Mailbag: How goes it with Hochevar?

Mailbag: How goes it with Hochevar?

What is the situation with Luke Hochevar?
-- Colin S., Newport Beach, Calif.

Pretty much what it's been since negotiations turned ugly in September. Hochevar, the Dodgers' top draft pick in 2005, remains unsigned, and there's no indication that will change. Although scouting director Logan White said the club hasn't written off Hochevar, he reiterated what he said at the time he took the Tennessee right-hander -- that he knew Hochevar might be unsignable. He felt it was a risk worth taking, because the club had forfeited its first-round pick and this was the only way to get a first-round talent without one.

White came close when Hochevar agreed to sign for $2.98 million before backing out of the deal while juggling agents. The Dodgers then withdrew their offer. While the Dodgers liked Hochevar enough to draft him twice, they also feel they are relatively loaded with pitching prospects.

With all of the roster moves over the past two seasons, who is the dean of the current Dodgers?
-- Jason S., Encino, Calif.

That would be closer Eric Gagne, who made his Major League debut with Los Angeles in 1999. No other player was a Dodger prior to 2002, the first year for shortstop Cesar Izturis and pitcher Odalis Perez. Only seven current Dodgers were on the 2004 postseason roster -- Gagne, Izturis, Perez, Yhency Brazoban, Hee-Seop Choi, Olmedo Saenz and Jayson Werth (Brad Penny was disabled). No other current Dodger has more than two years with the club.

Why do the Dodgers continue to conduct Spring Training in Florida?
-- Garrett D., San Jose, Calif.

There's certainly the tradition of Dodgertown, with its streets named after Hall of Famers and its 59 years as Spring Training host to the Dodgers. But there's also the fact that it's still one of the most functional training facilities in baseball, custom-made to the specifications of club management, run by the club and renovated in 2003 (although it technically is now owned by the city of Vero Beach). While it's in an inconvenient location in the spring, four of the organization's Minor League affiliates are within an hour's flight.

Can you give us additional information on Matt Kemp?
-- Kevin O, Honolulu, Hawaii

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Matt Kemp, 21, is a right-handed-hitting outfielder taken in the sixth round of the 2003 draft after being heavily recruited to play Division I basketball (he's 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds). He hurt his wrist sliding in Spring Training last year and missed four weeks, but, once healthy, demonstrated serious power at the plate, the ability to run down balls in the gaps from center field and a right fielder's throwing arm. He had a breakout season in 2005 at Class A Vero Beach, slugging 27 homers with 90 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and a .306 batting average in 418 at-bats.

Club officials say Kemp really turned it on, stepping up to carry a larger share of the offensive load, once top prospect Andy LaRoche was promoted to Double-A. It only got better when he advanced to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .383 with a .606 slugging percentage and dramatically cut down on his strikeouts. He should start the 2006 season at Double-A Jacksonville.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.