Through two weeks and 12 games, the story remains the same for the Dodgers bullpen. The pitchers coming out of the gate can't seem to close out games when handed big leads, nor can they keep their team in it while the game is close. It has become clear changes are required as soon as possible.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre is poised to make some moves this week with Hong-Chih Kuo finishing up his minor league rehab assignment successfully. Another addition may be rookie Jon Link, who has pitched two scoreless innings against the Reds in Cincinnati in relief of Chad Billingsley, who struggled to find a groove.
Ronald Belisario's return also is imminent according to Torre. The skipper mentioned Belisario's Visa issues were near resolution, and he expects the reliever to be with the club in the next week or so.
To make room on the roster for the returning pitchers, the Dodgers designated Russ Ortiz for assignment. The Dodgers will have 15 days to trade Ortiz, have another team claim him on waivers, or release him. Los Angeles could outright him to the minors if no team expresses interest, but it is doubtful Ortiz will accept the assignment.
Hong-Chih Kuo proved why he deserved a spot in the 'pen last season, pitching effectively as the Dodgers' situational left-hander. His biting slider and cut fastball looked sharp and kept Los Angeles in several games.
Kuo has yet to pitch an inning in a regular season game in 2010, recovering from soreness in his pitching elbow.
The Dodgers have sorely missed the numbers Kuo put up last season. The Taiwanese lefty went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 35 games last season. However, the nagging issue has been his health.
Kuo has been lights out when he's on the mound, but he has to get there first. He served two stints on the disabled list last season, and missing the start of 2010 is certainly concerning. Kuo's health this season will be a vital piece to Dodger success down the stretch.
Through the first few weeks of the spring, it appeared as though Russ Ortiz had revitalized his career. He was hitting his spots with multiple pitches, displaying command and control when facing live hitters.
Ortiz continued to be impressive and almost forced Torre into giving him a spot on the roster. However, once the bell tolled to begin the season, an about-face was carried out.
At no point this season did Ortiz look sharp, going just seven innings while allowing eight runs, all earned, and racking up a 10.29 ERA. His release fuels rumors that Ortiz will retire if no club expresses interest in him.
Retirement is a long way to fall for a one-time 21 game winner. Ortiz currently has a major league record of 113-89 with 1,192 strikeouts and a 4.51 ERA.
Jon Link's promotion from Triple-A Albuquerque was supposed to be a filler for Russ Ortiz as the Dodgers awaited the return of Hong-Chih Kuo. With Link in the bullpen, there are no free roster spots.
The Dodgers acquired Link in a December trade that sent outfielder Juan Pierre to the Chicago White Sox.
Link has looked impressive for the Isotopes this season, and he pitched two scoreless innings in his Major League debut, looking sharp with strong command. With right-handed pitchers Jeff Weaver and Ramon Troncoso struggling, there is a small chance the Dodgers would retain Link and send a veteran down for a refresher.
The Dodgers and Joe Torre are running out of time to make a decision on Link, as Kuo is set to return within the week.