It's Year No. 22 and Rudy's Still Here

VERO BEACH, Fla.- It has been written that this is Rudy Seanez's second stint with the Dodgers Late in 1991 the Dodgers saw Rudy when he was pitching winter ball in Mexico. He was the property of the Indians then so they traded a couple of pitchers (Dennis Cook and Mike Christopher) to Cleveland for him figuring the 98 mph fast ball he'd been flashing would do just fine in the L.A. bullpen.

Instead, Rudy injured his back so severely that he spent the entire 1992 season on the disabled list. That off-season, the need for a second baseman was such that they shipped him to the Rockies for Jody Reed. Thus,he left L.A. without ever pitching in a game for them.

He got his second chance with the Dodgers in 1994 when he was signed as a free agent and this time he actually pitched and did so again the next season as well before being sent down to Albuquerque in 1997. By then he had fallen out of favor and was released to subsequently sign with the Mets.

Of course, he spent some time on the disabled list during that stretch. Occupying the DL has been a habit of Rudy's. For the record he's been on it for nine different stretches during his career.

But he's been on the mound a lot in the 21 seasons he's been a pro and quite often he's been a very good man to have in the bullpen. That was particularly true with the Braves in 1998-99. Of course, they wound up letting him go, too. That's the way it's been with Rudy.

However, he's always fought his way back. In fact. he's staged almost as many revivals as Billy Graham. They'll kiss him goodbye, release or trade him and he'll pop up with some other club to throw handsomely for awhile, only to repeat the process once more.

In all, he's been with nine different organizations with some, like the Dodgers, giving him a repeat performance. He's done the second time around with the Padres, the Braves and the Red Sox.

Last year, it seemed like it was all going to finally come to an end. He began with Boston, didn't do much so was released only to sign with the Padres again. Rudy got through the season with them but became a free agent once more. Of course, he was injured during that time. It's a tradition.

Over the winter, though, he got healthy enough that he thought he'd give it, maybe, one more shot. So, in late January, he signed on with L.A. for his third try and here he is in spring training as a non-roster hopeful with his considerable record taking up a full page in the media guide.

And you know what? He's pitching pretty darn well, too. That fast ball hasn't lost all its pizzazz and he has some other pitches of note, too. You don't last this long with just one pitch or not getting smart about what you do out there and he's been demonstrating that.

If he keeps doing what he has been , there has to be serious talk about keeping him around. The first notion may be to stash him at Las Vegas but Rudy doesn't seem inclined in that direction, saying he doesn't particularly relish the thought of going back to the minors and, furthermore, he doesn't want to take a job away from some younger aspirant.

By now all the pitchers around are younger than Rudy. He's 38 (coincidentally the number he's wearing). In this camp, only 39-year-old outfielder Luis Gonzalez is older and nobody but nobody has a career that goes all the way back to 1986 when Seanez started.

If they ultimately decide they can get along without him, he says he'll probably leave the game. Not athletics, though for he's quite the martial arts aficionado and wouldn't mind devoting more time to that.

In the meantime if he keeps throwing the way he has,, it won't be easy to add another release to that long, long record. That would require another page in the media guide and they've run out of room.

Seanez may have been an afterthought when he came in but he's been moving up steadily ever since he's arrived. That's Rudy. He may well get a 22nd year in the game as a result.

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