Harper Gets Regular Duty At Last

The Dodgers have done some catcher shuffling in the lower minors and it would appear that one result is that Tony Harper has fulltime employment back of the plate at last. It's taken awhile and there's been adversity to be conquered along the way but if his bat keeps speaking the way it has, it could lead to permanent occupation.

With the need for more competent receiving at Vero Beach a priority, Juan Apodaca has been promoted from Columbus to take over there as Chris Westervelt has been handed his outright release.

That leaves Harper as the sole man in charge at Columbus with Coner McGeehan promoted from the Gulf Coast team as his backup.

Until now Harper had been sharing the chores with Apodaca for the Catfish. Since he's currently hitting a robust .340 with four home runs, there was some notion that Tony would be the next man to gain a promotion.

However, his receiving skills are not as advanced as Apodaca's so it was decided to keep him back, move Apodaca up but leave him as the regular.

As noted, that would be a first for him. It has always been his hitting that intrigued the Dodgers- the reason they made him an 11h round draft pick out of high school in Waukesha, Wis., back in 2003.

Then, though, they felt he wasn't quite ready for pro ball; instead, watching him for another year while he played for Frank Phillips Junior College in Texas. (An experience he found as being unpleasant, for the most part.)

He then signed as a draft-and-follow in 2004 and was sent to the Gulf Coast Dodgers where he shared duties. He hit a respectable .264 but toward the end, arm pains caused him to be sidelined. An elbow operation ensued with the rehab process that followed keeping him out of action for all of 2005.

He did get on the field during the Instructional League in the fall but only to workout, not to play.

At last this year, he's been in action and the hitting has been better than ever. He's been diligent in seeking to sharpen his catching, something that needs to be done. Now, he'll be in there on a more or less daily basis to see how that progresses.

If it does, he'll be another to move forward for, as noted, he can hit. He's got a solid 222 pounds packed on his 5-11 frame so projects some power as well.

He'll be 22 in October, still young enough to make up for the time lost with the operation.

And if he keeps providing offense like he has all this season, he'll be a man to watch in the future.

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