Spring is Finally Here!

Forget the Robins ... Spring Training is here. 2008 marks the Dodgers' 61st season at Dodgertown, the club's Spring Training complex in Vero Beach, FL. The Dodgers came to Vero Beach in 1948 at the invitation of local businessman Bud Holman and the Dodgers named their Spring Training stadium after him. Holman Stadium opened on March 11, 1953 and will mark it's 56th anniversary this spring.

The Dodgers' first workout under new manager Joe Torre isn't until today (Friday), but among the 40-man roster veterans who have checked in early are pitchers Joe Beimel, Chad Billingsley, Yhency Brazoban, Hiroki Kuroda, Esteban Loaiza, Greg Miller, Justin Orenduff, Takashi Saito, Rudy Seanez, Jason Schmidt and Eric Stults plus catcher Russell Martin. The early position players in camp from the 40-man roster is Jason Repko, who said he's fully recovered from a torn right hamstring and stress fracture of his left ankle, Juan Pierre and Delwyn Young.

   Non-roster invitees in camp include pitchers Brian Falkenborg, Greg Jones, Mike Koplove, Tom Martin, Chan Ho Park, Matt Riley and Brian Shackelford, plus catchers Danny Ardoin and Rene Rivera and outfielder John-Ford Griffin.

  Non-roster pitchers Fernando De La Cruz and Alfredo Simon, both from the Dominican Republic, will be delayed from reporting because of visa issues.

  The Dodgers will have 63 players in big league camp from nine countries and Puerto Rico. Jeff Kent, with 16 years service and 40 years of age next month, is the dean. Outfielder Xavier Paul (23 later this month) is the youngest. The player with the longest uninterrupted service as a Dodger is Brad Penny, acquired in the Paul Lo Duca trade July 30, 2004.

  The Dodgers are making no promises about the readiness of Jason Schmidt to make the starting rotation out of Spring Training following major shoulder surgery, but Dodger Manager Joe Torre was optimistic about the right-hander, saying "If he's not ready by Opening Day I think he'll be real close. I'm sure he will get into a game this spring. It might be a simulated game or a "B" game, but he will pitch."

  However, Loaiza said he's ready to win the fifth spot in the rotation that Schmidt would be vying for. "I'm ready mentally and physically," said Loaiza, who was claimed last August from Oakland while still recovering from neck and knee operations. "That wasn't the real me last year. I've worked harder than I've ever worked over the winter. I've lost weight. I'm ready to go."

Torre's Comments
New manager Joe Torre has his first press conference at Vero Beach. A few of his comments:

  How does it feel not to be in Tampa?:

  "Strange.  The thing that was strange was packing.  Normally when I pack in the spring, I pack for Florida and figure eventually I'll get back home.  But I'm not sure that's going to happen.  My ‘back home' now is going to be California…I've been packing for weeks.  I have a whole lot more down here than I would normally take to Spring Training."

  On the differences in managing the Yankees and Dodgers:

  "…Aside from the on-field stuff, it's getting to know players. I'm dealing with probably more young players than I have in the past. I think what's gone on the last few years with the Yankees has been a help for me where we've had a [Robinson] Cano or we've had a [Melky] Cabrera or we've had a [Chien-Mien] Wang ... You sort of like the energy level they give you. I spent a couple of days with a number of these players at the mini camp in L.A. before I went to China. I'm looking forward to it.  You try to pick people's brains.  They all want to play the game, and they seem pretty respectful, and that's a pretty good head start…"

  On the decision to keep managing and not retire:

  "It was not an easy decision.  When I left Tampa that day and said, ‘No,' unfortunately the message sort of got mixed out there when I said I was insulted ... I didn't think I needed motivation to win, and that's where I felt that the insult came from.  Usually at the end of the year I'm so drained that you don't even want to think about managing. When the Dodgers inquired, there is a handful of teams that you certainly pay attention to.  The Dodgers are one of those teams. I grew up with the Dodgers in Brooklyn even though I wasn't a Dodgers fan ... You looked at the Dodgers as that team that you'd measure up to all the time ... Even having the interest shown, it still took me time to really come to terms with doing it, for a number of reasons.  I have – at the time – an 11-year-old daughter in New York. To uproot her and move, that was a very tough, tough thing.  My wife, Ali, thank goodness, helped me with that decision.  She encouraged me to do it, saying we'd adjust and everything would be fine…At the time I was listening, I certainly didn't want to think of the fact that I had to start all over again, but the more you get involved with the organization in talking to Ned and talking to the McCourts, I was getting excited about the prospects. And I go out there, and Vin Scully introduces you, that's all it took, pal."

  On feeling if you have anything left to prove:

  "I don't think I have anything to prove. I just wasn't sure if I was ready to say, ‘I don't want to do this any more.' After the season, it's the last thing you want to think about ... I don't think I have anything to prove.  I think it was just something I felt I needed to go somewhere else to do."

Checkin' Things Out
The Great Lakes Loons' new manager Juan Bustabad toured Dow Diamond on Monday, and said, "There's a lot of excitement here, there's a great fan base here, and the facilities are great for being (Class) A ball. I'm just glad to be the manager."

  Bustabad was born in Havana, Cuba, and makes his off-season home in Lake Worth, Fla. He's a professional baseball lifer in the minor leagues, first as a player for nine seasons and now as a manager for 12.

  The 46-year-old Bustabad's teams have won seven division titles, had eight winning seasons and compiled a 483-361 record. He's one of the good guys in baseball and is universally respected.

Hearts and Flowers
Joe Jareck of the Dodgers Publicity Department cleverly picked an all-cupid team for Valentine's day from past and present members of the club. The Dodgers' All-Valentine's Day team, is managed by former Dodger infielder and Japan league skipper, Bobby Valentine. Cracking the starting rotation is current Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt along with Tom Candiotti, Babe Birrer, Sweetbreads Bailey, Rosy Ryan and Tom Lovett. The rest of the squad consists of Candy Maldonado, Bill W. Hart, "Sweet" Lou Johnson, Pop Corkhill, Red Downs, Johnny Roseboro, Sandy Amoros, and former big league pitcher and current Dodger Special Assistant to the General Manager Vance Lovelace.

Alumni Notes
According to the Kansas City Star, Royals officials have indicated that Brett Tomko "must pitch his way out of the" rotation. Some say he had little trouble doing that last year for the Dodgers.

  The former No. 1 overall pick, Luke Hochevar, struggled in the minors last season, posting a 4.86 ERA while serving up 24 homers in 152 innings, but fared well in a dozen innings with the Royals. Kansas City has no shortage of veteran rotation options, so McClure indicated that Hochevar could be used in a long relief role initially.

Olmedo Saenz signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Mets.

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