Why isn't Vicente Padilla considered a starting pitcher?
-- Jose R., Sun Valley, Calif.
Although he was last year's Opening Day starter, Padilla is coming off a season in which he was limited to 95 Major League innings because of injuries to his arm and neck. Management is concerned that his body isn't durable enough for 200 innings and 30-plus starts, so Jon Garland was brought back to be the fifth starter. However, when Padilla is healthy and strong, he can be dominating. So, the conclusion was that Padilla might be more consistently dominating if used in multiple, shorter roles. He could be a multiple-innings long reliever, along the lines of a harder-throwing Jeff Weaver. He can be a spot starter, providing a more seasoned option than rookies John Ely and Carlos Monasterios last year. And while nobody is openly proposing this in deference to Jonathan Broxton's psyche, Padilla certainly has the stuff to close games, although the big question mark is whether his body is capable of rebounding to pitch on consecutive days. Don't be surprised to see him try in Spring Training.
What can we expect from Ronald Belisario this year?
-- Karen M., Long Beach, Calif.
How about showing up on time? That would be a better start than he's had the past two springs. A Dodgers official said Belisario has already begun the process of getting his visa issues cleared up, apparently having learned a lesson after missing most of the past two Spring Trainings because he couldn't get out of Venezuela. Belisario turned into a very ordinary pitcher last season, his ERA rising three full runs from the previous season. While the club hasn't necessarily written off Belisario, the signing of durable setup man Matt Guerrier to a three-year deal pretty much indicated that Belisario isn't being counted on to fill a key role after letting everybody down in 2010.
What's the status of Eric Chavez? Didn't the Dodgers work him out a few weeks ago?
-- James F., Oakland
The Dodgers worked out Chavez and he was impressive. But a handful of other clubs have worked out Chavez and have been equally impressed with the six-time Gold Glove winner who is trying to rebound from four years of back and shoulder injuries. He seems healthy now, but the Dodgers don't have a Major League roster spot available or a lot of money, so he would have to win a roster spot in Spring Training. Meanwhile, there are teams like Florida, Toronto and Cleveland that can offer Chavez more playing time, while the Dodgers still have third baseman Casey Blake under contract and are looking at Chavez for a part-time role. American League teams also might view Chavez as a designated hitter alternative. The Dodgers, however, remain interested.
Did the Dodgers do anything to address their weak pinch-hitting?
-- Sam M., Reno, Nev.
They hope so. The Dodgers were in the league's bottom half in just about every pinch-hitting category. Maybe they could suit up Lenny Harris, Manny Mota, Mark Sweeney or Dave Hansen -- all premier pinch-hitters in their day and now all working for the organization. Landing Chavez would automatically improve the situation from the left side. When the left-field candidates (Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn) get sorted out, the also-rans should strengthen the bench.