LOS ANGELES -- The annual winter workouts at Dodger Stadium are gone but not forgotten by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who will convene a minicamp of young pitchers next week at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, the Dodgers' Arizona training complex. Honeycutt said the concept is a spinoff from his playing days, when the January workouts at Chavez Ravine took advantage of the mild weather to give players a jump-start on baseball conditioning before Spring Training started. "I remember what it was like, how it helped us be ready for Spring Training," he said. "We're basing this off that. It's nothing drastic we're doing, just more preparation. And it gives us a chance to get to know people we don't know."
An added benefit of next week's five-day minicamp is a jump-start to the competition for the fifth starter job, which almost certainly will be filled internally. Management remains hopeful of signing free agent Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland or Joel Pineiro for the fourth starter job. "We want to give our young pitchers as many innings as we can early in camp, and this will make sure that they're ready for that," said Honeycutt. "They have an opportunity to come in and not just win a job, but possibly a starting job. That's the focus of the whole thing. It's an important year for a lot of guys. We've got some decisions to make." Participating in the minicamp are rotation holdovers Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, as well as fifth-starter candidates Scott Elbert, Charlie Haeger, Josh Lindblom, James McDonald and Eric Stults, Rule 5 selections Carlos Monasterios (also a starter candidate) and reliever Armando Zerpa, former White Sox prospects Jon Link and John Ely (both from the Juan Pierre trade), and Brent Leach. As for decisions to make, Stults is out of options, while Monasterios and Zerpa must be offered back to their previous clubs if the Dodgers don't keep them on the active roster. Young catchers A.J. Ellis and Lucas May, participating in this week's developmental minicamp at Dodger Stadium, will be sent to do the catching. Honeycutt will be joined by bullpen coach Kenny Howell. Honeycutt said he views everybody at the minicamp as a multiple-innings pitcher, including Ramon Troncoso, who is not attending. "Everybody but [closer] Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill and Ronald Belisario could be a starter, or at least multiple innings," he said. "This will be exactly four weeks ahead of camp. They've all been throwing, but this will be the early part of mound work. We'll be able to see where they're at, assess their '09 performance, what the goals and expectations are ahead of them and maybe correct some things. "That's what we used to do when I played. We'd come to L.A. and get into the swing of things. We have a number of young guys and this is an important season because they can really have an impact on the club. It's something we might do in the future."