Sarah's Take: D-backs, Dodgers in arms race
Arroyo, Maholm signed to help fill some holes in clubs' pitching staffs
On the weekend when pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers strengthened their pitching staffs. The D-backs signed right-hander Bronson Arroyo, formerly with the Cincinnati Reds. The Dodgers, who were rumored to have interest in Arroyo, signed Paul Maholm, a lefty who has pitched for several teams, to compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation with Josh Beckett, who is coming off surgery.
The National League West Division features arguably the best pitching in the league. Stocking up on arms, every NL West team, except the Rockies, has serious questions about the effectiveness of its offensive production. According to an old baseball adage, pitching wins championships, but teams lose the sight of the fact that if you can't score, you won't win enough games to go to the postseason.
Both the Diamondbacks and Dodgers were in the running to sign Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who chose the long winning tradition of the New York Yankees. This decision left both the Diamondbacks and Dodgers scrambling to find a way to improve their starting rotations.
The edge on this acquisition must go to the D-backs, even though obtaining a left-handed pitcher often is a bonus. Arroyo probably won't win a Cy Young Award, but he has proven to be able to pitch innings every year without injury. With a weak bullpen and a young starting rotation, the D-backs needed a veteran starter who can lessen the pressure on the bullpen.
While the Dodgers' starting rotation catches headlines, the Diamondbacks have a set a rotation with the addition of Arroyo. Manager Kirk Gibson hasn't named his Opening Day starter yet, but having a stable rotation enables the pitchers to work on improving and building arm strength.
The Dodgers have another approach to Spring Training, which I've never agreed with. When a player reaches the Major Leagues, he knows the value of hard work. He doesn't need more incentives to be the best. General manager Ned Colletti likes to have a highly competitive Spring Training to push the slated players for Opening Day roster to work hard to be the best. Generating competitiveness among teammates doesn't promote the team chemistry that is needed to win a championship. Also, it adds to the risk of injuries, and during Colletti's tenure, the Dodgers haven't had a healthy Spring Training camp.
After Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers have many questions in the rotation. Though Dan Haren, a native of Monterey Park, Calif., is excited to pitch close to home, he's trying desperately to rebound from a disappointing performance with the Washington Nationals. Known as a workhorse, Haren needs to find a way to keep his pitches low in the strike zone to be effective.
Chad Billingsley, recovering from Tommy John surgery, has thrown nine bullpen sessions without a setback. He has a long way to go before he appears in a game. Then, he needs to build up arm strength and stamina before he can return to the rotation. Colletti predicts it will be June before Billingsley can accomplish this, barring a setback in his rehabilitation process.
Beckett is trying to return to the rotation after having a rib removed to attempt to correct a nerve problem.
The Dodgers have three promising young pitchers who should have an opportunity to earn a spot, but they don't want to rush them. Nevertheless, keeping them in the Minor Leagues until Dodgers management perceives they are ready can slow down their progression and maturity as pitchers.
Stephen Fife has proven that he can win at the Major League level, but he has had a problem with consistency. Not having the pitches that make people go "wow," Fife must learn how to baffle the batter. He won't be a strikeout pitcher, so he needs to have exceptional control. At 27, Fife needs to make the Dodgers' roster out of Spring Training, or Colletti needs to trade him to give him an opportunity to pitch in the Majors.
After making a successful Major League debut, Matt Magill hit a rough patch in San Francisco. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly thinks the club rushed Magill to the Majors. I disagree. Since Kershaw was a rookie, the Dodgers haven't matured a young pitcher at the Majors, and this is necessary to maintain a champion-caliber level for a long time. Many Dodgers fans also want to see Zach Lee, the club's top pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, pitch in L.A.