Brian Meadows Ready, Willing -- and Healthy

VERO BEACH, Fla.- It is frequently the case that spring training reports- especially those on pitchers- begin to sound like a script from "ER", replete with numerous cracked joints, torn ligaments, endless references to rehabilitation stages, a plethora of surgeries and generally gore galore. Which is why Brian Meadows is such an anomaly.

"I've been blessed," Brian allows. "I've never had a sore arm, never been on the disabled list. If you want me to start, I can go out there every five days or, if you want me in relief, I can pitch several days in a row if needed."

Nor is he such a novice that he can make this assertion because he hasn't been around long enough to truly test matters out. No, he's been in the big leagues since 1998 for the most part, the last four of those with the Pirates after serving time with the Marlins, Padres and Royals.

He's a Dodger now by virtue of becoming a free agent after the 2005 season, then signing a minor league contact with a spring invitation.

The Dodgers are intrigued by the fact that he possesses another asset. He's a guy that can be idle for several days but, if called upon, can warm up quickly, go in and be effective without any rust gathered during the layoff tarnishing his performance.

Brian chose L.A. in large part because of a relationship established with Roy Smith, the team's vice-president of player development, who was with Pittsburgh before coming over before last season.

"Roy's a friend," says Meadows. "He talked straight to me about what the Dodgers expect of me and I trust him."

He's a righthander who brings an 89-90 mph fast ball plus a curve and changeup. He usually keeps his pitches low because he can't blow the ball by big league hitters so does that with tailing action on the fast ball plus a breaking ball that goes short and down to lefthanders and wider to righthanded hitters.

He was a starter for much of his career before moving fulltime to the bullpen in mid-2003 with the Pirates. "Starting, relief, I can do both," he notes. "Whatever they want of me."

He's 30 years old, a native of Alabama where he has lived all his life and is enjoying his new club. "I've known a few of these guys from the past and Rich Donnelly was a coach with the Pirates. I'm having fun."

Part of that fun is being with the National League team for he's developed an all-important knowledge of the hitters in the league so has a comfort zone there.

Besides he thinks it makes him more a part of the game although, "I was a catcher as a kid and could hit but I haven't done any real hitting as a pro."

It's a fairly common practice to have a clause that allows established major leaguers who sign a minor league deal to opt out of it if they don't make the team. Aaron Sele, for example, has such an arrangement.

Meadows, however, does not. So, would he go to Las Vegas if asked? After all, there's a crowd with some pretty good credentials vying for bullpen time.

"To tell the truth, we never even discussed that possibility before I signed. Our entire conversation was about where I'd fit on the Dodgers. "

So, he's blotted a trip to the minors out for at least the moment, relying on his performance record and his showing here to make such an arrangement unnecessary. Instead, he'll depend on his credentials as an established big leaguer to help him considerably.

And that rosy good health he's enjoyed . In 2005 the Dodger walking wounded seemed to fill an entire hospital wing, so one who's always on call would be a welcome change.