UPDATE: Belisario is expected to report to spring training on time after securing his visa, but he won’t be on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster. According to Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, he must serve a 25-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy.
No word on the exact nature of the offense, but Belisario did miss more than a month during the 2010 season in order to receive treatment for a substance-abuse problem.
7:30 PM ET: Ronald Belisario spent the entire 2011 season on the Dodgers’ restricted list after failing to secure a visa in his native Venezuela, but we learned earlier this month that he was working with government officials to get clearance to return to the United States. Those efforts have proved successful.
Rick Oliver, Belisario’s agent, told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times today that his client was granted a visa and is expected to be in camp for the start of spring training.
Belisario, who turns 29 later this month, posted a surprising 2.04 ERA and 64/29 K/BB ratio over 70 2/3 innings as a rookie back in 2009, but he’s dealt with personal issues ever since. He had trouble securing a visa before spring training in 2010 due to a DUI charge and missed two months during the season in order to receive treatment for a substance-abuse problem. He ended up finishing his sophomore campaign with a disappointing 5.04 ERA over 59 appearances.
While it looks like the Dodgers will have another option for their bullpen during spring training, Belisario’s numbers in the Venezuelan Winter League don’t inspire much confidence. He currently has a 4.09 ERA, five saves and an ugly 21/15 K/BB ratio over 22 innings with Bravos de Margarita.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.