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DODGERS SPRING REPORT

Reliever Will Ohman tries out for specialist role

Veteran is offered a contract, believed to be for $1 million for one season, to be the Dodgers' situational left-hander but the team's is still awaiting a decision.

March 30, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

PHOENIX — The Dodgers remain active on the free-agent market with only a week remaining until the start of the regular season, as they're waiting to hear back from Will Ohman, the situational left-hander they auditioned Sunday.

Ohman, 31, was presented with a contract offer, which is believed to be for one year at around $1 million. The victim of a market that proved tough for relievers, he remains out of work because teams have refused to pay him the $2-million salary he is reportedly seeking.

Ohman pitched for the Atlanta Braves last season and was 4-1 with a 3.68 earned-run average in 83 games. He spent his five previous major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

The pitching-deprived Dodgers are as desperate for a reliever as Ohman is for an employer. The two pitchers who are being considered to be the team's situational left-hander are in camp on minor league contracts: Erick Threets, who has 10 big league appearances, and Brian Mazone, who has none.

Desperation was in the morning air at Camelback Ranch, as a dozen or so members of the Dodgers brain trust tried to sneak away from the club's administrative offices to the minor league side of the complex to watch Ohman face minor leaguers in a simulated game. Manager Joe Torre and General Manager Ned Colletti were part of the audience.

Ohman said he has been throwing regularly this spring in Arizona, something Torre said was evident because of how quickly Ohman was able to warm up.

"I've definitely been training with the purpose of being ready for opening day," Ohman said. "I think I showed that."

Torre wasn't as sure.

"It's a tough time in spring training to come in and say you're ready," Torre said. "There's a certain sharpness that you'd like to have. You can see he hasn't been pitching in games, as far as command."

Blake is back

Third baseman Casey Blake returned to camp as the father of a fourth child, George, who was born at 10:07 p.m. Wednesday. Blake said that his son was "kind of" named after country music singer George Strait.

With Blake back, the Dodgers were able to field their projected opening-day lineup for the first time this spring but lost to the San Diego Padres, 7-3. Batting in the eighth spot was Blake, who has averaged 21 home runs over the last six seasons.

Blake said he was fine in that spot, noting the number of potent bats in the lineup. But he said it might take him some time to get used to hitting there.

"Hitting in front of the pitcher is a little different," said Blake, who batted eighth with the Dodgers only eight times last season. "A lot of times they might intentionally walk or pitch around you. There are times you want to be aggressive. Sometimes, you have to expand your zone."

Fifth starter?

Rookie right-hander James McDonald appears to have won the competition to be the Dodgers' fifth starter.

"At this point in time, I think McDonald is the guy that we want to see more of," Torre said.

Right-hander Claudio Vargas has been feeling tightness in his elbow, left-hander Eric Stults was sent to pitch in a minor league game and left-hander Eric Milton has given up 11 runs in his last 8 2/3 innings.

McDonald, a September call-up who made the Dodgers' playoff roster as a reliever last year, will start Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Tucson.

Short hops

Right-hander Chad Billingsley said there was no reason he shouldn't be ready for the start of the season, as he threw 65 pitches over four innings in a simulated game. . . . Outfielder Delwyn Young will probably start the season on the disabled list, Torre said. . . . Outfielder Manny Ramirez doubled in the first inning and was one for three. Ramirez is hitting .500 this spring.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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