Dodgers get good news from pitching minicamp
Billingsley could be ahead of schedule in rehab; young arms impressive
LOS ANGELES -- With "Old Gun" pitching coach Rick Honeycutt shelved by recent right shoulder surgery, assistant pitching coach Ken Howell and bullpen coach Chuck Crim ran the Dodgers' "Young Guns" pitching minicamp at Camelback Ranch-Glendale last week.
The camp provides top prospects with a final prep before the start of Spring Training. It also gives management a chance to see some rehabbing veterans, like Chad Billingsley and Scott Elbert, who are coming off Tommy John surgery.
Howell said he was very impressed with the progress of Billingsley, who has thrown four bullpen sessions nine months after his operation. Club officials have targeted the All-Star break for Billingsley's return, but he might be ahead of that schedule.
Elbert had his surgery two months after Billingsley and was expected to throw his first bullpen session this week. Elbert has had three elbow operations since he last pitched for the Dodgers on Aug. 26, 2012.
The absence of Billingsley and Elbert can provide a potential opening for a young gun or two to make his move toward a big league role. Howell came away from the camp impressed by the quantity and quality of arms, especially with Rule 5 acquisition Seth Rosin and converted third baseman Pedro Baez.
"Rosin looks like he's got a real good idea, he knows how to make adjustments and he could be a surprise in Spring Training," Howell said of the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Rosin. "Kenley Jansen was there and Seth was able to see a big-body guy and see his philosophy and watch him throw."
Howell said Baez also observed Jansen. Baez's conversion to the mound has been compared to Jansen's. Sandy Koufax raved after watching a Baez bullpen session last spring.
"It wouldn't shock me if we see him this year if somebody went down," Howell said of Baez. "He's got a good feel for pitching. He doesn't fight his delivery. He's about the same as Kenley at this point. Kenley might have had a better feel being a former catcher. Pedro naturally throws hard, but he's starting to understand changing speeds and is showing a feel for a second pitch."
Howell said Stephen Fife, who made 10 Major League starts last season, worked on minimizing the pause in his delivery. Matt Magill, who made six Dodgers starts, showed improved consistency down in the strike zone. Howell also worked with Zach Lee and Ross Stripling, starting candidates with Major League camp invites.
Left-handed reliever Onelki Garcia was at the camp as he returns from minor elbow surgery, while fireballer Jose Dominguez showed no ill effects from the quad strain that sidelined him the final two months of the season.
Howell said he was intrigued by non-roster left-handed reliever Daniel Moskos, who appeared in 31 games for Pittsburgh in 2011, opened last season at Triple-A Charlotte and finished it playing in Taiwan.
Howell also got extended looks at Chris Reed, Jarret Martin, Yimi Garcia and Red Patterson.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.