Torre: No guarantee on keeping lefty PH
On the day Anderson reports, manager says he might forgo that role off the bench
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On the day Garret Anderson finally arrived in Dodgers camp, three days after agreeing to a minor league contract and four months after filing for free agency, to compete with two other veterans for the primary left-handed pinch-hitting spot, manager Joe Torre said it wasn't an absolute certainty such a position will even exist on the team's opening day roster.
"That, in all likelihood, will be one of the final decisions we'll make," Torre said. "It will come down to the number of pitchers, maybe the ability to play shortstop [by] our [utility] infielders. ... And then, it's the 11- or 12-pitcher thing."
Anderson was signed to compete with Brian Giles and Doug Mientkiewicz, both of whom also are in camp on minor league deals. But with Giles and Mientkiewicz coming off surgeries within the past year, and with Giles possibly on the verge of retirement before the season begins because his surgically repaired right knee hasn't responded the way he had hoped, the cynical observer might suggest the comparatively healthy Anderson was signed because neither of the other two candidates are viable options.
If Blake DeWitt makes the team, which will happen only if he wins the everyday second-base job; if the Dodgers decide to start the season with a 12-man pitching staff; and if it is determined Nick Green, also a non-roster invitee, is needed on the opening day roster because he has more experience at shortstop than either Ronnie Belliard or Jamey Carroll, then there will be room for only one backup outfielder. That job would go to Reed Johnson, who unlike Anderson has a major league contract.
That would mean the Dodgers' bench on most nights would be composed of Belliard, Carroll, Green, Johnson and backup catcher Brad Ausmus -- right-handed hitters all.
A left-handed pinch hitter with some degree of power is a fairly standard weapon for most major league clubs. Torre admitted not having one would be a handicap of sorts.
"It would, because if you're sitting on the other side as a manager, it sort of makes some decisions easier to make," Torre said. "If there is a right-handed reliever you want to bring in there knowing that the other team has [a left-handed hitter] of substance coming off the bench, you might make a different decision. But if we do settle on one of those guys, it's going to be somebody who can help us win a ballgame."
If Anderson ends up making the club -- something he now appears to have a better chance of doing than either Giles or Mientkiewicz -- it will mark the first time in his 17 major league seasons he will be anything other than an everyday starter.
"They didn't have to tell me any role," Anderson said. "All you have to do is look at the roster. [Manny] Ramirez, [Matt] Kemp, [Andre] Ethier. It's pretty clear. I know what the situation is, and I accepted it. We'll see where we go from there."
Gagne has 'fun' in return
It wasn't exactly Game Over. It wasn't even the ninth inning.
But in a nostalgic turn, Eric Gagne pitched in an actual baseball game wearing an actual Dodgers uniform for the first time since 2006. Fittingly, the former National League Cy Young Award-winning closer, now in camp as a non-roster invitee trying to earn a middle-innings role in a Dodgers bullpen that probably doesn't have more than a couple of openings, received a loud ovation as he jogged in from the bullpen.
"It was fun, a lot of fun," Gagne said. "I was nervous. It had been a while since I had pitched at that level. But in the bullpen, I threw really good, and on the mound, I felt really good physically. I was a little off mechanically, but other than that, I felt good."
Gagne spent last season pitching as a starter for the Quebec Capitals in the independent Can-Am League. He entered Saturday's game against a Chicago White Sox split squad at a point when there were few marquee players left for him to face, but he still gave up two runs and three hits, including a double off the right-field wall to Jared Mitchell.
The other two hits were singles through the right side by Josh Kroeger and Stefan Gartrell.
"There were two five- or six-hoppers, stuff you can't control," Gagne said. "Physically, I'm just trying to get my legs underneath me and trying to work on some stuff mechanically. I made some bad pitches, but it's spring training. ... I have some little adjustments to make here and there."
News and notes
If two Cactus League games are any indication, Manny Ramirez is back. In four plate appearances, all as a designated hitter, Ramirez has two singles, a walk and a double. ... Right-hander James McDonald, who entered camp as the slight favorite to win the vacant fifth starter's job, was rocked for three runs and five hits in two innings in his spring debut. He also walked a batter. ... Veteran right-hander Russ Ortiz, considered the longest of long shots to make the club when camp began, pitched two shutout innings, giving up only a single to Gordon Beckham. He recorded five groundball outs and one strikeout. ... Blake Dewitt, trying to win the everyday second-base job, went two for two with a walk after replacing Ramirez as DH and has now reached base in five of his six plate appearances in two games.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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