Giles' knee could affect competition

Updated: March 4, 2010, 11:09 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- One day after the Dodgers added veteran left fielder Garret Anderson to a minor league contract, the third player to compete for what is essentially the last spot on the team's opening-day roster, one of the other candidates for that job admitted he is facing bigger, more immediate obstacles than Anderson.

Brian Giles, who said when he first reported to camp that he would know within a week to 10 days whether his surgically repaired right knee is healthy enough to allow him to continue his career, isn't getting the results he had hoped for.

"Not as much as I would like at this point,'' he said. "Obviously, I'm going to give it a few more days, but I'm not where I want to be physically. We'll see if it gets better with more activity. Certain drills grab it, and certain movements grab it. Obviously, when you irritate it, anything you do is going to be painful.''

The competition for the left-handed pinch-hitting slot is between Giles, Anderson and Doug Mientkiewicz, all of whom are in camp on minor league contracts. Giles and Mientkiewicz are coming off surgical procedures, although Mientkiewicz returned from his right shoulder operation in time to appear in 13 games last September.

Giles, who was with San Diego last season, never played after June 18. He said he won't retire simply because he doesn't make the team on his merits, but he hinted he probably would retire if he determined he was physically unable to make the team.

"I'm confident that if I am healthy, I can make this team,'' Giles said. "But I have to be healthy. I need to have confidence in how I'm feeling.''

Giles appears to face the longest odds of the three, but it's difficult to predict how the battle will play out. Neither Anderson nor Mientkiewicz can play more than one position, but those positions are radically different.

After dislocating his shoulder last season, Mientkiewicz said he no longer can make the throw across the diamond from third base, meaning he will be limited to playing first from now on. Anderson, meanwhile, hasn't played anywhere but left field since 2004. Anderson hits for more power than Mientkiewicz, but Mientkiewicz has experience coming off the bench while Anderson has spent all of his 16 seasons in the majors as an everyday starter.

"He is used to playing full-time,'' Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "But that isn't what we have [available] here right now. If somebody gets hurt, we'll evaluate as we go. ... He said he wanted to play and that he wanted to stay in L.A. He knows this club is a good club, and he wants a chance to win.''

Anderson is a graduate of Kennedy High in Granada Hills and spent his entire career with the Angels before going to Atlanta as a free agent last season.

The Dodgers already have a backup outfielder who can play all three positions in Reed Johnson, and they are covered at all four infield spots with utility men Ronnie Belliard, Jamey Carroll and possibly non-roster invitee Nick Green. Given that, there is virtually no chance that both Anderson and Mientkiewicz can make the club.

Mientkiewicz is a favorite of manager Joe Torre, but Torre also spoke glowingly of Anderson, who is expected to arrive in camp on Friday.

"He was a pretty good player, and he still is a pretty good player,'' Torre said. "The most important thing is he is a smart hitter. His approach is different every at-bat depending on who the pitcher is. I think he certainly would be able to make the adjustment [to coming off the bench]. If he happens to make the club, it will be my job to make sure he gets a number of at-bats to where he can stay sharp."

One thing Anderson has that neither Giles nor Mientkiewicz has is unquestionable health. Mientkiewicz has been testing his shoulder, he said, by throwing from first base to second base from every possible angle.

"Whenever I throw the ball soft, I'm not very accurate, but when I threw the ball hard, I'm fine," Mientkiewicz said. "I don't have any worries about playing the game. My arm is good enough to play the game right now. It's just the volume of spring training [that is a concern]. I might have to [skip] some drills. I just have to be smart about it."

Anderson, Giles and Mientkiewicz all have escape clauses in their contracts, allowing them to become free agents if they don't make the team.

"I can't predict the future," Mientkiewicz said. "I just care about now, and keeping on building my arm strength and keeping on doing what I have always done."

At this point, the only certainty is this: with the possible exception of Giles making an early exit, this battle won't be decided anytime soon.

"This is one of those springs where as an experienced manager, you don't worry about it until it comes time to say, 'I have to [make a decision],'" Torre said. "We're not there yet. We have an awful lot of decisions to make, but we can't really start making them until we get pretty deep into the games."

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter or send him a question for his next mailbag.

Tony Jackson

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