Non-Roster Dodgers Battle for Final Bullpen Spot


The final two spots on the Dodger roster, for the Dodger Bench and Bullpen are beginning to heat up. With just a little under two weeks until opening day, these epic battles for roster spots begin to take shape. Generally favorites begin to emerge, and we all have a pretty good idea, of who will grab that elusive roster spot.

That is the goal of course, to stay alive as long as possible. In the bullpen, the battle continues, for what looks like just one spot remaining. The Dodger bullpen already has six of the seven spots, spoken for at this point. The Dodger bullpen so far is shaping up to look like, Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, and Todd Coffey. Thus Leaving the seventh and final spot up for grabs, between six NRI pitchers. That stands for non-roster invitee, to you and I. The war continues amongst, Jamey Wright, John Grabow, Angel Guzman, Fernando Nieve, Wil Ledezma, and Scott Rice. Who will get that final bullpen spot?

Jamey Wright, and John Grabow are shaping up as the clear favorites. However, there is limited time remaining, and the Dodgers are going to have to make another round of cuts soon. The Dodgers have until March 30th, to make a decision on both Wright and Grabow, before an out clause on their contract kicks in. If the Dodgers have not placed Wright, and Grabow on the 40 man roster by that date, they can opt out of their contracts, and become free agents. We can expect that to happen with at least one of them.

You might notice that I have not mentioned Josh Lindblom. I do not think he will make the club, even though he really should. He might be the best remaining option from the group of NRI pitchers. The reason he will start the year at Albuquerque, is because he has options, and other guys like Wright, and Grabow do not. This makes a big difference, because of the Dodger’s history. The Dodgers have a history of keeping as many team controlled players for depth, and holding onto as many pitchers as they can. Who doesn’t of course? The question is, who has been pitching the best out of all those NRI pitchers. Jamey Wright has been impressive, but we can remind ourselves that it is a small sample size in spring training games. Still Wright has looked pretty decent during his five spring games. He started a game against the Padres earlier in the week, and pitched two perfect innings. I joked to Stacie about how those two perfect innings should secure him the last spot in the bullpen, even though we all know it shouldn’t.

It is really Grabow, that has been the most impressive. Grabow has pitched in five games this spring, and has not allowed an earned run in 5.2 innings of work. He has allowed just four hits, one walk, and struck out seven. That comes out to a .211 BAA, and a 0.88 WHIP. Wright’s numbers haven’t been nearly as impressive. A 2,57 ERA, in 7 innings, 8 hits allowed, three walks, and only two whiffs. For Wright, a 1.37 WHIP, and batters are hitting .333 against him. So it would seem fair to say that John Grabow, should be the front-runner correct? He isn’t though. Because Jamey Wright has emerged as the front-runner. I have no idea why? Wright is more of a Long-man spot starter anyways. I guess he could fill the Jeff Weaver role. Grabow and Ledezma might be more valuable though because they are lefties, and can provide late-inning choices for manager Don Mattingly based on Matchups.

What about the rest of the guys? Most of the rest of the guys, have appeared in the same number of games and innings. Angel Guzman, a right-hander, has pitched in five games, and 5.1 innings this spring. He has allowed only 1 hit this spring, and has a plus fastball.

After having a terrible spring last year for the Pirates, Fernando Nieve, has had a decent spring with the Dodgers, In 8.1 innings, he has allowed 8 hits, three earned runs, and six strikeouts. Respectable numbers.

Simi Valley local boy Scott Rice, has also looked somewhat impressive. In his five innings of work, he has only allowed three hits, whiffed five batters, and has a WHIP of 0.60. He has an impressive heater as well. Rice is from the same city that I went to high school at, so I would be lying if I didn’t say I am secretly pulling for him to make the team. He reminds me of another local boy from Simi Valley, that made the Dodgers as a non-roster invitee. Remember Jeff Weaver anybody?

Lets not forget the second lefty competing in this mix. Wil Ledezma. The former Pirate, has been ok, but has shown a lack of control. His five walks in his five spring games are concerning. Then again he is a lefty, and I think the Dodgers could use a second lefty out of the pen.

Even in the Dodger’s spring camp, where 95% of the roster is all but set, and most of the talk has been about the sale of the team, there is still some friendly competition for roster spots. If I had my choice, I would pick John Grabow. After all, Elbert is the only lefty in the bullpen, and I think if we are going to give that last spot to a non-roster guy, it might as well be someone we could use in late inning situations. I was initially skeptical of Grabow when he first signed, but he has been pretty decent, and I think he will be a lot more effective than Jamey Wright. In order to avoid having another Lance Cormier on the roster to start the season, the Dodgers should pick Grabow. That’s who my choice is.

Anyways, it’s not as important as we may think it is. After all, the only reason any of these guys have a chance is because Blake Hawksworth, is on the DL, to start the season, and Ronald Belisario has to serve a 25 game suspension for a drug violation. My guess is once Belisario returns from suspension, he will bump whomever wins this last roster spot, back into DFA’ land. Guzman, and Nieve have been somewhat impressive, but I still consider them long-shots. Rice will probably land with in the Isotope’s Bullpen in some capacity. Ledezma walks too many batters. This leaves Wright, and Grabow.

If I had the choice, I would pick Grabow, but my money is on Wright to get the spot. Remember though, the last spot in the bullpen usually sees a lot of turnover on any Major League team. So whomever gets the job, Don’t get too attached, and don’t expect to see them stick around long with the Dodgers.