Commentary

Torre says Scully sounds fine

Kuo looks strong on mound; McDonald still can't find his groove

Updated: March 20, 2010, 1:33 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre spoke briefly by telephone on Friday with Vin Scully, the team's Hall of Fame-honored broadcaster, after Scully was released from a West Hills hospital, where he had spent the night after a fall at his home.

Torre said Scully was in good spirits and reiterated his plan to travel to the team's spring training complex and be in the booth for Sunday's game with Cleveland.

"He was fine," Torre said. "I guess he has had a cold, and he jumped up quickly and got a little dizzy. That was all he remembered."

That light-headedness caused Scully to fall and hit his head, prompting the hospital trip.

"He sounded perfectly normal, same personality," Torre said of their conversation.

Kuo successful in return to mound

Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo made a triumphant return to the mound Friday night, almost a week after being scratched from a scheduled start in his home country of Taiwan for precautionary reasons after he experienced left elbow soreness.

In a 9-4 Cactus League loss to San Diego before 10,497 at Peoria Sports Complex, Kuo faced the top of the Padres' order in the fifth inning and retired all three batters -- Tony Gwynn Jr., David Eckstein and Adrian Gonzalez -- on ground balls.

Although Kuo is an important part of the Dodgers' bullpen, the team's medical staff goes on high alert whenever he takes the mound because of his history of elbow injuries -- a history that includes two Tommy John surgeries before he even reached the major leagues. Kuo missed two months last season with more elbow problems, and the fact he didn't make his scheduled start on the team's recent Taiwan trip was another example of the kid gloves with which he has to be handled at all times.

McDonald struggles as a reliever

In his first appearance since Torre officially ruled him out as a candidate to be the fifth starter, James McDonald didn't look much more viable as a possible reliever. The lanky right-hander pitched around a hit and a walk in a scoreless sixth inning, then blew up in the seventh, giving up six runs before finally being lifted with one out.

After the game, McDonald, still in full uniform, sat at his locker with his head bowed for several minutes. He has now given up 12 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings this spring.

"James had a tough night," Torre said. "It looked like he had good stuff, and he got ahead in that first inning, but then they scored six runs. He would get ahead 0-2, then it would be 3-2, and all of a sudden bad things would happen. He just has to be a little more economical with his pitches."

McDonald's night ended when he gave up a three-run homer to Dusty Ryan.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said he had been working with McDonald to hone his mechanics, something McDonald has yet to get comfortable with

"I think he got caught in between," Honeycutt said. "You see one inning where he feels good, and then the next inning he doesn't. He needs to get to where he can be more consistent, and that isn't always easy. The stuff is there, the arm is there, and he has the ability. He just has to do it consistently."

Pitching prospect Withrow dominates

Right-hander Chris Withrow, the Dodgers' top pitching prospect, came from minor league camp to fill out a game roster for the second time in six days. Just as he did against Texas on Sunday, he dominated.

Taking over in the eighth inning, Withrow got Chris Denorfia on a called third strike, got Gwynn to ground to first and struck out Oscar Salazar. He has now faced seven batters, retiring six and hitting the other, although Gwynn is the only one of those seven who could be categorized as a front-line major leaguer.

"Just to get out there and face live batters is good," Withrow said. "Up until [Sunday], I hadn't faced live batters in a game. It gets my blood going a little bit. I'm just going out there and having fun. I try to just work on the things I need to work on and [ignore] the fact there are a lot of eyes on me."

This time, for the first time, those eyes included Torre, who was still in Taiwan when Withrow faced the Rangers.

"That was pretty impressive stuff," Torre said. "He could have pitched two innings."

Withrow, who won't be 21 until April 1, was the Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2007. He probably will begin the season at Double-A Chattanooga, where he made six starts after being promoted late last season, going 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA.

Although there is precedent for a player being promoted to big league camp in the middle of spring training -- see Clayton Kershaw and Blake DeWitt in 2008 -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he isn't considering such a move with Withrow this year.

Belliard hasn't reached goal weight

Infielder Ronnie Belliard, who must weigh in at no more than 209 pounds sometime during spring training to guarantee his one-year, $825,000 contract, still hasn't hit that target, a Dodgers source said on condition of anonymity.

Belliard's ability to make that weight could have a considerable impact on the makeup of the Dodgers' opening day roster.

Although it's conceivable the club could keep him even if he doesn't make weight -- he is, after all, the only utility infielder in camp who has significant experience at first base -- it's also conceivable he would simply be released, possibly creating a spot for either Nick Green or Angel Berroa, both of whom are in camp as non-roster invitees.

If Belliard doesn't make weight and DeWitt doesn't win the everyday job at second base, the club could keep both Green and Berroa, or possibly longtime infield prospect Chin-lung Hu.

Belisario case a waiting game

Colletti said the curious case of missing reliever Ronald Belisario has reached the point of simply being a waiting game.

"All the paperwork has been filed on both sides," Colletti said. "There is nothing left for him or us to do. It's just a matter of when the two countries give him permission."

Belisario had a solid rookie season last year, posting a 2.04 ERA in 69 appearances, and he would have been a lock for the opening day roster if he had arrived in camp on time or anywhere close to on time. But because of continued visa problems -- problems that finally would appear to be on the verge of being resolved -- the right-hander hasn't yet been able to gain permission to enter the U.S.

News and notes

The all-time Cactus League single-game attendance mark that the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs set on Thursday at Camelback Ranch lasted all of 24 hours -- right up until the Cubs returned to Glendale to face their crosstown rival White Sox on Friday. The Windy City-showdown in the desert drew a paid crowd of 13,413, 22 more than the previous day. Nine of the 10 largest crowds in Cactus League history have involved the Cubs either as the visiting or home team. ... The Dodgers optioned pitching prospect Javy Guerra to the minor leagues, leaving them with 45 players in camp not counting Belisario.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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