The Dodgers (and Nomar) Are Back Working

VERO BEACH, Florida- Terry Collins looked up as a player wearing number 5 passed him and exclaimed, "Now , this is a moment I've been waiting for after all the times this guy beat up on me."

The player concerned was Nomar Garciaparra, who, of course, heaped indignities upon the Angels when Collins was that team's manager, as well as every other American League club.

Now both are wearing Dodger uniforms as Garciaparra signed as a free agent over the winter. And Collins, who came close to becoming his manager, remains the Dodger director of player development.

It was the first official day of spring training at Dodgertown Thursday with only pitchers and catchers scheduled to report; however, there was a scattering of position players on hand headed by Garciaparra, who forsook a chance to play for Mexico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic in order to get an early start with his new team and to learn a new position.

Nomar is going to be the club's first baseman, a spot he hasn't played previously though he admits he still thinks like a shortstop at present. At this moment, though, he wasn't headed for a practice diamond to drill with the big glove but rather to take batting practice with the catchers.

One of those was Russell Martin, who says he's about to become the latest player to defect from the WBC to concentrate on his training with L.A. Martin had been scheduled to be the catcher for Canada, but, as he puts it, "It's a tough decision but with a new coaching staff I need to be here to hopefully make an impressesion. . You do what you gotta do."

Rusell will be battling to show new manager Grady Little that he's as worthy of consideration as the incumbent, Dioner Navarro. Sandy Alomar, who followed Garciaparra into the batting cage this day, will be the veteran backup so Martin knows he'll be either No. 1 in L.A. or in Las Vegas.

Russell's in good shape- and wearing a goatee much like the man he spent time working out with in Arizona utill now, Eric Gagne. "I caught him a lot and he's awesome," notes Martin of the Dodger once and hopefully future closer, coming back from arm surgery.

Gagne's another who passed up the opportunity to play for Canada but there's some others who are here that may depart to perform for the native land when the World Classic gets going early in March. Yhency Brazeban and Odalis Perez are on the roster of the Dominican team while Jae Seo, another acquired over the winter, is slated to pitch for the Korean entry.

Brazeban as well as rookie Franquelis Osoria were delayed by the inevitable visa problems but the others showed up to meet their new teammamtes with the weather cooperating. It was a sunny day in the 70's with a cold snap obligingly leaving Florida after lingering for a week.

So, Garciaparra, who appears n excellent shape, began stroking line drives. He'll be joined by other position players over the weekend with the first full workout slated for next Tuesday.