Hendrickson Signs One-Year Contract

The Dodgers avoided arbitration with pitcher Mark Hendrickson, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2,925,000.

Hendrickson, a 32-year-old left-hander, made $1.95 million last year, when he was acquired by the Dodgers from Tampa Bay on June 27 for catcher Dioner Navarro and pitcher Jae Seo.

Overall, Hendrickson was 6-15 with a 4.21 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 62 walks in 164 2-3 innings, and was 2-7 with a 4.68 ERA with the Dodgers.

However, in a brief (six games) relief mode at the end of the season, he posted an 0.84 earned run average, allowing six hits in 10.2 innings, striking out 12 (averaging 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings) and allowing only a .158 average. As a starter he was 1-7 with a 5.32 ERA over an even dozen starts and averaged just over five strikeouts per nine.

Therefore, Hendrickson, a former NBA player, could be used for a starting position or work middle relief.

The Dodgers' added Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf to the starting staff and they will join, who join Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and either Chad Billingsley or Hong-Chih Kuo.

Slow and Easy Does It-- Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti prefers to feed younger players into the lineup at a slower pace, knowing that early failure could have a lasting effect.

Russell Martin was the exception to the rule and his arrival signaled the departure of a pretty good young catcher, Dioner Navarro.

"You let the kids grow into it, rather than finding themselves in it too deep," Colletti said. "You let them slowly take it over. I'd rather have young players compete for the opportunity than to send them out there and say, 'It's all yours.'"

When J.D. Drew left the team in search of the Treasure of Boston Commons, Los Angeles hastily re-signed Nomar Garciaparra. At the time, Garciaparra said he was willing to make room for wonderkind first baseman James Loney and move to another position.

While moving to third base seemed the obvious solution, Garciaparra announced that he would be willing to play anywhere. "If Grady Little needs me to catch, I'll catch," he said.

The doubleplay combination of Jeff Kent at second base, and Rafael Furcal at shortstop are set in concrete.

That leaves Wilson Betemit, a switch-hitting third baseman, who slugged nine homers in only 33 games after arriving from Atlanta in exchange for Willy Aybar.

However, he hit .138 against righthanders and .262 against southpaws, making many think that he would be platooned with wonderkind #2, Andy LaRoche who battered pitching at both Jacksonville and Las Vegas last season.

So spring training, fraught with so many mysteries anyway, will see a chain-reaction at the corner infield slots.

Stay tuned.