Meloan Close to Coming Back

Jon Meloan had been slated to be a starter at Vero Beach this season. His spring training performance indicated that he could make that staff- until muscular soreness sent him to the sidelines. On Monday, however, he was back on the mound albeit in an extended camp game. But his pitches had both velocity and life indicating he's close to being ready for full time duty again. The question is- where?

The righthanded Meloan was a fifth round draft choice last June out of the University of Arizona where he used a low 90's fastball, a cutter and changeup to compile an impressive record. Sent to Ogden, he pitched far better than an 0-2, 3.69 record would indicate. Everything about his makeup and abilities shows that he's capable of leaping over low A into the Vero rotation as planned.

However, in the meantime, lefthander Matt Merricks assumed the slot that had previously been assigned to Meloan and has done remarkably well. True, he was ripped in his last start but he sparkled before that. The other Vero starters include Scott Elbert and Blake Johnson, ranked right at the front of the young Dodger hopefuls plus Chris Malone, who's not far behind. There's also Julio Pimentel, a reclamation project who has the pitches to recapture the promise he had shown in 2004.

So, there may be no room at Vero which might mean Meloan has to go to Columbus, at least for now. There they have Brent Leach, Marlon Arias and Rule 5 acquisition Alberto Bastardo, who have all done quite well along with Mario Alvarez, who's improving after a shaky beginning.

That leaves Mexican righthander Jesus Rodriguez as the most vulnerable. He looked good in the spring but certainly hasn't since. His ERA is a frightening 11.66 so he's in danger of losing his slot in the rotation to Meloan or somebody else.

In the meantime, Meloan may make another appearance or two in the extended camp just to make sure he's strong enough to proceed. When he's ready, though, they want him starting every fifth day for somebody because he's a prospect worth nurturing.