Kelly Stinnett Not Looking For A Minor Role

   VERO BEACH, Fla.- The years may have eroded the hair from the top of Kelly Stinnett's head but not the fire that burns internally. No, that flame is very much alive. So, once again, Stinnett sets forth on the big league trail. He's 37 now and has played over 700 games in the majors. He's been with eight organizations  and of those, he's put in three tours of duty with the Mets and the DBacks.

   Now, he's a Dodger. Well, not officially, having signed a minor league contract so is in camp as a non-roster invitee. But Stinnett has gone this route before and worked his way upwards; thus, it's not surprising that he believes he can do so again.

   And make no mistake. He doesn't think he's here to prep for minor league duty. Never mind that the Dodgers have declared that Russell Martin is the regular receiver and that Mike Lieberthal has been obtained as his backup. Kelly figures he'll change their minds.

  "I want to show what I can do and what I bring to a team," he declares. "I think once they've seen that, I'll have a place. "

  It was a long winter for him for he didn't get the word from his agent that he at last had a team until a couple of days ago. "He called and told me that a deal with the Dodgers was going down," Kelly notes. "Until then I was just doing some things with the family. But, no, I never thought of retiring. I'm in shape and I think I have several years ahead of me still."

  With that in mind, he packed, flew to Florida, signed a contract and was in uniform before he had a chance to introduce himself to his teammates. Well, he probably didn't need to; over the years, he's played with or against a lot of them.

  He came to the big leagues in 1994 with the Mets, got into as many games as 92 with the Diamondbacks in 1998 and last year was employed by the Yankees for most of the season.

  That's when he learned another lesson. "Not to take things for granted. I was doing my job and hitting well I thought but in August they called me in and said, 'Bye, bye.' "

  He didn't have to go to the unemployment line, though but, instead, signed on with the Mets for the third time and played the rest of the year with them.

  Some regard his signing by the Dodgers as a bit strange. Oh, sure, they can use an extra catcher or so in the spring with all those pitchers here who have to throw to somebody. But they can pull in minor leaguers for that (and have done so, adding Tony Harper, who was with Columbus last year.)

  Still, they have already signed two other veterans besides Lieberthal - Ken Huckaby and Sandy Martinez, who have logged considerable mileage back of the plate themselves.

  "Catchers and left-handed relievers," Kelly notes, "are always in demand."

   He figures his resume can stand up there with anyone's. Just in case, his contract has a proviso that he can be released to another big league team if they ask for him and the Dodgers feel he's something extra they like but really don't need.

  For the time being, though, he's in another big league clubhouse, striving to make the team. Grady Little has said he plans to keep only two catchers: Stinnett is here to get him to look his way.