Checking Out the Relief Corps

Last in a series as we examine the makeup of Dodger farm teams by position.

There's a mixture of veterans and prospects at Las Vegas that the Dodgers hope can (at last) break the hoodoo that pitching there has been while there will be some sorting out of roles to see what fits the best on the other teams.

Jonathan Broxton, who always was on the fast track but who took off at speed when he was moved to the bullpen will utilize his 99-plus fast ball as the closer at Vegas. Those preceding him to the mound will include lefthanders Joe Beimel, Luis Gonzalez, and Justin Simmons and righthanders Harold Eckert, Eric Hull and Justin Reid.

Each has something to recommend him. Beimel brings big league experience obtained with the Pirates while Gonzalez did marvelous work with Jacksonville last year. He's been returned from Seattle which took him in the Rule 5 draft. Simmons, once a standout with the University of Texas but who seemed to have lost his fast ball along the way, is trying to regain his old form. Reid is another veteran of the Pirates' organization, Eckert was a standout in Venezuelan winter ball and Hull is a soft tosser who know how to get outs.

Kelly Wunsch is on the Vegas disabled list right now. When ready, he'll be trying to work his way back up as L.A.'s situational lefty.

Jacksonville can choose from either Mark Alexander or Jumbo Diaz as its closer. Both are righthanders up from Vero Beach where Alexander saved 23 games, tops in the organization in 2005. He doesn't have an overpowering delivery but rather mixes his pitches well. Diaz, on the other hand, certainly does, for, like Broxton, he hurries the ball up there around 99 mph. At least, he does, when right but he's nursed a tender elbow all spring.

Setup men include lefties Greg Miller and Carlos Alvarez and righthanders Spike Lundberg, Casey Hoorelbeke, Alvis Ojeda and T. J. Nall. Miller is much-heralded, of course, and seems to have settled into his new 3/4 arm slot well so is now seeking to build up innings. Alvarez is only 5-9 but goes after hitters with good stuff nonetheless. Hoorelbeke, on the other hand, is 6-8, throws sidearm and is deadly against righthanders. Ojeda and Lundberg both have solid records. In fact, Lundberg once saved 31 games in the Texas League so can assume that job, if need be.

Nall, who was with Las Vegas all of last year, can either start or handle middle relief.

At Vero, righthander Ramon "Landestoy" Troncoso is the only one with closer's experience, having saved 13 games for Ogden last year but lefthander Wesley Wright may get a chance for the job, too. Wright's another smallish (5-11) hurler with an excellent fast ball that belies his size. Their bullpen also features a big guy in righthander Zach Hammes, a 6-6 power pitcher who was a second-round draft choice in 2002. Once a starter, he seems to have smoothed out delivery problems that hampered his advancement in the past. Albenis Castillo, Brian Akin, Kyle Wilson and Adam Thomas are other righthanders being used as middle men. Each is a hard thrower.

Columbus doesn't have anybody who's served as a closer before so will be trying to find the right man for that job. It might be Mexican righthander Francisco Feliz or Matt Gomez de Segura, another righthander who pitched sparingly for Ogden last year. Miguel Sanfler was a strong situational lefty for the Gulf Coast Dodgers in 2005 with another lefty, David Pfeiffer, trying to learn that job. Arismendy Castillo, James McDonald, and Cory Wade are righthanders of note.

Lefthander Wilfredo Diaz and righthanders Jonathan Dutton, Miguel Ramirez, Eduardo Quintana, Kengshil Pujols, Kalen Gearheart, Jon Haldis and Joey Norrito are currently in the extended camp. Pujols is a former catcher being converted to the mound. That camp also includes lefthanders Orlando Rodriguez, Kale Garrison and Cody White along with righthanders Nate Hochgesang and David Horlacher, all on the disabled list as