Down on the Dodger Farm June 20

Encouraging for one, discouraging for the other two but, whatever the reaction, fourth place is where the three Dodger farm teams that finished the first half Sunday landed.

Vero Beach didn't have to be too unhappy about its placing since it had to improve quite a bit to make it that far. Jacksonvile and Columbus, though, had been on the top of the heap during part of the time only to flounder at the end.

There were a couple of encouraging signs for the Jacksonville Suns, though, in their finale -- the pitching of Ryan Ketchner and the hitting of James Loney, two players they very much need to come through for any second half hopes.

Ketchner (4-2) returned from a long spell on the disabled list caused by a strained oblique muscle and was in command as he allowed only three hits and a single run in his five innings. Loney, who's been struggling to recover from a broken finger, ripped his third homer, a three-run shot off the top of the wall at the Baseball Grounds to climax a seven-run second inning burst that carried the Suns past first-half champ Tennessee, 8-4.

Loney also had a double while Brennan King, Derek Michaelis, Nelson Castro and Ketchner himself banged out two hits apiece. The 14-hit attack enabled the Suns, who had started the season winning their first seven games, to finish at 35-34 in the Southern League East.


Vero Beach 7, Daytona 0 . The Dodgers also knocked off the first half winners as Chad Billingsley threw six innings in which he gave up only three hits and two walks while striking out seven to even his record at 4-4. Joel Guzman stretched his hitting streak to 16 games with a pair of RBI doubles. Vero wound up the half with a 36-34 record in the Florida State East.

Savannah 15, Columbus 6 (1st)--After a splendid start by Brandon Weeden (five innings, two hits, one run), the Catfish staff utterly collapsed. Chad Bailey (0-2) took one for the team with nine runs pouring across in his two-thirds of an inning. Matt Kemp drove in three runs with a double and single while Chin-Lung Hu slapped three hits.

Savannah 2, Columbus 0 (2nd)--In this one the Fish managed only singles by Luis Jimenez and Jimmy Rohan so another excellent pitching performance was in vain. Julio Pimentel (7-5) held the Sand Gnats to five hits and one run while striking out nine in five innings. The twin losses left Columbus with a 38-32 record.

Edmonton 5, Las Vegas 4--Rick Bell pounded a pair of doubles and Nick Theodorou drove in three runs. Mark Johnson (2-5) was the loser, yielding all five runs in six innings. Sadly, they don't split the season in the Pacific Coast League where Vegas is 13 out in the Southern Division.

Idaho Falls 16, Ogden 10--For the second day, the Raptors built a big lead only to see the pitching collapse. They held a 7-3 advantage before the Chukars went to work against Jordan Pratt and Wesley Wright. Wright was assaulted for six runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Luis Castillo hit his first homer for Ogden, now 1-2 in the Pioneer League.

Gulf Coast--The Dodgers open the season today at St. Lucie versus the Mets who are returning to the league after a two-year absence. Luis Salazar is managing the Dodgers for third year with George Culver as his pitching coach and Brian Traxler the hitting instructor. Righthander Javy Guerra (fourth round) is the most notable draftee assigned here.