Richmond, Pujols Pitching Again

For a position player to be become a pitcher is not all that uncommon and generally requires two essential criteria- one is to have a strong arm; the other, to have a weak bat.

The Dodgers have certainly been involved in such moves over the years. Felix Rodriguez did it successfully. True, most of his big league success was in uniforms other than the Dodgers but he began his move from catcher to pitcher as an L.A. employee.

Jose Diaz also made the same switch but with indifferent results. Not, Jose" Jumbo" Diaz, the relief pitcher currently at Jacksonville. This one was a catcher who was moved to the mound because he had a 98 mph fast ball. Even that heat didn't get him to the big leagues, though, neither with the Dodgers nor the Mets to whom he was traded.

Lately, Dodger success with these types have been with those who began their conversions in other systems - Guillermo Mota and, now, Yhency Brazoban. Down in the minors, though, they're readying two more for this challenge as Kengshil Pujols and B. J. Richmond are making such a move in the extended camp.

Pujols is another Latin catcher who is moving out from behind the plate. There was a time when he had looked promising at his former position and was sent to Ogden in 2004 with that in mind. Instead, Chris Westervelt was drafted, then beat him out of a regular's job as Pujols wound up hitting only .221.

He was confronted with a similar situation last year when Juan Apodaca took over the main role at Ogden and Pujols finished with a .195 mark. So, now, the 21-year-old Dominican will try to revive his career on the hill.

It had been hoped that Richmond would become a power-hitting outfielder when he was drafted in the seventh round out of Spartanburg Methodist Junior College in South Carolina. He, too, was sent to Ogden in 2004 but managed only one home run while hitting .267. Last season, after a .103 start at Columbus, he was dropped back to Ogden again and while he improved to .284 with five homers, he didn't impress enough this spring to advance so is also being tried on the mound.

Both made initial appearances in a camp game this past week and both passed their tests. Pujols hit 88 on the gun while Richmond, a 22-year-old lefthander from North Carolina, reached 89. For first-timers, that's a good showing since it can be expected that each will add even more as they become familial with their new craft.

Of course, there's a lot more to be done like developing a breaking pitch. There was another who made a similar move a few years ago and found that he could throw one of those quite well-and with excellent command, too. That was Luke Prokopec, who seemed to have a bright future until arm trouble ended his career prematurely.

He made it to the big leagues before that happened, though. Now Pujols and Richmond are working to see if their career paths have taken a positive turn as well.