Osoria a Natural Ground-ball Wonder

VERO BEACH, Fla.- First, let's clear up this six-fingers matter. There's one publication out there on the few times it's referred to Franquelis Osoria that insists that 's the number he has on his right (pitching) hand. Oh, they allow that it doesn't help him in his delivery, understand. Well, there's a reason for that. It's because he has the conventional five on the hand. Not six at all.

Osoria was born with six on both hands, as a matter of fact. However, he had the extra one on his right removed long ago. The sixth remains on his left hand, a rather useless digit, about an inch long that sort of hangs there on the side opposite his thumb. It's a curiosity piece that caused one of his bullpen mates a few seasons ago to dub him "Seis", which is Spanish for "six" to you uninformed.

No, it's not an extra advantage that makes Franquelis a candidate for fulltime employment in the Dodger bullpen; rather it's the manner in which he sinks the ball. For that's his game, coming in and getting the ground ball as batters beat on the top of it in a futile effort. It may not get him the adulation of the masses, the way someone who comes in and blows them away with high 90's octane but it can be effective. Boy, can it.

Consider that last season, the team ERA at Las Vegas was 6.21 as rather ordinary fly balls either consistently left the yard or banged off the fences. Frankie's was 2.62. The nearest guy to him, who pitched any amount of innings, was 4.78. And there were some pretty good arms on that staff. He led the team in saves with nine and that's on a club that wound up losing 86 games so had save opportunities about once a month.

That earned him a couple of trips up to the big club, where he pitched quite well again for another losing entity. Not that he got any chance to close when it counted nor will he if he makes the squad this year which he's currently trying to do.

He's a set-up type in the main which makes him part of a legion of pitchers here bidding for bullpen employment. Among the righthanders competing, Danys Baez and Yhency Brazeban would appear to be locks, Lance Cater has a good track record, erstwhile starter D. J. Houlton has to be considered and the Japanese entry, Takashi Saito has caused some stir with some exemplary showings while Brian Meadows has a lot of experience. Aaron Sele might well figure in the mix, too.

Not nearly enough room for all those, of course so some have to go. Osoria might be one of those who gets sent down because he does have options left .

In the meantime, though, he's been quietly effective which has always been his way. He has to be careful of those moments when he leaves the ball up in the hitting zone as he did in an early game against the Braves for it was leaned on and sent out of the park.

He can't play Hannibal Lector and scare people to death with his fast ball but, when he's right, he doesn't have to. There's usually people on when he comes in, naturally, and the first thing you know, a grounder to short, a double play and he walks off.

That may never earned him a private blaring theme nor "Game over!" flashing on the message screen nor a lot of lines touting him highly in national publications (except to count the fingers on his hands) but there's a lot to be said for the ground ball at key moments. And he does it with five fingers, too.