Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre said right-hander James McDonald, who probably came to camp as the slight favorite for the fifth starter's spot, is no longer a candidate for that job, a fact that became somewhat apparent after McDonald was limited to two innings and 32 pitches in a simulated game on Monday.
McDonald will continue to battle for a bullpen spot.
"I'm probably leaning at this point to keeping him in the bullpen,'' Torre said.
Torre cited the performances of veterans Ramon Ortiz and Russ Ortiz -- who are in camp as non-roster invitees and neither of whom has given up a run in the Cactus League thus far -- and Eric Stults and Charlie Haeger, both of whom are on the 40-man roster and out of minor league options, as reasons why McDonald is out of the running.
McDonald has struggled in both of his Cactus League appearances, giving up six earned run on eight hits in four innings.
Ortiz, Monasterios make their pitches
A few hours after Torre let it slip McDonald is no longer a candidate for the vacant fifth spot in the starting rotation, two players who are still in contention for the job and who are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their respective careers took the mound in a Cactus League game against the Chicago White Sox.
Veteran Russ Ortiz, in camp on a minor league contract and trying to resurrect a career that appeared last season to be on life support, started and went four shaky innings on a day when he had been slated for five. He gave up two earned runs and six hits over four innings and was in constant trouble, the White Sox putting runners into scoring position in each of the first three innings.
Rule 5 right-hander Carlos Monasterios, meanwhile, entered to start the sixth and pitched three shutout innings without giving up a hit.
Ortiz dodged trouble in the first and second, but a leadoff double by Gordon Beckham in the third set the table for an RBI double by Andruw Jones and a run-scoring groundout by Alexei Ramirez. The latter was the decisive blow in a 5-1 Dodgers loss before 9,791 at the Ballpark.
The runs were the first given up this spring by Ortiz, who through the second had pitched seven shutout innings. Ramon Ortiz, another veteran trying to claw his way back from baseball's scrap heap, appears to be the front-runner for the fifth spot after pitching the equivalent of a complete-game, five-hit shutout over his first three appearances.
But Monasterios, who has made all of two appearances at any level higher than Class A, has pitched eight shutout innings this spring, giving up a total of two hits. He also pitched a perfect inning against the White Sox in a "B" game a few days before the start of the Cactus League schedule.
However, Monasterios' performance is colored somewhat because all three of his appearances have come late in games when opposing clubs tend to empty their benches. But he has retired some frontline major leaguers, such as Cincinnati's Joey Votto twice last Friday and the White Sox's Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin and Jones on Wednesday.
The other issue with Monasterios is his throwing to first base. He committed his second such error in as many appearances when he appeared to hesitate on a dribbler by Paul Konerko before unleashing a rainbow that shorthopped Doug Mientkiewicz and skipped past him.
"I have seen that twice now," said Torre, who actually has only seen it once because he was in Taiwan the first time it happened. "But I like what I have seen of him on the mound."
Monasterios will turn 24 on Sunday, but his lack of experience undoubtedly would give club officials pause before naming him the fifth starter. However, the beauty of a Rule 5 pick is that while Monasterios has to be on the active roster all season or offered back to Philadelphia, the Dodgers could keep him on the roster as long as he is pitching well and then offer him back if he hits a rough spot.
"The thing about the fifth starter is that whoever it is, what we will want is for that person to just go out and pitch," Torre said. "The other four starters will have to carry most of the load. We don't expect the fifth guy to carry much of that load."
After surgery, Wade to return to camp
Reliever Cory Wade will return to the team's spring training complex on Thursday after undergoing a 55-minute surgical procedure Wednesday in Los Angeles in which team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache cleaned up the bursa and repaired tendon fraying in Wade's right shoulder.
Wade will begin his rehabilitation program but won't throw a baseball for at least a month.
Wade, 26, had a stellar rookie season in 2008, receiving his first callup from the minors in late April and posting a 2.27 ERA in 55 appearances. But he has dealt with shoulder problems pretty much ever since, doing a pair of stints on the disabled list last year.
Wade's ultimate indignity came at season's end when he was activated from the DL for the second time on Aug. 2, but he was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque and didn't receive a September callup.
Wade probably was a longshot to earn a spot in this year's bullpen even before his shoulder issues flared up again. But because he is on the 40-man roster, he will now begin the season on the major league disabled list, meaning he will earn a major league salary at least until he is healthy, activated and sent to the minors.
Robinson optioned; Belisario still not in camp
The Dodgers optioned outfield prospect Trayvon Robinson to minor league camp after the game. They already had reassigned three non-roster players -- pitcher Juan Perez, outfielder Prentice Redman and infield prospect Russell Mitchell -- to the minor league side in the morning. The Dodgers now have 45 players in big league camp, not including reliever Ronald Belisario, who remains stuck in his native Venezuela because of visa issues.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Belisario might be getting close to arriving. The Los Angeles Times reported the DUI charge Belisario received in Pasadena last summer was knocked down last week to a non-alcohol-related, reckless-driving charge and that Belisario had paid a $1,000 fine. That development provided a resolution to what was believed to be the major obstacle to Belisario's receiving clearance to enter the U.S.
Belisario probably would have been a lock for a spot on the opening day roster if he had arrived on time or anywhere close to on time. He now faces long odds of making the club and probably will begin the season in the minors.
Loney hits first spring homer
First baseman James Loney hit his first home run of the spring, a no-doubt shot over the White Sox bullpen in right field, to account for the Dodgers' only run. The blast came off right-hander and notorious Dodgers nemesis Jake Peavy leading off the second inning.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.