Notes: Sele making case for spot

Notes: Sele making case for spot

VIERA, Fla. -- Jae Seo finished last season 8-2 with the Mets, enticing the Dodgers to trade for him to be the fifth starter. But with Seo on leave in the World Baseball Classic, the Dodgers haven't seen him throw a competitive pitch this spring.

Meanwhile, Aaron Sele, who was released by Seattle last August around the same time Seo began his roll, has moved into Seo's slot in the Dodgers' tentative rotation and is making a run at becoming the next veteran non-roster invitee to win a spot on the Dodgers' Opening Day pitching staff.

Sele added four scoreless innings against Washington on Saturday for a spring total of 8 2/3 scoreless frames, and his 0.00 ERA is hard to ignore. Manager Grady Little said Sele remains a contender for the fifth starter spot, as well as a long relief role.

"He fits in both," said Little. "We know what he's capable of from his history. It's something you can't hardly ignore. He's a veteran, he knows what's taking place here. He's trying to do the best he can to force our hand."

Sele, 35, has more Major League wins (137) than any pitcher in the Dodgers' camp, had a 19-win season with Texas in 1998 and was 15-5 with a 3.60 ERA with Seattle in 2001. But he's relieved only five times in 12 seasons.

"My job is to be ready at the start of the season," said Sele. "I was in this situation last year. When it comes down to pick the team, sometimes it's about more than sheer numbers. It's who fills the role best."

Sele made the Mariners last spring as a non-roster invitee in Spring Training, was released after going 6-12 with a 5.66 ERA and was signed by Texas and sent to prepare at Triple-A Oklahoma for a stretch run that never materialized.

In recent years, Wilson Alvarez, Jose Lima and Scott Erickson have made the Dodgers as non-roster invitees turned swingmen. In competition for the long relief role this year, among the leading contenders is Takashi Saito.

Seo is out of options, so he essentially has a roster spot locked up.

Behind the plate: Dioner Navarro came out of Saturday's game batting .083 and Russell Martin was at .429, but the former figures to start the season in Los Angeles and the latter in Triple-A Las Vegas.

Navarro, 22, has caught two months in the Major Leagues and five years professionally. That makes him a graybeard compared to Martin, 23, who has been a catcher only since 2003 and hasn't played higher than Double-A.

"The No. 1 thing is how they handle pitchers, defensive situations. Any offense we get is a bonus," said Little. "There's a natural progression. You have a situation where a kid's got only two years catching. I'll tell you what, that's not many games to be back there. I'm not saying it can't or won't happen. But that's a tough jump."

Keep in mind that Little was a catcher in the Minor Leagues for six years. Little added, however, that no decision has been made.

Guzman produces: He had to battle to catch one line drive that Little called "a little ugly," but Joel Guzman hasn't embarrassed himself in his transfer to left field from shortstop and he's batting .364 this spring after going 2-for-4 Saturday.

"I see a kid becoming more comfortable," said Little. "He's tackling a new position in difficult conditions so far, because it's been windy each time he's out there. He hits the ball good."

Wunsch wobbles: Kelly Wunsch, in a dogfight for a left-handed relief role with Hong-Chih Kuo, Joe Beimel and Tim Hamulack, was charged with one run and hit his pitch-count limit of 25 while walking one batter and hitting one with a pitch.

"I was just rushing it," he said. "I knew what I was doing wrong, I just didn't make the adjustments. It's a timing issue."

Wunsch said he's physically fine after surgery on his ankle and hip.

Injury update: Brian Meadows said his thumb was still stinging from a freak mishap Friday, when he pulled his right thumbnail away from the skin while releasing a pitch.

In tribute: Batting coach and fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Murray and outfielder Kenny Lofton were scheduled to leave Florida late Saturday to attend the Sunday funeral of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett in Minneapolis. They are expected back in time for Monday's workout.

Saenz returns: Olmedo Saenz, who participated in the World Baseball Classic for his native Panama, rejoined the club Saturday.

"It was a lot of fun, a good experience and I'm glad I went," he said.

Coming up: Brett Tomko will start Sunday against Houston at Holman Stadium, with reliever Eric Gagne making his second spring appearance, as will Yhency Brazoban, who has been slowed by a sore shoulder. Also pitching for the Dodgers will be Franquelis Osoria, Jonathan Broxton, Saito and Beimel. Pitching for Houston will be Taylor Buchholz, Fernando Nieve, Matt Albers and Jared Gothreaux.

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