How does Paul Maholm’s arrival affect the Dodger roster?

By Jon Weisman

We don’t know what Dodger newcomer Paul Maholm’s role with the team will be after signing Saturday or whose roster spot he might take, mainly because the Dodgers don’t know yet themselves.

“Paul is aware we’re not sure what our need will be, whether it will be as a starting pitcher, a reliever or a long man,” general manager Ned Colletti told Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. “Paul said it doesn’t matter, just to let him know and he’ll prepare for whatever we need him to do.”

Dylan Hernandez of the Times added the following:

… Maholm noted that he pitched in relief only once in his previous nine seasons and made clear he intends to win a place in the rotation.

“I’m going to come in and compete,” Maholm said. “If I pitch well, then things will work out.” …

In the meantime, we can mull over the possibilities.

Maholm could be a starting pitcher, if anyone from the group consisting of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Josh Beckett falters. Beckett, recovering from July surgery that removed a rib to address thoracic outlet syndrome, is the one who seems most vulnerable, but it’s hardly time to give up on him being with the team for the season opener March 22.

Should Maholm start the season in the bullpen – a distinct possibility whether he’s the fifth starter or a starter-in-reserve, given that the Dodgers don’t play five regular-season games on consecutive days until April 15-19 – he joins a group that was already overflowing. Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, Paco Rodriguez, J.P Howell, Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Chris Perez and Jamey Wright already give the Dodgers more than enough legitimate contenders for a relief corps that typically would max out at seven. (That doesn’t even begin to address names not limited to Stephen Fife, Seth Rosin, Javy Guerra and Jose Dominguez.)

In a sense, you figure that the Dodgers are counting on at least one of the pitchers we’ve mentioned to be injured come Opening Day, and based on past history, who can blame them? If the Dodgers get their pre-flight notification for Sydney with more than a dozen healthy major-league pitchers, it’s a problem they’ll be happy to deal with.

A less obvious question: Would an arms surplus affect the composition of the Dodger bench? Standing in contrast to a pitching staff brimming with guaranteed contracts is a group of reserves whose MLB futures aren’t as set in stone.

Let’s say, hypothetically, Matt Kemp doesn’t make the trip to Australia, as has been frequently speculated, but Alex Guerrero does start at second base. You’d have a backup catcher such as Tim Federowicz, a good chance of outfielder/first baseman Scott Van Slyke, two or three names from the assortment of middle-infield candidates (including Dee Gordon, Chone Figgins, Justins Sellers and Turner, Miguel Rojas and Brendan Harris), maybe a Mike Baxter or Nick Buss.

Especially if they try to limit the starting pitcher workloads in light of the early launch to the 2014 season, would the Dodgers choose a 13th healthy pitcher over a 13th position player to complete the first group of 25? I’m not advocating it or counting on it, just saying that stranger things have happened. And then, of course, things can and will change again in a moment thereafter.

2 Comments

With Ralph Kiner’s death, I was thinking about that great trio who did the Mets games and was reminded of Lindsey Nelson’s dictum: pitching is only 120% of the game. So, collecting arms is not a bad idea. But I also wonder if part of the thinking is that those spare arms might be trade bait for a 2B or possibly some bench help, since those are tender spots on the roster.

I’m sure some unexpected things will happen before the team leaves for Australia and hopefully we’ll have a better picture of what decisions have to be made.

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