Tim Redding taking nothing for granted
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching rotation having been thrown slightly out of kilter because the team was off Wednesday, non-roster right-hander Tim Redding took one for the team Thursday, agreeing to move his scheduled start to the minor league side so Chad Billingsley could go in the Cactus League game -- a 6-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks before 9,687 at Camelback Ranch.
In fact, Redding is so grateful for the chance to be here, he will do just about anything the Dodgers ask of him.
A veteran who made his big league debut almost a decade ago, Redding last pitched in the majors in 2009 with the New York Mets. Last year, while pitching -- pitching extremely well, in fact -- for the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, he became so certain he was never going to get a big league call-up that he negotiated his release from the Yankees so he could accept an offer to pitch for the Samsung Lions of the Korean League, an experience he now says was rewarding in a cultural sense but not so much in a baseball sense.
Certain he didn't want to go back to Korea, Redding accepted a minor league deal over the winter with the Dodgers, a team whose starting rotation already was six deep at the time. Fast forward to now, and that rotation is only four deep because of injuries to Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland. And Redding, who is having an outstanding spring, is beginning to look like a solid bet for the Opening Day roster, at least as a long reliever.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't confident," said Redding, who made it through three innings on his allotted 40 pitches in a morning minor league intrasquad game. "But I think everybody has to be confident in this game. If you don't believe in yourself, you're probably not going to have success.
"When I signed here, my mindset was that even if I didn't make the club because of the numbers they have here, I would still be able to serve as an insurance policy at Triple-A. It's really unfortunate that both Vicente and Jon were injured this spring, but obviously, that does open the door a little wider than maybe it could have been.
"But I'm still not taking anything for granted."
Although Garland is expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique, club officials remain hopeful he will be ready to pitch by the first time the Dodgers need a fifth starter, on April 12. But they also must prepare for the possibility that he won't be, and that is where Redding probably comes in.
Redding's chief competition for a rotation spot that might or might not be open is second-year right-hander John Ely, who also is having a solid spring. But Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has said he wants to avoid putting Ely in the bullpen, so that means Ely could begin the season as a starter at Triple-A Albuquerque. Redding could begin the season in the big league bullpen and be at the ready if Garland can't go, but he also could be equally at the ready to come up from Albuquerque in that event, as could Ely.
So for Redding, who has allowed four runs on 10 hits over 12 innings this spring, making the Opening Day roster might come down to whether Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti decide they need a long reliever. Redding's minor league contract has an escape clause, but it doesn't kick in until June 15. It also has a clause allowing him to opt out earlier if he has an offer from a team in either Korea or Japan. But Redding, 33, says that from where he stands now, he doesn't think he will exercise either of those clauses.
"I think things are going to work out here one way or another," he said.
Two more cuts
The competition for the last utility infield spot was narrowed to three after the game, when the Dodgers reassigned infielder Justin Sellers to minor league camp. Outfielder Jerry Sands, the organization's reigning minor league player of the year, also was reassigned.
The elimination of Sellers, who hit .250 with three doubles and a .375 on-base percentage in the Cactus League, leaves longtime prospect Ivan DeJesus and non-roster veterans Juan Castro and Aaron Miles to fight it out the rest of the way.
For now, common sense would suggest Miles is leading the pack. DeJesus still has a minor league option, which probably puts him at a disadvantage, as does the fact that he has the least experience of the three at third base, a position he never played before last year's Arizona Fall League. Neither Castro nor Miles has an escape clause in his contract, so that won't be a determining factor. And while Castro can play one more position than Miles (first base), it isn't likely the Dodgers would need him to play there much if at all.
Finally, Miles is a career .282 hitter in eight big league seasons and is four years younger than Castro, who is 38 and has hit .228 in 16 major league seasons.
More on the Dodgers
For more news, notes and analysis of the Dodgers, check out ESPNLA's Dodgers Report. Blog
Jamey Carroll, the utility man who already has a guaranteed spot on the team, has been shut down for a couple of days because of lingering soreness in his right index finger, which he fouled a ball off of almost two weeks ago.
"He got hit, and it has just kind of lingered on him," Mattingly said. "And then, he made a diving play [on Monday against] Texas and threw the guy out, and he still feels it throwing. We're getting close enough [to the end of camp] that we want to try to get rid of that and try to time it so he is 100 percent by Opening Day."
Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake received an injection of anti-inflammatory medication in his lower-back/rib-cage area, where inflammation has sidelined him since Saturday. Mattingly said Blake continues to improve daily, but there still is no timetable for getting him back onto the field. ...
Jay Gibbons, who returned from a two-day trip to visit an eye doctor in San Francisco with better-fitting contact lenses and a stronger prescription for those lenses, must have been seeing the ball better. He drove a sharp single to center field off veteran Aaron Heilman on the first pitch of his first at-bat in the fourth inning, just the third hit in 23 at-bats this spring for Gibbons, who popped up in his only other plate appearance in the fourth. ...
The Dodgers, who had hit just 15 home runs in their first 21 games this spring, went deep three times against the Diamondbacks. Matt Kemp hit a two-run shot off Heilman in the fourth, his third of the spring. Hector Gimenez, who is out of minor league options but still is a long shot to make the club, hit a three-run shot off Rafael Rodriguez in the eighth, Gimenez's second in five days, to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. Non-roster veteran Gabe Kapler, also a long shot, then made it back-to-back blasts off Rodriguez with his first of the spring to raise his average to .250. ...
The Dodgers (7-15) play the San Francisco Giants on Friday in Scottsdale. Ted Lilly, whose turn is up in the rotation, will instead pitch on the minor league side, with Rubby De La Rosa, the organization's reigning minor league pitcher of the year, starting against the Giants. De La Rosa will be opposed by veteran Jeff Suppan.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.