Not Quite a Second-hand Rose

When the Dodgers traded for Jason Phillips late in spring training, it was decided that David Ross' services were not only not required in Los Angeles but they weren't needed in Las Vegas, either. Oh, he had options and could have been sent down but what was the point?

They hadn't worked so hard to get Dioner Navarro to have him sit around. Certainly, he was going to be the everyday catcher for the No. 1 farm team. Since, they had Mike Rose available as well, he was more than qualified to be the backup there. So, Ross was peddled to Pittsburgh for $ 75,000, not even pocket change in the high finance world of baseball (and proceeded to hit three home runs in one week for the Pirates.)

So, now, Navarro is the Vegas catcher and Rose is his backup. Or is that the case ? So far the 51's have played 16 games. Navarro's been in 12. Okay, but Rose has played in all 16. What's going on here ?

Ever since Navarro was acquired, some have questioned whether he should have been anointed the catching heir apparent without a trial run. The reason is his hitting for those who doubt him point out that he's hardly proved himself in that area. Last season, he was batting .271 for Double A Trenton when he was promoted to Triple A Columbus where he slumped to .250.

As of the latest count, he's batting .243 for Vegas. But Rose is hitting .295. In the power department, Navarro has socked two home runs, no doubles or triples. Rose has only one homer but five doubles and no triples.

It shouldn't be too surprising that Rose is capable of this. After all, he's a 28-year-old who has 10 years of service, all in the minors with the exception of two unsuccessful at-bats for the A's last season. He's averaged .267 over those years while acquiring the reputation of a solid-enough receiver.

In 2004 for Sacramento, he had a very good year (.281-6-49). Not his best -- that would be 2000 at El Paso (.284-10-62). However, people tend to discount El Paso figures for that has long been noted as a hitter's paradise.

In all, while Navarro hasn't been exactly stirring hearts with his prowess, se has been doing well enough to get called upon often. The way manager Jerry Royster has been solving the matter is to use one as a catcher, the other often as a designated hitter. It seems to be working.

The other day, Navarro had his biggest moments yet -- as a D.H., going 4-for-4. The next day, not surprisingly, he was back behind the plate, only to go 0-for-4. Sunday, Navarro was catching again and again, going hitless. Rose, the D. H., smacked a pair of doubles.

In all, it's far too early to declare Navarro a disappointment. At the same time, it's clear why Rose ( who's not related to Pete, by the way) was signed as a free agent last winter. He's been a valuable hand to have around.