Luke Allen's Back But Is He In The Picture?

    Usually when a player gets sent down toward the end of spring training,  a domino effect occurs. For instance, when the Dodgers decided surprisingly to keep Matt Kemp for the outfield, that meant Larry Bigbie was the odd man out. Further when he, in just as surprising a move, decided to stick around the system for at least awhile, he reported to Vegas. And that bumped Luke Allen down a notch.

    Yes, that Luke Allen, the one that at one time was one of the more promising fielders  L.A. had - a kid who could handle a bat quite well and who was blessed with a strong arm afield. Now, though, he's back as one of several well-traveled vets signed to bolster certain positions. What's more, he didn't even get the usual invitation as a non-roster participant for the big club.

   He certainly expected to be in AAA, though. After all, he last saw AA in 2001 when he was still on the way up. Then he hit a solid .290 with 16 home runs for the Suns so Jacksonville has pleasant memories for all concerned and they're glad to have him back even if he has to feel like it's more than a little comedown for him.

  Luke made it all the way to the Dodgers in 2002 but for only five games. Then, they decided they'd do better with Jason Romano so traded Allen to Colorado for him  the next year. The Rockies didn't exactly prove to be Luke's chance to crash the bigtime, either. He got into only two games before they sent him back.

   Since then he's traveled around to the Pirates the Angels, the Red Sox and the Padres, all in AAA. Last season he didn't hit much at Pawtucket for the Sox (.241 with four homers) but did well the rest of the season for Portland, the Padres Pacific Coast club (.305 with five homers).

   So it's perfectly understandable that he figured when he signed with the Dodgers at the beginning of this year that Las Vegas was in his immediate plans. After all, he had a big year there in 2002 when he ripped the ball for a .329 mark with 12 homers.

   Then it appeared he was on his way up to stay but here he has down playing AA ball at age 28. Rather old for that classification but hardly decrepit. He's off to a good start, too, hitting at better than a .300 clip while playing a dependable right field. That arm certainly hasn't withered.

  It figures that the Dodger outfield picture isn't clear at this moment , by any means. There's a crowd ahead of him, though, especially with James Loney getting work in right at Vegas.

  Luke's not done, though. He's battled the odds before as a non-drafted free agent who had to make an impression when he first signed. He may be slightly out of focus but not entirely out of the picture, a player with some tools who can contribute at a level higher than AA. That he's already started demonstrating.

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