Ortiz appears to have earned spot
Although it won't be made public until Sunday, the Dodgers' season-opening roster has been tentatively set, with veteran right-hander Russ Ortiz having beaten out infielder Nick Green in a battle for the final spot. The decision between the two non-roster invitees came down to club officials' desire to begin the season with a 12-man pitching staff.
Neither general manager Ned Colletti nor manager Joe Torre would confirm the decision after Sunday's spring training finale, a 6-4 loss to the Angels before 35,310 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and neither Ortiz nor Green would admit to having any knowledge of their imminent fates. But Ortiz boarded a team bus bound for the airport and a charter flight to Pittsburgh for Monday's opener, while Green stayed behind in the clubhouse and seemed resigned to the fact he was headed to Triple-A Albuquerque.
"I have a suit in my car, so if anybody tells me to go [to Pittsburgh], I'll go get it," said Green, who has an escape clause in his minor league contract that allows him to become a free agent if he doesn't make the team but said he isn't planning to exercise the clause. "I'll go to Albuquerque for now, and hopefully there will be an opportunity. I know I didn't play well, but I don't think it's going to take long to get to where I need to be."
Green hit only .139 for the spring, striking out nine times in 36 at-bats. But he warranted some consideration for a roster spot because he played 81 games at shortstop for Boston last season. One of the Dodgers' other utility infielders, Jamey Carroll, hasn't played there since 2007, and the other, Ronnie Belliard, has played only 10 games there in his career.
A backup shortstop is something of a concern because of Rafael Furcal's history of back problems and the high likelihood that he'll need frequent days off.
As he prepared to leave the clubhouse, Ortiz said he still had no idea whether he had made the cut. He also seemed amused by the fact he would have to fly across the country before learning of it.
"I get to dress up and go on a trip," he said. "Last year [with Houston], I didn't find out until the last day and after the last exhibition game. But that was there in Houston, and we were opening at home, too. I have never had to do anything like this before."
Ortiz, 35, is a Los Angeles-area native who attended Montclair Prep in Van Nuys and was once one of the best starting pitchers in the National League, winning 99 games over a six-year span from 1999 to 2004. He came to camp ostensibly as a last-ditch effort to save his career, which appeared to be on life support. But after beginning the spring on a starter's program before having his innings cut back several days ago, he finished with a 2.50 ERA, with 15 strikeouts and only three walks in 18 innings.
Although no one would talk about the final decision, it probably came down to two factors.
First, the Dodgers are keeping Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios in the bullpen despite his lack of experience -- he has made only two appearances Single-A -- which means he'll have to be used judiciously. That presumably created a need for a seventh man in the bullpen.
Second, Colletti is a big proponent of player inventory, meaning keeping as many players in the organization as possible. Given that Green was willing to waive his escape clause and Ortiz wasn't -- Ortiz said he probably would retire if he didn't make the team -- putting Ortiz on the big league club prevents the Dodgers from losing a player.
Colletti also doesn't like to make anything official until he absolutely has to, and the Dodgers don't have to submit a final 25-man roster to Major League Baseball until noon PDT on Sunday. Even then, they aren't locked into the roster they submit, and they could make any normal moves they choose to make between then and game time Monday.
In moves the team did announce after the game, catcher A.J. Ellis, infielder Chin-lung Hu and outfielder Xavier Paul all were optioned to the minor leagues. All three are almost certain to be assigned to Albuquerque.
Here is the Dodgers' probable season-opening roster:
PITCHERS (12): Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Charlie Haeger, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Monasterios, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Vicente Padilla, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso and Jeff Weaver.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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