Yesterday’s news that the Dodgers signed infielder Ronnie Belliard and catcher Brad Ausmus will have as significant an impact on the Isotopes as any of the Minor League free agent signees and non-roster invitees Los Angeles has added this off-season. Belliard immediately enters camp as the starting second baseman based on his performance last season when he batted .325 (and .381 in the playoffs), but what does that mean for Blake DeWitt, who for the second year in a row began January as the Dodgers’ presumptive starting second baseman?
As of right now, the Dodgers will begin Spring Training with infielders James Loney, Ronnie Belliard, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, Blake DeWitt, and Nick Green (provided he recovers in time from off-season back surgery). Add Doug Mientkiewicz and Chin-lung Hu to the mix and you have nine guys competing for roughly six slots. It’s obvious that DeWitt is well regarded by the Dodgers, who brought him back and forth from Albuquerque last year five times and there’s not doubt that at just 24 it’s only a matter of time before he goes up and stays up in Los Angeles, but with the sheer number of proven Major League players in the mix, one would think there’s a reasonable chance DeWitt could begin the 2010 campaign in Isotopes Park. For the exact same reasons, the same could possibly be said for Hu.
Meanwhile, the signing of Ausmus means that A.J. Ellis will most likely begin his third straight season at Triple-A. Ellis was brought up twice last year, making his first Major League start and getting his first Big League hit (an RBI single) against the Rockies on the last day of the regular season. In Albuquerque, Ellis was superb, batting .314 with 13 doubles and 39 RBI while earning is second straight Triple-A All-Star selection (his first call-up to Los Angeles precluded his playing in the Triple-A All-Star Game). While there’s not much more Ellis can prove at Triple-A, the likelihood of the Dodgers carrying three catchers is pretty slim.
All this intrigue and Spring Training is still a few weeks away! If you want to get up-to-the-second news on what’s going on with the Dodgers, a great resource is Dylan Hernandez, the excellent beat writer for the L.A. Times. If you twitter, he is a great one to follow: www.twitter.com/dylanohernandez. Jon Weisman of the Times also writes an excellent Dodgers blog called “Dodger Thoughts” that is definitely worth checking out. Inside the Dodgers is also a tremendous source of official news and insight.