Dodgers Alter Mexico Policy

It had become a rite of spring for the Dodgers to receive a request from the Mexico Red Devils for the loan of a few Dodger-controlled players from that country so that they could perform for their team that summer. It was one they were happy to comply with because it seemed in the best interests of both organizations.

But this past spring when the usual request was made, it was turned aside. There has been a change in policy.

Part of the reason was that, in the past with tight visa restrictions, the Dodgers didn't have room for all the Latino minor leaguers so this would give some of the more advanced a place to play. Now, with the visa limits relaxed, that need has vanished. But, there's also another factor that was equally as important.

Farm teams exist for the development of players that hopefully someday, might help the big club; winning is nice but it's a by-product of that. But Mexican League teams aren't your normal farm clubs; rather, they are all independent operations and the ties with big league teams are loose. They exist for winning as far as all there are concerned so the managers don't feel their first order of business is to shape a player for some big league team.

Therefore, they'll use any player they get for their own interests. Thus, some of the players the Dodgers have sent there over the years have been used in a manner that LA has felt was not the way they wanted it. And since they are far away and their own instructors seldom have the time to get south of the border, they couldn't monitor matters nearly as much as they would like.

So, it came about that they did cut ties to two pitchers, returning them to Mexico in the process. Of the seven players in the system that are Mexicans, they sent only one to that country to play; all the others remained here. And they're happy they retained the rights to that one they allowed the Red Devils the use of for he had a very good year.

He's righthander Mauricio Tequida, who has become the closer for the Red Devils and who was 3-1, 2.77 with 14 saves for them. It's the second straight year he's filled that role, going 5-4, 3.29 with 12 saves in 2006 so he's a fan favorite down there. He doesn't have a big fast ball but he knows how to pitch, obviously gets outs and might well be heard of up here in the future.

But when the Red Devils wanted righthander Francisco Felix, they were denied. He pitched at Inland Empire along with fellow Mexican, righthander Jesus Rodriguez plus catcher Gabriel Gutierrez. Righthander Thomas Melgarejo pitched and Francisco Lizarraga played shortstop for Great Lakes while rookie righthander Edwin Contreras, broke in with the Gulf Coast Dodgers.

Above all they'd like to prevent a situation occurring such as happened with Joachim Soria. He was a Dodger hopeful once but had to have an arm operation. When he recovered, they sent him to Mexico but, from a distance, he didn't seem to be coming back satisfactorily so they finally relinquished control.

Soria, however, did recover, and the Padres worked out a deal for him. But they didn't prospect him so the Royals and him the first player chosen in last December's Rule 5 draft. This year he became the closer in Kansas City, one of the top rookie pitchers in the American League.

He wouldn't have been the closer in LA because of the presence of Takashi Saito but he would have been a nice addition when the relief corps got so depleted. Instead, he was with somebody else.

So, they've taken steps that if another Joachim Soria comes along, they'll be able to coach him directly and monitor him closely so that he could be a Dodger when they need him.