TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was just like old times on Monday for Ramon Ortiz, who stood on the mound and could look over his right shoulder and see Garret Anderson in left field. Well, not quite: Both players were wearing Dodger Blue against the Angels. And Ortiz is no longer the high-strung right-hander out to belie his diminutive size by trying to blow every pitch by batters. Instead, he is the perceptive pitcher trying to put himself back in the Majors by putting softer pitches where he wants.
"I'm throwing good breaking ball, good changeup. Before, I'd try to throw everything over 97 miles. Now I'm trying to make pitches," Ortiz said after having made 52 good ones to strengthen his bid for a rotation spot. Starting in place of scheduled starter Vicente Padilla -- who instead threw a simulated game at the Camelback Ranch complex -- Ortiz went the first four innings of the Dodgers' 4-0 victory over the Angels. He allowed two hits and fanned five without a walk, enhancing his spring resume to nine shutout innings with a yield of five hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts. "He was pretty good, wasn't he?" said manager Joe Torre, back on the bench. "Especially against his old team. Usually, when you get emotional in that situation you don't have your command the way he did." "Every opportunity, I want to do the best I can," said Ortiz, 36. "Right now, it feels very good." He hasn't pitched in the Majors since 10 relief appearances in 2007 with Colorado. He is in camp on a Minor League contract as a non-roster player. And he faces stiff competition for the fifth spot in the Dodgers' rotation.
He may not even be the most impressive Ortiz in camp. Russ, also a non-roster right-hander, also has yet to allow a run in two starts and five innings, and gets his next audition on Wednesday, against the White Sox."Russ is making a statement for himself, too," Torre said. Two others in the running for that open spot might have an advantage in being on the 40-man roster, and being out of options: Eric Stults and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who bounced back from six days on the slightly injured list (pressured hip nerve) to throw one inning on Monday. "All I can do is keep working hard, and see what happens," Ramon Ortiz said. "I feel good and I'm throwing strikes. Everything -- changeup, slider, curve, fastball on both sides of the plate. The key is keeping everything down." Can Ortiz be kept down, after spending 2008 in Japan and 2009 with the Giants' Triple-A affiliate in Fresno? His performance last year was impressive enough (3.05 ERA in 35 games, of them 16 starts) for several teams to show interest. He chose the Dodgers over such others as the Phillies, Mets and Rays. "I like California," said Ortiz, a member of the Angels' 1999-2004 staffs. "And the Dodgers have a great team. And a lot of people speak Spanish, too."