No Action on No. 1 Pick Luke Hochevar

Los Angeles drafted Luke Hochevar out of the University of Tennessee with their number one pick in 2005, surprised that he was still available when their turn rolled around. Other clubs may have been leery of his announced asking price, his agent (Scott Boras) or perhaps both, and steered clear of the talented college junior.

Negotiation rolled along for a time, with neither side getting any closer to a meeting of minds, then after months of discussion. Hochevar dropped Boras as his agent, hired Mat Sosnick and quickly agreed to a $2.98 million signing bonus.

Then just as quickly, after a phone call from Boras, Hochevar backed out of the agreed upon deal and returned to the agent.

After some angry words, Boras and Hochevar met with Dodgers officials - including owner Frank McCourt and then - GM Paul DePodesta - but owner Frank McCourt told them that there would be no more negotiations and that the offer had been withdrawn.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said recently there has been no change in the status of the deal and in face, that since being named GM on Nov. 15, he hasn't had any conversations with either Boras or Hochevar.

The Dodgers have the rights to Hochevar until just before this year's draft in June. Hochevar became ineligible for his senior season at the University of Tennessee after signing with Boras and now must re-enter the draft.

Colletti pointed out the money the Dodgers potentially stand to save by not signing Hochevar will be rolled into this year's draft budget, where scouting director Logan White can use it in this year's draft.

The Dodgers now have three first-round picks: their own at No. 7 plus the Angels' first round pick No. 24 because Jeff Weaver, a "Type A" free agent, signed a one-year, $8.35 million deal with the Angels last week, and a supplemental pick at the end of the first round.

Super Size That-- Jose Diaz has a big fastball that is clocked at 100 mph and a body to match his heater. Listed in many publications as 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he pointed out the fallacy of those figures. "That's from the Dominican Summer League after I signed in 2001)" he said, when I was 17. Now its more like 290." He underwent "Tommy John" ligament-replacement surgery in 2004 but that hasn't hampered his speed and his drawing much attention at Dodgertown for both his fastball and his size.

Debus Father Died-- Jon Debus' father, Ron Debus, 73, had a reaction to the anesthesia and died after hip-replacement surgery. Debus, 2005 Dodger bullpen coach, returned to his previous role as roving minor-league catching instructor this year after the shakeup following the departure of GM Paul DePodesta and Manager Jim Tracy. Deebs was the only member of last year's coaching staff that didn't find another major league job.

In the Fold--The Dodgers have signed every player on their 40-man roster except pitchers D.J. Houlton and Greg Miller. Assistant GM Kim Ng said she doesn't anticipate lengthy negotiations with either player and that both will sign before March 1.

Heir Apparent-- The Dodgers No. 1 prospect Chad Billingsley, as selected by our own Bill Shelley isn't conducting himself any differently this spring than he did in any of his two previous springs with the organization. "I kind of ignore all the things that get written about me," he said. "I don't want to get wrapped up in it, even though sometimes it's fun to read it just to see what they say. I might pick up a Baseball America once in a while, but it's usually because there are a couple other guys from my high school who are in pro ball, and I want to see how they are doing." In his first full season at Double-A, Billingsley finished 13-6 with a 3.51 ERA and helped the Suns to the Southern League title, then pitched seven hitless innings as they polished off Birmingham with seven no-hit innings in the opening game of the Southern League championship series. He was selected the Ben Wade Award winner as the Minor League Pitcher of the Year by Dodger Dugout and LADugout.com. "For me, he's ready to pitch in the major leagues right now," said Ken Howell, Billingsley's pitching coach last season at Double-A Jacksonville.

The Payoff-- Dodger owner Frank McCourt is expected to transfer 24 acres of Boston land to FOX to settle a $145-million loan tied to his purchase of the Dodgers the Los Angeles Times reports. Giving up the land to News Corp.'s Fox Entertainment Group erases considerable debt from the Dodger books, leaving the franchise with about $250 million due to other lenders over the next 25 years. Two years ago, Fox sold the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and surrounding Chavez Ravine acreage, plus other team properties to McCourt for $421 million.

Who's This Guy on the Roster?-- There are so many players in Dodgertown who have undergone "Tommy John" Surgery that manager Grady Little said, with a smile, "I have a sheet from the trainers that has the players' names and their medical history. I thought Tommy John was on our roster, his name was on there so much." The revolutionary operation, developed by Dr. Frank Jobe, saved the career of former Dodger lefthander Tommy John by reconstructing his elbow in 1974. Of the 25 pitchers in camp at Dodgertown this spring, eight have had the operation. Shortstop Cesar Izturis is the latest Dodgers to benefit from the operation. Of the eight Dodgers pitchers who have needed the operation, two of them, Lance Carter and Hong-Chih Kuo, have had it twice. Darren Dreifort, who retired after last season, also was a repeat customer. Kurt Ainsworth, Jose Diaz, Odalis Perez, Jae Seo and Eric Stults have recovered from the operation and are back as strong as ever.

Stop That Noise-- Dodger organist Nancy Bea Hefley, whom the Dodgers have her playing time to such a great extent that she no longer even wants to work every game. She considered retiring last year but decided to stick around after negotiating a deal that would allow her to take a few games off. "It's kind of difficult when you're a musician and you're cut back to barely playing," she says. "It does take a toll on the ego." The announced theory of replacing Hefley with hard rock would help attract a younger crowd. The question is, will it drive away the more traditional fans who have complained loudly about the switch.

Wills Returns-- Former Dodger shortstop and 1962 MVP Maury Wills will again serve as the organization bunting and baserunning instructor. Wills, now 73, attended his first Dodgertown Spring Training in 1951, when he played in Class D. Wills spent 8 1/2 years in the Minor Leagues, was nearly traded to Detroit (they returned him) before reaching the Major Leagues in 1959. He arrived in June and keyed a Dodger surge that resulted in a World Series win. The following season he went on a streak that saw him win seven straight stolen base titles, including 104 in 1962 that broke Ty Cobb's record.

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