Alfredo Gonzalez Still Waits for The Call

Every so often there's a player called up to the Dodgers during the regular season who never manages to get in a game, then is returned to the minors. Some do eventually make it into a big league contest with other teams like Ken Huckaby Bruce Ellingsen or Nate Smith. Why, one even made the Hall of Fame -- in basketball that is -- Bill Sharman. But some are just names of the forgotten like Lee Robinson or that other Martinez brother, Jesus.

Alfredo Gonzalez is such a player. On July 11, 2003, he was brought up to the big club. On July 17, he was sent to Las Vegas having only warmed-up but never to pitch in a game that would get his name into the record books as a big leaguer. Since then, he's been trying to make it official.

It hasn't been easy. His first start for Vegas after being sent back down, he threw seven innings in which he allowed only one earned run. His next time out, though, he could go only one inning before he had to come out with a sore shoulder. He's been trying to fight his way back ever since.

But then it never has been easy for the Dominican righthander. You see, his "out" pitch is a change-up. Oh, it's a beauty, make no mistake, but there's been many who wondered where his fast ball was and walked away shaking heads.

It took him three seasons to get out of the Dominican Summer League despite the fact that he was 15-7 over a span that began in 1998 and finished in 2000. He was 8-1, 2.32 that last year and they wanted to release him! Only arguments from some coaches who maintained that while he doesn't throw hard, this guy gets outs saved him.

He survived and when he opened 2002 with a string of relief appearances at Vero Beach in which he allowed only four runs over 20 innings, striking out 18 while walking but two, he attracted positive reviews. Before the year was over, he had made his way to AAA.

The next season brought that no appearances call-up, then the injury to his shoulder. He began battling back last year, starting in the Gulf Coast League. The hitters there leaned on his pitches to the tune of a 5.25 ERA. Still, he went over to Vero Beach for 14 innings, a time in which he seemed to regain his feel for pitching each subsequent outing. He wound up there a creditable 1-0, 3.86.

So far this season, he's been one of the more unheralded members of the Vegas staff but if you'll check out what he's doing, you'll see he's getting those outs once again. He's 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA that for the Vegas staff is almost extraordinarily good.

He's just 25 years old and, no, he'll never burn the ball by batters. Still, he's getting results which some of the more renown flamethrowers on the staff aren't accomplishing.

Maybe some day, at last, he'll get his name in a big league box score.