Dodger Bullpen Runneth Over

The Dodgers will probably break camp with an eleven man pitching staff, and starters Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Odalis Perez as well as relievers Eric Gagne, Danys Baez, and Yhency Brazoban can be considered a lock to make the squad, so a hail storm of baseballs will be flying around in the bullpen during spring training as a gaggle of pitchers battle it out for the final five slots while pitching coach Rick Honeycutt tears his hair out.

Here are at least some of the candidates who will be vying for time on the pitching rubber in March:

Kurt Ainsworth
Joe Beimel
Chad Billingsley
Jonathan Broxton
Lance Carter
Jose Diaz
Tim Hamulack
Joel Hanrahan
D.J. Houlton
Hong-Chih Kuo
Brian Meadows
Greg Miller
Justin Orenduff
Franquelis Osoria
Takashi Saito
Aaron Sele
Jae Seo
Eric Stults
Derek Thompson
Brett Tomko
Kelly Wunsch

First of all, you have to consider Billingsley, Diaz, Hanrahan, Miller and Stults will be just getting a taste of the rarified air of The Show and, with the possible exception of a lights-out spring by Billingsley, all will be sent back to the minor league camp.

Although manager Grady Little has stated he is not locked in to keeping a lefty in the bullpen, it is likely he will make a choice between Hamlak, Carter, Wunch and Kuo. Sources say that the Dodgers are leaning toward Carter going into the spring camp but Kuo's strikeout potential must be considered, making Wunch and Hamlak the odd-men out.

Saito must have a sparkling spring to make the cut and since he is probably going to be a long man-spot starter, it would stand to reason that Houlton would get that call, leaving Saito to cope with the wicked winds of Las Vegas. Osoria could stick with his ground ball propensity, and Broxton may be considered but it might be best for him to hone his control at a lower level.

Tomko and Seo are penciled in as starters but Seo will miss much of the spring in the World Baseball Classic and that could hurt his chances a bit, however after such a great finish in 2005, he will have to pitch himself out of the lineup. Thompson will probably have to demonstrate, at Vegas, that he his healthy.

That leaves Bermiel, Meadows and Sele on the outside looking in at the banquet.

Gagné Feels Fine If you ask catching prospect Russell Martin how Eric Gagne is, he'll reply; "He's throwing great, his fastball is hopping and his changeup is really good."

Gagne reiterated that feeling on Jim Rome's ESPN show recently, then pointed out why he is not going to play in the WBC World Baseball Classic in March.

"Most likely not," Gagne said. "I don't want to rush anything. I want to be healthy for the Dodgers and I feel good right now. I want to be smart about it. I haven't built up yet to the point I need to be to pitch in a ballgame. But next time around, I'll definitely play for Canada."

He's also handing out free advice and has told Martin to skip the WBC for a different reason.

"He told me I have a shot at making the Dodger team, and that if I miss part of spring training it will jeopardize my chances," Martin said.

Martin, 22, was a standout at AA Jacksonville last season and is expected to begin the season in AAA. But he will be given an opportunity to compete with Dioner Navarro and Sandy Alomar Jr. in spring training.

Dodger first baseman Nomar Garciaparra was another who changed his mind and told the Mexican WBC team that he wouldn't play.

"When I was asked, I was excited to represent Mexico," he said. "But with my health history and learning a new position, it just wouldn't be wise."

The Dodgers won't have many players in the 16-team tournament, which will be held March 3-20. The only Dodger pitchers expected to participate are Jae Seo of South Korea and Yhency Brazoban of the Dominican Republic.

Good Buddy, We've Got a Convoy-- Gagne, Garciaparra, Martin, Manager Grady Little, outfielder Kenny Lofton, batting coach Eddie Murray and former Dodger pitcher Bobby Castillo participated in a Dodger publicity caravan that made four stops, visiting Luther Burbank Middle School, Pierce College, Woodland Hills Sunrise Little League and Universal CityWalk.

Former Dodger third baseman Ron Cey joined the group at CityWalk to put his handprints in blue cement on a sidewalk.

Freddy Still Has It-- Fernando Valenzuela, 45, had another solid season in the Mexican Winter League, posting a 4-2 record with a 4.21 earned-run average for Mexicali. Valenzuela, who won 144 games with Los Angeles and is now the color analyst for Dodger Spanish-language radio broadcasts, last pitched in the major leagues in 1997.

But catcher Pat Borders signed a minor league contract recently and hooking them up for an inning or two would give the fans 99 years of experience to enjoy.

In Case You're Interested-- The Anaheim/Los Angeles case is in the jury's hands now, and they will decide if Anaheim can call themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and not violate a contract they had with the city.

It seems to us that the problem is much like when Abraham Lincoln was asked, "If we called a dog's tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?"

His reply: "Still Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

Baseball Banished-- Baseball and softball won't be played at the 2012 London Olympics. Both sports remain on the program for the 2008 Beijing Games, and will be eligible to reapply for readmission to the 2016 games.

At the IOC's annual meeting, neither sport even made it to a vote. It was 46-42 against baseball and 47-43 against softball in the preliminary round.

The two sports become the first removed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

It is obvious that they want only REAL sports in the Olympics, like synchronized swimming.