Reliever Ronald Belisario became a free agent Monday after four seasons… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Ronald Belisario’s ever-unpredictable career took another twist Monday night.
Belisario became a free agent, as the Dodgers elected to not tender him a contract for next season.
Belisario was eligible for salary arbitration and figured to be in line to secure a 2014 salary of more than $2 million. Belisario earned $1.5 million last season, including $50,000 in incentives.
The Dodgers tendered contracts to their three other arbitration-eligible players: Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Ellis and Kenley Jansen.
Belisario, a hard-throwing right-hander, was maddeningly inconsistent this year. He pitched in a team-leading 77 games, but posted an earned-run average of 3.97. Over his last 12 games, his ERA was 8.18.
Belisario’s walk and hits per innings pitched went up significantly, from 1.071 in 2012 to 1.471 this year. His strikeouts per nine innings dipped from 8.7 to 6.5.
Furthermore, Belisario was frequently tardy to the clubhouse on days of games, particularly when the start time was early.
Belisario’s departure leaves the Dodgers with another relief role to fill. Two other key relievers from last season are free agents: setup man Brian Wilson and left-hander J.P. Howell.
Jansen, the closer, will be back. But otherwise, the bullpen is full of question marks.
Brandon League was awful in the first year of his three-year, $22.5-million deal.
Left-hander Paco Rodriguez pitched well until Manager Don Mattingly ran him into the ground. Rodriguez, who made 75 appearances, posted a 5.68 ERA in September.
Chris Withrow was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, as he had a 2.60 ERA in 26 games. But there is a concern he could revert to walking hitters the way he did in the minor leagues.
Former closer Javy Guerra pitched in only nine major league games.
Jose Dominguez and Onelki Garcia are short on experience.
Yimi Garcia, Jarret Martin and Pedro Baez were only recently added to the 40-man roster.
Belisario’s personal problems date back to at least his breakout season with the Dodgers in 2009, when he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. (He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.)
Belisario missed a month of the following season to receive treatment in a substance-abuse program.
He couldn’t enter the United States in 2011, as a failed cocaine test prevented him from obtaining a work visa.
The Dodgers tolerated him because when he pitched well, he was near unhittable. In his rookie season, in 2009, he posted a 2.04 ERA. He returned from his one-year exile in 2012 to post a 2.54 ERA in 68 games.
Belisario also never came across as malicious.
He was lighthearted and refreshingly candid. The only reason reporters ever found out he tested positive for cocaine was because he said it. Days after a violent brawl against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was the only player to publicly state the Dodgers’ feud with their division rivals wasn’t over.