Esteban Loaiza is pitching very well. Yes, I did just say that.
Loaiza had his 4th straight strong outing, giving up only a solo shot in 5 innings and striking out 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Oh ya, the Dodgers still lost 6-4, and Tommy Lasorda probably hates life right about now.
Let's take a look at Loaiza's spring stats:
at Atlanta - 2 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 0 BB, 1 K
at Washington - 2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K
vs. Boston - 3 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 K
vs. St. Louis - 5 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 K
His first outing was the ESPN game against Atlanta, and wow was he awful. And I do mean AWFUL. Since then, he's finally started to pitch like the guy that won 21 games in 2003. The Boston outing was impressive because he had to face guys like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The Cardinals didn't have Albert Pujols in the lineup, and they pretty much suck anyway, but hey, 5 innings of 1 run is still great.
Now the million dollar question is, Will he get the 5th spot in the starting rotation? Coming into the season, it was pretty much his to lose, and after that first appearance, it sure looked like he was trying to do all he could to lose it! All the Dodgers need is someone on the back end of the rotation who can provide some sort of consistency because that didn't happen at all last year. 12 IP, 4 ER, and a 3.00 ERA will most definitely fit the bill.
It's not like this decision will be an easy one for the Dodgers. Chan Ho Park has gone 12 and none, and Hong-Chih Kuo is at 6 and zero. I don't think anyone thought that Park would be pitching this well, but he sure has. The Dodgers are known for reclamation projects, and this could be it. Kuo's intriguing because he'd be the only lefty in the rotation, but injuries just kill him at the worst times (see LaRoche, Andy). It's going to be hard to cut any of them if need be.
Still, my guess is Loaiza based on his past winning experience. And uh... that contract may have something to do with it. Anyway, at least he's stringing together some solid innings. He'll have 2-3 starts left this spring, so he still has more chances to prove his worth.