*** UPDATE ***
Shawn Estes is done. The Dodgers did themselves a favor by cutting the veteran lefty with a hefty 8.44 ERA in 5 games this spring. He says he can still get people out. Maybe he meant Little League.
With Jason Schmidt not being able to grab a stranglehold on the 5th starter spot, the Dodgers find themselves in the same position they did last year at this time - who to put in that spot. From what I can tell, it's down to 3 guys: James McDonald, Claudio Vargas, and Josh Lindblom.
Now I know what you're thinking, Who's Josh Lindblom? Trust me, I did the same thing. Here's what I found. He was the 2nd round pick by the Dodgers in the 2008 draft after pitching first at Tennessee and then at Purdue. Currently, he's the #4 ranked pitcher in the Dodgers' farm system. He's only pitched in 35 Minor League innings, but that didn't stop him from K'ing 3 in 2 IP against the Royals the other night. Scouts were rightfully impressed.
Even with that, I'd still be surprised if he does get the nod. But as far as making the team? Well, he did pitch at the AA level last year, so a promotion to AAA would make sense.
McDonald came off of 5 lousy relief appearances this spring to pitch 3 flawless innings against the Indians on Saturday. He's pitched 11 1/3 innings in the Bigs late last year, including the postseason, without allowing a run. The 2-time Dodgers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year would seem like a favorite for the job. He's got quality pitcher written all over him.
The last is Claudio Vargas, who is already on his 5th team in 7 seasons. He has a 6.57 ERA this spring, yet guys like Shawn Estes and Eric Milton have been so bad, that's actually considered good. That's pretty sad. Needless to say, I have never little confidence that he could be even a decent pitcher.
My guess is that most fans would like to see McDonald get a crack at this spot. He's definitely got the stuff to get the job done. He's also 24 with only 6 games of experience in the Majors. The Dodgers already have Clayton Kershaw in the rotation, so will they want another young gun in there as well?
I think the team would definitely want a veteran to step up and take the job, but that's just not happening. Because of that, we may be seeing the beginning of the James McDonald era in the starting rotation.