Spring Postcard: More than Manny, L.A. has some great young talent
Andre Ethier, James Loney, Matt Kemp and Russell Martin are all under 27
The emergence of pitchers Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald is key
Young outfielder Xavier Paul has a team-high 13 hits and 10 RBIs this spring
1) Forgetting Manny for a second (and that isn't easy), the Dodgers have terrific young positional talent.
2) "We need another arm,'' one Dodgers official said.
Several pitchers are missing from last year's NLCS team -- though one clearly stands out. "Derek Lowe's the one we really miss,'' another Dodgers person said. Greg Maddux, Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and Joe Beimel are also gone. All had varying degrees of health and effectiveness last year. Wolf should help, though one competing executive said, "He's a No. 4 starter who got hurt every year until last year.'' The emergence of Kershaw and James McDonald would help even more.
3) Camelback Ranch is missing the nostalgia of Dodgertown, L.A.'s beloved longtime spring home in Vero Beach, Fla.
New faces, new places
Orlando Hudson wanted to come to the Dodgers, and he got his wish. Although his $3.38 million contract was probably about one-tenth of what he was hoping to get on the free-agent market. Hudson, a peppy sort, expressed no great disappointment about failing to get the big contract and attributed the surprisingly low salary to a wrist injury that was slow to heal. He says he's OK now, though.
Los Angeles-native Mark Loretta appears ready to fill the role of utilityman -- though there was a buzz at Dodgers camp that the Yankees could be interested in him. For the most part, though, there aren't a lot of new people here. Free-agent signees Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Manny Ramirez and Wolf have all been Dodgers before.
Wish you were here
It would be a nice story to see Pedro Martinez return to the Dodgers after a 16-year absence. L.A. definitely needs the starting pitching help, and while Pedro is publicly pining for his Mets days, people close to him say he'd really like two things: 1) a National League team, and 2) a good pay day (that part could be the problem, as he's believed to want $5 million-plus, which won't happen here since they just bought Wolf for $5 million).
The No. 5 job in the rotation will likely go to the chronically hurt but well-compensated veteran Jason Schmidt if he can show anything. So far he has shown that he's healthy enough to get on the mound, but that's about it. After Schmidt, there's Eric Milton, Shawn Estes, Claudio Vargas and the youngster McDonald, who raised his profile with a great show of poise in the NLCS in Philly last October. "No one's taken the job so far,'' another Dodgers official said.
Milton, 33, hasn't won a big-league game since 2006, but has looked decent so far. Jeff Weaver, a former thorn to manager Joe Torre in his New York days, has looked OK, too, and may yet win a bullpen job.
Career utilityman Juan Castro (.524 this spring) may be winning a job with a big spring performance.
Prospect creating a buzz
Young outfielder Xavier Paul has been on fire, with a team-high 13 hits and 10 RBIs. Manager Joe Torre is excited about what he sees from Paul, who can also run and throw but is battling a numbers game made more difficult by Blake's ability to play the outfield as well as the infield.
Besides all the young stars, it's got to be Manny, who led the Dodgers into the NLCS last year. The team was only .500 when he arrived last summer, and his late signing this spring seemed to lift the spirits of everyone around here (perhaps everyone but Juan Pierre, who lost his starting job when Ramirez arrived).
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