Dodgers discover lefty fountain of youth

Scott Rice could be the feel-good story of the spring for the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Here at Through The Fence Baseball, we’ve been encouraged by founder Jamie Shoemaker (aka, The Big Cheese) to branch out and try to increase the breadth of information that we offer you, the readers.

So, in an effort to give TTFB readers more bang for their reading buck, this column is not just about baseball. This column contains “breaking traffic news” that is almost worthy of being mentioned on Good Morning America or the CBS Evening News!

Breaking Traffic Alert: The interstate highways leading out of the state of Florida, especially the ones heading out West to Los Angeles, are about to become more congested than a large man at a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet.

It’s not because of spring break and a bunch of high school and college kids, either. In fact, this traffic conundrum is going to be quite the opposite. All of these cars rushing out of Florida for Los Angeles will be Buicks and Oldsmobiles with passengers with gray (and blue, in some cases!) hair, no hair, and with Bermuda shorts, dark socks and sandals.

Why are all these Florida snowbirds donning their clip-on sunglasses and heading to Los Angeles? Because the Los Angeles Dodgers have discovered the fountain of youth! The Dodgers have unearthed a prized secret that makes washed-up left-handed pitchers young and worthy of roster spots again!

Cases in point are old lefties Scott Rice, Wil Ledezma and John Grabow this spring.

Rice, Ledezma and Grabow are 50-year-old lefties (OK, they’re not quite 50, but they’re not young, either!) who have come out of nowhere to make serious roster cases this spring. Lefties who have half an arm have always been prized commodities in baseball (see Jamie Moyer, Jesse Orosco, John Franco and Darren Oliver), and now it seems like the Dodgers have three more good ones in Rice, Ledezma and Grabow.

The 33-year-old Grabow, the 31-year-old Ledezma and the almost-31-year-old Rice have combined this spring for the Dodgers to allow only one earned run in 15.4 innings and have struck out 16 batters. That’s not bad for a guy no one had ever heard of (Rice) or two who were ready for the unemployment line (Grabow and Ledezma).

Rice and Grabow were both born in Southern California (within about 30 miles of each other!) around the time that disco was still king. Ledezma hails from Venezuela.

You would have to be a cold-hearted snake not to pull for Rice to make the Dodgers. How can you root against a guy who has toiled for 13 years in the minor leagues and has never thrown a big-league pitch?

The 6′-6″ Rice is doing more than standing tall in stature this spring. He is making a serious case for a roster spot. It’s hard not to look at a guy who hasn’t allowed a run and has struck out an average of one hitter per inning.

Grabow is on the opposite end of the major league spectrum from Rice. Over his 10-year career in the big leagues, Grabow has thrown 476 innings and has struck out 400 hitters.

However, Grabow was a player looking for a team after being signed to a minor league contract this winter by the Dodgers. He is a career reliever, with a 24-19 overall record. Grabow did have a stellar season in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning six games and posting a 2.84 ERA in 76 innings.

Since 2004, Grabow is third in the major leagues in appearances by a left-hander with 501, so he has that going for him, which is nice! Ledezma was a man without a team after a 2011 season with the Toronto Blue Jays in which he had a record of 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA. Ledezma’s five-year major league career boasts numbers that are very average – 2-4 career record with a 3.90 ERA.

If the trio keeps posting impressive numbers this spring, though, it will be a good bet that one of these lefties makes the team. Will it be the grizzled veteran Grabow, the forgettable Ledezma or Rice, the Crash Davis career minor-leaguer?

Either way, the fountain of youth that they have discovered with the Dodgers should help them land a spot in the big show somewhere.

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