A Look at the Gulf Coast Dodger Staff

To some perhaps the Gulf Coast League seems to be an afterthought. Certainly, it would appear that way to Major League Baseball which is doing its best to eliminate it along with its Arizona counterpart.

The Dodgers though have reaped some helpful players from the rookie circuit in the four previous years that it's been back in the league and seem certain to do so again. A lot of players in it don't suffer from a lack of ability. Inconsistency ? Oh, my, yes. When it comes to pitching that's where George Culver comes in.

George is a former major leaguer who artfully blends professionalism and patience to bring his charges along. His top two performers this year -- starter Ramon Paredes and closer Miguel Ramirez -- have been whisked away to bolster Ogden for the playoffs. Here in the GCL, the Mets having clinched the division, the Dodgers are fighting with the Marlins and Nationals for second place.

Here's George's take on his charges starting with the two he just sent up:

Paredes, lhp-- "He's had an outstanding year. He's a control guy with three good pitches. He pitched well at the start, then learned and got better."

Ramirez, rhp-- "He's got a good arm. He had trouble last year but came back and made lots of strides. Hie throws his slider better. He had 42 strikeouts and only four walks. With a better team, he'd probably had led the league in saves."

Arismendy Castillo, rhp-- "He has made a lot of progress. He hits 96 on the gun, his breaking ball has improved and he throws a lot more strikes."

Chales Dasni, rhp-- "Charlie will be the first to tell you he's been disappointed. He throws great in the bullpen but it doesn't carry over to the game. He walks too many, then makes bad pitches. At times, we've seen flashes of what he could be."

Wilfredo Diaz, rhp-- "He's very, very competitive. He has great mound presence."

Juan Flores, lhp-- "He had as good year in the Dominican last season. When he keeps the ball low, he's in control because he doesn't throw the ball by people."

Kale Garrison, rhp-- "He just returned from rehab, has made three starts and is doing fine. I've seen improvement every time he's gone out there."

Kalen Gearhart, rhp-- "He's done the same as he did last year in that he's picked up late. His breaking ball is much better. He throws strikes and has had an outstanding month."

Jon Haldis, rhp-- "He's been a big surprise. He's an undrafted kid who doesn't knock your socks off but he throws strikes. He 's a tremendous athlete, a high school quarterback who'll get even bigger and stronger."

Chris Hobdy, rhp-- "He's been hurt so it's hard to tell. He has a good attitude."

Steve Johnson, rhp-- "I like him. He has outstanding mound presence. He has good knowledge and has shown a good arm. All he needs is experience."

Joe Norrito, rhp-- "His velocity has picked up since he's come back from rehab. He has control, goes right after hitters and is very competitive."

Gary Paris-Sosa, lhp-- "He's shown what he can do from time to time. He tries to be too perfect. He'll have a good outing followed by a bad one."

Edward Quintana, rhp-- "He's had control problems. He hasn't been able to take advantage of his arm because he's had some bad location on his pitches."

Miguel Sanfler, lhp-- "He hits 96 and he's got to have one of the top left arms in the organization. He reminds me of Vida Blue. It's just a matter of finding himself. If he does, he can be a set-up man in the majors."

Josh Wall, rhp-- "He's been hurt but he's shown why he was a high (2nd round) draft pick. He has an outstanding arm and a good head on his shoulders. He's just a good baseball player."

Howar Zuleta, rhp-- "He 's had arm problems so he hasn't been able to help us." (It should be pointed out that Zuleta was both a reliable starter and closer here last year.)