Notes: Decision on Martinez nears

Notes: Decision on Martinez nears

JUPITER, Fla. -- Dodgers management will likely put off decisions on some of the final cuts until the Freeway Series, but it won't have that luxury in the case of utility infielder Ramon Martinez, who is locked in a battle with Oscar Robles for one of the last spots on the 25-man roster.

By the terms of Martinez's contract, he must be guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day lineup by next Wednesday or he can request a five-day window to find a Major League job with another club, which the Dodgers expect he could do. Martinez signed a Minor League contract that would pay him a $700,000 Major League salary.

"It's not that easy finding a team," said Martinez. "Anything can happen. I'm hoping to make this team. I don't want to look for another."

Robles has no such leverage as a one-year player with a split contract and all three options remaining. The Dodgers can send him to the Minor Leagues for the next three years without risk of losing him to any club.

Both are having springs worthy of Major League status. Martinez, who had an RBI single in three at-bats Tuesday, is batting .344. Robles, robbed of one hit while going 0-for-3, is batting .258.

Closure: Although Eric Gagne has yet to pitch in spring games with less than two days' rest in between, manager Grady Little said on Tuesday he's confident Gagne will be ready to close on a daily basis by Opening Day.

"I asked myself, if we opened the season with Atlanta and had 3-2 games every day, will this man be ready to do that, pitch in the ninth inning?" said Little. "In my mind, I say yes, he will. I could see him doing that."

Gagne, returning from June elbow surgery, last pitched Sunday and is scheduled again for Wednesday. He then will make two appearances with only one day off between. Little said Gagne will then attempt to pitch in back-to-back games, which will be the real test to see if he is ready to handle the demands of closer at the start of the season. If not, Danys Baez, who saved 41 games for Tampa Bay last year, is a pretty good fallback position.

Whether Gagne ever pitches as many as four consecutive days or as much as three innings in one appearance, as he has in the past, doesn't sound very likely with Little his manager.

"Maybe that contributed to the problem last year, who knows?" he said. "We'll do whatever we can for him to be the best he can be."

Pitching roundup: Aaron Sele, a long shot to make the club as a starter, allowed six runs in two innings Tuesday against Florida, then threw in the bullpen to work on a mechanical flaw.

Offensively, six Dodgers drove in runs and Joel Guzman had a pinch-single.

In the relief derby, Franquelis Osoria (two innings, four strikeouts), Hong-Chih Kuo (three batters) and Kelly Wunsch (two batters) had impressive outings. Each has a legitimate chance to make the anticipated six-man bullpen, but it's unlikely all three will.

Drew on pilot program: While teammates are playing in the regularly scheduled exhibition games, outfielder J.D. Drew is conserving his body while fine-tuning his batting stroke in Minor League games at the suggestion of Little.

"I got six at-bats in an hour yesterday, so it's very efficient," said Drew. "I never had anybody ask me to do this, but it was Grady's idea. He said this way he could see more of the younger guys play and I won't have so much wear and tear on my body, but I'll still keep my swing where it needs to be with quality at-bats in game situations. I think it's a pretty good idea. He's staying a step ahead of things."

Little has said he will look for creative ways to improve the chances of keeping Drew healthy for the entire season.

In addition to Drew, Nomar Garciaparra batted in a Minor League game at Dodgertown, while Odalis Perez threw two scoreless innings in his first appearance since returning from the World Baseball Classic.

Although Dioner Navarro is recovering rapidly from a hamstring strain, Little said he won't be rushed back into games because of the nature of the injury.

"You have to be real careful with legs," said Little. "When they tell me he's ready, I give it three or four more days."

Alvarez visits: Pitcher Wilson Alvarez, who retired after last season, stopped by the clubhouse Monday. He will take this year off, then hopes to return to the game as a coach or instructor.

"My goal is to make it back to the big leagues as a pitching coach," said Alvarez, who won 102 games over 12 seasons. "[The Dodgers] know that's what I want to do. This year I want to be a normal parent and be home with my kids. Next year, I'm coming back somewhere."

Alvarez said former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and the Pirates offered him an instructor job this year, but he declined.

Dodgers give a Hootie: Hootie and the Blowfish will perform a pregame concert on Opening Day. The band, which has sold more than 25 million albums, will perform for half an hour beginning at noon on April 3 at Dodger Stadium.

Coming up: Brett Tomko starts Wednesday against the Mets and Aaron Heilman. Other Dodgers pitchers making the trip to St. Lucie are Gagné, Baez, Yhency Brazoban and Kuo.

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