- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
- 0 Shares
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With time running out on his increasingly unlikely bid to secure an opening-day roster spot, longtime Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect Scott Elbert tried something a little different in Saturday's Cactus League game, a 6-6, 10-inning tie with the Milwaukee Brewers before 12,141 at Camelback Ranch.
Don't count him out just yet.
Elbert, who came in having walked nine of the 20 batters he had faced this spring, pitched a perfect eighth inning without coming close to walking anyone. He began by striking out Reggie Keen, a Brewers minor league camper. He then induced back-to-back flyouts to right field by Edwin Maysonet and Mat Gamel, completing his first clean outing of the spring.
So what was the difference?
"He was dropping his arm out of his glove a little earlier so his hand is free of the glove quicker," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "It's something he has been working on and something we have been talking about with him all spring, but this is the first time he has tried it in a game."
And why did it take him so long to bring it into a game?
"Sometimes, you have to wait until the pitcher decides he wants to try it out," Honeycutt said, with a knowing grin.
Elbert's first four appearances this spring were enough to bring about that level of desperation. They weren't exactly disasters in terms of results, as he gave up runs in only one of them, and he seemed to be making some degree of progress each time. But he also walked at least one batter in each of them, and after issuing back-to-back, two-out walks to load the bases in his previous appearance on Monday against the Texas Rangers, he got a rare and possibly embarrassing mound visit from manager Don Mattingly.
Making the situation even more frustrating was that the enigmatic Elbert, the Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2004, finally seemed to have turned the corner while pitching for the Mattingly-managed Phoenix Desert Dogs in last year's Arizona Fall League, where he struck out 15 and walked only four in 11 2/3 innings.
Honeycutt said during an in-game, on-air interview with Dodgers broadcasters Charley Steiner and Rick Monday -- and then reiterated after the game -- that top pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa, 22, could be ready to pitch in the majors sometime this season.
"Anybody can come fairly quickly," Honeycutt said after the game. "He has a lot of talent. I wouldn't rule it out. I think it depends on our needs at a particular time. But if we get to the second half and he is the best pitcher we have available, why not?"
De La Rosa, who turned 22 two weeks ago, has all of eight starts above low Class-A. But the fact he completely bypassed advanced Class A, the fact he performed extremely well after his late-season promotion to Double-A Chattanooga (1.41 ERA) and the fact he pitched four scoreless, hitless innings against a veteran-laden lineup for the world champion San Francisco Giants on Saturday all suggest De La Rosa isn't that far away from being ready for prime time.
In four Cactus League appearances, De La Rosa has allowed just four hits in 10 innings, and the only three walks he has issued came in that masterpiece against the Giants.
Seeing clearly now
Two days and several at-bats after returning from a trip to San Francisco with stronger and better-fitting contact lenses, the Dodgers' Jay Gibbons said he is seeing the ball much better both at the plate and in the outfield.
"I feel so much better," he said. "I feel like I'm starting over with my timing. Now, it's just about getting ready."
• Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda started strong, shutting out the Brewers on four hits through three innings, then was roughed up for three runs on five hits the rest of the way before leaving with two outs in the sixth.
• Dodgers pitchers Ted Lilly and Kenley Jansen, first baseman James Loney, right fielder Andre Ethier and Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda will sign autographs at an event hosted by the Ahwatukee Little League on Sunday evening. Ahwatukee is a Phoenix suburb. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Wellness Fund -- which is different from the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund and exists to help defray expenses incurred by the Green family -- and the Ahwatukee Little League. Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old daughter of Dodgers scout John Green, was fatally wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8.
• The Dodgers (8-15-1) play the Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Camelback Ranch, with the Sox the designated home team. Right-hander John Ely will take the mound for the Dodgers, with right-hander Gavin Floyd going for the Sox.
• The autograph session at Camelback Ranch before Saturday's game raised $5,873 for the American Red Cross Japanese relief fund. Several current Dodgers players participated, as did Dodgers legends Maury Wills and Lasorda and the organization's three Japanese minor leaguers, Kazuki Nishijima, Kazuya Takano and Robert Boothe. There was no charge for the autographs, but fans were encouraged to make voluntary donations to the fund.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
The former first-round pick, who has struggled to stick with the Dodgers, show a glimpse of