Weaver has eyes only for the majors
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Weaver returned to the Dodgers' spring-training complex Saturday with two things he didn't have when he came here last year: a new baby boy named Drake, whose prolonged reluctance to enter the world kept his dad away from camp for the better part of a week; and an escape clause in his minor league contract.
Last spring, the veteran right-hander practically boasted he had accepted a deal without such a clause. He had spent the 2008 season pitching for the Triple-A affiliates of the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, and Weaver wanted the world, and the Dodgers' front office, to know he was more than willing to go to the minors again if it was what it took to revive his career, which at the time was on life support.
After getting called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on April 30, 2009, staying in the majors the rest of the season and becoming a vital, versatile part of the Dodgers' pitching staff, the former Simi Valley High School standout and Manhattan Beach resident was willing to accept another minor league deal to stay in Los Angeles at a time when he says he had major league offers from other clubs.
But he wasn't willing to lock himself into one.
This time, if he doesn't make the club, Weaver can opt out of the deal, become a free agent and possibly sign with another team.
"It was a situation where I really didn't want to put on a Triple-A uniform again," Weaver said. "I am here to make this team. If it doesn't work out -- which obviously I hope it does, and I don't really want to play anywhere else, which is why I came back here -- then I don't really want to do the Triple-A thing again. I will be content with whatever happens from there on."
After going 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in seven starts and 21 relief appearances last season, Weaver figures he has finally gotten over the hangover from 2007, when he signed a one-year, $8.325 million contract with Seattle, promptly went 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA and spent the next two seasons trying to live it down.
Assuming they begin the season with 12 pitchers, the Dodgers will have two openings in their bullpen. Unless he has a disastrous spring, Weaver is a strong favorite to land one of them because of his ability to fill a role short on glamor but long on value.
"I'll be focused on [a spot in] the bullpen, but if they need me to start, I'll be ready to do that, too," Weaver said.
Having just become a first-time father at 33, Weaver, whose own father was with him at Camelback Ranch and watched Saturday's workout, says his hope now is to prolong his career a few more years.
"Hopefully, I can stick around long enough that my son will be able to come around and understand exactly what his dad does and not just see it on a DVD somewhere later on," Weaver said.
Still no sign of reliever Belisario
A week after the mandatory reporting date for pitchers and catchers, reliever Ronald Belisario, who was supposed to be one of the five locks for the bullpen, still hasn't arrived because of visa problems in his native Venezuela. Dodgers manager Joe Torre said there wasn't any indication as to when he can expect the right-hander to show up.
"I haven't heard a thing, so I don't know," Torre said. "It certainly is [frustrating], especially when you're dealing with a pitcher. He did play winter ball, so that is at least some relief there, but you certainly want to see him in camp."
Universal language ... of beer?
At least seven different languages are spoken by the 64 players the Dodgers have in camp -- five of them by pitching prospect Kenley Jansen alone -- but there was another reminder Saturday morning about one universal language through which almost all big league ballplayers are able to communicate.
That, of course, would be the language of beer.
Angel Berroa, a non-roster infielder from the Dominican Republic who speaks fluent English but primarily Spanish, had a brief conversation with pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from Japan, who speaks only Japanese, about their favorite cervezas from Mexico.
"Corona Mexicano," Berroa said, and Kuroda replied, "Presidente."
A few minutes earlier, catcher Russell Martin and non-roster reliever Eric Gagne, longtime friends who both hail from Montreal, had a brief conversation in French. Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and infielder Chin-lung Hu, both of whom are from Taiwan, speak Mandarin. And Jansen, like most natives of the Caribbean island of Curacao, speaks Dutch and Papiamentu, but he also speaks English, Spanish and French.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.