Dodgers Spring Notes February 21

The Dodgers' award-winning Spring Training facility, Camelback Ranch – Glendale, officially kicked off its second Spring Training February 20, when pitchers and catchers reported for physicals. After Dodger Manager Joe Torre addressed the media, the last physicals wrapped up in the late afternoon and the only player missing from camp was Ronald Belisario, who is tied up with visa issues.

                                              NON-ROSTER SPOTLIGHT: Russ and Ramon Ortiz each threw bullpen sessions the first day and are vying for spots on the roster. Russ, a Van Nuys native and attendee of Montclair Prep, led the National League with 21 wins in 2003 and has a 113-88 record in 11 big league seasons. Last year, he went 3-6 in 23 games (13 starts) for the Astros and 2-2 with a 4.06 ERA in six minor league games (five starts). Ramon, who was born in Cotui in the Dominican Republic, also had his best year in 2003, winning 16 games for the Angels that season. He has an 84-80 mark and last year he went 5-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 35 minor league games (16 starts) for Triple-A Fresno in the Giants' organization.

Who else could it be on the first day of spring, but 2003 Cy Young Award Winner Eric Gagné, who returns to the Dodgers for the first time since playing eight seasons in Los Angeles from 1999-2006. Gagné addressed the media at his locker, where he talked about competing for a spot on the roster as a non-roster invitee. The all-time Dodger saves leader will wear his familiar No. 38, after reliever Ramon Troncoso agreed to switch to No. 67 for the Cactus League season.

  RAZOR SHARP: Among the early position players reporting to camp was Dodger third baseman Casey Blake, who is sporting a clean-shaven face for the first time while wearing a Dodger uniform. According to Blake, "My last duck hunting trip didn't go so well so I got frustrated and shaved the beard. Someone said it makes me look younger, so I guess I'll keep it." Also reporting early to camp were Blake DeWitt, Xavier Paul, Jason Repko, Trayvon Robinson, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., Chin-lung Hu, Russell Mitchell and two of the newest Dodgers, Jamey Carroll and Reed Johnson.   

  THE "FRO HAWK": A new trend in hairstyles seems to have permeated the Dodger clubhouse as Russell Martin, Xavier Paul and James McDonald are sporting the trendy look. McDonald started growing his back in December, but Martin seems to have the healthiest looking ‘do. Dodger team interpreter Kenji Nimura says the manes curiously remind him of the Navi in Avatar. None of this is to be confused with the extremely long curly hair of Ramon Troncoso or the clean-shaven domes of Reed Johnson and Justin Knoedler.  

  DESERT RAIN: The forecast that called for rain was right on the money as the skies opened up around 8:30 A.M., sending coaches and front office executives scurrying for cover on their way to a staff meeting at the minor league complex. Last year, not one day or game was interrupted by rain at Camelback Ranch.

  SPRING TRAININGS WITH MAURY: The Dodgers would like to welcome current Spring Training instructor Maury Wills to Camelback Ranch. Wills first came to Spring Training with the club in 1951 at the age of 19.

  HE'S GOT SPIRIT: Dodger hurler Clayton Kershaw took part in "The Spirit of the Game" community event at Surprise Stadium along with teammate Russ Ortiz and fellow big leaguers Eric Chavez, Micah Hoffpauir, Scott Linebrink, Mike Sweeney, Micah Owings, Matt Herges, Reggie Willits, Brandon Wood, Jeremy Affeldt and David Murphy. The event is being put on by Compassionate Surprise and Christian athlete associations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Baseball Chapel, Unlimited Potential Inc., Pro Athletes Outreach and Endurance with Jan and Dave Dravecky, which have joined together with a mission to create an event that fosters the messaging of family, fun and faith.

THE FIRST TALK OF THE SPRING: Joe Torre is beginning his 51st season in professional baseball, which includes time playing in the minors, Majors (18 years), as a big league manager (28 years) and as a broadcaster (six years). When he spoke to his 2010 team for the first time and his message was simple: "Pitching is the basis for any success you'll have, so don't try and over-impress people and make sure you tell someone if you're not feeling well." The future Hall of Fame manager has seen his teams reach the playoffs for a record-tying 14 times from 1996-2009.  

YOUTH IS SERVED: Nineteen players -- nearly half of the Dodgers' 40-man roster -- are 26 years old or younger, including 11 who have Major League service time with the Dodgers under their belt.  Who is the youngest player in camp?  For the second consecutive spring, that distinction goes to lefthander Clayton Kershaw, who turns 22 on March 19. The youngest position player in camp is Trayvon Robinson, who won't turn 23 until Sept. 1. On the flip side, the most-experienced player in camp is Brad Ausmus, who turns 41 on April 14.   

TAIWAN TIDBIT: The Dodgers will depart for Taiwan in 17 days and among those making the trip are Manager Joe Torre, Taiwan natives Hong-Chih Kuo and Chin-lung Hu, infielders James Loney and Jamey Carroll and pitcher George Sherrill. The most likely tourist stop on the trip will be Taipei 101, also known as the Taipei Financial Center, which was the world's tallest building until it was surpassed in 2007 by Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Taipei 101 has 101 floors above ground and five below ground and measures 1,670.6 feet in height from the base to its spire, or the equivalent of more than four times the distance from home plate to center field at Dodger Stadium.

THE WORLD OF DODGERTOWN: Thirty-one pitchers and seven catchers have arrived at camp and among that group, 14 were born overseas representing seven different countries: Canada (Russell Martin, Eric Gagnè), Dominican Republic (Ramon Ortiz, Juan Perez and Ramon Troncoso),  Japan (Hiroki Kuroda), Mexico (Francisco Felix and Juan Castro), Netherlands Antilles (Kenley Jansen), Nicaragua (Vicente Padilla), Taiwan (Hong-Chih Kuo) and Venezuela (Carlos Monasterio, and Armando Zerpa).  Do note, early arrival Ivan DeJesus Jr. was born in Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States. Overall, of the 65 players that will eventually be in Major League camp, more than one-third (22) were born outside of the 50 United States. 

JOIN US AT THE RANCH: Among the new additions at Camelback Ranch in 2010 are Dodger Dogs and free parking. Season tickets, mini Plans, and single-game tickets are on sale now. Fans can purchase Spring Training tickets for Dodger home games by going to dodgers.com or by calling 800-745-3000.    

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