Eckert Making Most of 'Second Time Around'

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b>-- If you're an avid peruser of the Dodgers' spring box scores you might have wondered just who this "Eckert" is who's pitched in a few games. It's understandable that he's not somebody you might immediately recognize for he arrived just before the clubs broke for home after spring training 2004 in a rather obscure trade.

Actually, this is the second time around for Harold Eckert as far as the Dodgers are concerned although the first time was only a technicality. That's because back in 1999 while pitching his final game for Florida International University he blew out his elbow, something unknown to the Dodgers who chose him in the June draft.

That Eckert undertook himself, finally getting back into pitching shape late in 2000 when he attended a showcase. The Mets liked what they saw there and signed him. Thus he finally began his pro career in 2001. Two years later he did quite well 7-3, 2.93 for St. Lucie in the Florida State League. Well enough that the Dodgers reacquired him on March 28 last year for infielders Michael Collins and David Detienne.

Placed at Jacksonville, it took him only three games to rise to Las Vegas for he was 2-0, 2.65. At Vegas the rest of the way, he went 4-3 but with a 6.35 ERA that indicates that all was not pleasant. "I'd have to agree with those that say the park there and the league generally aren't very kind to pitchers," he allows.

Now 27, the 6-3, 220-pound righthander has fared so well this spring, however, that the Dodgers took him for a cursory appearance against his old mates, the Mets. He did well enough to earn two encore performances since.

Eckert's approach to pitching is what he terms, "The reverse method" for he uses his fast ball to set up his other pitches. He doesn't overpower people with an average heater but possesses good breaking pitches and now is "Throwing a splitter sometimes, not often but I've had success with it so far so am working to use it more."

Thus, he's a location, ground-ball type, one who feels that it's rather his destiny to be back with L.A., a nice touch for a kid from New Jersey. He knows he's not making the team now, numbers being what they are, but will gladly adopt the role of going back to Vegas where he hopes to get the call before the season is over.

He's overcome a large obstacle already because a lot of guys would have gone into some other line of work after that injury cost him his first shot. He intends to make the most of this one.