Dodgers reassign 'The Billionaire'
White, along with six other players, sent to Minor Leagues
VIERA, Fla. -- Left-hander Matt White, whose quest to make the Dodgers' pitching staff as a non-roster invitee was overshadowed by revelations of his billion-dollar rock find, was one of seven players demoted Monday morning.
In addition to White, the Dodgers assigned to Minor League camp John Meloan, outfielder Choo Freeman and infielder Tony Abreu, who injured his shoulder Saturday and is out for two to four weeks. Pitchers D.J. Houlton and Eric Stults and outfielder Delwyn Young were optioned.
White said he would accept the assignment and continue pitching in the Minor Leagues, working on a sidearm delivery designed to make him more effective against left-handed hitters. After receiving the news, he toured the clubhouse for a farewell handshake with each teammate and carried his bags over to the Minor League clubhouse.
Although he is neither a top prospect nor an established Major Leaguer, the popular White shot from clubhouse novelty to national celebrity after MLB.com reported that he lucked into a fortune when the land he purchased from an aunt was found loaded with valuable rock. He was the subject of interviews by The New York Times, The Today Show, CNN, AP, CNBC, ABC World News and the television tabloids.
The 29-year-old White pitched well in six exhibition games, allowing one earned run in 7 1/3 innings. But the Dodgers' pitching staff is loaded and Joe Beimel serves as the situational left-handed reliever. Tim Hamulack, Hong-Chih Kuo and Mark Hendrickson are other left-handers still in camp that could wind up in the bullpen ahead of White.
"I knew there was a lot of competition coming in, I'm not naïve, I've been around long enough," said a bitterly disappointed White, who has pitched professionally since 1998 with three Major League stints. "It's always a bad feeling being sent to Minor League camp. I never once felt this was [inevitable]. My only thought was breaking camp and making the team."
White said the media frenzy that resulted from his off-the-field business was head-spinning, but did not distract him from his goal.
"It was crazy for a week, then it settled down," he said. "I had never been through anything like that before; it was completely new for me. I've always been a fly-under-the-radar guy. There's still interest in that, but I don't want to talk about rocks."
His teammates began calling White "The Billionaire" after he told MLB.com that his 50 acres in Massachusetts came with 24 million tons of decorative construction rock on it that sells for $100 a ton.
None of the other cuts were particularly surprising. Stults, who won a big game in an emergency start against the Mets last September, will start for Triple-A Las Vegas after compiling a 5.14 spring ERA, bloated by one bad outing.
"If that's my role," Stults said, "I'm OK with it."
Houlton has a 1.35 ERA, but only 6 2/3 innings despite being a starter all last season at Triple-A, which followed an entire year in the Major Leagues as a Rule 5 Draft pick. He said his agent has already discussed with Dodgers management if a trade to another organization might be a good idea.
Abreu was having a big spring (.394 with three homers and 10 RBIs) until he jammed his shoulder with an awkward head-first slide. He is expected to play second base at Triple-A.
Meloan showed a live arm in his six innings. Young overcame a slow start and was hitting .333, but is blocked in the outfield despite driving in 98 runs at Triple-A in '06. Freeman was hitting only .192.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.