Notes: Mourning Saenz reports to camp

Notes: Mourning Saenz reports to camp

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Olmedo Saenz reported for Tuesday's first full-squad workout at Dodgertown with fresh legs but a heavy heart.

He buried his 52-year-old mother over the weekend in Panama.

"It's hard, but she loved to see me working so I know this is where she would want me to be," said the 35-year-old Saenz. "I know in my heart, I'm at peace that as a family we did everything we could to help her fight, but it was time to go."

Saenz said he will play for Team Panama in the World Baseball Classic to honor his mother's memory.

"I know she would have liked to see me with the national team," he said. "This would make her proud."

When he wasn't caring for his ailing mother over the winter, Saenz was working on refreshing his body, which took more of a pounding than he anticipated in 2005. The rash of injuries to position starters forced Saenz, ostensibly a pinch-hitter, into a career-high workload.

He set personal bests with 109 games, 319 at-bats, 84 hits, 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 63 RBIs. He was second on the club in RBIs, fourth with a .480 slugging percentage.

"I had to play a lot more and it took awhile for my body to get used to it," said Saenz, who has a history of Achilles tendon injuries. "Then I went back to the bench. It was like a roller coaster. You've got to be mentally strong."

Saenz credits his mother for instilling in him the perfect temperament for a bench job in baseball.

"She taught me the right things and helped me be ready to go by myself and be a man," he said. "She was calm and could always communicate. I will always miss her and think about her, but now it's time to do my job."

Names on uniforms: Here's chairman Frank McCourt's answer when asked on a chat Tuesday if the club would return player names to the backs of uniforms:

"Truthfully, I hear that quite a bit and we're going to look into that. Without making excuses, there's a little bit more to it than just putting it back on. Major League Baseball has rules and there was no way we could do it for this year, but we're looking into it for the '07 season."

Introductions: Manager Grady Little held his first full-squad meeting before the first full-squad workout Tuesday. With the influx of veterans, he didn't sound concerned about improving last year's chemistry.

"That takes time to develop," he said. "We won't try to reinvent the game here. Chemistry is not something you can go in and change. You can't go from 71-91 to 91-71 in a meeting. You can't just say cohesiveness and get it done. It has to happen with people that were here before adjusting to new ones."

New arrival, late arrival: J.D. Drew was the only Dodger missing Tuesday because he was home with new son Jack David, born Sunday night. Drew is expected to arrive in Florida on Thursday and participate in his first workout Friday.

His health is a major source of concern for the Dodgers. He underwent offseason operations on his wrist and shoulder. The latter reportedly has healed slowly, which could hamper his ability to throw during Spring Training.

Grab a bat: About half of the Dodgers pitchers in camp threw batting practice, with Odalis Perez particularly pleased with the results. Brad Penny, on rehab all last spring, was throwing particularly hard.

Rafael Furcal, still rehabbing his right knee after surgery, took 40 swings of soft-toss for the second day. He still is not participating in any infield drills. Cesar Izturis, however, is doing everything except long throws as he recovers from Tommy John elbow surgery. Jeff Kent also participated in infield practice, but threw underhanded.

They're No. 1: The Dodgers are ranked first in the talent rankings of Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, an improvement from 28th in 2002.

"We are proud of the talent that our farm system is developing and we look forward to the future of this franchise with a strong core of homegrown Dodgers," McCourt said in a release.

Credit for the dramatic improvement is generally attributed to scouting director Logan White and farm director Terry Collins. Both were hired in 2002.

Baseball America labeled last year's Double-A Jacksonville Suns the most talented team in the Minor Leagues and the Minor League team of the year. That club included Chad Billingsley, Andy LaRoche, Joel Guzman, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton, Tony Abreu, James Loney, Justin Orenduff, Hong-Chih Kuo and Greg Miller. All are in the current Major League training camp.

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