After an offseason of speculation, Esteban Loaiza has emerged as the winner of the 5th starter battle. The decision was made by Joe Torre before Friday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox.
Chan Ho Park had been the other main candidate, mainly because he pitched really well this spring with a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings. Since he did sign a minor league deal, he could be send to Triple-A Las Vegas to get his regular starts in, or stay on the big club as a long reliever. I haven't seen anything to make me believe that he'll be cut altogether, so that's a tremendous compliment to just how effectively he has pitched.
Loaiza will start tonight against the Red Sox in his final Spring tuneup. His first official start will be on the road in Arizona on March 8. He has 3 other starts scheduled, though they were not made clear against whom they will be. My best guess is that his next start will be at home against Pittsburgh (March 14-16), then possibly in either Atlanta or Cincinnati (March 20-22), and home vs. Arizona or San Diego (March 23-27). Again, those are just educated guesses on my part. With off days, the rotation can be juggled at any time.
With Hong-Chih Kuo looking like a long reliever, I would think Park would be sent to Triple-A for the time being. Keep in mind that Loaiza has only 1 win in 5 career starts for the Dodgers, and those other 4 starts were all horrible. So, it's not impossible to think that this could flop, but let's hope not.