Dodgers Turning To Youth For Help





PHOENIX De Jon Watson came to spring training with a challenge: to guide the prospects who have helped keep the Dodgers one of the steadiest farm systems into contributing big leaguers.

"My first year, the organization had won the Baseball America Organization of the Year and was I like, 'Oh my goodness. How do you follow that up?'," says Watson, who is entering his fourth year as farm director. "So what I can say is that hey, we haven't lost ground in the last four years. We've been able to maintain and sustain some quality prospects in the system. It's our job to get these guys prepared to contribute at the major league level."

And he can't wait to get started.

"I'm always excited," he says. "When that calendar turns, it's time to get you ready to start playing."

The Dodgers opened their spring training camp on Feb. 16, but some of the decisions Watson will have to make regarding his minor league rosters will have to wait until the big league club is set.

Infielder Ivan DeJesus, for example, has a good chance to start the season in Los Angeles, preventing Watson from pairing him with future double-play partner Dee Gordon at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Slugger Jerry Sands could be in the hunt for the Dodgers' left-field job, which could slow Watson's plans to try him at third. "We have some interesting pieces," Watson said.

And rookie manager Don Mattingly handled many of them—including Sands, De Jesus, outfielder Trayvon Robinson, catcher Matt Wallach and pitchers Justin Miller and Javy Guerra—in the Arizona Fall League.

"How often do you get that opportunity to play for the incoming major league manager?" Watson asked. "These kids, they were there. "(The manager) knows the name and face and mannerisms and what type of energy these guys are bringing to the park every day."

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

• Hard-throwing Rubby de la Rosa could help the team out of the bullpen this season, but Watson says the organization is projecting the righthander as a starter.

• Although Sands came to camp as nonroster invitee with just 68 games above Class A, he said his goal is to break camp with the team. "If I'm not going in there and saying I'm trying to make the big league spot, then something's wrong," he said. "That's got to be your mentality. That's my mentality."