Ralph Avila honored as scout of the year

Ralph Avila, who was hired by Dodger V.P. Al Campanis to scout Latin America, was honored at the winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, as the International Scout of the Year, the first time such and award has been given.

Avila started as an unpaid scout in the Miami area and was hired full-time in 1971 to scout Florida. In 1974 Campanis tabbed Avila to comb the Dominican Republic looking for baseball players.

The Dodgers' connection with Licey team in the Dominican and resulted in a steady flow of outstanding baseball players and led to the development of the Campo Las Palmas complex that has supplied so many remarkable players.

Owner Peter O'Malley made Avila Vice President of Campos Las Palma in 1989 and today Avila remains active as a senior advisor for player development. Among some of the players who started at the academy are the Ramon and Pedro Martinez, Raul Mondesi, Jose Offerman, Mariano Duncan and Adrian Beltre.

Other Winter Meeting News-- General Manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers were getting close to an agreement with a backup catcher believed to be free agent Mike Lieberthal, the former Philadelphia catcher.

If, indeed, the sign Lieberthal, it will allow the Dodgers to trade current backup Toby Hall, who voiced his displeasure shortly after being traded from Tampa Bay, saying he was too young to be a backup and wanted to move on to another club.

Colletti seems to be in the process of granting him his wish,

Lieberthal played only 67 games with Philadelphia in 2006 because of stints on the disabled list for knee and hip injuries, and after the season underwent surgery to repair a torn lower abdominal muscle. In 2001, he required a complete right knee reconstruction and had an anterior cruciate ligament transplant.

The Dodgers announced that Todd Tomczyk, who was the trainer for Cleveland's Triple-A Buffalo affiliate last season, has joined the Dodgers' staff as an assistant trainer, the first addition by new trainer Stan Conte. Former Dodgers head trainer Stan Johnston also will serve as an assistant trainer on Conte's staff.

Greg Maddux may be near signing with San Diego after the Dodgers did not offer him arbitration. He is seeking a $21 million contract over two years. The Dodgers had offered a two year contract with the second year loaded with incentives.

Maddux ranks 10th on the all-time list with 333 victories, was 15-14 overall last season and was 6-3, 3.30 with the Dodgers over a dozen starts.

Apparently the trade for Manny Ramirez from Boston is becoming less and less realistic. The Sox still insist on four of the five best Dodgers prospects from a group that includes pitchers Jonathan Broxton, Scott Elbert and Chad Billingsley, infielder James Loney and outfielder Matt Kemp.

The Dodgers would also send need to commit $60 million or more in a staggering contract for Ramirez to waive his no-trade contract.

Andruw Jones is eligible for free agency after the 2007 season and while the Braves are not actively shoppiohng him, they have indicated they would consider a trade offer. However, his agent is Scott Boras.

Colletti has coveted free-agent pitcher Jason Schmidt but nothing has happened on that front.

He did, however, indicate he was thinking of newly-acquired Juan Pierre as the leadoff man and the club's most valuable player, Rafael Furcal perhaps slipping into the No. three slot.

New farm director De Jon Watson reported that left-hander Greg Miller, who will be given a shot at a roster spot in the spring, will remain a reliver. There had been some disucssion of him switching back to a starting role.

The Dodgers are considering 29-year-old free-agent left-hander Mark Mulder, who missed last season due to surgery. Mulder had compiled a 97-50, 3.83 record with Oakland and St. Louis before coming up with arm trouble.

Young Prospect Shot-- The New York Daily News reports that Sean Bell, who was gunned down just before his wedding in New York City last week, had received an offer to try out for the Dodgers' after spending the last year getting himself back into shape.

Sean's father had been able to secure the tryout through a friend who had ties to the Dodgers even though it had been four years since Bell had pitched competitively for Nassau Community College in 2002.

"He was a hell of a kid," said his coach. "Polite, respectful and a tremendous talent. I remember like yesterday the first time he pitched in preseason 1999. He faced 12 batters at George Washington - Manny Ramirez's old school - and struck out eight. This whole incident has been a terrible tragedy."

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