Tatis Could Be New Lou Johnson

Tommy Davis was a great young hitter well on his way to the baseball Hall of Fame when he suffered a terribly fractured leg that turned the cant miss superstar into a one legged pinch hitter. The tragic injury took place right in the middle of a pennant race when the Dodgers had narry a hitter in the lineup.

In those days, rules were different. The Dodgers looked around the minor leagues for a quick fix in left field and the best thing they could come up with was one eared Lou Johnson, a 30 something player who was setting a record for most teams and leagues played in.

Well, wouldn't you know it, Johnson turned out to be a find and got key hit after key hit, including the game-winning home run in the World Series, writing himself into the record books and acquiring the nickname "Sweet" Lou Johnson.

The Dodgers won the pennant and the world series, with great thanks to Sweet Lou, who, after all these years, is still employed by the Dodgers. He made the minimum salary for that year, but has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars since.

Every team hopes to find another Sweet Lou Johnson, an older player who had promise once who finally catches on and does something after a half a dozen or more years of obscurity. Could Fernando Tatis be the next Dodgers Sweet Lou Johnson? He is certainly worth a try.

Tatis, now 32, first came up to the Cardinals from that oasis of major league stars, San Pedro de Macaris, he was a power hitting third baseman destined for stardom. He had early flashes and then hit a wall. He'd get traded, given a short try at everyday play, and fall back. Then the process would start all over again. So Tatis moved around and around and around. He'd get short tries in the big leagues and, like his new Dodgers minor league player catcher buddy Ken Huckaby, move on.

Tatis' career big league batting average is .260, not bad by today's standards. He has had over 2,200 big league at bats - which is when old time scouts say you finally begin to master the art of hitting. Tatis is sure to start the season at Las Vegas.

The Dodgers have Olmedo Saenz a lock as a right handed hitting infield reserve although Saenz is a pinch hitter.

Andy LaRoche is the third baseman of the future but will either play everyday or go to Las Vegas for more seasoning.

Third base probable starter Wilson Betemit has to learn to hit from the right hand side of the plate like he does from the left to keep his job.

Fernando Tatis may never get to the big leagues this year, but he sure looks like a Sweet Lou Johnson "type." He's not likely to play much third if LaRoche is on board, but he'll get plenty of at bats in the hitters friendly Pacific Coast League and be ready if the chance comes.

Righty reliever Rudy Seanez, who pitched in the "strings" in Vero Beach's Dodgertown over a dozen years ago, is back, albeit with a minor league contract.

Seanez, 37, is ready if the righty Taiwanese flamethrower the Dodgers signed isn't healthy, if Yhency Brazoban takes longer to heal, if Elmer Dessens slips any more than he already has, if somebody would take Brett Tomko off the Dodgers hands.

That's a lot of ifs, but every big league team uses 17-18 pitchers in the course of a season and those odds are all in Seanez' favor.

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