For Starters, Try Jacksonville

     As the Dodgers sort through the wearied travelers among the major leaguer starters available to them from other sources- people like Esteban Loaiza and David Wells- thoughts are already turning to next year and what the minor leagues have to offer.

        There seems to be some intriguing choices in the system but the problem is, they might have to wait awhile before tapping into the resources. That's because the prime prospects are at the AA level with Jacksonville.

          Surely, it's not impossible for someone to be precocious enough to vault over AAA and make it the big leagues from there. That hasn't been the Dodger way of late. The talent level for the Suns is such, though, that they might be tempted.

       The list is headed by lefthander Clayton Kershaw, the prodigy who made it to the Southern League in just his first full season. He has everything it takes to be a consistent winner up on top- except that experience factor that Jeff Kent has been moaning about.

       There's more besides Kershaw like righthanders Justin Orenduff and James McDonald. Orenduff seems to have come all the way back from shoulder surgery while McDonald has moved from the middle of the pack to being considered one of the key figures for the future.

  You can add in the enigmatic Greg Miller, who has as much stuff as just about anybody down there but who's had his well-documented problems throwing it where it will do some good. Zach Hammes hasn't really come on all that much while lefthander Mike Megrew has been battling elbow problems. Joey Norrito did well with his sinker but he doesn't have enough pizzazz on his pitches to be taken too seriously.

       Those at Las Vegas are the closest to the big leagues, of course. There, lefthander Eric Stults and righthander D. J. Houlton are considered more fill-in types who just might be a fifth man in a rotation. William Juarez hasn't stepped it up enough while Miguel Pinango, a minor league free agent, did better than expected but isn't likely, either nor is another acquired that way, Eric Cyr.

     Down further trying to work their way upward from Inland Empire, there's Jesus Castillo and Javy Guerra, both inconsistent as they come back from surgeries. You never know quite what to expect from Marlon Arias and Mario Alvarez while Alberto Bastardo has battled arm problems. Lefthander Cody White, on the other, hand, seems to be coming along very well.

      Both Josh Wall and Steve Johnson at Great Lakes showed encouraging improvement. Johnson had shoulder aches that hampered him earlier. Lefthander James Adkins, the first-round supplemental draft choice in June, broke in very nicely for the Loons as did Timothy Sexton, who's much better than a 25th-round pick. Kyle Smit threw the ball with verve for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, not so well for Great Lakes because he began to nibble at the strike zone after being moved up.

      Ogden seemed rather bereft of true pitching prospects . Michael Gardner and Bobby Blevins had some moments but not enough. When moved from the bullpen, lefthander Wilfredo Diaz did all right.

    On the other hand, the Gulf Coast team was loaded with good arms. First-round draft pick Chris Withrow was held back and only threw nine innings but he reached 98 on the gun to show why he was taken where he was. Justin Miller, the sixth-round choice, dominated the Yankees with a mid-90's sinker to win the only playoff victory for the Dodgers in the championship series.

      Both lefthander Michael Watt, the second-round choice and righthander Danny Danielson, taken seventh, showed promise as did Dominican Daigaro Rondon, who has amazing control. Eric Thompson started nicely, then seemed to tire while, on the other hand, lefthander Jonathan Dutton, who doesn't throw all that hard, learned to set up a wicked change quite effectively.

     The Dominican Dodgers revived this year, mostly because of the good arms people working there. That's particularly true of lefthanders Geison Aguasviva and  Bolivar Medina, plus Carlos Frias. Edisaul Pimentel is another that earned praise. While neither Gari Tavarez nor Pedro Noboa were talked up all that much, both were quite productive.

      Meanwhile, there's a couple over with the rehabs who, if they return to their pre-injury form, will rank right at the top of the list- lefthander Scott Elbert for the near future and righthander Bryan Morris down the road. Tommy Perez is another who was hurt and off all year who has the stuff to be a winner- if he can ever get healthy.

     The Dodgers have always stressed pitching in their scouting and it's evident when you look at the system. If they can afford to be a patient, something that often seems in short supply in Los Angeles, it could pay off handsomely.