Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dodgers Shop Rookies as Trade Bait for a Pitcher

With a number of unnamed scouts looking on -- perhaps one from the Florida Marlins -- the Dodgers started four rookies in Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Phillies, showcasing the prospects as trade bait. The Marlins continue to draw skeptical reactions to denials that the team is considering trading fireballer Dontrelle Willis, a California native and an ideal match for the Dodgers. But if not Willis, the Dodgers must find another hurler to meet the team's commitment to acquire an established starter before the end of the month. Rookies Dioner Navarro, Willy Aybar, Joel Guzman and Matt Kemp are likely in the trade mix along with injured veteran Cesar Izturis. With the demotion of starter Jae Seo to the bullpen, and struggling Odalis Perez occupying the No. 5 starter's spot for the moment, the back of the rotation is totally unworkable for a playoff run even with veteran Aaron Sele holding his finger in the dyke. The team has soured on the possibility of calling up prospect Chad Billingsley, who had been under consideration to rush to Los Angeles a month ago when Perez left the country on bereavement leave and Sele had severed his relationship with the Dodgers farm club in Las Vegas. Billingsley, 22, owned a 3-0 record and a 2.04 ERA at that time, having struck out 40 in 38 innings. But as soon as widespread speculation surfaced that Billingsley might have to be called up, he went to pieces, being saddled with the loss in a 12-11 defeat by Memphis in which he gave up six hits, three walks, two wild pitches, two hit batsmen and six runs in three innings. Billingsley's record now stands at 4-3 with a 4.22 ERA, adequate but hardly the sparkling stats that he could use to force his way into the majors. Billingsley has lost the confidence, at least for now, of Dodgers GM Nick Colletti, though he still is projected as a future opening day ace.