Dodger Catcher May Have to Move On

Edwin Bellorin has climbed over obstacles that were in his career path before. There was a language barrier, there were injuries and a batting deficiency. In 2005, however, he's come across two roadblocks that he really has no control over. So, he faces a decision about how much longer he'll remain in the Dodger organization.

You see, Bellorin is a catcher -- one with more than sufficient skills to be rated as a prospect. This, though, was the year of not only Dioner Navarro but also Russell Martin and both are clearly rated above him. And since he has just completed his seventh year in the minors, Bellorin has the right to become a free agent. Will he do it?

"I might," he admits. "First I want to talk to the Dodgers and see what plans they have for me. Maybe, I'll stay but I might have to go somewhere else."

Los Angeles could solve the dilemma by promoting Edwin to the 40-man roster sometime before November. However, there are only so many slots available and it's rather doubtful that they have the luxury of using one on a third young catcher with so many others needing to be protected.

Certainly this past season saw his fortunes take a trip in reverse. He had finished a solid year in 2004 when it became apparent that there was no room at the top for Navarro had been obtained in a trade and Martin had clearly earned a promotion to Jacksonville with his breakout year in Vero Beach. Since, Dioner was termed not quite ready, he was sent to Las Vegas. So, there simply didn't appear to be room for Bellorin, good season or no.

Some thought was given to making him a backup in AA; however, he was still regarded highly enough that they wanted him playing every day. The conclusion was that he was sent back to Vero, a place he thought he had played his way out of. The decision didn't make him happy, naturally, but he went -- and played solidly.

It was, of course, a comedown from the early days when his opportunities to succeed seemed almost radiant. When he signed as a 16-year-old out of his native Venezuela in the fall of 1998, he had shown such advanced skills that he was brought right to the U.S. the following spring. There he was truly impressive in both catching and throwing. However, there was the language problem.

At that time, Edwin spoke no English and a catcher who can't communicate is a huge hindrance. So, it was decided to send him back to the Dominican League to learn a second language as well as polish his on-field abilities. He did well but injuries kept him back so he spent the next year rehabbing and playing some in the Summer League back home in 2000.

Healthy again, he moved over here to the Gulf Coast League in 2001, then up to South Georgia in 2002, hit .280 and moved forward again. Then another problem for he was held to a .245 mark at Vero in 2003 so despite being selected by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the system, he had to solve his hitting woes.

That he did by opening up his stance. With his left leg pulled back, he saw the ball better and profited with a .281 mark at Jacksonville. No, he didn't provide much power -- only one home run, in fact. Still, here was a guy with acknowledged defensive prowess at a position when such ability is paramount. Surely, he felt ready to climb to AAA.

Instead, as noted, Navarro came in, Martin shot by and he was back in high A. He handled himself well there, providing his usual skillful receiving while hitting a more than respectable .273 with three home runs. In a lot of organizations he would be touted but a lot of organizations don't have two even more gifted men at the position as the Dodgers do.

He's 23 now, still a young man at this game. He's comfortable in the U.S (engaged to a girl from Jacksonville) and in the Dodger organization. It would be tough to leave. Still, Edwin knows that in this business, you often have to move over to move up. He's prepared to do that if necessary. He's put in seven years and he doesn't plan to miss his chance wherever that may be.