The Missing Link

Righthander Jon Link hopes to find a home in Dodgers bullpen





LOS ANGELES—Reliever Jon Link has yet to earn his way onto the Dodgers' roster, but already this winter he sent a sign that he would be a good big league teammate.

The 25-year-old righthander, who was acquired in December when Juan Pierre was traded to the White Sox, doesn't have any major league experience, but he will be in the mix for what is shaping up as a talented and deep Dodgers bullpen.

One of the members of that bullpen, Ronald Belisario, can vouch for Link's credentials as a stand-up teammate. Link and Belisario were both pitching for the same Venezuelan League team, Tiburones de La Guaira, when tensions grew during a game this winter.

An 18-year-old Tiburones player was hit by a pitch, and from Link's viewpoint in the bullpen it looked intentional.

"So I come into the game and I'm thinking, 'You know what, I have to protect my teammate. This is a young kid, coming into the game and here he is getting picked on,' " Link said. "I cut one loose at one of their players and the benches cleared."

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Link made it clear that he didn't hit the batter, but managed to get his point across.

More than his desire to protect a teammate, it was Link's 2.95 ERA and seven saves in 21 winter innings that signaled he is about ready to arrive. He had a 3.99 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 21 walks in 56 innings at Triple-A Charlotte last year.

The White Sox didn't give him a call when rosters expanded in September, and just a few months later he was traded. He says he holds no resentment toward his former club.

"I worked all season at it and I guess at the end, I hadn't earned my slot," Link said. "I went home and started to prepare for winter ball. Other than that, I try not to think about what's going on in the front office. To tell you the truth, I try to pitch and try to get outs."

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

• Catcher A.J. Ellis, 29, has hit a combined .318 in Triple-A over the last two seasons and looks ready for a shot at the big leagues, but he remains blocked in Los Angeles by Russell Martin and Brad Ausmus.

• Lefthander Alberto Bastardo has moved his way up the depth chart with improved fastball command. The 25-year old pitched above Class A for the first time in 2009, and in 11 starts went 4-0, 2.77 in Venezuela this winter.