No guarantees, or gripes, for Capuano, Harang
Despite impressing in 2012, veterans part of competition for Dodgers' rotation
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers, back when money was more of an issue, signed free-agent starting pitchers Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang because their combined salary was less than it would have cost to retain right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.
That was a year ago, and the pair did exactly what was asked. They combined to win 22 games with a 3.67 ERA and pitch 378 innings last year while Kuroda won 16 games with a 3.32 ERA across 219 2/3 innings for the Yankees.
But now, money doesn't seem to matter. The Dodgers have added $200 million of upgrades in 29-year-old righty Zack Greinke and 25-year-old Hyun-Jin Ryu, relegating Harang and Capuano to long shots to retain their roles as starters in the Dodgers' rotation.
On Tuesday, Capuano said he wants to be "part of something special," not even ruling out a bullpen role just to stay on a talent-laden team, now that he's learned lessons about relieving as a teammate of Trevor Hoffman in Milwaukee.
Capuano said he hasn't asked for a trade, and he indicated that he doesn't intend to do so. But he knows the Dodgers have eight starting pitchers and five starting spots. Having been a Phi Beta Kappa at Duke, he can do the math.
"Not really," Capuano said of wanting a trade. "I know the number of guys we have. I think it's good for the organization. You can never have enough pitching. I've never minded competition. If you earn it, you'll get a shot."
Capuano, 34, is in the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $10 million deal that includes a mutual option for 2014.
Harang, 34, said he hasn't asked for a trade, but he watched the spending spree -- which included the acquisition of 32-year-old starter Josh Beckett last summer -- with confusion over his future role.
"I started wondering about a trade a lot, but I just told myself I can't dwell on that," Harang said on Wednesday.
"I just have to get ready for the season like I normally do, whether I'm here and starting or in whatever role they put me in, or if I'm somewhere else. I still have to be ready to make 30 starts. I can't think about the other stuff. I have to focus on what I have to do."
Harang said he hasn't "really thought much" about accepting a bullpen role, and that he's preparing this spring to be a starter.
While competition with seven other starting pitchers isn't what he signed up for when he agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with two option years, Harang said he can't complain about the changes that have occurred under new ownership.
"Obviously, the team is different than when I signed," Harang said. "Before I signed, they told me they wanted to put together a team that had a chance to win on a limited budget. Now, they've bolstered the staff with a couple of big arms and I feel, just on paper, we're definitely a better club."
Harang and Capuano finished the season healthy. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly did not, with the former locked into this year's starting rotation if his right elbow is sound and the latter joining the competition with Harang and Capuano only if when he shows he's all the way back from left shoulder surgery.
Having had too few starting pitchers in recent years, Dodgers management likes its current spot of having too many -- something the late executive Al Campanis would have called "a happy dilemma."
Capuano had his first bullpen session on Wednesday, and so did Billingsley, who was met immediately by manager Don Mattingly with some cautionary words.
"Bills is pretty quiet and closed off and doesn't always share [information] with us, and I just want to make sure that if he feels stuff, he's got to let us know," said Mattingly, indicating just how concerned the club is about Billingsley's arm.
"You're always on pins and needles. Right now, there are no restrictions. If you didn't know what happened last year, you'd think this would be a normal spring. We just want him to be up front and honest with us right away."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.