Buddy Carlyle -- Keeping the Faith

Buddy Carlyle is back in the minor leagues. That's hardly unusual. He's been a professional pitcher for 10 years and, except for a few moments, that's been his usual address. Throughout all that time, though, he's held to the belief that he can help a big league team. The Dodgers have kept the faith with him, he thinks. That's why he's still in the organization.

Buddy made the Dodger roster on opening day when, really, it was far from ordained. He'd signed as a free agent last November after scuffling around in four other organizations along with a two-year stint in Japan. Given his shot as a non-roster invitee in the spring, he impressed, so much so that he was brought up. Since then, though, he's been designated for assignment twice. Each time, he could have opted for free agency but declined, signing a contract with Las Vegas instead.

Ask him why and he replies, "They've given me this chance. I've been with some teams where I wasn't sure if the manager even knew my name. And I don't blame them for sending me down. I wasn't getting the job done."

The name, to be correct, is Earl L. Carlyle, who, when he became a pro was so well-regarded that he was drafted by the Reds in the second round out of Bellevue, Neb., East High. That was in 1996. Two years later, however, he was traded to the Padres who brought him up to the Show. He got into seven games with them in 1999, four the following year, then had his contract sold to Hanshin in Japan. He didn't get back to the bigtime until this year.

After two seasons in the Far East, he returned to this country, signing with the Royals. He then went the free agency route for the first time in 2002, signing with the Yankees, but after one year with them, was a free agent again. The Dodgers had liked what they saw (4-0, 0.72 in AA, 8-5, 4.05 in AAA) and gave him this chance.

He likes the way he 's throwing the ball now. "My fast ball has life although my location has been off," he says. He can point to 31 strikeouts in the 27 innings he's pitched for Vegas to demonstrate the liveliness. The results haven't been nearly enough to get comfortable with 0-2, 7.76.

Numbers are notorious for Vegas pitchers, of course but there's another numbers game that's going on, too. Elmer Dessens has been impressive in his rehab assignments with the 51's and seems about ready to return to L.A. Odalis Perez begins like duty this week, will probably get in a couple of games and, if okay, go back.

Then, there's the fact that both rookies with the big club, D. J. Houlton and Derek Thomson, have been effective in recent starting assignments. So, the people seeking time on the Dodger mound are forming a crowd. It's no time to have shabby figures after your name.

Buddy knows this, of course. He's been through this situation before. So, all he can do is go out, show he has quality pitches and hope that's enough. At age 27, he has some time left. Beating the odds has been the mark of his career and he feels that he can do it again.