Spring Will Find Crowded Bullpen

The Dodgers' offseason bullpen makeover was likely completed with the signing of 40-year-old lefty Ron Mahay to a minor league deal. If nothing else, the Dodgers have lots of options, forcing relievers to earn their way onto the Opening Day roster with a strong spring training.

Mahay is coming off a season in which he struck out 6.6 batters per nine innings, walked 2.1 per nine, and, more important, allowed only a .520 OPS against left-handed hitters.

If Mahay makes the team, he would give the Dodgers a second lefty in the bullpen. In order to make the team, he'll need to beat out lefty Scott Elbert, not to mention a lot of other right-handers.

Most teams go with 12 pitchers on a staff, five starters and seven relievers.

The Dodgers now have 10 bullpen options: closer (for now) Jonathan Broxton, closer-in-waiting Hong-Chih Kuo, 2010 phenom Kenley Jansen, recently signed Matt Guerrier, recently traded for Blake Hawksworth, swingman with potential to close or start Vicente Padilla, Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, Elbert and now Mahay.

Barring injury or starting the year with 13 pitchers, that means three won't start the year in Los Angeles. The only reliever with a minor league option remaining is Jansen. It isn't known if Mahay would accept a minor league assignment.

The Dodgers' roster decisions at the end of March will provide a window into how rookie manager Don Mattingly will utilize his bullpen and how much he values left-left and right-right matchups.

If Kuo is healthy, of which you can never be certain, he's the only lefty guaranteed a roster spot. Since Kuo is the backup closer if Broxton struggles again, the need for that second lefty becomes more acute.

Over the last three years, Mahay's splits:

Against lefties: .249/.299/.383 with eight home runs, 18 walks and 54 strikeouts in 261 at-bats.

Against righties: .283/.364/.453 with 13 home runs, 41 walks and 62 strikeouts in 322 at-bats.

Right now, he's the Dodgers' best left-on-left option available. But can he get enough right-handed hitters out to justify his place on the roster?

Recent managers have used Mahay mostly for one or two batters a game, which is illustrated in that he has compiled fewer innings than games pitched the last two years and three of the last five.

The Angels won the 2002 World Series without a single lefty in the 'pen, proving it's more about your arm than it is which arm.

How much value does Mattingly place in a second lefty reliever? The answer will come in late March, based on the performances of Mahay and Elbert this spring. Sports Xchange

Dodgers inquire About Young
The Dodgers have held preliminary talks with the Rangers about acquiring infielder Michael Young, but a baseball source called the chances of a deal between the teams "a very long shot" according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Young has been the Rangers' third baseman the past two years, but with the recent signing of free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, Young has been forced into a designated hitter and super utility role. Instead, he has asked to be traded and has listed the Dodgers among the eight clubs for which he would accept a trade per the terms of his partial no-trade clause.

The big stumbling block is the $48 million in salary that remains on the final three years of a contract signed in 2007. The Dodgers not only would require the Rangers to pick up the bulk of that commitment, but there also is concern about Young's defense and the players the Rangers would need in return.

Young, 34, originally was a second baseman, but was a five-time All-Star at shortstop before moving to third in 2009, when he also was an All-Star. The club most recently rumored to be interested in Young is Colorado. Other teams that the native Californian is willing to accept a trade are the Cardinals, Yankees, Twins, Astros, Angels and Padres

Sign Infielder Aaron Miles
The Dodgers added another player to the competition for a position that might not even exist on Monday when they signed veteran infielder Aaron Miles to a minor league contract and invited him to major league spring training.

Miles, 34, will compete with fellow non-roster invitee Juan Castro and homegrown prospect Ivan De Jesus Jr. for a second utility infield spot. But the Dodgers have so many outfielders signed to major league contracts that there may be room for only five pure infielders on the opening-day roster -- the four starters plus utility man Jamey Carroll.

Even if he doesn't make the club, though, Miles could provide organizational depth if he is willing to accept an assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque. Last season, after being released at the end of spring training by the Reds, Miles signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals in late April, spent a month at Double-A Springfield putting up solid offensive numbers -- a .279 average and a .362 on-base percentage -- then was called up on June 1 and spent the rest of the season in the majors, hitting .281.

Miles has spent eight seasons in the majors, including the past seven in the National League, and has hit .282 with a .321 OBP. He has little power, hitting a career-high six home runs for the Rockies in 2004 when he also amassed a career-high 566 plate appearances and finished fourth in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting.

Miles can play second, third and shortstop.

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