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Dodgers look to open with 11 pitchers

Dodgers look to open with 11 pitchers

PHOENIX -- Manager Joe Torre said the Dodgers have tentatively decided to start the season with 11 pitchers instead of 12, which means Blake DeWitt is likely to open the season as the primary second baseman.

"I think we're 11 now," Torre said. "Still debating who the 11 are. There's a chance we could go to 12. With all the extra players, 11 seems the most reasonable thing to do -- to start. My guess is 12 will be the number most of the year."

Going with 11 pitchers makes it feasible for the Dodgers to keep one more position player, which will probably be Nick Green to serve as a natural backup shortstop to Rafael Furcal.

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As for DeWitt, Torre conceded that an 11-man pitching staff would almost ensure DeWitt a job, at least to share second base with Jamey Carroll and/or Ronnie Belliard.

"It's realistic to say that," Torre said. "He's included in all those players. An 11-pitcher scenario, Blake DeWitt's chances are better, it's safe to say that."

As for which 11 pitchers the Dodgers will keep, and which one will be the fifth starter, Torre said he wouldn't announce that until the club returns to California for three games later this week.

On the team are the four announced starters -- Vicente Padilla, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda -- as well as relievers Jonathon Broxton, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso and Jeff Weaver. Kuroda pitched an impressive seven innings in a Minor League game Monday.

It appears that Charlie Haeger will make the club, most likely as the fifth starter, and Ramon Ortiz will make the club, probably to fill the setup role held last year by Ronald Belisario, who had an impressive first bullpen session Monday after reporting Saturday.

The Dodgers want to keep Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios as a long reliever. But Eric Stults, Russ Ortiz or Josh Towers could still make the club as fifth starter and Justin Miller has shown to be remarkably durable coming off elbow surgery. Reliever Luis Ayala also has been pitching well in relief. If Stults does not make the club, he is out of options and could be lost on waivers.

Haeger and Ortiz threw bullpen sessions Monday, which at this point in the spring is something a starter does between starts. Stults is scheduled to start Tuesday's game in Tucson, Ariz., against Colorado.

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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