Troncoso Being Converted to a Starter

Although the Dodgers are considering veteran free agents like Jon Garland, Randy Wolf or Braden Looper to strengthen the middle of their starting rotation, they feel they have found a young candidate already on the roster in Ramon Troncoso.

Ramon Troncoso, who pitched 32 games in relief for the Dodgers as a rookie last year after being called up in June, had not started since 2005 at low Class A, but will be given the opportunity in Arizona next month to be the fifth starter, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com..

"I started at A-ball and didn't like it because I got tired, but I just came back from winter ball and they told me to start and I like it now," the right-hander told Gurnick while on an outreach visit at the New Designs Charter School near the USC campus. "I've got more experience now and I can do it. I want to."

Troncoso said he was told of the change in roles when he showed up for winter ball. Apparently club management so liked what it saw from James McDonald in relief that it might want to keep him there instead of starting, so the decision was made to try out Troncoso as a starter.

"It's an option for us that we're seriously considering," said general manager Ned Colletti. "He did well in the Dominican. He's got enough stuff. It could be how it turns out. It might be premature. But it does allow him to develop his other pitches."

Troncoso, 26, made four starts in the Dominican, extending to as long as five innings. He's been shut down for two weeks after developing a sore middle finger, but he is scheduled to throw a bullpen at Dodger Stadium as the club's two-week winter development program continues.

After only a half-season in Double-A with Jacksonville, Troncoso surprised in Spring Training by making the Opening Day roster. Over two Major League stints, he had a 4.26 ERA in 32 games with 38 strikeouts and 12 walks in 38 innings.

Troncoso's main weapon is a sinker, but said he developed a changeup and breaking ball in his winter ball play.

The free-agent departures of Derek Lowe and Brad Penny have created openings in the starting rotation, which at the present time consists of Chad Billingsley, who is healing from a broken leg, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw and, well, the candidates are lining up.

Possibilities include Jason Schmidt, who is coming back from major shoulder surgery, Eric Stults, Claudio Vargas and Shawn Estes.

Guillermo Mota's addition deepens the bullpen, although Colletti said another veteran arm could be added to a youthful corps that includes closer Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Cory Wade, McDonald and Scott Elbert.

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