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Dodgers need Josh Beckett to prove himself this spring

Josh BeckettPaul MaholmDan HarenStephen FifeChris Carpenter

So you’re Josh Beckett and where do you stand with the Dodgers?

On shaky ground, apparently.

Beckett is/was their presumptive fifth starter, which hardly deterred the Dodgers from showing interest in the off-season in Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka or making overtures about Bronson Arroyo.

Neither pursuits showed a lot of confidence in the return of Beckett, who his coming off nerve surgery that removed a rib. Beckett is in the final year of his contract and will earn a tidy $17 million this season.

But the Dodgers showed Beckett even less love Saturday, when on the first day pitchers and catchers reported to camp, free agent left-hander Paul Maholm walked into the clubhouse.

Maholm, 31, is hardly a difference-maker, and might politely be dubbed average. For those who prefer their news polite. In his eight years in the majors he is 76-95 with a 4.28 earned-run average and 1.40 WHIP. Last season for the Braves, he went 10-11/4.41/1.41.

But he makes for decent insurance should Beckett falter. Beckett went 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in eight starts for the Dodgers last season. Beckett’s surgery is fairly rare and has had mixed results; Chris Carpenter’s comeback from the surgery was shut down last summer after three games and he has since retired.

Beckett certainly has the greater upside, but the three-time All-Star’s last strong season was 2011 (13-7/2.89/1.03). The Dodgers are being prudent in bringing in another veteran option, even if it turns out to be a minor-league contract with an invite to spring training.

Which leaves Beckett having to prove himself at age 33. Ah, the joys of aging. In theory, the Dodgers won’t even need a fifth starter until the weekend of April 18. So despite the early start to their season, the season-opening Australia trip leaves them with plenty of off-days to juggle starters.

But right now the rotation appears to be Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jun Ryu, Dan Haren and Maholm. If nothing else, there will be competition for the fifth spot. Other candidates include Stephen Fife, Zach Lee and Matt Magill.

The Dodgers learned about the need for rotation depth last season when they went into spring with eight starters and had used 10 before they got out of April.

Still, Beckett is an unknown right now. And clearly, if wisely, the Dodgers are not going to count on his successful comeback.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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