Will Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow start the season in the minors?

Paco Rodriguez went 3-4 with a 2.32 ERA last season.
Paco Rodriguez went 3-4 with a 2.32 ERA last season.
(Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

It’s the first workout of spring, so naturally it’s time for the “what if” game. Hey, it’s never too early.

In today’s exciting edition we ask: If Josh Beckett does win the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation and Paul Maholm goes to the bullpen as he said he’d be willing to do, who moves out?

The bullpen is more crowded than living quarters in a submarine. They brought back late-season addition Brian Wilson and signed Chris Perez and Jamey Wright in the off-season, to go along with Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, Brandon League, Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow.


And that was already one too many if they carry seven relievers.

Now if you assume every one leaves camp healthy and Beckett beats out Maholm for the fifth spot -- I said it’s a what-if game -- a pair of relievers are going to very disappointed when the season starts and they’re not on the final 25-man roster.

So who would go? Young guys with options are the normal candidates, which would mean Rodriguez and Withrow. And both pitchers were terrific last season in helping the Dodgers win the division.

Rodriguez was with the Dodgers all year, finishing with a 2.32 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, striking out 63 in 54 1/3 innings and holding opponents to a .164 batting average. Withrow was called up June 10 and ended the season 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP, 43 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .165 batting average.

They were young, hard-throwing phenoms in an otherwise mostly old bullpen. And both might be in the minors to start the new season.

Rodriguez was absolutely sensational until he appeared to run down from overuse (76 games for a guy who started the previous season pitching in college). He had a 23-game stretch where he did not allow a run, and 37 consecutive appearances where he was charged with only one run.

But in his final 11 games he struggled (6.35 ERA) more than President Obama trying to get a bill through Congress. He was so out of sync, that despite his excellent season, he did not make the team playoff roster.

Rodriguez had a 1.85 ERA when things went south on him. Now even if he’s recovered, he may be the victim of a numbers game that already appeared to have squeezed out Withrow.

Sure, it’s way early to get too worked up over not having them on the roster. Things happen.

Some reliever could – and most likely will – come up with a bad wing. A starting pitcher could also come up lame, not requiring one to head to the bullpen. And all this assumes Beckett returns from his rib surgery to throw something like he did during his glory years.

Beckett, it should be noted, is the only pitcher who did not report to camp Saturday. He still had not arrived Sunday afternoon. Apparently it’s an excused absence, though the Dodgers have been rather vague about it.

But if he’s healthy and wins the fifth spot, the Dodgers could open the season without some young firepower in the bullpen. And somewhat incredibly, that could mean Rodriguez and Withrow.