- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jay Gibbons is expected to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list because of lingering problems with the vision in his left eye, an issue Gibbons thought he had resolved when he returned two weeks ago from a visit to a San Francisco doctor who gave him a better-fitting contact lens.
Gibbons said upon his return from that trip that his vision in his everyday life was dramatically better. But he said Monday that wasn't the case in the batter's box, because he couldn't pick up the spin on breaking balls.
"My vision was great coming back, but I had no depth perception," Gibbons said before Monday night's Cactus League game, a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels before 19,415 at Dodger Stadium. "I went up there in spring training with very little chance. Those pitchers are pretty good. Once they figure out you can't see, they cut you up pretty quickly."
Gibbons, who lives in the Los Angeles area, plans to see another doctor here on Tuesday -- "about the fifth different guy I've gone to," he said -- in hopes of trying yet another contact lens. His original problem was that the lens kept popping out, the result of some flattening of his cornea that is a normal result of the PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery he underwent last fall as a follow-up to the lasik procedure he had in 2004.
He came back from San Francisco with a lens that had a lower base curve so it clung more securely to his eye. But he now says his vision at the plate was less clear than it had been before. Gibbons' vision surely is a factor in his anemic .105 batting average for a spring in which he is 4-for-28 with no extra-base hits.
Even if the next doctor visit is successful, Gibbons doesn't have time to get his batting stroke into regular-season form in time for Thursday's season opener.
"Every [new] contact takes a week or two to get adjusted to," Gibbons said.
With Gibbons out of the picture for the Opening Day roster, the Dodgers would seem likely to keep longtime prospect Xavier Paul at least for now. Paul is out of minor league options but had appeared to be in danger of being squeezed out due to a shortage of roster spots.
The good news for Gibbons is that Monday was the last day teams could release players with non-guaranteed contracts without having to pay their full salary, and Gibbons is still around. That means his full $650,000 salary for this season is now guaranteed no matter what happens.
Broxton blows one
Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton pitched in a ninth-inning save situation for the first time all spring and promptly coughed it up, with help from a fielding error by second baseman Ivan DeJesus Jr. It was a spring training game, but that didn't stop the all-too-familiar boos from reigning down on Broxton for the first time this year.
Called on to protect a 4-3 lead, Broxton gave up a one-out single to Mark Trumbo and, after DeJesus booted a grounder by Alexi Amarista, another one-out single to Mike Trout, tying the game. After a walk to Andrew Romine loaded the bases, Hank Conger put the Angels on top with a fly ball to deep center.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was adamant as far back as last fall that Broxton would begin the season back in the closer's role that had been taken away by former manager Joe Torre last summer after a series of failures by Broxton. However, when the regular season begins on Thursday, Broxton likely will be on a short leash. For now, the Dodgers have no alternatives because setup man Hong-Chih Kuo has a history of arm injuries and surgeries and has to be used judiciously and Vicente Padilla, a former starter who has been discussed as a possible closer candidate, is on the disabled list.
Gwynn is in
Mattingly announced that Tony Gwynn Jr. will be the team's primary left fielder this season. That doesn't necessarily mean Gwynn will play there every day -- right-handed-hitting reserve Marcus Thames figures to get most of the starts against left-handers -- but it does mean that the historically light-hitting Gwynn, a gifted defensive outfielder, performed well enough at the plate this spring that Mattingly feels confident putting him in the lineup the majority of the time.
"It's exciting," said Gwynn, adding that he hadn't personally been told anything by Mattingly about his status. "As I have said before, there is so much history involved with the Dodgers, so to be able to be an Opening Day starter for them, regardless of where it is, that's a special occasion. It's an honor, and it's kind of a testament to the work I have been putting in every day this spring to get to this point."
Gwynn, who entered the day hitting .283, credited his extensive work with the Dodgers' hitting triumvirate of coaches Jeff Pentland, Dave Hansen and Manny Mota for the fact he has hit well enough to secure the job, something Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said shortly after signing Gwynn to a one-year, $675,000 free-agent contract in December that he hoped Gwynn could do.
Against the Angels, the Dodgers fielded what is expected to be their Opening Day lineup, with Gwynn batting second behind Rafael Furcal. Assuming that is where Gwynn bats when the season starts, he might be moved down to seventh or eighth when third baseman Casey Blake returns from the disabled list, something that could happen as soon as Blake becomes eligible on April 6.
Cormier looking good
Veteran right-hander Lance Cormier, who found no takers last winter as he entered a free-agent market flooded with relievers and had to settle for a minor league offer from the Dodgers so late that pitchers and catchers already were reporting to camp, said Monday that he has been told by team officials that he has made the club.
Colletti declined to confirm Cormier's claim, saying via text message that, "We haven't announced who has made the team." But Cormier, who struggled at the start of the Cactus League season but is finishing strong, has survived what effectively was a war of attrition for the final bullpen spot.
Cormier has a 2.25 ERA in eight appearances this spring. Lefty Scott Elbert, who struggled with his command, apparently will begin the season in Triple-A. Travis Schlichting was optioned over the weekend. And veteran left-hander Ron Mahay exercised an escape clause in his minor league contract after being told last week he wouldn't make the club.
It appears, then, that the Dodgers will begin the season with a bullpen consisting of Broxton, Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Mike MacDougal and Cormier. MacDougal, another non-roster veteran, hasn't been officially added, but he also hasn't given up an earned run -- and has allowed just four hits -- in 10 innings this spring.
Dodgers left-hander Ted Lilly struggled in his final start of the spring, walking five batters and making it through just four innings on his allotted 80 pitches, but he did repeatedly pitch out of trouble. The Angels stranded seven runners, four of them in scoring position, while Lilly was in the game. Lilly will make his first regular-season start on April 2 against the San Francisco Giants. ...
Blake (inflammation in his lower-thoracic region) batted three times and hit a home run in a minor league game at the Dodgers' spring training complex in Glendale, Ariz. Mattingly said Blake felt fine. ...
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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