Martin's Opportunity May Be Disappearing

VERO BEACH, Fla. - Dodgers catcher Dioner Navarro was expected to miss 10 days to two weeks with the strained right hamstring he suffered running out a ground ball in mid-March. But Navarro, who took over the catching position last year from Jason Phillips, has shown remarkable healing power and has started to run and take batting practice.

While it is not know if his tender hamstring will allow him to return in time for the April 3 season opener, or if he will be able to get enough at-bats and work at the plate to be ready to take over day-to-day operations.

But it looks like top catching prospect Russell Martin's window of opportunity to earn the starting job has begun to melt away.

He has done nothing to dispel the thought that he would be an outstanding major league catcher -- in time. His average has hovered around the .400 mark an he has won a couple games with his bat -- hitting was the one question many had about him -- while his actual mechanics have been solid and his arm without peer.

But spring training averages are about as reliable as a politician's promise and Navarro did a adequate job last season. Shakespeare warned us to not "Fly to problems we know not of."

The decision facing Manager Grady Little is determining if three years experience is enough to qualify him for the full-time job. He was converted from a third baseman to catcher and has never played higher than Double-A.

Even those who think Martin may not be ready to catch on an everyday basis in the big leagues admit he could certainly fill in for a week or two if Navarro isn't ready by opening day.

And if he does go down to Las Vegas, Navarro will have to keep looking over his shoulder, as did Sundance and Butch, but he knows who he is and why is he following him.

Osoria vs Brazoban-- The final spot in the bullpen has come down to Yhency Brazoban, who saved 21 games last year and then self-destructed later in the year, and Franquelis Osoria, whose gravity-defying sinker has impressed this spring. Brazoban developed tendinitis when camp opened and is well behind the rest of the pitchers as far as conditioning goes. He has been hit hard (9.64 ERA in four games) this spring. Osoria has a 2.00 ERA over seven games.

Happy Birthday-- Barney Koch (1923-1987), Jerry Brooks (41).

Dodger Blue Notes-- Manager Grady Little says he will use closer Eric Gagne every other inning for a while and also use him on back-to-back days soon. Lefty Oldalis Perez threw two innings -- 21 pitches -- in a camp game Tuesday, 14 of them strikes, and allowed only one ball to be hit out of the infield. Jae Seo worked on the sideline and will start Thursday (today). JD Drew did not make the trip to Jupiter Tuesday, instead staying home to get multiple times at bat in the camp game as did Nomar Garciaparra…San Diego traded catcher David Ross to Cincinnati. Ross, 29, hit .240 with three homers and 15 RBI in 51 games between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Padres in 2005. Over four major league seasons with the Dodgers, Pirates and Padres, Ross has hit .217 with 19 homers and 50 RBI in 169 games. …Wilson Alvarez stopped by Dodgertown to say 'hi' to his old teammates. He said that after a year off he will look for a job as a pitching coach.