Alexander The Great Working Wonders

At the conclusion of Mark Alexander's 2005 season with Vero Beach, the thought was, "Good, very good, in fact. Should move up to Jacksonville next year but, maybe, he'll reach his ceiling there. Don't know if he can repeat."

Alexander moved up to Jacksonville, all right. And, no, he's not repeating what he did at Vero. He's doing much better. In truth, he's been All-World.

You see, Alexander is a closer but not your classic come in, throw smoke and blow 'em away type. He's hardly imposing physically -5-11, 200 so scouts will say he's too short to be an effective pitcher. He was, after all, only a 20th round draft pick out of the University of Missouri in 2004 so he was hardly among the sought-after.

So, there was a definite tendency to disregard his 23 saves last year at Vero. Okay, so he led the organization but he was noticeably tired at the end. The excitement on that team was created by Jumbo Diaz, who did come out of the 'pen breathing- and throwing fire. Thus the notion that Jumbo would be the Suns' closer this year and Mark, well, he might help out- some.

But there's Jumbo down at Vero again, trying to regain the pizzazz in his pitches while Alexander comes in game after game for Jacksonville, holds the opposition down and notches another save. Has 20 right now so he's on course not only to lead the organization again but to well surpass what he's done previously.

This guy just refuses to let anybody score against him. He's been in 32 games, pitched 39 innings and in that time the opposition has scored exactly three earned runs against him. That makes his ERA 0.69. My gosh, that's Bob Gibson country. You want strikeouts? He's racked up 59 while walking only 11.

And he does it with a fast ball that can be termed "average" at best. Well, just how does he accomplish such marvelous feats, anyway?

Organizational pitching coordinator Marty Reed knows how. "He has an excellent curve ball," Marty relates."He's the most prepared pitcher I know of. He knows exactly what every hitter he faces has done, what he threw him before and the results. And he has the biggest heart of any pitcher I know of." Well, Marty didn't use "heart" but, rather, another portion of Mark's anatomy but you get the idea.

Still there are doubters- those waiting for the collapse. It hasn't happened yet, though. So, it's no surprise that the Dodgers are thinking of moving him up for other challenges. This is his third year which means they have to protect him on the 40-man roster at the end of the season or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft.

Yet, it's hard for him to gain the respect that his performances deserve. You never hear him mentioned among the bright young prospects that the organization possesses. Dodger relief pitching has been shaky at best yet here's a guy who has done wonders in the minors still waiting for a chance.

Maybe it's time to look Alexander's way. He might just be another Matt Herges, the kind of pitcher nobody really notices but who hangs around getting outs so that when you turn around, it's a decade later and he's still here doing it.

It's time to acknowledge that Mark Alexander knows how to pitch.