Familiar face, different uniform
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In the strongest indication yet that the Dodgers' season-opening roster will have Garret Anderson's name on it, manager Joe Torre said Saturday that he informed veteran infielder Doug Mientkiewicz on Friday that he has no chance of making the team out of spring training. Mientkiewicz, who was engaged in a two-man battle with Anderson for the primary left-handed pinch-hitting spot, was given a couple of days to decide whether he wanted to stick around and possibly accept an assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque.
More to the point, Mientkiewicz was given that time to see if he could land a job with another organization that would give him more of a chance to begin the season in the majors.
"He wants to play, and he wants to play in the big leagues," Torre said. "I told him we would do everything we could to facilitate that."
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The escape clause in Mientkiewicz's minor league contract with the Dodgers doesn't officially kick in until Friday, but club officials aren't going to force him to strictly adhere to that. Mientkiewicz, 34, is having a decent spring at the plate. Moreover, although he is now limited to playing first base because he is coming off surgery on his right shoulder after he dislocated it sliding headfirst into second base in a game early last season -- an injury that caused him to miss 4½ months -- he is otherwise healthy.
It is conceivable -- maybe even likely -- Mientkiewicz will find a big league home, possibly with a young, small-market team that is looking for a respected veteran presence in the clubhouse. Mientkiewicz also is a bit of a scrapper, as evidenced by the fact he made it back in September from an injury that was expected to keep him out the rest of the year.
Mientkiewicz's candidacy for a roster spot with the Dodgers became an uphill battle the moment Anderson arrived in camp after being signed to a minor league deal on March 3, and the situation became even clearer when Anderson started taking ground balls at first base during workouts shortly thereafter.
Mientkiewicz's fate was basically sealed by the fact that Anderson is hitting .360, with a .385 on-base percentage, in 10 Cactus League games. Mientkiewicz is hitting a respectable .292.
Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo wasn't ready to concede that he'll begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. But he did concede that the odds are stacked against him.
"I don't know yet," he said. "That is what it looks like, but I just have to get better. It just doesn't feel comfortable right after I throw."
Kuo has been shut down for the third time this spring with discomfort in his oft-surgically-repaired left elbow. "It's not a big deal," he said. "It's just a little bit of discomfort."
But it's enough of a deal, especially given his history, that the team's medical staff isn't going to take even the smallest of chances. Kuo hasn't appeared in a Cactus League game since March 19, so if he opens on the DL, the move could be backdated 10 days from the season opener. That would make him eligible for activation on April 10.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.