Dominican Summer League Opens Play

Another portion of the Dodger minor league conglomerate - the least visible one- the Dominican Summer League gets going this weekend. Harkening back to the days when the league sent such future stars as the Martinez brothers and Raul Mondesi to Los Angeles, the Dodgers, for their part have pronounced a revival of interest in the league and, more particularly, the players they possess down there.

Even the local newspapers don't pay much attention to this circuit for, in the Dominican, the winter league and its major league stars are where it's at.

The Dodgers, however, have a contingent of brass on hand for the opening game and, further, have pulled Ralph Avila from semi-retirement to shake up the scouting in the island nation.

Avila, the man whose idea grew into the Dodgers' Campo Las Palmas base here, probably won't be able to make any kind of an impact until the next international signing period begins July 2. In the meantime, longtime manager Antonio Bautista will field a team of players with some experience plus at least a couple of intriguing newcomers.

Last year's entry was long on pitching but didn't feature much hitting. Of those, only three- outfielder Jovanny Rosario, second baseman Elien Herrera and righthander Jhonny Nunez, have moved over to play in the U.S. Gulf Coast League.

Of those coming back, righthander Eduardo Perez is well-thought-of. Like the other player of the same name in the Dodger system- the one who won the Gulf Coast batting title last year- this Perez is from Venezuela. He's an 18-year-old, 6-2 righthander who appeared in only two games last year.

Other pitching hopefuls include Johnny Caraballo, Marcel Prado and Joel Ramos. Caraballo and Prado are Dominicans, Ramos is from Panama. All are righthanders.

Alexis Marte, a first baseman/outfielder who hit .305 last year, returns while Vladimir Carela and Johann Garcia are infielders who have shown considerable improvement over the winter. There's no real off-season here with games played on a regular basis except for a Christmas respite.

Outfielder Amauri Guzman is a 6-2, 200-pound outfielder with plenty of muscle but he's been hurt a lot since signing and has managed only a composite .201 average with three home runs in two years. If he ever gets healthy, he could be a force.

Of the rookies, first baseman Jesus Gomez and infielder Rafael Ynoa have the most promise. Gomez is 17, 6-2, 195, and looked good in the extended camp at Dodgertown. He, however, was signed too late to obtain a visa so had to come to this league to play. Ynoa is a smallish (5-10, 162) stylish fielder.

While this circuit gets going, there's another south of the border that has been playing since March and three Dodger-owned pitchers are making an impact with the Mexico Diablos Rojos (Red Devils), who led their division in the first half.

Operating in a league played at such altitudes that it's a hitters heaven while pitchers are lucky to escape with ERA's below 5.00, this trio continues to do far better than that.

Righthanders Mauricio Tequida and Edgar Lizarraga are 3-3, 3.38 and 1-1, 2.30 respectively while lefthander Jorge Castillo is 3-0, 4.l5. Operating in relief roles in each case, they've taken turns being very effective.