the terrible camp he has had because showed up with the wrong contacts. But how does a true professional show up to camp with the wrong contacts?

Meanwhile, after a slow start Xavier Paul, who is also superior defensively to Gibbons, has quietly done a 180 and has been one of the better Dodger hitters thus far in camp. I realize we are dealing with a very small sample size here 32 AB’s for Paul vs 24 for Gibbons, but clearly Paul has outperformed Gibbons and it’s not even close. Gibbons has 3 hits, all singles, Paul is 2nd on the team in total bases, is slugging a robust .625, he even tripled vs Rangers star and the reigning American League rookie of the year, Neftali Feliz, along with homering off of Mota. Paul has more speed than Gibbons, has the strongest arm aside from Matt Kemp and quite simply he is a Dodger. He has gotten better at every level of the Dodgers minor league system, and just turned 26 last month. Yet he will be placed on waivers if he is not on the opening day roster and surely one of the other 29 MLB clubs would claim him.

However, due to the contact lense debacle, Gibbons will likely be judged solely on the numbers he puts up the next 12 days of camp. Paul gets the first opportunity to help his cause as he is hitting 6th in today’s lineup vs the Brewers. Stay tuned after the game for a recap and the my argument for Hector Gimenez vs Dioner Navarro.

Dodgers lineup today: 1: Furcal SS, 2: Gwynn CF, 3: Uribe 2B, 4: Thames LF, 5: Gimenez 1B, 6: Paul RF, 7: Barajas C, 8: Miles 3B, 9: Kuroda P.