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Dodgers' bullpen could lean to the lefties

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There wasn't much competition to begin with and most of it got ironed out early, but the scramble for the Los Angeles Dodgers' final few bullpen spots has turned into the Wild West.

Veterans J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta are locks, presuming they stay healthy. Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicasio, both out of options, seem likely to make it. With Kenley Jansen and Brandon League out with injuries, that leaves three spots for nine pitchers -- three left-handers and six right-handers.

The lefties, David Huff, Adam Liberatore and Paco Rodriguez, are pitching the best, leaving open the possibility that as many as two of the three could make the team.

"They're making it tough," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, "throwing the ball well.

Liberatore, acquired along with Peralta in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays last winter, has pitched eight scoreless innings. Rodriguez has pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings. Huff gives the Dodgers more flexibility since he could make a spot start or two or be the long reliever. He has allowed just two earned runs in 12 innings. He started the Dodgers' 5-4 win Saturday over the Los Angeles Angels, an Erick Aybar home run the only blemish.

Huff apparently feels secure enough in his standing that he can tinker with pitches while being evaluated. He said he threw five straight changeups to Angels designated hitter C.J. Cron, the final one rocketing off the left-field wall. He said he wouldn't have done such a thing in a regular-season game.

"They've seen all spring what I'm doing. I've shown them everything I could possibly show them," Huff said. "They've put me in different situations. I've done pretty well with each one that they put me in, so I think it's just a matter of showing them I'm trying to refine some things."

Rodriguez might have a slight edge over Huff and Liberatore since he has been particularly tough on left-handers in his career, holding them to a .154 average in his major-league career. But president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman apparently liked Liberatore enough to ask for him in the trade that sent hard-throwing prospect Jose Dominguez to Tampa, Friedman's old team.

Liberatore was back home in Pittsburgh and found out about the trade late at night. He was waiting to hear whether the Rays would place him on the 40-man roster or leave him unprotected in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. He got a call from Tampa, but it was to inform him he'd been traded.

"It was pretty crazy, man," Liberatore said. "It was shocking, but exciting. I'm trying not to get too caught up in whether I've got a shot to make this team or not."