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Fifth-starter competition to assume spring spotlight

Newly acquired Maholm expects to start; Beckett a question mark following surgery

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Paul Maholm beat Josh Beckett to Dodgers Spring Training, and he might beat him out of the fifth-starter's job, too.

On the first day of workouts, and his second day on the club, Maholm indicated that he is willing to relieve, but he signed to be a starting pitcher.

That was a few hours after manager Don Mattingly said Maholm knows that Beckett is the incumbent, although Beckett is coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

And Beckett?

Well, he was the only pitcher who hadn't even reported to camp by Sunday. Mattingly said Beckett was attending a wedding. General manager Ned Colletti said Beckett would report on Monday.

The only thing that's clear is the Dodgers seem less confident relying on Beckett than they let on before pursuing Bronson Arroyo and signing Maholm, a left-hander who is apparently this year's Chris Capuano, capable of starting or relieving.

"Josh is doing really well, but he's coming off tough surgery and there's not a lot of history with that surgery, so we'll see where things go," said Mattingly. "We look at it as protection of the staff and the guys we are developing."

Mattingly explained that he wants starting pitching depth so he won't be rushing any of the top prospects to the big leagues, as he said happened with Matt Magill last year when injuries sidelined Zack Greinke, Capuano, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Beckett.

"Paul knows the situation," Mattingly said. "We haven't talked to Josh about it. For me, that's something [who goes to the bullpen] to get to down the road. It could happen. Right now, we'll work them as starters."

"Paul is aware we're not sure what our needs will be -- starter, reliever, long reliever," said Colletti. "He said it doesn't matter; he's prepared for whatever we need him to do."

Colletti also said that, while medical reports on Beckett have been upbeat, nobody from the club has seen him throw off a mound since the July 10 surgery in Dallas to remove a rib near the collarbone.

"Why don't we wait to see what he looks like after a few days," Colletti said.

Beckett has made career 312 starts and three relief appearances. Maholm, signed to a one-year deal for a $1.5 million base and significant incentives, has 242 career starts and one relief appearance that, he pointed out, was the day before the All-Star break.

"I'm going to come in and compete and if I pitch well enough, things will work out," said Maholm. "I don't have too big a say, so they'll make the best decision for the team. The way I look at it, I don't have relief appearances and their bullpen is set. I pitch well, and the decision is on them."

After a fast start last season, Maholm was left off Atlanta's postseason roster to face the Dodgers, which helped him decide to deal with the pitching surplus and sign with the Dodgers anyway because "it's an opportunity to play on a winning team that can go deep in the playoffs.

"Obviously, I made 37 starts since I was traded [in 2012] and pitched well," he said. "To not be on the roster on what would be my first playoff appearance was tough."

Maholm is right about the bullpen being set. Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell return to set up closer Kenley Jansen; Paco Rodriguez comes off his first full season; Chris Perez replaces Ronald Belisario; Brandon League still has two years left on his contract and Jamey Wright was signed to be the long man.

That's seven arms, not counting Beckett or Maholm. Also on the bubble is Chris Withrow, despite pitching well down the stretch last year. Stephen Fife, Javy Guerra, Jose Dominguez and Magill will be in the mix as well.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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