After a Dodgers workout this spring the topic of third
basemen--specifically, the parade of players that manned the
position for injured regular Adrian Beltre last year--was raised
with manager Jim Tracy. "Let's see if I can remember them all,"
he said, propping his elbows on his desk and burying his face in
his hands. "There was Chris Donnels on Opening Day. There was
[Jeff] Reboulet, [Dave] Hansen, [Phil] Hiatt, [Hiram] Bocachica,
[Jeff] Branson. I think there's one more. Help me out, I know
there's one more." After a few moments he got a hint from a club
official standing in the doorway of his office, and Tracy said,
"Tim Bogar. That's it. Thanks."
The mess at third came about when Beltre was sidelined most of
spring training and the first six weeks of the regular season
because of complications from an emergency appendectomy in
January 2001. Forgive Tracy his memory lapse. The performances
of Beltre's replacements were so forgettable--in 33 games, five
fill-ins combined for two home runs, 12 RBIs and a .346 slugging
percentage--that Beltre was rushed back to the lineup on May 12,
even though he hadn't regained all the 35 pounds he had lost
during his illness. "They told me I had been so sick I was close
to dying," says Beltre. "But I wanted to play so much that I
rushed myself, too."
Though he felt nowhere near full strength until the last month
of the season, the 22-year-old Beltre, a budding star who had
hit .290 with 20 home runs and 85 RBIs in 2000, cracked 13 home
runs and drove in 60 runs in 126 games. In the off-season he
retreated to his mother's house in Santo Domingo, D.R., and,
thanks to a steady regimen of weightlifting and hefty portions
of Mom's cooking, he's back to his regular playing weight of 180
L.A. is counting on a hale Beltre to blossom into an All-Star
and help fill the void left by the trade of disgruntled
outfielder Gary Sheffield (36 homers, 100 RBIs) to the Braves
for Brian Jordan and two pitchers. Other than Jordan,
rightfielder Shawn Green and catcher Paul Lo Duca, no other
player on the team drove in more than 63 runs in the majors last
season. Another concern: The team's leadoff hitters had the
league's second-worst on-base percentage (.306) in 2001, and
Dave Roberts, the leading candidate for the job this year, has a
career OBP of just .292 in 75 major league games.
The rotation could be one of the league's deepest, assuming
everyone is healthy. Ace Kevin Brown made only 19 starts and is
trying to bounce back from September surgery to repair a torn
flexor muscle in his pitching elbow. Andy Ashby made two starts
last year before having surgery to repair the same injury. Brown
has looked impressive this spring, while Ashby has struggled
with his control. Japanese import Kazuhisa Ishii (78-46, 3.38
ERA in 10 seasons with the Yakult Swallows) has impressed the
Dodgers with his velocity and hard-biting slider. If he's as
good as advertised, L.A. will have the effective lefthanded
starter it lacked last year when righties started all but four
"You can't win in our division without lefthanded pitching,"
says new general manager Dan Evans, the former assistant G.M. of
the White Sox who has also added southpaw starters Omar Daal and
Odalis Perez since taking over in October. He also revamped the
player development staff, hiring a new scouting director and a
new farm director and luring Kim Ng, the Yankees' assistant
G.M., to be his assistant. The task is daunting: rebuild a minor
league system that doesn't have one prospect ready for the majors.
Beltre, in fact, is one of only three homegrown players (Lo Duca
and first baseman Eric Karros are the others) in the Opening Day
lineup. And the third baseman's play may determine whether this
team stays in the playoff hunt to the end. --S.C.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS There's no substitute for a healthy Beltre, whose replacements were dreadful in his absence last spring.
COLOR PHOTO: ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES NOMO
In 2001 Shawn Green became the first Dodger to hit 40 or more
homers and steal 20 or more bases in a season.
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Dodgers
"I'm convinced Paul Lo Duca is legit. He puts the ball in play
hard, runs his tail off and does a decent job behind the
plate.... Shawn Green is a star, but he's going to miss Gary
Sheffield in a serious way. Green doesn't have the protection
anymore, so all those fastballs he saw will disappear. Sheffield
was the most fearsome hitter in baseball. I like Brian Jordan,
but he's just a hard-nosed guy who'll play hard every day. He'll
bring production but nowhere near Sheffield's level.... Eric
Karros is the most putrid spring training player I've ever seen.
He never runs hard, and he just mails in at bats. Yeah, he puts
up O.K. numbers, but have some fun.... Cesar Izturis is an
upgrade defensively over Alex Cora, but he's weak with the bat,
too.... The Dodgers have a lot of name pitchers, but will they
play? Darren Dreifort, who had elbow surgery last year, is a
mystery. Kevin Brown--who knows?... Hideo Nomo is a valuable
fourth starter. His splitter still works, and he can hit 90 mph.
When he stays out of the middle of the zone he's strong....
Odalis Perez has one of the better arms around, but he's never
been given a long look as a starter. I think he'll win 12 to 14
games.... Omar Daal was a steal; he changes speeds real well....
Matt Herges has good makeup and good stuff, but he lacks the
swing-and-miss pitch that closers need. They'll miss Jeff Shaw.
Had they been able to find a good closer, they would have had a
good bullpen with Herges and Paul Quantrill. Quantrill still
baffles hitters, and he hits his spots consistently. Crafty."
projected roster with 2001 statistics
PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
CF Dave Roberts* L 218 .303 0 22 17
SS Cesar Izturis (R)S-R 274 .269 2 9 8
RF Shawn Green L 8 .297 49 125 20
LF Brian Jordan R 93 .295 25 97 3
C Paul Lo Duca R 37 .320 25 90 2
1B Eric Karros R 173 .235 15 63 3
3B Adrian Beltre R 161 .265 13 60 13
2B Mark Grudzielanek R 217 .271 13 55 4
OF Dante Bichette R 291 .286 12 49 2
IF Dave Hansen L-R 323 .236 2 20 0
C Chad Kreuter S-R 325 .215 6 17 0
PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
RH Kevin Brown 15 10 4 6.0 1.14 2.65
LH Kazuhisa Ishii (R)56 12 6 6.5 1.24 3.39
RH Andy Ashby 85 2 0 5.9 1.29 3.86
RH Hideo Nomo 61 13 10 6.0 1.35 4.50
LH Odalis Perez 116 7 8 5.4 1.54 4.91
PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
RH Matt Herges 125 9 8 1 1.44 3.44
RH Paul Quantrill 135 11 2 2 1.18 3.04
LH Terry Mulholland 166 1 1 0 1.46 4.66
New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player
Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Triple A stats Japanese Central League stats
second season with Los Angeles
third in NL West
IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings