Much Going on Behind the Scene in Dodgertown

Although only the pitchers and catchers, plus players rehabbing from injuries, are working out at Dodgertown, it is apparent that Grady Little will get the competition he wants during the spring training period. He feels that players fighting for a slot on the roster gives the coaching staff a better feel of how the team will be composed. And if the first few days are any indiction, there should be some surprises when the team flys out late in March to play the Mariners in Las Vegas.

Many envision spring training as players working out slowly in the warm sun and then playing four or five innings in every-other exhibition game to get into shape. While part of that is correct, there are games within the games going on all over the complex that will determine the final 25 who will open the 2006 season in Los Angeles.

The Battle is On-- Ken Gurnick of MLB.com pointed out "watching Rafael Furcal and Cesar Izturis go through their first day of workouts, it was hard to tell which one will start the season on the disabled list and which one won't."

Furcal was favoring his right knee that had undergone "minor" surgery a month ago and Izturis is recovering from a T.J. operation last year.

Furcal was favoring his knee and could only catch throws during pitchers' fielding practice. He was unable hit, field grounders, run or throw.

Izturis, on the other hand, is taking full batting practice sessions and was fielding ground balls after throwing from 40 feet.

Manager Grady Little met with Izturis before Friday's practice and pointed out to Izturis that a lot can happen between now and the first part of the season.

Jayson Werth was a lock for the left field position last spring and was nailed on the wrist by a fastball on his second time at bat. While he finally returned to action, he was never really healthy and after slugging 16 homers in 2004 while playing a half season, he finished '05 .234/7/43.

Penny Revalued-- Brad Penny, who started the 2005 season is second gear because of a nerve injury after being acquired in a 2004 trade with Florida. He ended up opened 2005 on the disabled list and didn't make his debut until April 24. But in the third day of came this year he threw a 35-pitch bullpen and announced himself 100 percent. The loss of some 20 pounds seemed to have helped him and he said, "Last year at this time, I could hardly throw at all. It's a huge difference." Other bullpen sessions were Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko, Jae Seo, Aaron Sele, Brian Meadows, Joe Beimel, Takashi Saito, Eric Stults, Greg Miller and Jose Diaz.

Jumbo Jumpin'-- The Dodger brass has been impressed by Jose "Jumbo" Diaz who is listed at 6-foot-4 and an optimistic 230 pounds. But the kid -- he's only 21 -- boosted the gun to 100 while being limited to 17.2 innings last year after coming off Tommy John surgery. Little is not bothered by his size, however, and said "The ball comes out of his hand awfully easy. I'm not making any judgments on the guy. We'll give him some guidelines. The man upstairs blessed him with a bad body. The Cy Young winner in the American League (Bartolo Colon) doesn't look so good on the beach in California, but he does a great job facing hitters. That's the No. 1 thing we're looking for. We're not running any modeling contest in hotel lobbies. We want to know if he can get people out. It's hard to put a timetable on a guy who throws 100 mph."

It must be spring: Some feel that the first Robin heralds the coming of spring but Dodger fans know that when lefthander Derek Thompson undergoes elbow surgery, summer can't be far off. The star-crossed Thompson had scar tissue removed from his elbow, a common side effect to the Tommy John reconstruction he had last July 29. Thompson, 25, was acquired by the Dodgers in a Rule 5 draft trade three years ago and has underwent three operations on his pitching elbow to go with the multiple surgeries he had previously on his left knee, which contains cadaver cartilage. In between trips to the OR he has pitched very well, recording a 3.50 ERA last year with the Dodgers over three appearances and recording a 1-2, 3.43 record at Las Vegas, second on the staff of those who started three or more games.

M*A*S*H* Prescription-- Owner Frank McCourt, in an attempt to cut down on the epidemic of injuries that devastated the 2005 season, has signed a contract with the Athletes Performance Institute which focuses on all aspects of an athlete's physical preparation, including nutrition, strength and conditioning. The firm has eight people working with the club in spring training and will be back for the start of minor-league camp early next month. The recent resignation of longtime Dodgers physical therapist Pat Screnar is believed to have resulted at least in part from the club's affiliation with API, but the organization is actually geared to the minor league players, where the Dodgers are deep in talent and who will be more receptive to suggested changes in their eating and training habits. "We have asked API to provide extra resources and support to our permanent trainers, our medical staff and our players," Dodgers spokesperson Camille Johnston said. "API will focus on conditioning, strength training and nutrition, and we hope this additional investment will help our players improve their performance and decrease the risk of injury." Dodgers players combined to miss 1,177 games while on the disabled list last season.

Dealer's Choi-- First baseman Hee-Seop Choi is uncertain of his role on the 2006 squad and said he will play in the World Baseball Classic and in spring training and see what happens. Signed for one-year at $725,000, he is perhaps an insurance policy in case the Garciaparra, 1B experiment does not work out. Choi hit 15 home runs last year, but seven of them came in a four-game stretch in June. With Izturis healing quickly, making a shift of Kent to first a possibility and James Loney just waiting in the wings at Las Vegas, the club has a number of 'Plan B' moves available in case Nomar falters.

Viva Visas-- Pitcher Franquelis Osoria arrived in camp an took his physical. Yhency Brazoban was in Los Angeles a week before the Feb. 15 reporting date, and thought he would go directly to Dodgertown from there. But because Brazoban was on a visitor's he had to return to the Dominican Republic and apply for a P-1 visa, which is required for athletes from other countries to work in the U.S.

Quote of the Day-- "It's a pretty impressive place. What's most impressive is walking along the halls and looking at the pictures of all the history they have here. There's a lot of stuff happened on these grounds. Now here we are trying to make some more history." -- New Dodgers manager Grady Little on the Dodgertown spring training complex.

By the Numbers- Those of you who are keeping score at home, make the following uniform number changes: Garciaparra 5, Choi 18, Ledee 21, Murray 33, Navarro 30, Aybar 49, Ross 54.

Erickson Reborn?-- Ex-Dodger Scott Erickson, signed a minor league contract with the Yankees and an invitation to Spring Training. Before you scoff, consider that he has worked hard over the off-season and has boosted his velocity from 88-91 to 91-94. The veteran had a strong spring training last year and made the starting rotation before destructing and finishing the season at Las Vegas after posting a 1-4, 6.02 record. However he had a 3.24 ERA in 11 relief games.

Bad, Scott, Bad-- The 'Dodger Math' website took a poke at Scott Boras for his handling of Jeff Weaver's free agency. They wrote,

"Jeff Weaver finally found a home, and will be leaving Los Angeles for, well, Los Angeles, signing a one year, $8,325,000 deal with the Angels. While it's hard to be known as a "Scott Boras fan", I've never had a huge problem with his business practices. If the man can get the Tigers to bid 75 million dollars for Magglio Ordonez, when the next highest offer was eight million, he must be doing something right.

"While I really dislike what he's done to the draft, what he does with established free agents in an open market is perfectly fine. If teams are fool enough to pay the price, let it be done. Since teams have always given into his demands, the argument that he had the best interest of his clients in mind could still work.

"The Weaver family, however, thinks differently. Scott Boras' tactic of setting a price and never budging certainly hurt both Jered and Jeff. While Boras' tactic works really well with above average players, asking a team to guarantee 45 million dollars to a player who would be generously classified as "a decent 3rd starter" was simply ridiculous.

"With any other agent, Weaver could have easily walked away with something like a three year, 25 million dollar contract. Since teams were given an unreasonable ultimatum, he got screwed.

"Weaver isn't entirely blameless in this, he did choose Scott Boras as his agent, but his recent failings have exposed Scott Boras as someone who really doesn't have the clients best interest in mind. While I've had a love/hate relationship with Weaver over the last two years, it is sad to see him go like this.

Bavasi on the Bubble?-- The 'U.S.S. Mariner' site reports "that Bill Bavasi isn't fired -- yet -- but if it does come, it'll be midseason and more likely the next offseason. It's understandable, but the boys over there are still in la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you mode about Beltré's inability to lay off that low outside slider, thinking he's actually a good player when in fact he's nothing but a one-year-wonder, maybe the biggest at third base ever. Contracts like those will get you shown the door, uh huh."

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