Martin Not Looking for Time Off

Spring training just started and catcher Russell Martin is campaigning for more starts. In 2007 he started 143 of the 162 games (tying Mike Piazza for the club record). He led Major League catchers with 145 games caught and 1,254 innings caught.

Traditionally, managers are loathe to removed their starting catcher if he is as important to the team as a Piazza or a Martin.

And he is important.

He stole 21 bases to lead all Major League catchers and set a single-season club record. His 157 hits, 19 homers, 87 runs, .297 batting average, .380 on-base percentage and .477 slugging percentage also led both leagues.

He was rewarded with a starting position in the All-Star game, earned a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger bat among many other awards.

But the flip-side of all that action is the exhaustion factor that sets in during the final month. Martin hit only .259 the final weeks of the season, dropping his .300+ average to .293.

Torre knows what he has in Martin. "Any time somebody talked about the Dodgers, they started with him," Torre said. "There's such a void when he's not in the lineup. You really have to lay sort of a plan out, figure out when to give him a day off. He's very important to this ballclub, and not only the offense aspect. The pitchers trust him."

LaRoche Wants to be Ready
The battle for third base during spring training will be watched with keen interest by Joe Torre and his staff as Andy LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra will fight for playing time. Garciaparra hit only .226 in 93 at-bats last year while LaRoche, a rookie, had another strong year at Las Vegas.

It's an opportunity General Manager Ned Colletti spoke about last month, with the veteran and the youngster competing for the same position. In previous years, LaRoche was behind Bill Mueller and Wilson Betemit on the third base depth chart.

Andy LaRoche reported early to camp and said he has been performing exercises to keep a recurring back problem from affecting him again.

LaRoche pointed out that he has what he feels is his first legitimate chance to win a starting job in the major leagues and also a new coaching staff to impress.

"Part of what drives me is not wanting to go back to Las Vegas," LaRoche told Diamond Leung of the Riverside Press-Enterprise. "I wouldn't say there's a sense of urgency, but I don't want to go back to Vegas. I want to be the starter."

LaRoche displayed remarkable power throughout his minor league career, hitting 18 home runs for Las Vegas last season and one in September for the Dodgers despite spending time on the disabled list with a partially protruded disk in his back.

He hit 30 homers in the minors in 2005, and has 275 home runs over his five year minor league career.

This year, LaRoche said he wants to be ready. He worked to prevent the slow starts that held him back in the past.

Over the years he has been a slow starter but hopes this year it will be different. "I hope to change that," LaRoche said. "I've just not come in prepared."

Miller hopes problems behind him
Greg Miller has been working with Rick Honeycutt on a slight mechanical adjustment that Greg made last season, when he was battling those well-documented control problems that caused him to walk 46 batters in 28 2/3 innings at Las Vegas before he was demoted to Jacksonville.

?"Everything for me is about staying on my front leg and being more direct to the plate," Miller told Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News. "Last year at times, I got kind of directional with my lower body."

?Miller said his mechanics were partly to blame and it was also partly his fault.

?"I'm willing to admit, was that I just got really frustrated with my lack of control and tried to muscle my way through," he said.

?Miller cutting down on the number of walks after at Jacksonville, but he didn't really put the issue behind him until the season ended.

?"To tell you the truth, I didn't really get out of it all year," he said. "I cut down on the walks, but I think a lot of that was just relaxing. In Triple-A, I felt a lot of pressure from myself because I didn't want to let myself or my teammates down. Mentally, I don't think I really put it behind me until the offseason, when I was able to step away and think back on what happened."

?Miller, once the No. 1 pitching prospect in the Dodger system has a chance to join the Dodgers bullpen this season if he can cut down on the walks.

Honorary Role for Jobe
Dr. Frank Jobe, the team's orthopedic physician since 1968, will soon receive an honorary position in the organization.

Jobe, who attended medical school at Loma Linda, is famous for inventing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in 1974. He has performed more than 1,000 such elbow procedures on pitchers, prolonging their careers.

Jones Looking for Long-Time Relationship
Outfielder Andruw Jones, whose two year contract will pay him $36.2 million, signed because Scott Boras, Jones' agent, noted that the short-term deal would allow Jones to quickly re-enter the free-agent market upon re-establishing his value.

Jones won his 10th Gold Glove award for fielding last season, but recorded a career-low .222 with 26 home runs (more than any Dodger), down from a major league-best 51 in 2005 and 41 in 2006.

But Jones says he wants to discuss an extension as soon as the Dodgers are ready. "I want to be there for a while, like I was with the Braves," Jones said.

Giants Starters Chosen
Giants manager Bruce Bochy named Barry Zito and Matt Cain, in that order, to start the first two games of the regular season against the Dodgers.

Torre hasn't even considered his opening game starters since he his new to the entire squad. But it will be either Brad Penny or Derek Lowe. Lowe has been the opening-day starter each of the past three seasons

Kuroda Opens Eyes
A wave of Japanese media followed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda's every move during his first workout. The $35.3 million Japanese import threw a 29-pitch bullpen session that impressed his catcher.

"He was throwing harder than I thought he would," said Russell Martin. "And he told Brad Penny he was only throwing at 60 percent. He had a nice two-seamer that complements his slider, and he showed good command of his splitty, which he says he likes to throw in the dirt. This is going to be fun."

The opening session lasted for only about two hours, much shorter than traditional spring sessions he experienced in his homeland. "I like this one better," Kuroda said through a translator.

Two Lefties, Please
Torre wants to keep two left-handed relievers. Obviously, Joe Beimel will be one. Competition for the second spot will focus on non-roster invitees Mike Myers (who pitched for Torre in New York) and former Dodger Tom Martin, but a 40-man roster candidate could be Kuo, coming off his fourth elbow operation and out of options. Other left-handers on the 40-man roster are Eric Stults and Greg Miller, while non-roster possibilities include Matt Riley and Brian Shackleford.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Jason Schmidt threw 36 pitches during his first bullpen session of the Spring. Schmidt threw an array of pitches and Dodger Manager Joe Torre was especially impressed with his slider and "how free and easy the ball came out of his hand." Schmidt will have two days of rest before throwing his next ‘pen on Monday. ...Michael Boughton is taking over as the hitting coach for the Rookie-level Ogden Raptors. Boughton has spent the last eight years instructing baseball in the Dallas area. He owned the Rookie Baseball Academy in Dallas from 2003-06 and was the head instructor of the Dallas Baseball Academy from 2000-03. The former shortstop was a 12th-round draft pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1996 and played in their system until 1998. ...The Dodgers signed outfielder Nook Logan to a minor league deal this morning. Logan, who has appeared in 321 big league games with the Tigers and Nationals, joins Wilkin Ruan as the two minor league campers with the most Major League experience. ...They also signed two Mexican pitching prospects -- Freddy Quintero, 20, and Javier Solano, 17 -- for $250,000 signing bonuses. Two Dominican pitchers signed this month.

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