Back in Business

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b> -- The Dugout has landed -- in Vero Beach, Florida, that is, and regular reports will continue through the month of March, long with the sparkling minor league reports by Bill Shelley.

Rain has curtailed the workout schedule, with the indoor batting cages being used for both hitting and pitching. Monday dawned bright and warm so the normal schedule has resumed.

There will be no interleague games before the opener on March 2 because of a shortage of pitchers due to minor injuries to Eric Gained, Odalis Perez, Elmer Dessens, Mike Venafro and the rehabilitation of Brad Penny, who is pitching every-other day and doing well.

Edwin Jackson, who was given the number 5 startling slot last season before the spring season started, is completely recovered from the forearm injury suffered during a horrendous 2004 that saw him go 2-1, 7.30 ERA with the Dodgers and post a 5.85 over 19 starts in Las Vegas.

"I'm approaching this spring training the same as last year," said Jackson, now 21 and still the organization's top pitching prospect. "I don't put any extra pressure on myself. I don't look at last year. That's in the past. I'm still the same pitcher, but every year you get more experience and learn from your mistakes."

Jackson is in competition for the fifth spot along with veterans Wilson Alvarez, Kazuhisa Ishii and Scott Erickson. Club officials want Jackson starting every fifth day and will not be added to the L.A. bullpen but move back to Vegas if he misses out on a starting spot.

Left-hander Odalis Perez has been shut down for a couple of days because of biceps soreness that Perez said is the result of too much weightlifting.

"I'll lay off the weights for three more days and then come back to it," Perez said. "This is nothing. I'm not worried about it at all."

Third baseman Noihiro Nakamura has been held up in Japan by visa problems but with the help of Luchy Guerra, Dodger visa guru, finally was allowed to get on a plane and is scheduled to arrive in Vero tomorrow (Tuesday).

Fans are puzzling over identification of players since the front office took the names off the uniforms. Some players suggested that the numbers be larger now that the names are gone but Jayson Werth said that if the names would help him to hit a slider, he would miss it but since it doesn't, he didn't care one way or another.

A new, larger scoreboard is being installed in left field with an added area of messages and statistics. The old board was decked by the hurricanes that battered Vero last falls.