Dodgers' Annual Development Program Starts

The Dodgers' fifth annual Winter Development Program, which helps prepare minor league players for the Major Leagues both on and off the field, kicks off today (January 9th) and will include workouts, community visits, informational seminars and visits to different areas of Los Angeles.

Fifteen of the Dodgers' top minor league prospects will be in town for the week-long event and workouts will focus on fundamentals, strength training and conditioning.  

Dodger Manager Don Mattingly will be on hand to work with the prospects along with Third Base Coach Tim Wallach, Hitting Coach Dave Hansen, minor league roving instructors and Specials Assistants, Baseball Operations & Player Development.

  Prospects attending include the Dodgers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year Shawn Tolleson and Minor League Player of the Year Scott Van Slyke. Other position players include Alex Castellanos, Griff Erickson, Tim Federowicz, Tyler Henson, Alfredo Silverio and Matt Wallach. Pitchers Steven Ames, Michael Antonini, Stephen Fife, Josh Wall, Allen Webster and Chris Withrow will be in attendance along with the Dodgers' 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Rubby De La Rosa.

  Throughout the week, these Dodger prospects will familiarize themselves with the greater Los Angeles area through community service with a visit to A Place Called Home, a youth center in South Los Angeles, and social events, including attending an L.A. Clippers game. They will also meet with Dodger legends including Tommy Lasorda and Don Newcombe and learn from Dodger staffers about topics including media relations, diet and Major League travel. Prominent Los Angeles sports figures who have spoken to the program in the past include John Wooden, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Phil Jackson.

  Since the Winter Development Program's inception in 2008, 30 participating players have reached the Major Leagues, including 2011 participants Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Nathan Eovaldi and Javy Guerra. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso, A.J. Ellis, and Scott Elbert are among other past participants.

The 'Pen is Written in Pencil
With the signing of Mike MacDougal this week, the Dodgers bullpen is basically set. At least on paper.

As every team knows, including the Dodgers, the relievers you pencil into your bullpen at the start of the year are often drastically different than the relievers who end the season.

But for now, this is the Dodgers bullpen: closer Javy Guerra, the dominant Kenley Jansen, veteran Matt Guerrier, the resurgent MacDougal, lone left-hander Scott Elbert, often forgotten Blake Hawksworth, and rookie Josh Lindblom.

Don't be surprised if the Dodgers take a flyer and sign a couple more non-roster invites to spring training to provide depth. That's how MacDougal resurrected his career a year ago and earned a guaranteed contract for 2012.

Left-handers John Grabow, Wil Ledezma and Alberto Castillo are already three of those non-roster invites.

Since the only lefty is Elbert, and he was a huge question mark entering last season, all three will get a serious look in the spring. Another left-hander sure to get a strong look is Michael Antonini, who was part of a dominant bullpen at Double-A Chattanooga last year and was recently added to the 40-man roster.

Others providing depth to the bullpen are Ramon Troncoso and, yes, Ronald Belisario, if he shows up to training camp this year, and after he serves a 25-game suspension for violating the MLB Drug Policy.

It goes to show how quickly things change in a bullpen over a couple years.

Troncoso and Belisario were main setup cogs entering the 2010 season. Last year, Guerra wasn't on the radar at all, Elbert's career was in jeopardy after he left his minor league team, and Lindblom was coming off a failed season as a starting pitcher.

Those three kids, not to mention Jansen, saved a Dodger bullpen that was supposed to rely on Jonathan Broxton, Vicente Padilla and Hong-Chih Kuo to be its top three late inning relievers.

Broxton missed virtually the whole season because of an elbow injury and signed with the Royals. Padilla missed virtually the whole year, and remains a free agent. Kuo missed a month because of an anxiety disorder, struggled with his consistency, and was non-tendered, although a slight chance remains that he will be re-signed.

In case of injury disasters again this year, who are the saviors waiting in the minors?

First on the list would be Shawn Tolleson, a former high school teammate of Clayton Kershaw who went to college, blew out his elbow, and fell to the 30th round.

Now healthy, Tolleson spent last year at three levels and dominated them all, posting a combined line of 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.17 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. NOTES, QUOTES
MacDougal signs one-year contract for $1 million --RHP Mike MacDougal's contract is a one-year deal for a guaranteed $1 million. The 35-year-old former All-Star was signed to a minor league contract last year and made $500,000. MacDougal will make $650,000 this year. The Dodgers hold a 2013 option for $2.35 million and a buyout of $350,000.

--SS Dee Gordon has spent the winter working out with Barry Larkin, the former Reds' great. Gordon's father, Tom "Flash" Gordon, played with so many teams, you might assume he was teammates with Larkin. But they weren't. Gordon played for eight teams, yet never the Reds, and Larkin spent his whole career with the Reds.

--RHP Vicente Padilla, limited to nine relief appearances last season because of injury and still a free agent, might not be on the market much longer. Padilla is close to signing with the Miami Marlins. The Dodgers are not believed to be pursuing Padilla.

--LHP Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers have not begun discussion on a long-term contract. Kershaw still has three years of arbitration remaining before he becomes a free agent for the first time.

--3B Josh Fields signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers, an under-the-radar signing that could be intriguing. Fields, who will be 29 this season, was last seen in the majors with the Royals in 2010, when he hit three home runs in 49 at-bats. Last year, Fields posted a slash line of .365/.429/.674 in 50 games at hitter-friendly Triple-A Colorado Springs. The other half of his season was a struggle with Yomiuri in Japan, where he struck out 32 times in 109 at-bats and had a .202/.241/.312 slash line.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Number of potential Dodgers ownership groups which have passed the initial tests, and received books that disclose the financial details of the Dodgers. The six potential owners are not required to bid on the team in an open auction.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have great confidence in Rick Caruso's unique qualifications and his ability to lead a successful bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured L.A. institution. Since moving to Los Angeles, I have seen firsthand Rick's dedication to business and people in Los Angeles. I am very excited about this new opportunity." -- Statement by former Dodger manager Joe Torre, after he resigned his position with Major League Baseball to make a run at purchasing the Dodgers.

ROSTER REPORT
DEPARTURES:
RHP Jon Garland (option declined), 3B Casey Blake (option declined, signed with Rockies), C Rod Barajas (signed with Pirates), INF Jamey Carroll (signed with Twins), RHP Jonathan Broxton (signed with Royals), Dana Eveland (traded to Orioles).

ARRIVALS: OF/1B Juan Rivera (re-signed), 2B Mark Ellis (free agent), C Matt Treanor (free agent), INF Adam Kennedy (free agent), LHP Chris Capuano (free agent), INF/OF Jerry Hairston, Jr. (free agent), RHP Aaron Harang (free agent), LHP Jarret Martin (minor league trade from Orioles), OF Tyler Henson (minor league trade from Orioles), LHP John Grabow (minor league free agent), RHP Mike MacDougal (re-signed). --SportsXchange

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