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Dodgers, Wilson making progress toward contract

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are making progress in retaining free-agent reliever Brian Wilson, but the don't have a deal yet, according to a baseball source.

Wilson has been a priority of general manager Ned Colletti all offseason, although the former World Series hero has been seeking a return to a closer role, which won't happen with Kenley Jansen the Dodgers' closer of the present and future.

Colletti has spoken often of Wilson's importance this year and willingness to pitch the eighth inning, and if necessary, the ninth in a tandem with Jansen.

Coming off a second Tommy John surgery and non-tendered by the Giants a year ago, Wilson signed a $1 million contract with the Dodgers on July 30 and was promoted Aug. 19. He went 2-1 with a 0.66 ERA in 18 games, allowed only one hit in 11 at-bats against lefties and only one of 11 inherited runners to score.

Wilson was also able to pitch multiple innings and on back-to-back days.

The Dodgers are likely to be paying Wilson like a closer even if they don't give him the title, as they need to reinforce the bullpen, even more so after non-tendering reliever Ronald Belisario Monday night.

Belisario was in line for a salary around $2.5 million, which the Dodgers apparently believe would be better spent as part of Wilson's salary. Even if Wilson returns, the club still needs a veteran left-handed reliever to pair with Paco Rodriguez.

J.P. Howell filled that role in 2013, but he's looking for a three-year deal and the Dodgers aren't eager to hand out another one of those after giving Brandon League a three-year deal last winter.

If the Dodgers can't wrap up things with Wilson, there appears to be a growing availability of free-agent relievers from which the Dodgers can pursue.

Among the candidates that were already free agents are Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Edward Mujica, Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney and Jesse Crain. Non-tenders added to that list include John Axford and Mitchell Boggs.

Re-signing Belisario at a negotiated price not subject to the arbitration process doesn't seem to be under consideration. Belisario gave hitters fits with a nasty sinker, but he also drove the club crazy with his off-field behavior.

In addition to his late Spring Training arrivals and 2011 season on the sidelines for a positive cocaine test, Belisario was frequently late for work. He earned $1.5 million last season.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for

Los Angeles Dodgers, Brian Wilson