MLB news roundup: Paul Maholm could pitch in relief for Dodgers

Kevin C. Cox

Maholm will compete for the role of fifth starter with Josh Beckett, among others.

The Los Angeles Dodgers gave free agent starting pitcher Paul Maholm an incentive-laden one-year contract on Saturday, but that doesn't mean that the right-hander is guaranteed a spot in the rotation, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Zack GreinkeHyun-jin Ryu and Dan Haren locked into the first four spots in their rotation. That leaves one more spot for Maholm, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley; the latter two had major surgeries in 2013. Gurnick reports that if Beckett is healthy and earns the job, then Maholm is aware that he could be bumped to the bullpen. Of course, pitchers get hurt at unpredictable rates and Beckett has battled through injuries throughout his career -- he's thrown at least 200 innings only three times and hasn't done so since 2009 -- so the presence of Maholm will provide valuable depth even if he does begin the season in relief. The 31-year-old, who posted a 4.41 ERA in 26 starts for the Braves last year, has made only one relief appearance in his career (in 2012, for the Cubs).

Red Sox rumblings

The Boston Red Sox don't expect anything to happen between them and Stephen Drew before the start of spring training, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.

Drew was Boston's starting shortstop last season, but he has had trouble finding a suitor this winter due in part to the draft pick compensation attached to his sticker price. The New York Mets have been the team most often attached to Drew, and indeed they have made an offer to the veteran infielder. However, a return to Boston hasn't been ruled out despite the fact that top shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts is ready to contribute.

While the team is taking a slow approach with Drew, it is actively interested in adding another reliever, reports Bowden. The bullpen has maintained a strong core of Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller and Brandon Workman from its 2013 world champion squad, and general manager Ben Cherington added Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica to the mix during the offseason. Still, the Red Sox are likely interested in adding more depth to the equation to prepare for the inevitable pitfalls of a long season.

Yoon still up for grabs

South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon is still available, and he has not yet settled on a major league team, says Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. According to Cafardo, "it could be anybody."

While the 27-year-old right-hander is still up for grabs, Cafardo notes that the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays have all made bids and that the Diamondbacks are in the mix. Yoon is arguably the top pitcher left on the market, and, with concerns about his elbow waning, he is becoming a hot commodity.

A return for Damon?

Outfielder Johnny Damon is interested in returning to the majors as a player or manager, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

Damon was last seen playing for Team Thailand in the qualifying rounds of the 2013 World Baseball Classic and did not appear in the majors last year. He played 64 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2012, but batted .222/.281/.329 with only four home runs and four stolen bases. During his 18-year career, the 40-year-old hit .284/.352/.433 with 235 home runs while swiping 408 bases. He also won a pair of World Series rings, one with the Red Sox and one with the Yankees. According to Topkin's report, Damon is only interested in returning to baseball if he can get a job in the majors.

Another former major leaguer who is eyeing a comeback is pitcher Nate Robertson, via Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. The 36-year-old left-hander last appeared in 2010, but his career included a start for the Tigers in the 2006 World Series. Robertson posted a 5.01 ERA in 223 games (187 starts) during his nine-year career, mostly for Detroit. His best numbers came during that 2006 season, in which he went 13-13 with a 3.84 ERA in 208⅔ innings.

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