Rule 5 Draft May Cause Dodgers To Yawn

The annual Rule 5 draft which never seems to get the Dodgers' pulse pounding will probably see them stifling a yawn this year. That's because the agreement between players and management has allowed one more year for each minor leaguer to be eligible. Thus, teams have been able to protect some on their 40-man rosters that before would have been left dangling out there.

In the Dodgers case, they didn't have to protect the likes of Tony Abreu or Chin-Lung Hu nor did they have to make decisions on such as Mark Alexander to either protect or chance losing. As a result they were able to bring up pitchers Zach Hammes, Mike Megrew and Eric Hull. It's improbable that all three could have been kept under the old rule.

Since that was the case for every team, the pickings this year are much more meager than before. However, there is one the Dodgers did leave up for grabs that might well interest a team. That's righthander Casey Hoorelbeke.

Hoorelbeke pitched very well for Jacksonville- 3-2, 2.63 with seven saves, then did good work in the Arizona Fall League. It was first thought that he'd have another year's exemption because he's only played three years but another clause in the rule says player's time starts counting from the year they signed. Although Hoorelbeke didn't start playing until 2003, he signed in 2002 so is a four-year man and thus draft eligible.

There are some others who might draw mild interest like Casey's Jacksonville pitching mates- lefthander Carlos Alvarez and righthander Alvis Ojeda , who both have solid numbers.

Then, there's lefthander Jonathan Figueroa, once the bright light in the system who was hurt and lost his fast ball along the way. Figueroa was anything but impressive over the summer for Vero Beach- 1-7, 7.29. Pitching winter ball in Venezuela , though, he's been quite effective- 0.77 with opponents hitting .148 against him.

As for position players, there's even fewer to choose from. A. J. Ellis has always been a part-timer and hit only .250 for Jacksonville but did bang the ball at a .346 clip in the Arizona Fall League. Somebody seeking a backup receiver could go for him.

The Dodgers themselves probably won't participate in the major league portion. Two years ago , they did pick up righthander D. J. Houlton by this method but passed last year and are expected to do so again, given the quality of choices and the fact that they'd have to drop a man from a full roster to do so.

As for the minor league portion, they took only lefthander Alberto Bastardo a year ago and don't figure to do much if anything this time around, either. The thinking is that they have enough talent of their own these days that they really don't need to grope around other team's leftovers.

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