February 2010

Spring Training Is Underway!

Last weekend pitchers and catchers officially reported to Dodgers Spring Training camp at Camelback Ranch in Arizona with the rest of the team trickling in shortly thereafter.  Lost in the hulla-ballo surrounding Manny Ramirez’s announcement that this was his last season in L.A. was the news that pitcher Scott Elbert has been dealing with left shoulder tendinitis, which might have more severe ramifications for both the Dodgers and particularly, the Isotopes.  Elbert enters Spring Training as a viable candidate to fill L.A.’s fifth rotation slot, and any prolonged injury set-back in Arizona would jeopardize that.  The good news is that according to Dodgers.com, Elbert threw a pain-free bullpen session last Thusday and again yesterday, which should bode well for his being able to compete for a starter’s position this spring.  

Ken Gurnick, the Dodgers’ writer for MLB.com also has a scary story about relief pitcher Travis Schlichting, who was superb in 13 appearances for the ‘Topes last year, going 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA (2 ER / 48.1 IP) before he was shut down on July 31 with back spasms.  It turns out Schlichting has been suffering from a rare genetic condition called Gilbert’s Syndrome, which affects the production of an enzyme that detoxifies bilirubin, a toxic product of the natural breakdown of red blood cells. This enzymatic shortage leads to an excess of bilirubin (and other toxins) in the blood serum and can lead to fatigue, nausea, and extreme weight loss (Schlichting at one point dropped 30 pounds– he’s since put 10 pounds back on since switching diets).  The good news is Schlichting is now feeling better and the weight loss has actually helped take some strain off the bulging disk in his back that sidelined him off and on last season. 

Now that Spring Training is underway, here are a couple of dates to remember: 

Thursday, March 4: Minor League Pitchers / Catchers Report*

Friday, March 5:  Dodgers first Spring Training Game (vs. Chicago White Sox) @ Camelback Ranch

Wednesday, March 10:  Minor League Position Players Report*

(Minor League report dates are for all of those players not on the Dodgers 40-man roster and not invited to Major League camp)   

Gagne Back In Albuquerque?

Relief pitcher Eric Gagne has come full circle and returned to his roots, the Dodgers, who signed the 2003 Cy Young Award winner to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training.  Having not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2008 with the Brewers, it’s difficult to put a finger on how good his chances are of making the Major League club, which means there might be a chance that he might start the 2010 season in Albuquerque.  In 2000, Gagne, who was a starter at the time, made nine starts for the Dukes, going 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA.  Last season, Gagne played in his hometown, Quebec City, Canada, in the independent Canadian-American Association, going 6-6 with a 4.65 ERA in 17 games, all starts.  In 2002 Gagne saved 52 games and saved 55 more for the Dodgers in 2003. 

More on the signing at Dodgers.com.  

 

Job Fair And Other Random Thoughts

A big thank you to everyone who came out for the Isotopes’ eighth-annual job fair. A grand total of 1,325 people came to Isotopes Park last Saturday, which was the largest turnout in the history of the event by almost 300.  While a turnout like that shows the high regard people in Albuquerque have for the Isotopes, it’s also a rather somber sign that a lot of people in these economic times are still hurting.  Nearly every age and socio-economic background was represented, showing how pervasive these hard times have become.  To that end, if it were possible to hire everyone who showed up we would but unfortunately there are only around 150 openings, which means a lot of people are going to still be out there looking for any type of work.  If you came out to the Job Fair, you will be notified within the next two weeks if you will be offered a position or not.  

Major League Weekend tickets go on sale this Saturday and the match-up between the Rockies and Mariners is shaping up to be really intriguing.  Many are predicting the Rox and Dodgers to battle it out for NL West supremacy this season, while the Mariners were extremely aggressive over the off-season and are suddenly a favorite to win the AL West.  It’s not often you get to see two playoff-caliber teams battle it out in your home town.  Tickets will go on sale at 10:00 AM at Isotopes Park and on-line.  Click here for details.   

Dodgers.com has a great story on infielder Ivan DeJesus, who broke his leg last spring and is nearly all the way back.  There’s a very good chance that DeJesus, one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, will start the season in Albuquerque, where he was slated to start last year before the injury. 

How awesome are the Winter Olympics? As you spend the week rooting for Lindsey Vonn, Shani Davis, and Shaun White, don’t forget that Pitchers and Catchers report to Dodgers Spring Training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona this Saturday! Spring is neigh! 

Dodgers Sign Giles

Lost amid the furor surrounding Sunday’s Super Bowl was the Dodgers signing outfielder Brian Giles to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training. With Reed Johnson in the fold, it’s hard to gauge what chances the 39-year old Giles has of making the team or if he’d come to Albuquerque in the event he doesn’t.  The former All-Star is also coming off a 2009 season that was shortened by arthritis in his right knee, which caused him to go on the DL in mid-June never to return. 

A trio of Isotopes from last year have also latched on elsewhere as Valentino Pascucci has signed with the Mets, an organization with whom he spent half of 2008 playing in New Orleans.  Infielder Luis Maza and left-handed pitcher Brian Mazone have both signed on with the Phillies organization.  Maza joined the Phils as a free agent while Mazone re-signed with Philadelphia after finishing the 2009 campaign with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.   

In other Isotopes news, the team’s annual Job Fair will be this Saturday from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Isotopes Park and if you’ve ever wanted to work for a baseball team, this is your best chance.  We’re expecting a big crowd so it’s a good idea to come early and prepared with a completed job application. You can download an application for the Isotopes or the team’s concessionaire Ovations Food Services here.   

    

Busy, busy…

It’s been a hectic 24 hours or so for the Dodgers, who have signed deals with four more players, outfielder Reed Johnson, right-handed pitcher Ramon Ortiz, right-handed pitcher Jeff Weaver, and utilityman Alfredo Amezaga

Although Johnson’s is the only deal of the four that is not a Minor League contract with an invite to big league camp, the arrival of the outfielder will certainly have a ripple effect throughout the organization, with the biggest ripple impacting Jason Repko.  On January 10 Repko, who batted .277 with 16 homers and 47 RBI with the Isotopes before getting a September call-up to L.A., avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal worth $500,000.  Now, Johnson enters Spring Training as the prohibitive favorite to be the Dodgers’ fourth outfielder, a job that was Repko’s not even a month ago.  Repko is out of options, which means if the Dodgers want to hang on to him and send him back to Albuquerque, they would have to designate him for assignment and he would then have to clear wavers before accepting his assignment to the ‘Topes.  The Dodgers could also try and trade Repko.  Either way, Repko’s is a name worth watching as Spring Training begins. 

Meanwhile, it’s deja vu all over again for Weaver, who enters Spring Training with a minor league contract for the second straight year.  In 2009, the right-hander broke camp with the Isotopes and made five appearances for Albuquerque before he joined the Dodgers and was a pivotal piece both in the rotation and the bullpen for Los Angeles.  In 28 games in L.A., (seven starts), Weaver went 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA but now will have to earn a spot in Spring Training once again. 

Veteran right-hander Ortiz spent last season pitching out of the bullpen and rotation for Fresno, Triple-A affiliate of the Giants.  In 35 games (16 starts), Ortiz went 5-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 114 strikeouts (against just 34 walks) in 129.2 innings.  He started the year in the ‘pen, but finished the season as starter, where he was excellent, at one point winning four starts in a row.  On August 4 he fired a three-hit shutout at Tacoma in a game the Grizzlies won 11-0. The right-hander’s last Big League stint came in 2007, when he split the year with the Twins and the Rockies.   

Finally, Amezaga joins the Dodgers after spending the last four seasons with the Marlins.  Last year, his season was shortened by microfracture surgery on his left knee in early July and has only been cleared to run since early January.  If healthy, Amezaga is an extremely valuable asset in that he can play either of the two middle infield positions and centerfield.    

Former 'Tope Visits Troops In Iraq

In his two seasons as an Isotope (2007-08), catcher John Baker established himself as not only a great backstop, but also a selfless contributor to the community, frequently visitng hospitals and schools throughout Albuquerque.  One visit Baker always looked forward to was to the VA Hospital in town, where he relished the opportunity to thank the men and women who have served the country so bravely.  

This winter Baker, now the starting catcher for the Florida Marlins, was part of a group of players that went to Kuwait and Iraq to visit U.S. troops serving there, in what must have been an amazing experience. 

Baker has a full re-cap with pictures on his website:  www.johnbakerbaseball.com.  It’s a fascinating re-telling of his experience with the troops and definitely worth checking out.  Of course, if you want to follow Baker on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/manbearwolf.

You can also click here for a video of the trip. 

All of us at the Isotopes are extremely proud of not only Baker’s on the field accomplishments, but also his continued dedication to helping others off of it!  Frankly, knowing what kind of guy Baker is, we’re not particularly surprised by either.   Attaway Bake!! 

In other former Isotope/great guy news, closer Joe Nelson has signed a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training with the Boston Red Sox. Last season, Nelson started the year with Tampa, appearing in 42 games before finishing the season wtih Triple-A Durham. While his stint in 2008 with the Isotopes was brief, it was notable.  In 19 games, Nelson racked up 11 saves before quickly getting the call to Florida, where he finished the season going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 59 games.     

     

Former ‘Tope Visits Troops In Iraq

In his two seasons as an Isotope (2007-08), catcher John Baker established himself as not only a great backstop, but also a selfless contributor to the community, frequently visitng hospitals and schools throughout Albuquerque.  One visit Baker always looked forward to was to the VA Hospital in town, where he relished the opportunity to thank the men and women who have served the country so bravely.  

This winter Baker, now the starting catcher for the Florida Marlins, was part of a group of players that went to Kuwait and Iraq to visit U.S. troops serving there, in what must have been an amazing experience. 

Baker has a full re-cap with pictures on his website:  www.johnbakerbaseball.com.  It’s a fascinating re-telling of his experience with the troops and definitely worth checking out.  Of course, if you want to follow Baker on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/manbearwolf.

You can also click here for a video of the trip. 

All of us at the Isotopes are extremely proud of not only Baker’s on the field accomplishments, but also his continued dedication to helping others off of it!  Frankly, knowing what kind of guy Baker is, we’re not particularly surprised by either.   Attaway Bake!! 

In other former Isotope/great guy news, closer Joe Nelson has signed a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training with the Boston Red Sox. Last season, Nelson started the year with Tampa, appearing in 42 games before finishing the season wtih Triple-A Durham. While his stint in 2008 with the Isotopes was brief, it was notable.  In 19 games, Nelson racked up 11 saves before quickly getting the call to Florida, where he finished the season going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 59 games.     

     

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