Donovan Proving That Stealing Pays

When they sorted out the minor leaguers for assignments to various teams at the end of spring training, one factor was apparent to the Dodger hierarchy. While they were piling up potential in most every phase of the game, one item was missing-speed. The jet set that once proliferated the system was no more. The first move they made to correct that may well have been the best -- they traded with the Padres for outfielder Todd Donovan.

Although Donovan was a proven fast mover on the field with the stolen base credentials to show for it, he wasn't going anywhere in the Padre system. In 2004 with Mobile, their affiliate in the Southern League, he had hit .299 and stolen 20 bases. But this, mind you, was in just 52 games And Padre officials told Todd to be prepared for another season on the bench.

Not surprisingly he wanted out so a deal was worked that sent utility infielder Brett Dowdy to Mobile for Donovan who came over to be immediately inserted into the Jacksonville lineup as a leadoff man. He certainly knew what his job was. "I'm going to run every chance I get," he declared. "If I get thrown out 90 times, I'll still be running."

An attitude the Dodgers encouraged him in, of course. So far, he's been motoring along like Jeff Gordon and, no, nobody's thrown him out all that often, either even though everybody in the ball park knows what's liable to happen when he gets to first. For Todd not only leads the Suns in steals, he leads the organization and is tied for the best record in all the minors.

He currently has swiped 49 while being caught only nine times with Jacksonville. Add to that the three he pilfered while on a short stay with Las Vegas and his total is 52. That ties him with Alex Requena, who's in the South Atlantic League, for the minor league lead and there's a bit of irony in that for Requena was a Dodger farmhand the past couple of seasons -- led the organization with 50 steals in 2004, in fact -- but was released because of his paltry hitting.

It should be noted that Donovan is doing pretty good work with a bat as well. He's currently batting .280 with eight home runs and eight triples. Or just exactly what the Dodgers wanted when they traded for him.

So far, this season has been his best yet. He's a career .265 hitter while his previous stolen base high was 40 with Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League in 1999. That was his rookie season after being drafted in the eighth round out of Siena College.

"He knows how to play the game," compliments Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker. Does he do it well enough to ever make it to the top rung? Well, he's about to celebrate his 27th birthday Aug. 12 so time isn't exactly on his side. Still, the Dodgers were proved right -- if you need a guy who can run a lot -- send for Todd Donovan. They did and it's been a great move.