It May Be Cold But Dodgers Will Love Midland

   Yeah, it's going to be cold at this time of year but if you can get over that the Dodgers may well have landed in a low  A baseball paradise with the switching of their affiliation from Columbus, Ga., to Midland, Mich.

   They've located in a brand new state-of-the art facility, a progressive ownership situation, the solid support of Dow Chemical, which is headquartered here and what looks very much like enthusiastic community backing. So, it was goodbye, Columbus.

   There if they drew 250 for a game, it was regarded as a huge throng. This town will be Woodstock redux. They've already sold out 3/4 of the stadium before throwing out the first ball . That moment will take a bit because the team, known as the Great Lakes Loons, (all the better to sell T-shirts, my dear) opens with a six-game road trip.

  Midland is Tiger country, naturally, but they have been solaced by the appointment of Lance Parrish, erstwhile Detroit All-Star catcher, as the manager. His coaches are Glenn Dishman to handle pitching as he did last year at Vero Beach and Garey Ingram for the batters. He was stationed in Columbus previously. Parrish managed Ogden in 2006.

  They have a team that includes several top Dodger prospects to work with. You can start with lefthander Clayton Kershaw, who is rated numero uno, not only among pitchers but everybody else, as well. Kershaw has all it takes to be outstanding- a fast ball that reached 97 this spring, a nasty curve and a developing change plus sagacity beyond his years.(He turned 19 a couple of weeks ago). What's more, he pitches with control, or did, until opening night in South Bend where in freezing temperatures he walked six or one more than he did all last season.

    But that was a freak of nature, they feel. What's more, the rest of the starting rotation looks solid. There's righthanders Steve Johnson and Josh Wall and two more lefties, Thomas Melgarejo and Cody White. Johnson, one of three sons of former big leaguers on the team, isn't overpowering but sports an excellent curve and superior pitching knowledge. Wall is rated far, far better than the 3-5, 5.86 he managed at Ogden.

  Melgarejo, a Mexican, threw very well for the Gulf Coast team in and around some injuries while White was quite effective in relief for Ogden (4-2, 2.68) so much so, that's he's being converted to starting.

  The relief corps isn't shabby either. Mike Gardner was a starter in the Gulf Coast where he used his splitter to go 4-1, 2.08. Doug Brooks, a native of Michigan, Mexicans Jesus Rodriguez and Francisco Felix and Joe Jones, son of Dodger scout Hank, are all righthanders with skill as set-up men. Jones, however, will start the season on the disabled list.

  Lefty Garret White has a great fast ball  and is being groomed as a set-up man. Miguel Sanfler, another lefty, had a 2.18 ERA at Ogden in a hitter's league. Righthander Miguel Ramirez was the closer with that team, chalking up eight saves.

  David Sutherland, a large (6-6, 233) Australian, is seeking to come back to the style he displayed at Ogden in 2005 after seeing his average drop 80 points to .268 at Columbus last year. Eduardo Perez is another first baseman whose hitting slumped a year ago after leading the Gulf Coast with a .352 mark in 2005.

  Second base may be a shared position. There the Loons have Justin Fuller, an NAIA All-American at Lewis & Clark State but who hit only .230 for Ogden plus Michael Rivera, a native of Nicaragua who grew up in Miami and played college ball at for the Vols of Tennessee. He hit .253 for Ogden while being stationed mostly at short.

  He's moved over because the Loons have both Preston Mattingly and Francisco Lizarraga  at shortstop. Mattingly, a supplemental first-round draft pick a year ago who is the son of Yankee legend Don, hit .290 in the Gulf Coast League. Lizarraga, another Mexican, wasn't shabby at the plate for that team, either, hitting .273 and is a slick fielder.

  Third base is in the hands of Josh Bell, regarded as one of the best young hitters in the organization. He ripped 12 homers to go with a .308 mark that made him a Pioneer League all-star last summer.

  The outfield features Trayvon Robinson whose switch-hitting is progressing nicely and who is a jetster who goes from first to third about as quickly as the Roadrunner with Wile E. Coyote on his tail. Matt Berezay hit .296 with power at Ogden and Bridger Hunt broke in with a .314 mark at Columbus although he doesn't figure to go long ball much.

   Then there's the other big league offspring, Scott Van Slyke , son of Andy who's now coaching a little way down the road in Detroit. Scott is growing fast - he's 6-5, 214 now- and driving the ball with authority.

   Carlos Santana looks like an exciting young hitter- he posted a .303 mark with seven home runs in just 37 games for Ogden. Once a third baseman/outfielder, he's been converted to catching. He displays a great arm and if he's successful in grasping the defensive rudiments of his new position, could be a huge factor.

  Kenley Jansen figures to get plenty of work behind the plate as well. The native of Curacao hit only .248 in the Gulf Coast least year but has looked much more disciplined and effective at bat this spring. Parker Brooks, who can play eight positions if you want him to, is also available here.

   Okay, so it snowed in Midland yesterday and so April there can be cruel especially on the guys from around the Caribbean (there are nine on the team). They didn't recruit these guys for a snowball fight, anyway. This, they hope, is a club that will prosper in all kinds of weather.