Tatis released after failing to report to minors

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Wednesday that 22-year-old right-hander Chad Billingsley, a candidate for the team's fifth starting spot, will instead be used as a middle reliever to begin the season.

"I talked to Chad yesterday and let him know what we had in plan for him this year, and that's to work in the middle part of our bullpen," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "The bottom line is, it's the best thing for him right now in his development."

Billingsley had been competing with Mark Hendrickson, Hong-Chih Kuo and Brett Tomko for the final spot in the rotation, behind Derek Lowe, Jason Schmidt, Brad Penny and Randy Wolf.

Billingsley began last season at Triple-A Las Vegas and after being called up June 13, he went 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 16 starts and two relief appearances.

"His initial reaction was that he was glad to be on the team," Little said. "As of today, March 14th, he's on the team, but anything can happen."

Little said the club still considers Billingsley a future starter, but that his immediate benefit would be in relief.

"We still feel like he's going to be a great starter in the big leagues, but we feel he's still got some learning to do," Little said. "He'll learn a lot in this role for us, and before you know it, he'll be going seven or eight innings in the big leagues."

The Dodgers also released third baseman Fernando Tatis -- three days after he failed to report to their minor league camp.

The Dodgers reassigned Tatis on Sunday in the club's first round of roster cuts. General manager Ned Colletti was low-key regarding the announcement of Tatis' absence from camp.

"We released Tatis because we released him. That's all I want to say about that right now," Colletti said Wednesday.

The 32-year-old Tatis, a non-roster invitee to camp, hit just .158 this spring training, going 3-for-19 in 10 games. He played in 28 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season, hitting .250 with two homers and eight RBIs.

Tatis is the only player in big league history to hit two grand slams in the same inning, accomplishing the feat while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on April 23, 1999 when he homered twice with the bases loaded against Chan Ho Park.