SAN FRANCISCO — Chris Withrow had a 2.60 earned-run average as a rookie last season. He hasn't given up a single run in his six relief appearances this year.
But the hard-throwing 25-year-old right-hander isn't comfortable.
"I always feel like my job's on the line," Withrow said. "Whether they're here or whether they're in the minor leagues, there's always somebody trying to take your job."
Especially on the richest team in baseball.
The Dodgers are expected to activate $10-million setup man Brian Wilson from the 15-day disabled list in the coming days, perhaps even as early as Tuesday for the start of a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants.
The corresponding roster move could take Withrow off the roster. Of the Dodgers' relievers, only three can be sent to the minor leagues without clearing waivers: Withrow; Kenley Jansen, the team's closer, and Paco Rodriguez, who is one of only two left-handers in the bullpen.
Every other reliever has a guaranteed contract.
"I can't control the numbers," Withrow said. "The numbers are what they are. … I can try to make that decision hard when that decision has to be made."
Withrow's current form is expected to force the Dodgers to explore other methods to open a place for Wilson.
So far, Withrow has been the team's most dominant reliever. Armed with a mid-90s fastball and 90-mph slider, he has pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out 12 batters. He has given up only one hit and two walks.
Limiting walks has been a key for Withrow.
Selected by the Dodgers in the first round of the 2007 draft, Withrow had control problems earlier in his career. In his last season as a starter, in 2011 with double-A Chattanooga, he averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings.
"It's kind of funny because I never really saw it as an issue, to be honest with you," he said. "It's something that I learned to handle. Where I walked a guy, I would get the next guy. When I was in the minors, I put myself in so many bad situations. It's hard to say you get comfortable because you're never comfortable when you're in trouble, but I knew I was capable of getting out of situations."
He was converted into a reliever the next year.
"Their main thing was, 'Hey, you go out there for three innings and do really well, but you taper off in the fourth,' " Withrow said. "They saw an opportunity for me to get into the bullpen and to use those first two, three innings."
He didn't have a problem with the move.
"I didn't view it as a demotion," he said. "I viewed it as a second chance. I viewed it as an opportunity for me to try another direction in my career. I'd given starting five years."
Withrow reached the majors last season. Once there, he walked fewer batters than he had in the minors, averaging 3.4 per nine innings in 26 appearances.
"I'm going to say it's a combination of a few things — mechanics, just the mentality of attacking," he said. "Talking to the older guys in the bullpen, I learned how they attack guys and how they pitch to situations."
The Dodgers open a three-game series Tuesday at San Francisco against the Giants with Josh Beckett (0-0, 9.00 ERA) facing Tim Lincecum (0-1, 9.90) at 7:15 p.m. On the air: TV: SportsNet LA; Radio: 570, 1020 (Spanish).
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