Los Angeles Dodgers' Pitching Situation Taking Shape

Todd BoldizsarAnalyst IMarch 18, 2010

TEMPE, AZ - MARCH 15:  Ramon Ortiz #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during a Spring Training game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on March 15, 2010 at Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

On the heels of demotions to minor league camp, the Dodgers are slimming their prospective pitchers for the major league roster.

After all the hype about the return of Eric Gagne, the rebounding pitcher was sent to minor league camp and accepted the assignment.

There is no doubt that Gagne would have been welcomed in Hollywood and given a hero's welcome jogging from the bullpen to the mound, but he has been less than impressive, and the team had to pull the string.

While Gagne's demotion seemed likely, there have certainly been some surprises in the competition for the coveted fifth starter position and the seemingly shrinking availability of bullpen positions.

Perhaps the biggest story has been the resurgence of reliever Ramon Ortiz. In his nine innings of work, he has not allowed a run, and his fastball appears to be gaining velocity in every outing. Ortiz turns 37 in May but is pitching like a young prospect with endless possibilities.

Meanwhile, another Ortiz has been almost as impressive. Russ Ortiz had spent the majority of the last two seasons in the minor leagues while discussions of his retirement swirled through the trade winds of the media. However, so far this spring he has pitched nine innings, spreading out two insignificant runs while using all four pitches in his arsenal effectively and collecting 11 strikeouts.

Once thought to be fighting for a bullpen position, Russ Ortiz is suddenly in the mix for the final spot in the Dodgers' rotation, provided his arm stays healthy.

Finally, the most highly touted prospect entering the spring has lived up to the hype. Carlos Monasterios has been lights out and door locked in his eight innings of work, allowing only two hits while not surrendering a run. Hitters (or batters, depending on how you look at it) have been unable to read the young pitcher and have been consistently off-balance deep in the count.

This spring has all the hallmarks of a typical Ned Colletti cocktail: a tasty mix of revitalized veterans and young prospects coming into their primes.

With the addition of Russ Ortiz and Monasterios to the fifth starter race, Joe Torre has his hands full to make the cuts before April 5. Additionally, with the likelihood of the Dodgers carrying five outfielders, there will be one less position available in the bullpen.

Look for the final two games of the spring against the Angels to have a little bit of playoff feel as the competitions between the interleague rivals AND the Dodgers pitchers reach the pinnacle.