Maza Hopes to Make the Grade- Someplace

VERO BEACH, Fla.- Luis Maza is a minor league free agent who's been getting a lot of looks in the Dodger camp including several big league exhibition games. Just what his immediate future is comes with a lot of "if's", most of which have nothing to do with his own play.

Maza is an infielder who's most comfortable at second base. So, if Rafael Furcal's injury persists and if the Dodgers decide that they need Tony Abreu as the man to replace him, then Maza has a chance to be the starting second baseman at Las Vegas.

But, again the if's, for if Abreu stays in the minors for at least the time being, he's going to start at second for Vegas with Chin-lung Hu starting at short. That leaves Maza scrambling for playing time someplace.

Luis is a veteran of nine years in the Twins organization with the last two of those spent in the International League so he knows his way around the game including AAA. He signed out of Venezuela as a teen-ager, thus he's still only 26 despite all that time spent in the minors.

A chunky 5-9, 180, he has a sure glove and an average arm. At the plate, his best year came in 2004 with New Britain in the Eastern League when he hit .311 with a dozen home runs. In 2005 he was with Rochester in the International League where he managed a .291 mark with 11 out of the park but last year, again with Rochester, he dropped off to .209 with only three dingers so was abandoned to free agency.

He recovered enough playing winter ball back home to attract the Dodgers for he hit .298 during the season, then .292 in the Caribbean World Series. That convinced LA to give him another shot, signing him in late January.

Although he doesn't come equipped with jet speed, having totaled only five stolen bases over the last three seasons, he knows the game, plays it proficiently and could be a solid addition- if there's some room for him.

The plane for Vegas leaves on Monday. He hopes to be part of the group making the trip.