VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The Dodgers on Wednesday made the first of many difficult decisions they have before leaving Dodgertown, releasing right-handed relief pitcher Giovanni Carrara.
General Manager Dan Evans and Manager Jim Tracy informed Carrara in a closed-door meeting, explaining he no longer fit in an improved bullpen that includes former starter Andy Ashby. The Dodgers offered to re-sign Carrara to a minor league contract if he clears waivers by 10 a.m. Friday, assuring him of a spot in the rotation at triple-A Las Vegas.
Stung by the unexpected news, Carrara, popular in the clubhouse because of his selflessness, said he planned to "go home to Miami, hope the phone rings, and then go do my job again like I've been doing for the last two years in the big leagues."
With Carrara gone, it would appear the club is strongly considering carrying rookie left-hander Steve Colyer or veteran left-hander Tom Martin on the opening-day roster.
The Dodgers, who have three exhibition games remaining on the West Coast, are facing a roster crunch, beginning the season with only 24 players because reliever Guillermo Mota has been suspended for the first four games. Evans said carrying Carrara was a luxury they couldn't afford.
"He's a very special guy, I have so much respect for him for what he's done for us on and off the field, but we just didn't feel that he was one of the guys who factored into one of our final spots," said Evans, who tried to trade Carrara. "The health of [Kevin] Brown and [Darren] Dreifort, the move of Ashby to the pen and the development of Mota pushed Gio back, for me, as early as the middle of last year."
Players expressed disappointment.
"Gio is one of the best guys around, so this is going to be tough on everybody," backup catcher Todd Hundley said. "Every spring training there's some really surprising move, and Gio was the big surprise this spring."
A journeyman who seized an opportunity with the Dodgers, Carrara, 35, filled many roles after being called up from Las Vegas in May 2001. He made four starts but was primarily a middle and long reliever, going 12-4 with a 3.22 earned-run average and one save in 110 games.
However, he had an 8.31 ERA in 13 innings in Grapefruit League play and opponents batted .404 against him, highest on the staff among pitchers who worked at least 10 innings.
The Dodgers owe Carrara $197,500 in termination pay, one-fourth of his $790,000 non-guaranteed contract. A Dodger official said the club tried to trade Carrara, whose wife is pregnant with twins, because of their respect for him. Carrara, from Venezuela, mentored many Latin players in the organization.
"He's like my big brother," shortstop Cesar Izturis said. "We always hang out together, we live together, we come to the ballpark together.
"What can I do?"
Despite batting only .220, rookie second baseman Joe Thurston said he was optimistic about making the opening-day roster.
"I still think I'm doing things the right way most of the time," he said. "I've tried to show them what they want to see."
"It feels a little better," said Beltre, whose foot was wrapped. "I don't think it's going to be too much longer."
Hideo Nomo, scheduled to start opening day, pitched six innings in a 14-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Holman Stadium. The right-hander gave up four hits and three runs, striking out three with a walk.... Fred McGriff hit a grand slam and drove in five runs.... Paul Lo Duca homered and had three RBIs.... The Dodgers play Colorado tonight, then play host to the Angels at Dodger Stadium on Friday and travel Saturday to Edison Field.