David Huff doesn't know what he'll be asked to do this season.
Will he be a starter, as he was Saturday in the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Angels? Or a long reliever? Or a situational left-hander?
The 30-year-old, six-year veteran doesn't even know if he'll start the season in the majors or the minors.
"It's interesting to see what they're planning to do," said Huff, who grew up in Huntington Beach and pitched at UCLA.
Huff's uncertainty is partly a function of the Dodgers' depth. In addition to acquiring middle relievers such as Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher in the off-season, the team signed several veterans to minor league contracts, including Huff.
The result is that, nine days before opening day, the Dodgers still have 13 relievers competing for seven positions in the bullpen. That doesn't include closer Kenley Jansen or setup man Brandon League, who will start the season on the disabled list, or nonroster right-hander Chad Gaudin, who is shut down because of nerve-related problems.
"It definitely feels like more balls in the air," Manager Don Mattingly said.
Peralta and left-hander J.P. Howell are the only relievers who are certain to make the roster.
Performance will certainly be a factor in determining the remainder of the bullpen, but it won't be the only factor.
Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore all have options remaining, meaning they can be sent to the minor leagues without clearing waivers. Rodriguez, Liberatore and Garcia have pitched particularly well this spring, with Rodriguez and Liberatore having allowed no runs in any of their eight appearances. Baez has the best raw stuff in the group.
Hatcher, Dustin McGowan and Juan Nicasio can't be optioned to the minors without clearing waivers, so the Dodgers could risk losing them to another team if they don't place them on the opening-day roster. Hatcher, a key component of the trade that sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Miami Marlins, has been erratic this spring but probably remains a near-lock to make the team.
Nicasio has a 5.40 earned-run average this spring and is also signed for $2.3 million, which could make him a candidate to clear waivers.
While veterans on minor league contracts often have the right to elect free agency if they fail to make the opening-day roster, that doesn't apply to any of the Dodgers' nonroster relievers: Huff, Sergio Santos, Mike Adams and David Aardsma.
The Dodgers would have to pay Adams a $100,000 retention fee to send him to the minors — a small cost for baseball's richest team.
Huff's ability to start could give the left-hander an edge over the other nonroster relievers. With starter Hyun-Jin Ryu starting the season on the disabled list, the Dodgers can have an extra position player on their bench if one of their relievers can start on April 13 or 14, the first day they would have to use a fifth starter.
Huff pitched 3 1/3 innings Saturday against the Angels and was charged with one run and six hits. He has a 1.50 ERA this spring.
"I feel comfortable," Huff said. "They've put me in different situations and I've done pretty well."
As for who will close in Jansen's absence — he is expected to miss the first month of the season — that also remains a mystery. Mattingly said matchups will determine who pitches the ninth inning on a given day.
League avoids surgery
League said he expects to start the season on the 60-day disabled list, as he is on an eight-week program to rehabilitate his inflamed right shoulder.
"I feel like crap," League said. "Worked three months, four months, in the off-season to avoid this stuff. And the fact that you get this news and the fact that I felt the best I've felt ever in spring training, it's kind of devastating."
But for League, that's still better than another option he discussed with Drs. Neal ElAttrache and James Andrews, who reviewed the results of his recent MRI examination.
League said he was told surgery was also an option. He didn't know how long an operation would have sidelined him but, he said, "I know it's more than eight weeks."
The possibility of surgery could be revisited if League fails to complete his rehabilitation program.
"That's my next option, I guess," he said. "I can't be like, 'Let me start over again,' because that would be like wasting everybody's time, I feel like. It's a decision we have to make when we get there."
League said he doesn't want to undergo surgery without giving himself a proper chance to recover. In the wake of receiving a cortisone injection earlier in camp, he said, "We were on a rushed program. We were shooting for opening day and it was something that I agreed with, that it was worth the risk to be on a hurried program."