Dodgers hope to find gem among non-roster hurlers
Righties Gregg, Moylan and Lowe have all had previous success in the Majors
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are the high-profile winter acquisitions, but Kevin Gregg, Peter Moylan or Mark Lowe could make the Dodgers Opening Day pitching staff, too.
The trio is in a group of seven non-roster pitchers the Dodgers brought to Major League camp. Mostly, they are here to pick up innings in the early exhibition games and fill out Triple-A staffs for the season.
But, the Dodgers have mined more unexpected nuggets from these cattle calls than most organizations, so their appearances are not to be ignored.
Takashi Saito, who showed up in 2006 on a Minor League contract, became an All-Star closer. The late Jose Lima not only made the club in 2004, but wrote postseason headlines. Ronald Belisario has emerged as a bullpen force after making the club in 2009 as a non-roster invitee. Jeff Weaver pulled it off twice, while Jamey Wright and Rudy Seanez both came with no guarantee of a job and gave the Dodgers solid Major League seasons.
Gregg, Moylan and Lowe all fit the profile of these past players. They previously pitched successfully in the Major Leagues, but because of injury or quirks in free agency, found themselves with no better option when the musical chairs of signing season stopped.
"We're still fairly young in the bullpen, so it would be nice to have some leadership there," said manager Don Mattingly. "I'm not opposed to bringing in some leadership."
They're in for an uphill climb, because they would also need to beat out Stephen Fife and Josh Wall. It would be easier to keep that pair, because they are on the 40-man roster, whereas Mattingly would need to make room for any of the non-roster pitchers to stay.
Gregg is of particular interest, because he was a closer for five years with the Marlins, Cubs, Blue Jays and Orioles. His 144 career saves are more than Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra and Belisario combined.
Gregg, 34, was 3-2 with a 4.95 ERA last year with Baltimore before being released in September. He can't explain why he couldn't land a Major League contract.
"If you can explain it, let me know," he said. "I've accomplished quite a bit. The resume speaks for itself. It's definitely puzzling. I know I'm coming off a year where I didn't perform to my best, and I take that into account. But you have to be put in a position to succeed."
Gregg said Orioles manager Buck Showalter told him he "didn't like my style of pitching." He continued, "It's hard to be on a team like that."
However, according to Gregg, he's the same pitcher now that he was as a successful closer.
"If anything, I have a better grasp. Last year made me look in the mirror, and I'm paying attention to details. It's been 10 years since I had to make a team. I need to show I can pitch, show consistency and throw strikes."
The 34-year-old Moylan comes with this tag: "When healthy..." He has missed considerable time in his career with elbow, back and shoulder surgeries, but he has a 2.59 career ERA in 260 2/3 big league innings.
"I'm hoping to spend the next couple of years getting rid of that nickname," Moylan said. "I didn't take care of myself as good as I could have. It's the age-old story -- you don't realize what you have until it's gone. Now I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy."
He's been pretty much boom or bust in durability, with three seasons in which he's made at least 80 appearances and three in which he's made fewer than 14. Last year, he was still recovering from shoulder surgery and made only eight appearances for the Braves, who non-tendered the Aussie.
"I'm healthy as far as I can tell," said Moylan, adding that he would be willing to pitch in Triple-A if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.
Lowe, 29, pitched in 36 games for the Rangers last year, missing time with a strained intercostal muscle. He went to the Rangers from Seattle in the 2010 Cliff Lee trade. Lowe has a March 31 contract escape, if he isn't on the Major League roster.
Lowe has compiled a 3.94 ERA over six-plus Major League innings despite learning in 2007 that he had diabetes.
"I used to crush sweets and carbs, but now I'm OCD about my diet," he said. "You have to be, or it will affect you later in life. It's helped me more than anything. I feel more prepared."
Juan Abreu, 27, is in his 11th professional season and had seven Major League appearances with Houston in 2011. In 2012, he was 2-3 with a 6.80 ERA splitting time between Triple-A Oklahoma City and Las Vegas, having been claimed off waivers from Houston by Toronto.
The Dominican native has some sense for Dodgers history. He sought out Sandy Koufax in the clubhouse Monday, and asked to have his picture taken with the legend. The only autograph he owns is that of Nolan Ryan, obtained when he was with the Rangers.
Kelvin De La Cruz, 24, went 5-8 with a 4.92 ERA at Double-A Erie last year for the Tigers organization. He's also pitched in the Cleveland and Texas systems, but in seven seasons hasn't advanced beyond Double-A.
Gregory Infante, 25, pitched in five Major League games for the White Sox in 2010 and was 4-1 with a 3.55 ERA last year at Triple-A Charlotte.
Matt Palmer, a 33-year-old right-hander, has pitched parts of the past five seasons in the Major Leagues, including briefly for San Diego last year, and went 11-2 with the Angels in 2009 as a swingman.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.