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Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett to Compete for Role of Fifth Starter

February 10th, 2014 at 9:16 AM
By Jimmy Reynolds
There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the Los Angeles Dodgers and their uncertain back end of the rotation. While Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Dan Haren appear to be locks for the one through four spots in the rotation, the fifth starter has been thought to be up for grabs, as Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley are returning from surgery and several minor leaguers are thought to be ready for the big leagues.
 
'Josh Beckett' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
 
Further complicating the matter is the signing of Paul Maholm. Don Mattingly indicated that Maholm is aware of the situation and that his role may end up being out of the bullpen, saying:
 
“Paul knows the situation. We haven't talked to Josh about it. For me, that's something to get to down the road. It could happen. Right now, we'll work them as starters."
 
Maholm is signed to an incentive-laden one-year deal worth a guaranteed $1.5 million. Certainly, Maholm is not a front-end of the rotation pitcher, but he is established and relatively young at 31. That he would sign a deal with the Dodgers for that amount despite the pitching surplus seems to indicate he feels pretty good about his chances:
 
“I'm going to come in and compete and if I pitch well enough, things will work out," said Maholm. "I don't have too big a say, so they'll make the best decision for the team. The way I look at it, I don't have relief appearances and their bullpen is set. I pitch well, and the decision is on them."
 
Maholm’s attitude toward the surplus belies a certain confidence. Beckett, on the other hand, was not yet in camp as he attended a wedding.
 
Beckett is returning from a season-ending surgery, and the Dodgers’ moves to acquire starting pitching depth may indicate a lack of faith in Beckett’s health and effectiveness upon his return. If Beckett is able to pitch well enough to earn the fifth spot, Maholm could slide into the bullpen as another lefty reliever. According to Ned Colletti, Maholm is understanding with regard to this potentiality:
 
"Paul is aware we're not sure what our needs will be — starter, reliever, long reliever," said Colletti. "He said it doesn't matter; he's prepared for whatever we need him to do."
 
Still, the Dodger bullpen is currently loaded with relievers on guaranteed contracts, some of them for exorbitant amounts. If Maholm is unable to crack the starting rotation, his place – or Beckett’s for that matter – seems very unclear. For the Dodgers, however, having this amount of depth is a good thing this early in the season.
 
The moves also ensure that the Dodgers do not have to rush any of their minor leaguers to the bigs this year, as was the case with Stephen Fife and Matt Magill. Zach Lee had figured to have a shot at the rotation should Beckett have faltered, but that scenario seems even more unlikely with the signing of Maholm.
Tags: Baseball, Clayton Kershaw, Don Mattingly, Josh Beckett, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB, Ned Colletti, Paul Maholm

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