Minor League Camp Going Strong

VERO BEACH, Fla.- The Dodger minor league camp is in full swing with the position players joining the pitchers and catchers and, for the first time in quite awhile, the gang's all here.

For the past several seasons, the young players who had no chance to make a full-season club didn't report until April, then to form the bulk of the extended spring program. However, this time, all are here at the same juncture.

There had been some talk about abandoning the extended program altogether but, according to Director of Player Development Terry Collins, "That's not going to happen."

The list of newcomers to the organization include three with big league experience who didn't receive the traditional invitation to spring training with the big club.

Actually, one of those is a returnee - outfielder Wilkin Ruan. Ruan, who played in a total of 33 games for Los Angeles, split between the 2002-2003 seasons, earned a reputation as a fine fielder and swift base runner but who had trouble with the bat, was given permission to report late and is expected in the first of next week.

He was released by the Dodgers midway through the 2004 season and signed with Texas. Playing for Wichita last year, he hit 254-0-20, became a free agent and re-signed with L.A.

There's also two former New York Mets, outfielder Jeff Duncan and first baseman Frank Brazell. Duncan, a left-handed hitter, played in 69 games for the Mets between 2003 and 2004 but averaged only .182. He spent most of last year with Binghamton where he was .245-5-26.

Brazell, a first baseman, hit 23 home runs for Norfolk in 2004, then joined the Mets that year to play in 26 games in which he hit .265. He spent 2005 at Norfolk, compiling a 249-6-48 mark.

Both were free agent signings as was A.J. Zapp, the first-round draft pick of the Braves in 1996, who hit 29 home runs for Tacoma in 2004 but only .243-0-40 for Louisville in 2005.

Among the younger players, there's a small contingent over from the Dominican Summer League including outfielder Jovanny Rosario, infielder Elian Herrera and righthander Jhonny Nunez. But longtime Mexican scout Mike Brito has been busy adding six players to the mix.

Righthanders Mario Gracia and Francisco Felix plus shortstop Francisco Lizarraga, previously signed by Mike but on loan to Mexican teams have reported here along with the newly signed righthanders Jesus Rodriguez and Thomas Meljarejo.

Meljarejo actually was here for spring training in 2005 on trial from Mexico City. He made an impression but the asking price was deemed too high so he was returned there. However, the interest remained and this time a deal was struck so he's a Dodger now.

In addition, Brito also signed American free agent Spike Lundberg, who pitched winter ball in the Mexican Pacific League which he wound up leading in wins (9), and ERA (2.23). He's a righthander