Lundberg Down In Mexico Trying Again

To be named Pitcher of the Year in the Southern League is to receive a distinguished honor from a venerated minor league. What it doesn't do is impress the Dodgers all that much. Joel Hanrahan was a recipient in 2003 and pitched well this past season. Not well enough to be brought up so he became a free agent, signed with the Nationals and was placed on their 40-man roster.

Spike Lundberg came into camp this past spring a virtual unknown, then went out and pitched so well for Jacksonville that he, too, was named the best in the circuit. But he's a guy who has spent 10 years in the minors without getting to wear a big league uniform and the Dodgers felt he isn't a true prospect despite all that success. So, once again, he's a free agent looking for a club.

Last time Lundberg caught the eye of Mike Brito by dominating in the Mexican Pacific (winter) League. "The best pitcher there, " said Mike and you can see why for the righthander led the league in wins and ERA plus finishing third in strikeouts. Now, he's back in Mexico trying to interest somebody once more.

He's not off to the start he managed last time around though. Right now Spike's 2-2 but with a 5.08 ERA as the hitters are having more success than he is. What's more, he's 29, thus running out of time.

All of the players still affiliated with the Dodgers who are in this league are natives of the country. Infielder Oscar Robles, whom Brito found in 2004 and who then played his way up to the Dodgers, currently doesn't sport an impressive batting average ( .230) although he's hit three home runs and has 16 RBI in 26 games.

Every year the Dodgers loan out some players to teams in the Mexican League. Most never make it back here. Righthander Edgar Lizarraga was good for the Mexico City Red Devils this past summer (5-2, 2.04) but he's not faring well in winter ball ( 0-2, 6.94).

However, his Los Diablos Rios teammate, righthander Maurico Tequida, who was 5-4, 3.19 in the summer, is doing even better now (0-0, 2.35 ) with the league hitting only .212 against him.

Righthander Jesus Rodriguez is 2-1, 4.60 while righthander Francisco Felix has lost his only decision but has a 2.25 ERA. They're hitting only .108 against him. Lefthander Thomas Melgarejo, who pitched nicely for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, is 0-0, 6.75. Lefty Jorge Castillo is 0-1, 4.76.

Up at Mexicali, which is a border town, Fernando Valenzuela is at it again and having fun doing it. He has his son as a teammate and obviously still knows how to get people out for he's 2-0, 4.30 while holding batters to a .232 mark. In case you're wondering, he's 46 now or about the age of Evander Holyfield, who won't quit, either.

And Fernando, Jr ? Fernandito, as he's called, is a first baseman who's now a free agent. Built like his padre (5-10, 210), he's batting .277 with four home runs. He's 24 now and you just know that Brito would love to sign him.

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