Little Man, Big Stuff

Mike Brito is actually Cuban but he's been scouting Mexico for so long, most people believe he's a native of that country. He's certainly down there, doing his thing enough.

So he was one day in 2001 at an international tournament when he started watching this kid who looked small enough to be a jockey just turning the opposition away. One strikeout followed another until the kid walked off with 21 K's for a day's work. Mike would have met him, contract in hand, except for one major problem. The kid was actually pitching for a Venezuelan team and that's not Mike's territory.

It is, however, the land that Camilo Pascual scouts and so Mike rushed to the phone, called L.A., and excitedly told them to relay the message to Camilo to get on this prospect. The message was forwarded to Camilo, who laughed when he received it. "Tell Mike I not only know about him, I signed him before he left for the tournament." And so Carlos Alvarez became a Dodger.

He started in 2002, thus this is his fourth year in the organization. He's spent all that time in the lower minors but when you see him perform and look at the results, you wonder why it's taking so long for him to be recognized. The answer, as much as anything, lies in his stature -- or lack of it for he's only 5-9, 160.

Then you watch him throw. A fast ball that touches 93-94. No way, some would say, could somebody that size throw that hard. But he does with regularity, right now for Columbus. Like Thursday when he came in for 2.2 innings, whiffed seven including five in a row. That means he's K'd 52 in 32.1 innings so far.

An aberration, maybe? Hardly. In his rookie season, playing in the Dominican Summer League, he had 55 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. The next year in the Gulf Coast League, he K'ed 26 in the same number of innings. Last year, he threw 52 innings split between Columbus and Ogden, notching 70 more. His secondary pitches complement that heater very well.

Oh, but strikeouts are one of the most overrated items in the game, you may contend. Quite possibly but consider that his current ERA is 0.57, easily the organization's best and batters who are trying to hit him are only averaging a paltry .171 for the attempt. You get the idea that this kid can pitch.

Is the secret of his success that he practices on flat ground before every game, which forces him to throw harder? Some think so. Whatever, the notion in Columbus is that he's not long for this league -- that Vero Beach might be his next address before too much time passes.

Here he is in his fourth year as a pro and yet he only turned 20 on March 31. He hasn't been a starter since that initial season, doing his thing as a set-up man. That may change if he keeps up at this impressive rate. In a very real way he's following the path that Franquelis Osoria did and, you'll note that he's just been called up to the big show.

Carlos is a long way from that stature, of course. It would seem, though, that every time he takes the mound, this little guy grows larger in Dodger estimation.