Dodgers Give Minor Leagues A Sneak Peek
LOS ANGELES—When Don Mattingly was summoned from the minor leagues to New York as a 21-year-old outfielder in 1982, trying to solve big league pitching was the least of his challenges.
"You get called up, driving into Yankee Stadium—I didn't know where it was," Mattingly said.
Which is why Mattingly, entering his second year as Dodgers manager, likes the team's tradition of holding a weeklong development program for top minor leaguers at Dodger Stadium each January.
"To come out here is an honor for these guys," he says. "It tells you that the organization thinks a lot about them and wants them to get a little bit of a head start.
"(But) the biggest thing for me this camp does . . . is it allows these guys to come here, get used to the stadium, figuring their way out around town a little bit so when they get there, it shortens that transition of 'What do I need to deal with.' "
In addition to learning their way around the city, players performed community service at a youth center and met with Dodgers legends including Tommy Lasorda, Maury Wills and Don Newcombe.
Since the team began staging winter programs at Dodger Stadium five years ago, 30 of the camps' participants have reached the majors. Among the 15 prospects invited this year were the organization's 2011 minor league pitcher and player of the year in Shawn Tolleson and Scott Van Slyke, as well as catcher Tim Federowicz, who proved Mattingly correct by getting lost on the stadium elevator on his way to the clubhouse.
"I know a little bit about the stadium but I don't know as much as I want to know and need to know before going into next season," said Federowicz, who played seven games for the Dodgers last fall.
n Outfielder Alex Castellanos, acquired from the Cardinals at last July's trade deadline, took ground balls at second base during January's training camp. "He's a pretty interesting package," Mattingly said. "We'll keep giving him reps in the infield to see where it goes."
n Infielder Luis Cruz, 27, signed as a minor league free agent in November, figures to get a look this spring after hitting .340/.360/.619 with 17 homers in 62 games in the Mexican Pacific League this winter.