Dominican Dodgers Start Today

The records of what the Dodgers have accomplished in the Dominican Republic are blazoned with glory. For years, they had enough players to field two teams and always were contenders. Why, in 1997, both reached the finals of the Dominican Summer League championship; they were that good.

Regularly they supplied players of quality. The Martinez brothers, Raul Mondesi, Pedro Astacio and so many others. Vladimir Guerrero even got his start with the Dodgers before they were foolish enough to release him.

But then was then. A few years ago, they began cutting the international scouting budget. A dearth of good players soon followed. Prize staff left for other venues and they cut back to one team. Last season that squad finished a dreary also-ran at 30-42.

But Frank McCourt has vowed to change all that in order to bring back what once was. He promoted Logan White to head all scouting and brought back Ralph Avila, the man responsible for Campo Las Palmas, the excellent training base, to shape up the Dominican staff.

That he did with revamped scouting out scouring the countryside as of yore. The true test of that might well come when the international signing date of July 1 arrives but in the meantime they've come up with over a dozen newcomers as a great many of last year's team went by the wayside.

Longtime instructor Antonio Bautista has been made field coordinator while Pedro Mega returns to managing. He has seven years of experience and led the 2000 team to the league title. His coaches are Kremlin Martinez for pitching and, following in his dad Manny's footsteps, Tony Mota for batting.

Among the brighter hopefuls among the rookies are shortstop Rafael Aybar (no relation to Willie) and two lefthanded pitchers who have looked good in camp, Endy Marte and Bolivar Medina. Also, Venezuelan scout Camilo Pascual has provided outfielder Jose Miguel Sanchez, who has a lot of promise. Another venezuelan, infielder Charlie Mirabal was found in a Dodgertown tryout camp but will debut here.

Among the better players who survived the general roster purging are a pair of infielders, Rafael Ynoa and one named Pedro Guerrero, who is not related to his namesake nor any other of the famous Guerreros. He only managed a .139 mark after signing late last summer but he's a big, strong kid (6-3, 181) who, they feel, can add some luster to the name.

Outfielder Alexis Marte is back for his third season. In his first he hit .315 but with no power. In his second he pumped up the volume with five homers but his average plummeted to .168. Some combination of both positives is hoped for this time.

Two of the top pitchers from the 2006 staff also return. Lefthander Kelvin Dominguez posted a 2.56 ERA while holding batters to a .188 mark. He struck out 76 in 52.2 innings. Righthander Pedro Noboa signed late, then went 3-2, 2.38.

There's been decided improvement in lefthander Geison Aguasviva and Panamanian righthander Marlon Urriola as well.

In all, a lot has been accomplished over a very busy off-season. Now they hope to make it start paying off during the Dominican Summer League play which starts today (Monday).

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